Blogs vs. Newspapers

There is an interesting discussion going on lately regarding the importance of blogs against that of traditional information sources like newspapers. Some time ago Malcolm Gladwell (by the way if you have not had the chance to read his books I suggest you do so, they are short yet insightful) speaking on a panel about the future of journalism said:

“Without the New York Times, there is no blog community. They’d have nothing to blog about.”

As you can imagine the comment sparkled lots of reactions, and a particularly articulated one came from Chris Anderson, editor of the Wired magazine. Anderson wrote an article called “The Derivative Myth” where he collected some numbers to demonstrate that the blogosphere is not “deriving” its content from mainstream media at all, hence the derivative myth.

Well Malcom Gladwell just posted an answer on his site, defending the idea that traditional media and newspapers have a very important role in guiding how we absorb information. In his own words:

“But newspapers continue to perform an incredibly important function as informational gatekeepers – a function, as far as I can tell, that grows more important with time, not less. Between them, for instance, the Times and the Post have literally hundreds of trained professionals whose only job it is to sift through the mountains of information that come out of the various levels of government and find what is of value and of importance to the rest of us. Where would we be without them? We’d be lost.”

Now I will have to disagree with Gladwell here. Newspapers will still have an important role for years to come, but this does not mean blogs and other emerging media are completely dependent on them. There is one key mechanism Gladwell left out of his analysis, the self-regulatory nature of markets and social networks. User produced content like blogs automatically gets filtered, selected and retained by the crowds, a process that ultimately maintain the equilibrium and the quality of the information that is being generated.

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