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Given that the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is usually very slow in the tech blogging world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeremiah Owyang’s linkbait post about the end of the “Golden Age of Tech Blogging” got its fair share of attention when it came out. My old boss Marshall Kirkpatrick and former TechCrunch writer Sarah Lacy already wrote some pretty good rebuttals of Owyang’s ideas, but I want to add a few thoughts to this discussion as well.
Owyang argues that there are four trends that show the end of this era (though he never fully defines what that “Golden Age” actually looked like). Let’s take a closer look at these, as I don’t think they work as signs for the end of this first era of tech blogging.
1. Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation
Owyang argues that as TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb have now been bought, the age of innovation in tech blogging is over. Nothing could be further from the truth, I would argue. The fact that these sites were acquired simply shows that some smart investors think there is money to be made in this market.
And what was the last big innovation to come out of TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb anyway?
2. Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover
I’m not going into the details of why ReadWriteWeb, for example, lost plenty of its writers in 2010 (including me), but it’s obvious that lots of writers moved around last year. Again – I’m not sure how that’s a sign of how the “Golden Age of tech blogging” has passed. It simply means that writers moved to places where they could earn more money, get more benefits, and have better support from editors. If anything, that means the Golden Age of tech blogging for the writers themselves is still going strong, as there is clearly a market for them.
3. The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social
That’s not a new trend. What’s worth noting, though, is that the attention, if it really has shifted, has shifted more towards the aggregators like Techmeme. Owyang also uses Mashable as an example of a blog that has shifted its strategies in the face of these trends. I would argue that Mashable long ceased to be a tech blog.
4. As space matures, business models solidify — giving room for new disruptors
This is, of course, true in every business. Given that the cost of entry into the tech blogging world is close to zero (or $20/month for a hosting account), there has always been space for disruptors. Tech blogging isn’t an easy business, though (or an easy beat, for that matter), so we have seen relatively few people try to disrupt the business from the outside.
Oddly enough, Owyang also argues that “long gone are the scrappy new media entrepreneurs like Arrington who built a decent sized empire, cashed out, and moved on to a traditional industry like venture capital.” This, of course, makes little sense, given that Arrington only cashed out a year ago, those at ReadWriteWeb who had equity only cashed out two or three weeks ago and that there are plenty of sites that could still cash out nicely in the future.
We’re just Getting Started
So overall I don’t agree that any of Owyang’s points demonstrate that the “Golden Age” of tech blogging is over. I do agree that we are at a turning point, though, but for very different reasons. I think the slow decline of ReadWriteWeb over the last year and a half, the high turnover at TechCrunch and a general sense of instability in the tech blogging world and the rising importance of the aggregators is opening up the door for disruptors large and small.