Will the blog survive? Media theorists debate whether the blog, perhaps the archetypal new media format, will endure permanently in the shifting digital landscape or fade into decline and obscurity. As strange as the question may seem to people today (especially #concomms students whose studies seem to revolve around blogs and other Web-based content in one form or another), the concept of media extinction is far from preposterous in itself. A bit of historical context may help.
A few examples of media types now out of fashion:
- The obelisk. Never the most practical media device, ancient kings like the pharaohs of Egypt nonetheless used these gigantic structures to communicate and commemorate the achievements of the ruler.
- The scroll. New media has brought us the scroll bar, the scroll wheel, and even the (never-used) Scroll Lock key on the keyboard, but the old-time parchment scroll is with us no more.
- The punch card. Used not for human-to-human but for human-to-computer communication, these cards for decades transmitted data for tech giants like IBM.
- The 5 1/4-inch computer disk. All floppy disks are basically obsolete, but their legacy lives on in the “Save” icon used by many computer programs.
- The VHS cassette. These 1980s and 1990s tapes are still available and still used, but their bulkiness and tendency to decay has consigned them to the dying media category.
The Museum of Obsolete Media (http://www.obsoletemedia.org) lists all sorts of media formats, most of them from the past 50 years, that have faded out. Most of these are physical media (such as Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges), but all of them were at one time regarded as viable channels for transmitting information, whether video, audio, or images. Confronted with the weight of history, it might appear entirely possible that the blog could join them as just another page in the media scrapbook.
Yet in 2015, blogging remains not only viable but also vibrant. Tumblr, just one of many hosting sites for blogs, reports more than 220 million active users (https://www.tumblr.com/about). Clearly, blogging isn’t going anywhere soon. Although it hasn’t entirely overturned the old media applecart as predicted soon after the turn of the millennium (a point reinforced here by British blogger Michael White), the blog has revolutionized the method and degree of interaction expected between content creator and content consumer. It also provides an outlet for people not connected with any established organization to comment, investigate, criticize, promote, and generally respond to events in their fields of interest. Though such blogs may or may not be classified as “citizen journalism,” depending on their topics, independence, expertise of the writer, and general level of discourse, they have clearly altered the course of traditional journalism. Blogs may be discounted, but they can’t be ignored.
The blogosphere is not diminishing as much as it is undergoing absorption and assimilation with more established media channels. As we discuss extensively within the program, blogs are now favored media platforms for organizations as well as for individuals. Whether charities, corporations, or activist groups, serious organizations in 2015 typically consider blogs a vital part of their public relations and marketing mix. This flavor of blogging represents new new media’s use in an old media way. While retaining the potential for interaction with the audience, the emphasis is closer to the prior
Perhaps the most likely future for blogging is not extinction but rather evolution. The idea of the lone blogger toppling the media establishment with a few keystrokes was unrealistic from the start. Instead, we see innumerable individual bloggers jostling for position and readership, and the most effective ones can still rise to the top. We see organizations adopting the blog as a medium for their own purposes; corporations and unions both use blogs to make their cases, as do groups on opposite sides of social issues. And we see offshoots of blogs, like Twitter, which was once considered a “microblogging” service but now holds its own status as a social media channel of its own.