Saturday, January 3, 2009

Why Read a Blog???

When I started this blog I was hesitant to tell certain of my friends and family. While many were very encouraging, I knew that others would cast a sideways glance. Particularly those who don’t use their computers much, except for email. News, opinion and commentary are valuable commodities and there is no shortage of outlets where one can go to obtain information. Why look for opinion and commentary from a blogger when there is so much available through more traditional media?

A major reason why blogs are gaining so much traction is the on-going trend toward centralized and corporate control of major media outlets in this country. While we may hold the ideal of a ‘free press’ in high regard, one has to ask how free it really is when media ownership is becoming so centralized, not just in Canada, but around the world.

One need only look to New Brunswick where Irving Media owns all the province’s daily newspapers, all but two of the weeklies and radio stations to boot. With Irving having a stake in forestry, retail, construction, transportation and the food sector, how unbiased are they going to be in presenting news or opinion on issues that impact their other business interests? A former employee of Irving Media tried to start his own newspaper and ended up being taken to court by Irving as they tried to prevent its publication.

On a larger scale consider a news outlet like CNN. I’ve noticed recently they’re running ads for Lockheed Martin, a major defense contractor. Do they think Pentagon officials are going to be swayed by a commercial showing one of their frigates? “General, I was having trouble deciding on a contractor until I saw Lockheed’s ad last night, I think they’re the one for us”. Does having a company like Lockheed Martin as a major advertiser impact CNN’s war coverage? It is certainly a fair question.

When you read a blog you’re getting information, commentary and opinion that doesn’t first have to pass through the filters of corporate ownership and advertisers. I have a family member who writes an opinion column for a small Ontario daily newspaper. The other day he was wondering whether an idea he had for a column would pass editorial review, as it had the potential to cast current advertisers in a negative light.

Some might look at a blog such as this one, and seeing advertising wonder if there might be some compromising on content. The ads placed here by Google are based on a ‘scan’ of the site’s content, which determines which ads are shown. In other words the content comes first, not the advertising. Other advertising like Barnes and Noble or Amazon is based strictly on commission, that is to say they don’t earn me any revenue unless someone makes a purchase by visiting directly through Canadian Soapbox…a grand total of $0.00 so far.

Obviously it comes down to content, and that is up to the individual. If you’re reading a blog that you think is providing worthwhile content, chances are you’ll be back. Some blogs you might read, and seeing a host of spelling and grammatical errors…you might decide, ‘this is crap’. That’s why I try to take care in terms of things like language and syntax, but I know I’m far from perfect. A second set of eyes would be nice in terms of simple editing, but not if it means ceding control over what can be published.

I think we’re going to be seeing blogs increase their reach as more traditional media outlets struggle for viewers and readers in this digital age. I hope you’re enjoying this and other sites, if you are you can even subscribe to the content provided by placing it on a home page through services like Google and Yahoo.

Happy reading and blogging.

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