An article I wrote yesterday, Amateur Blogosphere, RIP, has generated a lot of discussion (apparently, a decent amount at Personal Democracy Forum, too). Even though it is a subject on which I have spent a great deal of thought, the article was written in haste, and so it did not convey the full context of my thoughts. As such, this afternoon I think it it important to provide some clarification.
My basic premise is that the progressive political blogosphere--and I am NOT speaking about other blogospheres, since I do not know much about them--is now almost entirely dominated by political and media professionals. But there is more to it then that:
Vast majority of bloggers still unpaid: First, let me clarify that the vast majority of progressive political bloggers are still unpaid hobbyists who blog as a labor of love. Like, over 99% still fall into that category.
Professionals dominate market share: What has changed since the formative days of the progressive political blogosphere in 2003 (and earlier), is that 95% or more of the audience share goes to three or four dozen bloggers who are now full-time media and / or political professionals. Over 95% of the audience of progressive political blogging goes to a small number of blogs anyway, and those blogs are now almost entirely run by people who take blogging and / or politics as their primary source of income.
The trend is very recent: Seven years ago, there were no professional, progressive political bloggers. That began to change when media outlets like the Washington Monthly hired Kevin Drum, when advertising services like Blogads became available, and when political campaigns decided it was time to start spending money to invest in the Internet. Those developments, all of which occurred in 2003, opened up the three paths to professionalization: 1) get hired full-time by a media outlet or non-profit, 2) make enough income to live off your own blog, or 3) parlay your blogging into political consulting work.
The trend is irreversible: We will never return to the days (some may say glory days) when the progressive political blogopshere is dominated by unpaid hobbyists. This is because it is virtually impossible for a hobbyist to compete with professionals who are actually paid to spend all day blogging. No one has enough free time to blog as much as Matthew Yglesias, David Dayen, or the front page of Daily Kos.
New voices will still emerge, but only within the professionalized context: Undoubtedly, new voices will still emerge from the hobbyist world. However, when they do those bloggers will emerge within established, professionalized blogs in order too attract an audience in the first place (hell, this was already the case by 2006, as I discussed in my first ever article on Open Left), Further, these new voices will have to become professionals themselves in order to sustain their efforts over the long-term.
I hope that helps provide more solidity and clarity to my thesis. I stand by it, but I think it makes a lot more sense with this added context.