Strange days in blogtown: no sooner has Tim “Road To Surfdom” Dunlop taken the King’s ha’pence to create the Blogocracy blog for News Limited, and Tim Blair returned to the Daily Tele fold, comes news that another of Australia’s senior blogzines, Catallaxy, is to dance the tango with the commercial sector, having been signed up to the reviewme service, which pays $50-$100 for each “review” of its favoured products to appear on the site.

Out, out brief candle? The blog revolution was going to change the face of media as we knew it, decentre the et cetera, radicalise the wossname and so on and so on, and now it appears to have got to the point Dylan was at when he did a deal with Starbucks, only thirty years quicker.

Let’s face it, blogging as a decentred breakdown of the old consumer-producer model is pretty much dead. In its place a centre has emerged of blogzines – multi-authored, with less of the ‘what I think about Grey’s Anatomy’ type posts – and a few king-blogs, by people whose authority came from their non-blogging work (ie Norman Geras of Normblog fame), and anthology sites.

Really, as far as Australian blogging (political-social commentary-wise) goes, the emergent core is: Larvatus Prodeo, Club Troppo, Catallaxy, Road To Surfdom, John Quiggin, Leftwrites, and Tim Blair, with a few others in the suburbs – Ozpolitics, Antony Loewenstein, etc – and a lot more pretty much irrelevant.

With the exception of Blair, this emergent core are in a position to create some sort of additional media alternative in the manner that Meanjin, Overland and Arena have done in the past, but not if they come running the first time Rupert flashes a bit of leg.

Nothing wrong with writing for the mainstream press, but a blog is energy-sapping, and serving two blogs – as Dunlop says he will do – fools no-one. Who gets the A-stories and who gets the second-raters? Judging by recent days, Surfdom barely gets any of Dunlop at all – it’s mostly ring-ins, with a noticeable drop in quality.

Catallaxy’s idea that it can maintain its intellectual capital while running product placement seems a bizarre move until you realize that it was Helen Darville-Dale’s idea. They’ll learn.

Looks like most will regard independent media not so much as something they’ve tried and found difficult, but as something found difficult and therefore not tried.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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