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When blogs become business…

A decade ago, the word “blog” happened as a short form for “weblog” and started off like personal diaries on the Web. Then came the phenomenon of “bloggers” — a loose term used for free-thinking, opinionated writers who vented in the new found power of internet freedom. N Madhavan writes.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2011 22:19 IST
N Madhavan

A decade ago, the word “blog” happened as a short form for “weblog” and started off like personal diaries on the web. Then came the phenomenon of “bloggers” — a loose term used for free-thinking, opinionated writers who vented in the new found power of internet freedom.

Then flowed the big-boy blogs — they were topic-focused websites that turned the blog into a business proposition, with all the attendant gains.

And, it seems, much acrimony.

Last week, a big storm happened in the teacup world of these high-profile blogs when TechCrunch, a respected, avidly-tracked Silicon Valley blog on technology industry news and people, saw acrimonious exits following the resignation (and some say, ouster) of its founder, Michael Arrington.

You see, TechCrunch is now not any old blog. It is owned by AOL (America Online) and is a hot media property after its acquisition. AOL also acquired the blog-based publishing phenomenon, Huffington Post. Gossip has it that Ariana Huffington, the founder of the Post, in her new role as editor-in-chief of AOL, saw out Arrington.

The real issue here is simple. Blogs, when they attract large numbers of visitors, become media properties. All Things D, a digital technology blog, is now owned by Dow Jones Company. The Freakanomics blog, created by the authors of a famous book by the same name, now is part of New York Times.

Bloggers, in their Bohemian spirit, get tamed when they become part of the mainstream media. And some of them just hate it. Or maybe, they love throwing a tantrum as they quit, much like whimsical artists.

The bottomline: when blogs attract money that wants to make more money, one blogger’s business discipline is another’s political tyranny.