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Is The Personal Blog Dead? (Part 2) - Going Mainstream

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Behind The Mask

Description: Behind The Mask

Another thing that might put people off blogging is that there's very little opportunity for anonymity online any more. Many of the most popular blogs of the last decade were written under pseudonyms; a false name gave bloggers the freedom to write what they really thought, without worrying about repercussions from their friends, family, or employer.

Over the years, though, all of those anonymous bloggers were unmasked. Belle de Jour turned out to be Dr Brooke Magnanti; Girl With A One-Track Mind was revealed to be assistant film director Zoe Margolis; and NightJack turned out to be DC Richard Horton. There have been others too, notably Gay Girl in Damascus, who turned out to be Tom MacMaster, a married man from Scotland, though his case is a little different from the others, because he wasn't using a pseudonym to protect his privacy while writing honestly; he was pretending to be a completely different person.

These unmaskings may have led to some career opportunities for the people behind the blogs, but they've also led to jobs being lost and relationships damaged and, in almost every case, the blogger stopped writing after his or her identity was revealed. That not only knocked several prominent bloggers out of the blogosphere, but also undoubtedly put other people off writing blogs because their privacy could never really be guaranteed. The promise of being able to speak your mind online without being identified for it or having to deal with the consequences of saying certain things online in your real life turned out to be an illusion.

Going Mainstream

Description: personal blogging

Another thing that's affected personal blogging is the change in the way blogging is perceived - and the way it's become more of a corporate game. I mentioned earlier that the most popular blogs are now all Huffington Post style news sites; they're not really blogs, in the original sense. There's been a kind of blurring of the line between supposedly traditional media online, and 'blogs'; sites like Jezebel and Lifehacker might be referred to as blogs, but really there's very little difference between them and, say, the Guardian's online site. The only difference, really, is that these sites tend not to publish hard news; they're more about editorials and opinions, and the writers don't refer to themselves as journalists.

Most of us probably get the vast majority of our news and entertainment online nowadays, and dozens of successful new media outlets have sprung up. Sometimes, bloggers are recruited to write for these sites, since they've already demonstrated a talent for writing for the web and attracting page views, but this often means that the writers' own blogs go quiet. Actually, by comparison, personal blogs are pretty quiet anyway. Even bloggers who commit themselves to regular schedules tend to post, at most, once a day; if you're one person writing about yourself, how much more is there to say, really? As a result, some of the web traffic may have moved on to busier sites, and bloggers who feel ignored stop blogging.

Be Careful What You Say Online

You'll have heard about the cases of Paul Chambers, who got arrested for jokingly tweeting about blowing up an airport, and Liam Stacey, who was arrested for racist remarks on Twitter, but you might not have heard about Crystal L Cox, who was sued for defamation over a blog post that called attorney Kevin Padrick a "thief", "liar" and "thug."

A judge in Oregon awarded $2.5 million to Padrick in compensation, making a particular note that since Cox was a blogger and not a journalist, she couldn't claim the same legal protection as a journalist would. The case has since been complicated since it turns out Cox offered to remove her posts for a fee, so allegations of extortion are bouncing back and forth, but it's interesting nonetheless that the law was considered to be different for different types of online writers.

Other bloggers have been sued over the years for all kinds of things, including writing bad reviews of restaurants or revealing the end of a TV show before it aired, so if you're a blogger, it's maybe worth bearing in mind that writing certain things can have serious consequences.

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