THE rise of blogging is often cast in black-and-white terms: blogs versus the "MSM" (the derisive term some bloggers apply to the mainstream media).
But things may shake out more along the lines of journalism versus armchair yammering. Both can be, and are, presented on Web sites that call themselves blogs. Both have been presented in the mainstream media all along.
"The State of the Blogosphere" presented at sifry.com this week by David L. Sifry, the founder of Technorati, a leading blog search site, shows just how complicated things have become. According to Mr. Sifry's data, mainstream media sites, as measured by the number of blogs linking to them, are trouncing news-oriented blogs by a growing margin. Bloggers link to The New York Times Web site about three times as often as they link to the technology-oriented Boingboing.net. Only four blogs show up in the top 33 sites.
But it isn't the data or the rankings that matter most here. More interesting is that it's becoming hard to tell what is a blog and what is mainstream media.
Mr. Sifry calls Boingboing a blog — and so it is. But it also does some original reporting, and has professional journalists on its staff. And oddly, Mr. Sifry calls Slashdot (slashdot.com), a technology site with material created mostly by users, a mainstream site.
Meanwhile, more and more mainstream media sites are blogging. In the end, users are most likely drawn to sites for the quality and trustworthiness of the material presented.
The report also shows that while blogs may present no real threat to top news organizations, niche publications are far more vulnerable. "This realm of publishing, which I call 'The Magic Middle' of the attention curve," Mr. Sifry writes, "highlights some of the most interesting and influential bloggers and publishers that are often writing about topics that are topical or niche. And what is so interesting to me is how exciting, informative and witty these blogs often are. I've noticed that often these blogs are more topical or focused on a niche area, like gardening, knitting, nanotech, MP3's or journalism."
This Book Brought to You By For the first time, a major publisher is offering a book online at no cost to readers, supported by advertising. HarperCollins is selling the book, "Go It Alone! The Secret to Building a Successful Business on Your Own" by Bruce Judson, through Mr. Judson's site, brucejudson.com. An alert poster at MetaFilter.com noted that the publisher's page for the book did not mention the free version. Despite the cheesy title, Mr. Judson, a fellow at the Yale School of Management, won accolades from Library Journal and others for his book.
Unpaid Shills Wanted Sony BMG, fresh from being exposed by a blogger for planting stealth, and potentially dangerous, antipiracy code in some of its CD's, is seeking interns to plug its artists online. The interns will promote artists in Web communities where many people go specifically to share music without the influence of corporate marketers. "Do you blog, have lots of friends at your MySpace page, and love music?" its ad at entertainmentcareers.net asks. Epic Records, a Sony BMG imprint, "is looking for skilled, motivated interns to promote artists on social networking sites like MySpace, Purevolume, Facebook and others." The ad doesn't say whether the interns will identify themselves to their online "friends" as agents of Sony BMG. But they'll get college credit (for this unpaid job, Sony BMG only wants applicants eligible for that) and a bullet point for their résumés, so what's the difference?
If Dogs Run Free The mundane, inhumane, toxic world of humans trapped in gray cubicles is artfully, and unfavorably, compared with the mindless, free, happy world of dogs romping in a park in a short film on a Web site that features several films by Mitchell Rose (mitchellrose.com). Another short, surprisingly poignant film depicts "a man and a 22-ton John Deere excavator" who "dance a dance of discovery, fulfillment and eventually, the loss that any diesel-based relationship must suffer." DAN MITCHELL