Where the Magic Happens
Move along, nothing to see here, says Nick Denton as usual in this weekend's Times piece by Tom Zeller, Jr., about all this newfangled blogamajiggers the kids are into these days. Certainly the poor man has been through a lot, and by a lot we mean far too many journalists attempting to lubricate the interviewee with a bit of gentle foreplay, perhaps as a prelude to a guest editor slot at one of his blogs. But Denton will have none of that, and you get the impression he'd scoff if you dared to compliment the weather. No jokes about the "Gawker empire," his corporate identity is a disadvantage, blogs are more destructive than creative, blog hype is stoked by "unemployed or partially employed" marketing flacks, he will not comment on money or profit, advertisers must be kept at arm's length to avoid "grim" consequences of compromise, and blog coverage is "disproportionate" and "out of whack."
This is old hat for Denton's cadre of unemployed or partially employed bloggers (and readers), and one suspects there's an occasional rolled eye when whoever had the misfortune to be in the Tribeca office that day is corralled for yet another painfully posed photo-klatch like the one above. Cluster together now! Laptops out, everyone! Why doesn't Coen have a Powerbook? Never mind. Now, Mr. Denton, please turn around in your seat toward the camera. Give us surprise, but mixed with a delighted yet bashful elan. It's as if you were all deeply, deeply into your blog work, and look! It's a visitor! Hello friends, don't mind me! And how are the blogs doing today? You there, Steele, blog faster! With more intensity. Don't look at me, look at the blog!
Not everything is cheese and crackers at GM, though. Stowe Boyd, unfeasibly goateed and beret'd president/COO of boring tech newsblog aggregator thing Corante and "well-known media subversive," says Denton is simply not hard enough on himself. Not by half! Snap, but he even calls GM nothing but an "old media company in new media clothes." Old media! In blogs, that's the equivalent of playing the race card. Boyd prefers bloggers who flit about like "dancers or sculptors" (Zeller's words) while "pursuing their muse" (Boyds'). Since the GM bloggers are "indistinguishable from any freelance writer, with no ownership of what they produce" (Zeller again), then "These people are hirelings" (Boyd).
Hirelings! What scurrilous slander. One of Denton's many good fortunes is that those who speak against him often sound too nutty to take seriously, and Boyd is no exception. Who knows if he actually really called for workers to own the means of production as well as its products, or if he really does want more dancing/sculpting about blogging (sculpting sure, but dancing bloggers are not pretty sights to behold). But which GM blogger would actually give a chicken's cloaca about owning their blog posts? "Pardon me, Nick, but I prefer to reserve rights to the Blind Item Guessing Game for my book deal." Other than as link-farm fodder, GM blog posts are designed to expire, which is why they have to guarantee a dozen posts a day to keep eyeballs coming back. A fetishistic attachment to perpetually owning ephemeral work is the real hallmark of old-media harrumphing.