On Campus

Blogging is all grown up

Blogs have gone mainstream and they've become serious business.

No longer just for quiet nerds and vocal jerks (though there are still a fair number of both around), blogs have gone mainstream and they’ve become serious business.

Every publication and news channel worth its salt has a blog and editors are rushing to integrate blogs with news. Recently, in Ottawa, when mayor Larry O’Brien was on trial for influence peddling, CBC was denied cameras in the courtroom, but the Ottawa Citizen‘s request for Blackberries was allowed. The echo in courtroom 36 hadn’t even had a chance to reverberate, then it was up on the Internet. So began days of “live-blogging” the trial (though the inane details of court proceedings didn’t really make me feel a”live”). The “blogosphere”, however, demonstrated its most powerful weapon: speed. Forget the 24-hour news cycle; blogs are international and never rest. Welcome to the constant news cycle.

Perez Hilton, the infamous gossip hound cum punching bag celebrity-bashes in a corner of the entertainment news industry he carved out for himself with a blog. Take a look at the homepage for The Globe and Mail or Maclean’s and you’ll find blogs at the top of their online extras list. Even local newspapers realize the potential — the Ottawa Citizen has several.

What is that potential? Well, blogs are the new column. The days of picking up the newspaper and checking in on your favourite columnist are (mostly) gone, especially for millennial generation. To read a column, you have to read the newspaper every day to even know what they’re talking about and unfortunately, not enough people do that anymore.

Enter the blog. It’s easy! When the blogger discusses a news story or event, there’s a link to follow, and in seconds you’re up to speed and ready to read and carry on. No hassle, no wait, and no wasted time. We are, of course, in the age of nanoseconds.

But it can get lonely in the Age of Nanoseconds. Sometimes you have to move so fast you don’t have time for coffee with a friend, or, thanks to globalization, your friend is on the other side of the ocean and can’t come for coffee. Blogs are the answer to this as well. With everything from the ubiquitous Mommy Blog to the confessional rants to the food blogs, lonely or not-so-lonely people from all over the world can connect on whatever subject they want by participating in blogger communities.

The BlogHer convention for women bloggers typed, tweeted, and tore through Chicago last week. Billed as “the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online”, BlogHer is a community of 2,500 women that just happens to be online.

Here in Ottawa, bloggers like to get together as well. The first annual BOLO (Blog Out Loud Ottawa — blogs mean acronyms, people, try to keep up) was a rousing success last week. Writers took turns reading their best out loud and meeting one another while wearing nametags with pseudonyms and URLs.

But don’t forget the business side. In the category of food blogs, we have the Julie/Julia Project, of Julie and Julia fame. One woman name Julie Powell is bored of her life and desperate for a change. She decides to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1) in one year… and write a blog about it. This blog grew into a book deal, then a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. From boring, desperate blogger to seeing herself played by a Hollywood star on screen in a few short years. The proof is in the (French) pudding: blogging is business.

This is all to say that blogging has coming a long way from being that creepy thing that self-obsessed weirdos do when they don’t have real friends to listen to them.

I’ve been blogging on various sites for seven years now, and I still feel silly every time I tell someone. Besides the long shadow cast by the creepy weirdos, “blog” is a silly word. It seems like it’s specifically designed to undermine any writing or reporting that happens there.

In the beginning, I wrote a blog to connect with relatives who were far away. Gradually, as I connected with other bloggers closer to home (gasp! a community!), my blog became the place I practised my writing, for an audience. If you want to be a writer, as I do, you have to write some things. My blog is my column, online, for you to read.

I still don’t often mention my blog to those who don’t know that I write one, but I have noticed that the name “Macleans OnCampus” has been garnering some wide-eyed, impressed looks, more than the word “blog” alone. Blogging is all grown up — I guess it’s time to come out of the blogging closet.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.