Jason Kottke wrote today that the blogging revolution will be commercialized. He said that "out of Technorati's top 100 most-linked weblogs, only 16 don't feature advertising or are otherwise noncommercial." NB: he had some provisos on who in the top 100 really qualifies as a blog.
There are a lot of issues to consider in Jason's post and the only way for me to come to grips with it is to ask myself: well, how does commercialization of blogging affect me and my blogging community? I'll start with a quote I found over on Douglas Rushkoff's blog (linked to in the comments on Jason's post):
"I don't believe we live in a marketplace. I believe we live in a world that can be understood using many different possible metaphors. The marketplace is one of them. An ecology is another."
Ah, metaphors. That's how I like to relate to things and begin to understand them. Now on my blog, Read/Write Web, I write for a number of reasons but one of them is professional. I'm a Web Technologist and by publishing my thoughts on my chosen field, I like to think I'm enhancing my career prospects. In that sense, I'm participating in a marketplace of content. I'm hoping my content here, and the knowledge I gain from writing it, will eventually lead to a satisfying job or business opportunity. But the market reality is that I'll be competing with other people to get that dream job or succeed in that business venture. This is a strategic view of my blog, similar to Dave Winer's viewpoint.
However, I also think of the blogosphere as an ecology - in much the same way that Dave Snowden thinks of Knowledge Management as an ecology. In that post on Snowden, I wrote:
"I love that term: ecology of knowledge. It emphasizes that knowledge is a fluid, almost living, thing; and that it's closely related to its environment - or put another way, its context (a word which Snowden uses a lot)."
And that's how I feel about blogging. I am participating in a relatively pure (pure as in non-commercial) space where memes and ideas are openly swapped and linked by people all over the world. I love the content that flows in this ecology - and I don't judge it based on commercial or popularity terms. I judge ideas (that may sound pompous, but I'm an INTJ ;-).
Now, regarding adverts on a blog. Personally, I earn pennies from Google ads and zippo from Amazon affiliate links. But for people like Jason Kottke or Dave Winer, they could potentially earn a living off ads on their blogs. That's a fact of life in the blogosphere, circa 2004. But if Kottke or Winer did put ads on their blogs, does that mean they lose their credibility or integrity in the blogging ecology? Not at all - I hate to sound like a broken record, but I subscribe to people based on the quality of their content. If a blogger's content also has a quantitative monetary value, well good for them. But as a reader, it doesn't concern me.
I know, I'm over-simplifying things. It's such a complex issue - and I haven't even regaled you with my Kurt Cobain-fueled theories on Popularity! So let me try and sum up what I'm trying to say in this post. Yes, blogs are being commercialized. Yes, I believe content has commercial value (whether that be strategic or tactical). Yes, I love the non-commercial nature of the blogging ecology. No, I don't think ads affect the integrity of a blogger or of the blogosphere (not if you, the reader, judge content qualitatively).
Content is King and it presides over both Marketplace and Ecology.