Clay Shirky‘s distinctive voice on what weblogs really do to publishing:
The search for direct fees [by webloggers] is driven by the belief that, since weblogs make publishing easy, they should lower the barriers to becoming a professional writer. This assumption has it backwards, because mass professionalization is an oxymoron; a professional class implies a minority of members. The principal effect of weblogs is instead mass amateurization.
Mass amateurization is the web’s normal pattern. Travelocity doesn’t make everyone a travel agent. It undermines the value of being travel agent at all, by fixing the inefficiencies travel agents are paid to overcome one booking at a time. Weblogs fix the inefficiencies traditional publishers are paid to overcome one book at a time, and in a world where publishing is that efficient, it is no longer an activity worth paying for.
His conclusion: “The vast majority of weblogs are amateur and will stay amateur, because a medium where someone can publish globally for no cost is ideal for those who do it for the love of the thing. Rather than spawning a million micro-publishing empires, weblogs are becoming a vast and diffuse cocktail party, where most address not `the masses’ but a small circle of readers, usually friends and colleagues. This is mass amateurization, and it points to a world where participating in the conversation is its own reward.”
I am one of the “mass amateurs”. I write because I love to do, as Shirky put it, “participate in the conversation”. What I have seen over the past few months that I have been blogging is that (a) my reading now has a purpose – to share with others (b) my own thinking has become clearer (c) I have my own personal knowledge management system (d) the weblog has become a sort-of business card, helping me connect with people I would probably previously have never met.