The Economist Gets It Dead Wrong on Social Media – FAIL

futurelab default header

by: Karl Long

The Economist published an article called “Blogging: Oh, grow up” and they get it so wrong I’m almost lost for words. They focus on Jason Calacanis’s famous retirement from blogging (oh but 38K people follow him on twitter, some retirement) as some indication that blogging has lost it’s revolutionary zeal. Nothing could be further from the truth, the power of blogging is the ability to DOMINATE a global niche, just ask Gary Vaynerchuk who built a media empire around wine over the course of 17 MONTHS.

Here’s a quote from the article which you can read in full here:
Gone, in other words, is any sense that blogging as a technology is revolutionary, subversive or otherwise exalted, and this upsets some of its pioneers. Confirmed, however, is the idea that blogging is useful and versatile. In essence, it is a straightforward content-management system that posts updates in reverse-chronological order and allows comments and other social interactions. Viewed as such, blogging may “die” in much the same way that personal-digital assistants (PDAs) have died. A decade ago, PDAs were the preserve of digerati who liked using electronic address books and calendars. Now they are gone, but they are also ubiquitous, as features of almost every mobile phone.

And here’s the response I left on the Economist web site:

I’m afraid the problem with this article is it assumes the ‘blogsphere’ to be some kind of monolithic cloud and somehow that is being dominated by the mainstream media. What has happened is that mainstream topics like news, politics, and gossip are being dominated by blogs that act and look like mainstream media. But that as they say is the tip of the iceberg. The blogsphere is actually comprised of hundreds of thousands of topical blogospheres that are like communities of interests for their own particular topics. Lots of these are career type blogs, if you want to know about marketing, there is probably someone blogging about it.

I started blogging in 2003 and that has turned into a career blog which has become more important than my resume. It’s got me speaking engagements, was instrumental in me getting my current job and will likely be critical in getting my next job (if I decide to work for someone else).

I also, in my spare time, write the number 1 T-shirt blog on the internet at and have been writing it for two years. There are over 150 T-shirt blogs, and numorous T-shirt search engines. I get about 65,000 unique visitors a month, and monitize it through advertising and starting up my own line of T-shirts. This is never going to be visable at a mainstream media level, but there are thousands of blogs like this that are building small empires around niche topics.

Saying that the subversive and revolutionary aspects of blogging have somehow disappeared now the mainstream media is dominating the top stories is erroneous. The power of blogs and social media in general is the ability to dominate a niche and connect with people who can help you create value. Just ask Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV.

UPDATE: a couple of people have pointed out the similarity between the Economist article and Nick Carr’s article in Wired magazine, which I agree there are similarities, I’m just used to hyperbole coming out of Wired, but not the Economist. I think I care more about The Economist.

Also Kevin Marks has written an article about this and brings up some great points about how the tools are changing, and I think he’s got a point. The tools like twitter, britekite, tumblr, friendfeed, google reader ’sharing’, even facebook etc. are under the radar of mainstream media, as are the networks and value they are creating.

Original Post: