I think Weblogs represent a distinct break in the nature of authorship. The surprise is that there is a large number of people who don’t happen to be professional reporters or writers who have a lot to say that is valued by some group. This isn’t to say that there is not a lot of crap on the Web and in blogs: there is. It’s also not to say that ‘blogs are likely to maintain the editorial standards that you see at the Washington Post: the vast majority don’t have the resources.
But blogs are enormously valuable, IMHO. They allow thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of domain experts to converse, debate and discover new and better ways in fields as diverse as software and politics. The very stuff that makes blogs possible, and easy, things like HTML, XML, RSS were largely driven and developed by debates that raged on Web sites and Weblogs. Until we humans evolve telepathy and can find souls with like interests by closing our eyes and thinking warm thoughts, blogs are a good proxy.
In the same way that television went from 3 networks to 500 channels, blogs represent the next evolution: hundreds of thousands of channels are now avaiable, and they’ve formed themselves into communities that make finding the channels ‘just for me’ relatively easy.
The other disruptive change here is that prior media forms, from billboards to newspapers to TV, were one-to-many, or broadcast media. The ‘ones’ were expert writers, reporters, photographers, TV personalities et al., whose only job was to tell the story. The feedback mechanisms, i.e. ‘letters to the editor’, were feeble.
Blogging is many-to-many: there can be, and often are, as many authors as readers.
Blogging is bringing about a change in people’s reading and writing habits. People have opinions, and it is people who shape our thinking. Blogging lets us “connect” with them, even though we may never meet with them. It opens us up to new ideas, and creates a flow of thought through the bloggers’ writing spaces that is very difficult to replicate in the physical world. Blogging will evolve, but it is here to stay and thrive.