Just a couple of years ago, almost every weblog on a top 100 list would have been noncommerical and the blogosphere in general was mostly opposed to advertising on blogs. Now it’s accepted to the point where I haven’t heard anyone complain about it in months…even Boing Boing’s audience didn’t protest too much when they added advertising a couple of months ago.
I agree that the flaw here is in the definition of what a ‘weblog‘ is. The term is very broad technically, but the general public only sees them as little personal websites, and the name still carries with it a personal or grassroots connotation.
The problem now is that these ‘commercial’ weblogs get mixed in with personal weblogs that have no interest in being corporate. So you get people trying to harness the weblog name and make a few bucks off of it. Everyone and their mom wants a weblog because they work. They are simple to follow, Google* loves them and rewards them for that (perhaps more than it should in some cases?). What people aren’t realizing is that the whole reason weblogs were great in the first place was because they were more personal than the cold, banner ad filled internet sites of a few years ago.
I feel that as more and more ads pile up, people will be alienated more and more until the next big thing comes along and we start all over again.
The question really is who will throw the first stone?
The question after that is what do you call all of these commercial blogs that will be left over?
* When I say Google, of course I mean search engines in general.
UPDATE (10-21-2004): Doc Searls put up a post about blog ads, and included a comment in response to my post above:
Meanwhile, there’s this sense that blogs with ads (I just wrote “ads with blogs”… Freudian slip?) are “commercial,” while blogs without ads are not. That’s a new one on me. Really, are BoingBoing, Instapundit or Moxie different with ads than they were without them? I’d say yes, but I’m not sure it’s in a bad way. They ugly up the pages, but they also say stuff the authors want said. The equivalent of bumper stickers, seems to me. Not “commercialization” in the usual meaning of the term. (emphasis mine)
To answer the question: the answer is most definitely yes (and he seems to agree with me, but not agree at the same time? I don’t get it). Once a blog gets to be so big that the author can’t afford to keep it going without additional income and puts up ads for that reason, they become reliant on that income. They will post things more likely to bring crowds or potention click throughs instead of your every day ‘whatever’ content. Is this really a bad thing? I’m sure in some cases it might not change things too much, but in others it would cause a narrowing of the content on that blog. If something isn’t interesting enough, maybe the author would skip over it in persiut of something more main stream.
There’s a reason why Clear Channel sticks mainly to the top 40 music format. They get the most listeners that way, and therefore can charge their advertisers more and make more money. Blog advertising works the same way: the more viewers, the more cash for your ads.