The Blogging Revolution Weblogs Are To Words What Napster Was To Music. By Andrew Sullivan In the beginning - say 1994 - the phenomenon now called blogging was little more than the sometimes nutty, sometimes inspired writing of online diaries. These days, there are tech blogs and sex blogs and drug blogs and onanistic teenage blogs. But there are also news blogs and commentary blogs, sites packed with links and quips and ideas and arguments that only months ago were the near-monopoly of established news outlets. Poised between media, blogs can be as nuanced and well-sourced as traditional journalism, but they have the immediacy of talk radio. Amid it all, this much is clear: The phenomenon is real. Blogging is changing the media world and could, I think, foment a revolution in how journalism functions in our culture. Blogs do two things that Web magazines like Slate and Salon simply cannot. First off, blogs are personal. Almost all of them are imbued with the temper of their writer. This personal touch is much more in tune with our current sensibility than were the opinionated magazines and newspapers of old. Readers increasingly doubt the authority of The Washington Post or National Review, despite their grand-sounding titles and large staffs. They know that behind the curtain are fallible writers and editors who are no more inherently trustworthy than a lone blogger who has earned a reader's respect. The second thing blogs do is - to invoke Marx - seize the means of production. It's hard to underestimate what a huge deal this is. For as long as journalism has existed, writers of whatever kind have had one route to readers: They needed an editor and a publisher. Even in the most benign scenario, this process subtly distorts journalism. You find yourself almost unconsciously writing to please a handful of people - the editors looking for a certain kind of story, the publishers seeking to push a particular venture, or the advertisers who influence the editors and owners. Blogging simply bypasses this ancient ritual. Twenty-one months ago, I rashly decided to set up a Web page myself and used Blogger.com to publish some daily musings to a readership of a few hundred. Sure, I'm lucky to be an established writer in the first place. And I worked hard at the blog for months for free. But the upshot is that I'm now reaching almost a quarter million readers a month and making a profit. That kind of exposure rivals the audiences of traditional news and opinion magazines. And I have plenty of company. The most obvious example is Glenn Reynolds, a hyperactive law professor who churns out dozens of posts a day and has quickly become a huge presence in opinion journalism. This is democratic journalism at its purest. Eventually, you can envision a world in which most successful writers will use this medium as a form of self-declared independence. Think about it for a minute. Why not build an online presence with your daily musings and then sell your first book through print-on-demand technology direct from your Web site? Why should established writers go to newspapers and magazines to get an essay published, when they can simply write it themselves, convert it into a .pdf file, and charge a few bucks per download? Just as magazine and newspaper editors are slinking off into the sunset, so too might all the agents and editors and publishers in the book market. This, at least, is the idea: a publishing revolution more profound than anything since the printing press. Blogger could be to words what Napster was to music - except this time, it'll really work. Check back in a couple of years to see whether this is yet another concept that online reality has had the temerity to destroy. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Andrew Sullivan writes for www.andrewsullivan.com, The New Republic, and The New York Times.