Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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From now on, when you hear "Drezner," think of strength, security... and minty freshness!!

Stephen Bainbridge has decided that he needs to rebrand his blog:

After three years of blogging, it's time to do a major rethink. With the blogging "market" increasingly crowded, the model of an eclectic, general interest blog is a less viable one. Perhaps more importantly, I'm just getting tired of the punditry style of blogging. I'm not enjoying writing that style as much; for that matter, I'm not enjoying reading other punditry blogs very much these days....

[A]s far as day-to-day blogging goes, I've pretty much decided to rebrand by repositioning it as what it started out to be; namely, a niche blog focused on business law and economics. So I'll be taking a brief hiatus while I start the rebranding process.

I've always admired Bainbridge's blog, but this last sentence led to a Scrubs-like daydream:
BAINBRIDGE: So I'm thinking of doing more niche-blogging in business law and economics.

BLOG CONSULTANT: Sure, that's a direction you could go, absolutely. But can I just say three little words to you? Desperate Housewives blog. Our research shows that academics flock to blogs where the writer links to attractive pop culture celebrities while talking about them in an intellectual way. It's a whole Whore of Mensa kind of thing.

BAINBRIDGE: But my expertise is in business law -- I don't want that kind of image.

CONSULTANT: Well, I can see you're not really serious about this re-branding concept. I am so leaking this meeting to Variety! (leaves, slams door)

Seriously, for me, half of the fun of this blog is that I can talk about anything that comes into my head. Any thoughts I had to branding the blog disappear when I flash back to some advice Eszter Hargittai once gave me when I was thinking about bringing in guest-bloggers, which went something like: "Your blog is an expression of your identity -- why would you want to dilute or confine it?"

On the other hand, maybe I'm not taking this seriously enough. Writing in to Bainbridge, Bruce Bartlett adds:

I know that there are many blogs I used to read regularly that I now seldom read. The growth of partisanship is part of the reason, but there has also been a decline in substantive discussion.... The reason is simple: itís hard work to be substantive. After a few months of blogging, most bloggers simply use up their substantive knowledge and must either rehash old hash or venture into areas where their knowledge is lacking.

I think we are overdue for a shake-out among bloggers. There are too many with too little to say. But until there is enough money to attract people who will consistently make the effort to be substantive, I think there is going to be a problem.

To mildly disagree with Bruce two posts in a row, I don't think he's got the whole story. Sure, some blogs burn out and fade away, while others become pale imitations of what they once were. Rather than think of these kind of inexorable trends, however, I suspect that blogs, like much of life, are cyclical. Attentive readers can surely point to days or weeks where it's clear that blogging has not been at the top of my priority list. This doesn't mean that I'm fading away... it (hopefully) means I'm acquiring new forms of substantive knowledge that trickle down onto the blog. That or I'm tickling my children.

Blogging doesn't get old for me because the world stays interesting. Taxes on virtual reality? Hugo Chavez suffering yet another diplomatic reversal? Mel Gibson following the path I've laid before him? I'm there!!

That said, maybe I'm wrong. A (dangeous) question to readers: which blogs do you think started out great but have devolved?

posted by Dan on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM


Sadly, I think that Oxblog has lost much of its draw for me. I still read it, out of some sense of brand loyalty or habit, but the loss of Chafetz had a major impact on the quality of the blog.......

posted by: Charlie on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

Well, this blog went off the tracks, down the hill and into the river around late August of last year. It was as if Dan wasn't even there! But it has since recovered.

Honestly, Instapundit is not a blog I read much anymore. Glenn repeats himself a lot these days, and links to the same sources over and over. He hasn't updated his blogroll in a while either. He may not be bored, but he sounds bored.

Josh Marshall has avoided blog boredom by building a blog empire, an interesting approach. He doesn't write at all on weekends now, a sensible thing because weekends readership is (I understand) lower than weekday readership. A guest blogger, who isn't terrible but isn't Josh, fills in instead. Lynn Kiesling's blog was great for a while, but I found out she was married and that just killed it for me. Maybe that's just an excuse, a pathetic attempt to cover up my declining zest for reading about electric utility deregulation.

Becker and Posner seem to be running out of gas. Eric Umansky has put his blog on hiatus. Phil Carter, back from Iraq now, posts only occasionally; so does Bruce Rolston on the Canadian Flit site. Rich Galen and Bruce Reed (on Slate) are interesting commentators -- Rich is also a fine writer -- but they want to stay active in their respective party's politics and so churn out reworked talking points on a regular basis. This is boring.

I suppose blog readers face the same problem of burnout as bloggers do.

posted by: Zathras on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

It's interesting that someone would decide to narrow instead of broaden the focus to keep going. I think some blogs remain interesting precisely because the authors include random tidbits and you never know what the topic of the next post will be. (Put another way, you know it may not be one specific topic, which then makes it that much more interesting.)

posted by: eszter on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

As somebody famous might say, "heh."

After all, given that I live in Hollywood (right next door to a popular singer who should remain nameless but used to date a big time bike rider), this would be a highly appropriate confab.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on The rebranding process is an on-going one.

posted by: Steve Bainbridge on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

Brad DeLong

Credit for not declining even as others do:

Kevin Drum
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner

posted by: lamont cranston on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

One of the problems with a general-interest blog is that search engines don't know what to do (at least in my experience).

At my site about Air_America, almost all of the searches are related to that topic, its hosts, etc. etc. I get very few odd, off-topic searches.

At my main site, despite having switched to covering mostly immigration_related issues for over a year, because of the older entries discussing things like celebs I get both completely off-topic searches and junk hits from gawkers.

I'd imagine that Bainbridge finds the same thing: at his wine site all the search hits are from wine-related queries, and all the ads that show up are about wine.

BTW, as discussed at my link, our host appeared on a TV show with a lawyer who's involved in a case involving Western_Union and wire_transfer funds being seized to prevent human_smuggling. Maybe our host could get back in touch with him and find out if the Mexican_government or Western_Union themselves are involved in the case in any way.

posted by: WesternUnionRelatedSuit on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

Belgravia Dispatch: (1) Greg has been understandably late on commenting on current events, (2) he seems to make up for it with posts that are way too long, and (3) most importantly, someone offended him about being a creature of foggy bottom (wherever that is) and his posts are constantly peppered with defensiveness and hostility that is distracting and unappealing.

I hope that Daniel and others information screeners (I mean bloggers) continue to read Greg and post the meat of his posts. I'm on hiatus.

posted by: PD Shaw on 10.18.06 at 08:47 PM [permalink]

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