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January 26, 2009

The world loves blogs. While blogs may be “new media”, the obsession with blogs en mass by the masses is easy to explain. Perez Hilton’s blog is nothing but a liposuct-ed digital tabloid. It’s a picture a la Perez, and some brief words putting it in context. That’s it, plus some ads, and of course, the requisite comments. Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist is just a photo blog of people who look good, with sections for where he’s been featured in the press, a bio, and yes, the comments. ArsTechnica is a news site that incorporates what I would consider blogs in its coverage of all things technological. It’s a site that has a lot going on: journals, reports, reviews, news, forums, the ability to comment, and more. Although it seems like the mass media (and new media is fast becoming the new mass media) is so decidedly liberal (and people think thats a bad thing), is a place where everyone can get their conservative fix (but its just for laughs…). Hotair is a collection of blogs, videos, news stories, and whathaveyou. It’s the republican equivalent of a bad episode of the Colbert Report*.

Anyway, these four blogs are all diverse personalities in the blogosphere. Despite their differences, though, they are all blogs, and naturally share some fundamental characteristics. The comments, the short-form (on average) article, a more lax user interface that conveys “this is cool and you want to be here” instead of “8am organic chemistry” (or, for those that like orgo, “8am creative writing”). This description is common of the natural habitat for blogs. Sure, there are blogs that are more in-depth and professional, but ultimately, they exist to open a new line of communication between writer and reader, thinker and lost soul, you and me and whoever in between†.
Where blogs differ, however, is important to discuss because that is where they succeed in catering to their audience and attracting (and maintaining) their niche. The blogosphere is aptly named–as widespread and encompassing as our atmosphere–and to be seen by the naked eye something must exhibit qualities different from the other things in the area.With all these blogs floating around, each successful blog positively must have its own appeal to certain sets of people.
Most of what we’ve been talking about in this class is aesthetics. Why put an image here, or there. The use of color, the focus on text. Is there too much or too little going on on the page? I suppose innately blogging depends on aesthetics in order to secure its readership, but the purpose of blogs is not an aesthetic one. While aesthetics or art may be a subject of a blog, the act of blogging itself is not, firstly, an experiment in aesthetics. That comes after the writing, after the image, and after the hyperlinking. Only then should a blogger be concerned with perfecting the image his or her blog projects. Unless of course the blog is about what looks pretty.

I went on a tangent, but with all that said, I can analyze the four aforementioned blogs in the context of blogging.

Perez Hilton’s blog, which to be unfamiliar with you must surely have been living under a rock and/or born yesterday, is a celebrity gossip, photo and text based blog. You can easily spot your friends and colleagues reading Perez because of its trademark pink background and its paparazzi style pictures adorned with Perez’s special white touch. The focus on Perez’s post is the image. The text acts to contextualize the image and briefly offer Perez’s take on the story. It is humorous, satirical, and borderline defamatory.
I’ll digress here and write a little on the issue of intellectual property and how it applies to something like Perez’s project, since I have an interest in IP. Perez uses (and adds to) pictures that are often taken by paparazzi or professional photographers (yes, I separated them). Sometimes they come from news articles. Perez uses these images, which he does not own, and puts a humorous, yet understandably (from the point of view of the celebrity being featured) negative light on them. Celebrities, because of their celebrity status, are not subject to the same protections from demation that lay citizens are. For them, it becomes much more of a tast to prove defamation in a court of law. Additionally, Perez’s use of the images could arguable fall under fair use: he is making a derivative work (a new image, in effect, <>, because he uses his digital white marker to add to the original image and thus creates his own, new, work), and he is making a parody. Of course, he is profiting from his work, so to use the original pictures, he must license them. He can’t use and profit from them without paying, since he does not own them. If he was not making a profit and his blog was not as famous as it is, he would probably be able to skid by without paying to license the images. Anyway, don’t go starting your own Perez-type blog without the right legal counsel.

Perez is many people’s guilty pleasure, I feel like. They won’t admit to liking, let alone reading, this blog. But we all know we’ve checked it out. It’s great for celebrity and entertainment news, plus its damn entertaining. It is simple and to the point. It requires barely any cognitive ability to use and enjoy (you could just look at the pictures and laugh), and for whatever reason, America is beyond obsessed with living vicariously through celebrities. So it is no suprise that Perez is successful. His mixture of personality (the pink, and subsequently, Perez’s personality as revealved through personal appearances), the humor, the celebrity gossip, and the simplicity of his blog is perfectly crafted for success.
His commenters are people with seemingly nothing better to do than “argue” about Britney Spears, but to each their own. That’s the beauty of blogging, that oft-mentioned line of communication that is now open between…anyone and everyone who cares enough to put forth their two-cents.

Much different in topic and design from Perez is the blog The Sartorialist. I must admit, at first I read that word as “satiralist” and thought it was some blog satirizing news or whatnot. I was wrong. And, shocked to learn it was a fashion blog. Then I looked up the definition of sartorial and everything made sense.
This blog is purley photo based, has a nice clean white background, clear navigation on the left pane and a bit more on the right (the typical archives, calander, etc). It has no crazy ads like on Perez and it comes off as a much more professional type blog. Which makes sense. The author is not making fun of people who look odd, he’s actually going for the people who look good and noteworthy. Its fashion for fashion’s sake, and that’s it. Simple black text, and commenters who stay on topic, proffering their own views on the fashion highlighted in the picture. The post topics are not eye-grabbing or catchy alliterations, they just note where and maybe what the photographer was shooting. Everything here sharply contrasts with Perez’s blog, and I’d venture to say the readership is somewhat different, as well. Although I wouldnt be too surprised if there was a bit of crossover between the two blogs: people like celeb gossip and people like some good fashion sense. I could see the female twenty-something office professional having a dedicated interest in both blogs. So I guess that nulls my point. But brings up another interesting point: how to such strikingly different blogs capture the same audience? I guess that is a stupid question: the two blogs are two different products, totally. So, someone can like Ice Mountain water and Coke. both beverages, but so different. I should take this part out, it makes me look stupid. But I won’t.

Moving right along, ArsTechnica is a favorite site of mine. It deals with all things tech, from games, to windows and mac, to science, to tech policy (my primary interest). The posts are mostly blog-like, meaning they are not terribly long, feature heavy linking, and after are written with a more relaxed tone. Sometimes there will be reviews or longer journal-type articles with a more “professional” or academic feel to them, though. Ars is a site bustling with information. I find myself only intereted in the front page articles and rarely ever venture anywhere else within the site. It has much more going on than the Sartorialist does, but it is not merely a blog. It has ads and features, much like you are reading a newspaper or magazine online. It is respected in the field of tech-journalism, just as the Sartorialist is respected in fashion. And yes, Perez is enshrined in…pop culture. The writing quality and comment quality is high on Ars. The commenters often stay on subject and add their own relevent views to what the author may have missed, or they take a new spin on something. I find it is always good to look at these sorts of comments because they give the intereted reader a broader perspective and it helps take away the inherent flaws in reporting, including some bias. For anyone intersted in anything remotely tech-related, you probably already know of Ars. But if you don’t, you should absoluetly check it out.

Lastly, I am going to try really hard not to hate on this site as much as I’d like to, given my crazy liberal perspective on everything. This site confuses me, as do most conservatives. They talk about how the liberals dominate everything and then they combat it with something not serious. This site loves that it brings humor into the picture. But good lord if you want to combant the liberal sway you keep complaining about then please do something convicing. If you are going to make bad jokes…give up. Liberal jokes are funny. Ann Colter is the devil. Common knowledge unless you really hit your head hard when you fell off the wagon. Conservative humor is whiny. Yes, the rightys all complain that all the liberals do is whine whine whine. Sure. But we arent joking around. When you joke, you whine. It’s different. They are different. sigh.

So, is this aggregation of news and such that somehow takes a rightward view of things. Their headlines right now include: “Most Tech Savvy White House evah Can’t Figure Out E-mail” Hell, it is “eva” not “evah“. Clearly, conservative journalists are outtah touch. Ok, so their headlines are funny because I like making fun of them. The articles are relevant. It’s the same stuff being put up on CNN and the Times and local news stations. They just take it and make it look like America is stupid. Oh wait.

The site is laid out rather well I think. Its got its popular links at the time (linking to real news stories from other outlets), headlines in the middle (hotair original content), which are backed up with images. And on the right pane are ads and links. The articles I guess are written in legible english without too many grammatical errors. These are pluses. The commenters seem to be convervatives who are agreeing with the content. I imagine the readership is mostly conservative, and by mostly I mean like 99%. The other 1% are people like me who are looking for entertainment/doing homework. I actually, though, wouldnt be opposted to checking this site out more. It’s good to make fun of, and its not exactly fox news. I hope. Not yet, at least. And yeah, I am always willing to hear another perspective on things. Even if all it does is bolster my own opinions.

So. Lots of blogs in the big blogosphere. They do what they need to do to survive, and the ones that do do it well. Survival of the bloggest. Lame. Lame. Lame joke. I need to publish this now and get to class.

*Forgive my bias.
†Forgive my rhyme

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian_Schwartz permalink
    January 29, 2009 6:24 PM

    Brett,On IP: is it true that Perez doesn’t really own the photos he uses? I would assume he has to buy them from paparazzi photo agencies — otherwise they would have big ol’ watermarks on them. I think that’s how it works. Its interesting to think that painting white nipples on someone’s shirt, or drool on someone’s face might constitute fair use. Although I think paparazzi are generally the scumbags of the earth, photographers (and other artists) should be somewhat protected.ian

  2. Emmarie permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:28 AM

    Hi Brett,I’m most intrigued by your tangent, to be honest. I agree that aesthetics comes second to content in blogging. By the way, I like your color scheme.You say that aesthetics helps secure readership. I would agree with that, with an emphasis on “secure.” I’m generally turned off by blogs with lots of ads flashing at me or a generally cluttered appearance, but that doesn’t necessarily scare me away. However, the cleaner, “prettier” blogs generally draw me back rather than just not scare me away. For instance, your blog: nice color scheme, which is part of why I decided to read your blog today.How’s that for a tangent about a tangent?

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