Many people say that “blogging is dead,” but dead for whom? Blogging remains powerful, just not for the same type of person who found it powerful in the “golden age of blogging” (roughly 2003-2009). In that period, blog-based intellectual freedom coincided with professional career tracks. Tyler Cowen, Crooked Timber, Instapundit, etc. — most of these people were already successful, institutionalized professionals, and the blog was a new way for them to think and talk in public, having fun while parlaying their professional status into increased public reach. When people say “blogging is dead,” what they really mean is that this type of blogging is dead.
Blogging was then diffused into social media, but now social media is so tribal and algo-regulated that anybody with a real message today needs their own property. At the same time, professional institutions are increasingly suffocated by older, rent-seeking incumbents and politically-correct upstarts using moralism as a career strategy. In such a context, blogging — if it is intelligent, courageous, and consistent — is currently one of the most reliable methods for intellectually sophisticated individuals to accrue social and cultural capital outside of institutions. (Youtube for the videographic, Instagram for the photographic, podcasting for the loquacious, but writing and therefore blogging for the most intellectually sophisticated.)
Those who think blogs are irrelevant today — usually Gen-Xers or older — typically underestimate the degree to which real power has evacuated traditional institutions such as academia and New York publishing houses. Such people think, because they don’t know many institutionalized professionals who still blog, that blogging must be dead. What they don’t realize is that the credibility premium historically enjoyed by professional institutions is plummeting toward zero. This fact is so obvious to younger Millenials and Zoomers that it goes unremarked, undebated, because it is already baked-in to their reading/watching behaviors.
If the First Golden Age of Blogging saw the blog as a public amplifier of creative, intellectual talent ensconced in professional careers, today we are living through a Second Golden Age of Blogging, where the blog is now a vehicle for starting and exiting careers. Starting a career might mean building an audience that later becomes a customer-base for some kind of independent entrepreneurship, or it might mean winning the attention and interest of employers in a target industry. Exiting a career might mean blogging pseudonymously (exiting careerist constraints), to make intellectual progress and impact for its own sake. Or exiting could mean building a bridge into a new, different career track. This blog is certainly one example, but I’m not just generalizing from my own experience. There are countless examples of individuals who have successfully navigated all of these pathways, in recent years, with their personal blog as a primary source of leverage. In fact, there are so many examples that no individual case seems interesting enough to be newsworthy. Blogging isn’t dead, it’s so alive that it’s imperceptible.