No Syrup In This Butterworth

“Blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence.” –Trevor Butterworth
Mainstream journalist, Trevor Butterworth, delivered a thought provoking but ultimately dismissive article on blogs called “Time for the last post” for the weekend edition of Financial Times. In an ironic twist, FT set up a blog, where readers can chime in on the story.
One of the more interesting aspects in the piece is commentary from Choire Sicha and Ana Marie Cox, two bloggers who’ve cashed in.
Sicha, senior editor at The New York Observer, who Butterworth describes as, “dressed in a pink shirt and blue jeans, and unshaven to the point of looking like a young Bee Gee gone preppy,” said:

The word blogosphere has no meaning. There is no sphere; these people aren’t connected; they dont have anything to do with each other. The democratic promise of blogs, he explained, has just produced more fragmentation and segregation at a time when seeing the totality of things – the purview of old media – is arguably much more important.
As for blogs taking over big media in the next five years? Fine, sure, he added. But where are the beginnings of that? Where is the reporting? Where is the reliability? The world of blogs is like an entire newspaper composed of op-eds and letters and wire service feeds.

Cox, former editor of Wonkette, who left Gawker Media’s politcal gossip rag to write books full time said:

There’s always going to be a New York Times. As a culture, we like to have a narrative that we kind of agree on. You and your cohorts may believe that its liberal elitist propaganda – or you may think its corporate, conservative hegemony. But theres a sense in which its good to have The New York Times because we need to know that this is the dominant storyline right now. Cable news has the same function.

Butterworth also checks in on Madison Avenue, for their take:

There is a certain loss of control when it comes to advertising on blogs, said Mark Wnek, chairman and chief creative officer of Lowe New York. The connection the most popular citizen journalists cultivate with their devotees is through an honest, uncensored, raw freedom of expression, and that can be quite uncomfortable territory for a traditional marketer.

We all pass what we do and think through a given lens or filter. Butterworth is a Columbia J-School educated writer and editor. He’s looking at the bloatosphere as a flimsy cretin, when compared side by side with mainstream news. The problem with that framework is blogs and mainstream media are an an apples-to-oranges comparison. Very few bloggers break news on their site. What blogs can do is push a story in new directions. Blogs can also add depth to a story via the comment string and hyperlinking.
Then there’s the ever-looming question, “What will corporations (and their brand managers) make of blogs?” A few have begun to find out. I have no doubt many more will endeavor to discover how social media can be a successful component of their overall communications plan.
[UPDATE] Former editor, Choire Sicha, reports that he’s been called a sell-out in response to his comments in the article above. He goes on to say Gawker Media now pays four times what it did in his time.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.