Blogs have come a long way in a short time. Though an early form of blogging existed as early as the 90s, it was not until the early 2000s that the term became widely-used and the medium became widely-adopted. In this way blogging is still in its infancy, though some are convinced it’s also in its death throes.
Most blogs exist outside the mainstream, outside the purview of the traditional gatekeepers. Political blogs do not require the approval of the editors at major newspapers; sports blogs do not need to conform to the standards of the traditional reporting organizations; religious blogs are outside the jurisdiction of the publishers, periodicals, and denominations that formerly stood between Christians and ideas. In many ways this has been beneficial and the democratization of news and information is one of the most significant developments of the early twenty-first century.
But because blogging has always existed in opposition to these traditional forms of publishing, it has always been considered less than them. It has always been considered crude or unsophisticated by comparison. Even today, blogs and bloggers are the butts of many jokes. Everyone respects journalists and authors and columnists, but no one respects a blogger.
So why do people blog? In many cases, it’s to build a platform, to gather a following that can then earn the right to graduate to one of the more honorable media. Many people consider blogging a means to an end, not a worthwhile end in itself. Blogging is a kind of minor leagues, a proving ground, and those who prove themselves as bloggers may then advance to the big leagues—book deals, plumb conference spots, columns in magazines. The blog is the necessary evil, the rising platform that eventually elevates them from obscurity to respectability.
And this is exactly why so many blogs are so awful. It’s because the author is not writing first for others, but first for himself. Every article is meant to elevate himself, to gain followers, to eventually prove him worthy of a better and higher calling. Do you ever wonder why so many blogs interrupt your reading experience with popups begging you to sign up for an email list? In many cases, it’s because that blogger’s pitch to a publisher needs to include how big their mailing list is. Every wonder why so many blogs are stuffed full of clickbait? Because that blogger means to woo publishers with how many clicks she’s received and it’s easier to earn clicks with cheap headlines than great content.
I know all of this because I’ve felt the tug. Though I haven’t ever consciously thought of my blog as a platform to elevate me to something better, I did come to realize over time that I wanted the respectability of book deals, of columns in magazines, of anything that received the “well done” of one of the gatekeepers. I was discontent to be just a blogger and had a growing desire to be affirmed in a more respectable media. Do I really want people to know me as “blogger” when it could be “author” or “columnist” or anything for which we’ve got an established, respectable category? Take it from me: You don’t exactly affirm a conference speaker’s credentials when you announce, “He is a blogger.” Because, again, no one respects a blogger. But maybe that’s exactly because so many bloggers regard blogging as an unfortunate but necessary step on their way to what they really want to do and who they really want to be.
Speaking personally, I’m all-in with blogging. Recently, if I’ve endorsed a book or otherwise had the opportunity to follow my name with a brief description, I’ve just said, “Tim Challies, blogger.” That’s a reminder to me that I’m a blogger first. Sure, I will still write the occasional book and even now have a few ideas in various stages of formation. But, for at least as far as I can see into the future, blogging is going to be and remain my main thing. I find tremendous joy in it and have so many ideas and opportunities I still want to explore.
The reason I have written this is to put the call out to other writers to be committed to blogging and to be content with blogging. Do not succumb to the temptation to regard blogging as a substandard medium or to view it as a mere means to an end. If blogging is worth doing, it is worth doing well.