Are Blogs Parasites? Not The Live Ones

March 2, 2007

Kind of funny to read this article suggesting that blogs are “parasites” feeding on journalism, and then another profiling “live blogging” – where the latter species of blog is about as far away from the former as you can get.

First, here’s the definition of a parasite:

An organism that lives in or on the living tissue of a host organism at the expense of that host.

Any regular blog reader knows there are as many varieties as people. Some are definitely in the “parasitic” mode in the sense that most of the content isn’t original, and much of it is links to other blogs or websites and just adding a sentence – “isn’t this way cool?” to the conversation – however, I’d say this is the minority.

Most blogs I read fall under the guise of review – in addition to links to “host” news stories, there is the added value of opinion, evaluation, fact-checking, and comments going on. These blogs are part opinion, part check and balance, and part amateur journalism. Included in this genre are the talk-radio-esque political blogs that look at current events and hem and haw over the implications. I don’t see this form of blog any more a parasite than what a movie critic is to a feature film. While the movie industry might view a dour thumbs-down Roger Ebert as an irritating mosquito, is he killing the film industry?

But then we come to blogs with original content. I actually see way more of this than anything else. I don’t partake in “live blogging” but I can understand why those who are a bit more open about their personal lives would do it. It’s an easy way to say “Hey, look at me!” in a public place (the Internet). It’s great for folks who could see themselves on a reality TV show. I’d guess “live blogging” is the vast majority of blogs, especially when you add in people’s diary-like writing on MySpace blogs. There are tons of writers ranting about how crappy their day was, the latest movie they saw, and what they ate for dinner. And while these thoughts may be mundane, the content is original, as it’s particular to the author.

I see “live blogging” becoming more popular as the barrier to entry is low. You don’t have to be knowledgeable about anything. You don’t have to create links to other articles. Anyone with a pulse can write a paragraph about themselves on a regular basis (today, I woke up and typed this post…). Or, if all you can muster is a sentence, there’s Twitter. And since I see this form of blog (despite my questions about its ultimate purpose) becoming more common, it’s definitely wrong to call blogs parasites. The “live blogging” form is its own species. One with a mirror, maybe, but still its own.

So I see blogs and traditional journalism as more symbiotic than anything else. While I do still see instances of something being reported on say, The New York Times and a blood-sucking cluster of blogs on TechMeme linking – resembling a flock of pigeons attacking a scatter of birdseed – I also notice more and more the opposite: The recent print issue of BusinessWeek had a brief article profiling First Life – a Second Life spoof that appeared on the net ages ago, and that many bloggers have already discussed and commented on.

Unfortunately, the First Life site didn’t get a link that can be indexed by Google from that print one, so who’s the worse leecher?

Here’s the definition of a symbiont:

An organism that is associated with another in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Additional Reading:, Scripting News, Trends in the Living Networks


  1. Helen says:

    Many blogs are full of useful information. Some blogs are parasites though.