An observation from the blogosphere

The following is from a local sports blog, StateFansNation, and I pass it along because in the course of the post, the author hits on why blogs are an increasingly successful medium. It’s a topic I took up several years ago, and this post illustrates my point then. Here’s what SFN had to say in response to a CBS analyst, Seth Davis:

I look at it like this — we have a group of lawyers, engineers, statisticians, bankers and other professionals that make up the volunteer author team at SFN. As a hobby, we’ve been able to successfully build a ‘media presence’ competing against the good old mainstream media like Seth and others. Over the last few years we’ve been able to generate a decent amount of credibility and following; and we’ve generated well over 25 million pageviews since we launched. That’s pretty good. Pretty successful. And, pretty amazing for a bunch of hacks with no ‘formal’ training who just sit down in front of a keyboard.

So allow me to ask you professionals a question — conversely, could Seth Davis, Gary Parrish, Tim Brando, Mike Patrick or most any other of these national sports guys turn the table on you and so easily walk into your profession and claim such success with no real experience? Could one of these guys underwrite a loan? try a legal case? spec requirements for building? perform surgery? sell a medical device? treat a sick animal? run a business and meet payroll? obtain a consulting or M&A engagement from a Fortune 500 client? audit a firm or compile financial statements of a business?

After the break, here is how I explained the evolution of news media (with emphasis added):

[S]peed and superior insight differentiate the blogosphere from the old model of news delivery and journalism. They are elements of a generational change in technology that has rendered the old model obsolete.

Transaction costs and the old media

In the old model, if you wished to know the news of the day, you either put yourself through J-school and became a journalist yourself, or you avoided incurring those huge costs (not just tuition and fees, but also the opportunity costs of those paths not taken) and relied on daily newspapers, nightly news programs, and – later – all-day cable news channels.

If you, through your own particular experience and knowledge, saw something on the news that you knew was impossible or incorrect, your responses were basically limited to letters to editors and calls to station managers; meanwhile, days could pass without the correction being made known. If you had only passing interest in the news, you couldn’t be enticed even to spend the time writing the letters or looking up the phone numbers.

In other words, the costs to you as an informed citizen to get involved were entirely too prohibitive, and the expected benefits rather iffy. Prior to the Internet, it was just too costly in terms of time and resources for very smart people in other fields than journalism to pursue a question of interest to them, even if they had particular knowledge concerning it.

But the Internet with its blog sites, political discussion forums, search engines, and so forth have reduced those transaction costs to virtually nil — so that, for example, someone who has particular knowledge of the lack of superscripting capabilities of typewriters used by the National Guard in the 1970s could expose a hoax that had slipped past producers for a major news program, and do it so quickly that it stopped the hoax before it could wreak damage.

The Internet has also made it much easier and far less costly for smart people in other fields to analyze and comment on the news of the day. An individual’s expectations for involving himself were completely inverted: the expected costs fell to almost nothing, while the expected benefits became immediate and could possibly involve making a national impact. Quite frequently, individuals with analytical skills honed in serious fields bring about more cogent analyses than would otherwise be available to their fellow news consumers.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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