New York Times: blog trolling 101

by Mathew on April 6, 2008 · 25 comments

I’m sure someone at the New York Times has to be feeling pretty smug right now — after all, look at all the attention the paper’s story on bloggers is getting from the blogosphere. Obviously, the Times has learned the first rule of getting attention from blogs: talk about blogs. The Times also seems to have learned the second lesson, which is related to blog “trolling,” namely: associate blogs or blogging with some kind of apocalyptic or otherwise incendiary statement, viz. “Blogging kills.”

It’s true that the NYT didn’t actually use that phrase, but the story about two deaths (Russell Shaw from ZDNet and Marc Orchant, whose last gig was the ill-fated Blognation) and a near-death experience (Om Malik) in the blogosphere might as well have had that headline, as Marc Andreessen notes in his hilarious roundup of future potential New York Times headlines about blogging (including “Hitler probably blogged”).

Mike Arrington helps the Times out by saying he has gained 30 pounds, has a severe sleeping disorder and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown — which may be true, but could just as easily be said by someone who has become obsessed by major-league football during the playoffs, or someone whose hobby is building miniature ships in bottles. It has nothing to do with whether they spend every waking moment typing on a keyboard or obsessively checking Techmeme.

For me, the low point in the piece — which goes on to talk about how some bloggers for sites like Gizmodo spend dozens of hours blogging for pay from their tiny apartments — is when the Times coaxes this incendiary quote from blogger Matt Buchanan: sometimes, he confesses, he is so tired “I just want to lie down.” Stop the presses! (best quote comes from Gizmodo editor Brian Lam, who has trained as a Thai kick-boxer: “I’ve got a background getting punched in the face… that’s why I’m good at this job.” Definitely should have been higher up).

Further reading:

Om Malik’s thoughtful take on the issue is here, and Henry Blodget says the startup life probably has more to do with the phenomenon than blogging does. My friend Howard Lindzon says the story is bunk, and a sign that the NYT is out of ideas, while Dr. Tony Hung takes a look at whether stress actually does increase your chances of having a heart attack. Doc Searls has a thoughtful response as well.

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