Double Digits

Posted: July 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Journalism, Technology | Tags: , | No Comments »

For a number of reasons—some chronological, some that I can’t disclose—I’ve been thinking about the parallels between the dot-com bubble burst and the credit bubble burst we’re suffering from now. Easy money leading to reduced scrutiny of financial transactions. Eloquent prognostications about the profitability of free web-only content, but little actual profit to show for it. The list goes on.

One important difference stands out, however. In the 1990s, the bubble could be forgiven, perhaps, on the grounds that the technology was new and misunderstood. New media evangelists today don’t have that excuse—the medium isn’t that “new” anymore. That’s why we resort to euphemisms like “Web 2.0” to give it the veneer of newness. Phrases like this really need to be retired.

The aging of new media was brought home to me last week by the ten year anniversary of the first-ever blog, Kausfiles. Mickey Kaus started this as a website, and while folks like Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan probably beat him to using the name “webblog,” it’s pretty clear that blogging is what Kaus was doing from the start. Some of his stylistic features have been widely adopted, like the strikethrough correction and the anonymous editor. Others, like the stream-of-consciousness writing style keep Kausfiles in a class of its own. Kaus has a nice retrospective post chronicling some of his major coups and gaffes that is worth checking out.

There is one thing Kaus doesn’t touch on, but which gets to the heart of what really has changed in these ten years. In 1999, Mickey Kaus was just a guy blogging from his home computer on a personal website; now he’s a paid blogger at Slate which has itself been acquired by the Washington Post. You’d think it was about time to drop the anti-establishmentarian rhetoric.