"BLOGS. SOCIAL NETWORKS. TAGGING. DIGG."
What yummy little buzzwords these are! What fun to throw around. “If there is new talent out there,” an editorial bigwig at Random House remarked recently during marketing meeting, “it is to be found not via traditional methods, but on the web.”
A friend - at the time a lowly rights assistant at the publishing house - reported this to me with a shudder. She’d recently had the misfortune to sit through Belle De Jour (The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl) and wasn’t so sure. Plus, she said, if not just literary agents but huge publishing houses had woekn up to the fact that “emerging artists might be using emerging technologies to explore new forms”, as the jargon-driven bigwig had said, how much emerging can there be left to do?
“When the mainstream starts combing the “blogosphere” for talent,” she continued, her voice carving careful quotemarks around the buzzword, “you know that means personal publishing on the web is effectively dead.”
Of course, the figures tell a different story. The top estimate puts the number of blogs in the blogosphere at around 10 million. Bloggers become media darlings, from celebrity gossips (Gawker) to ‘profane pervert Arabs’ (Salam Pax).
Bloggers are starting to be granted press credentials to cover major political events through the same legitimate channels as print journalists, while blogs-to-books, such as the aforementioned Belle De Jour, Jessica Cutler’s Washingtonienne, and Baghdad Burning, by an Iraqi woman who goes by the pseudonym Riverbend, have become increasingly common.
Personal publishing on the web isn’t dead. But a particular form of it is - or at least, has been forced to change beyond all recognition. The online journal.
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