Why Blogging Is Important

From the earthquakes in Missouri and California, to the recent landing of flight 1549 on the Hudson River, users of social networking sites and blogs are breaking the news even before the MSM. And they are doing it in an immediate, compelling, first-hand, and conversational way that traditional media outlets can’t due to inherent business and bureaucracy concerns. In fact, three of the top five sites on the web today are social networking sites. Why is social media and blogging dominating the web, and why is it important?

While the technology that supports blogging is new, the concept of blogging isn’t a novel one. The defining components of Web 2.0’s new media staples (blogs and social networking sites) are high interactivity with the content producer, as well as online community building. According to a 2006 study and article by media scholar Daniel Glover, the majority of bloggers and blog readers are the opinion leaders in their communities.

A study of politics and voting patterns in the early 60’s showed that opinion leaders have always shaped the flow of information and ideas in their communities through conversations at local pubs and community gathering places. The soapbox is just getting larger, and the reach is going further for these opinion leaders with the streamlining, ease and low cost of online self-publishing. Basically people are looking towards the internet and blogosphere to replace the local Elk’s Lodge to distill the news for them and to get insight from the people they trust. Though traditional media outlets are moving into the online space and attempting to build user generated content and social media tools into their business strategy, it is not natural for MSM to replicate or replace the “opinion leader” function that social media is playing. Social media and MSM play two very different roles and audience expectations are different for them both.

While many in traditional media criticize the lack of “gatekeeping” on blogs and other user generated content sites (wikipedia for example) this is the precise advantage that these sites have and why they are growing. People are developing a personal connection with news, events and political processes by finding content and personalities online that align with their values and beliefs. These personal connections are the reason that social media is so important and relevant, and why it will always be different from traditional media. As people become more engaged with the world through social media they are becoming more active and aware offline, reversing the “narcotizing” effect of the American public that media scholars discovered as a result of mass communications and information bombardment.

Blogging and new media will continue to grow in importance and prestige because it gives people a larger marketplace of ideas to shop from, a larger platform to affect change in the world and because it is so important in promoting engagement and thoughtfulness.

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