The Death of Community Blogging

The signs have been around for a while now that what I would call “community blogging” has been on its death bed. There’s no greater evidence for that than the fact that The Volokh Conspiracy has decided to move over to the Washington Post, and will in six month go behind their paywall. As a regular reader who learned a whole lot from 10 years of reading The Volokh Conspiracy, I would be more inclined to pay the Conspirators for a subscription directly than I would to fork over my money to the enemy, which is the Washington Post.

I certainly don’t think that anyone owes anyone else content, but it’s sad to see what’s been happening to blogging. I would classify community blogging as that done primarily for the purpose of civic engagement, with profit being an ancillary purpose at best. There have been plenty of blogs and bloggers who have made the transition from community blogging to either commercial blogging or professional writing. I have no problem with people deciding to do what’s best for them.

Maybe I’m just being an old fuddy duddy but I miss the days when bloggers thought themselves an insurrection against institutions like the Washington Post, and other commercial interests that didn’t give much of a crap short of making a buck. Maybe in the end we’ll gain something from the transformation, but I do have to say I miss the good old days.

35 thoughts on “The Death of Community Blogging”

  1. I am also disappointed, but the average Volokh Conspiracy commenter is well to the left of the average Washington Post commenter (and that is saying quite a bit). Reading comments by lawyers and law students upset that people are still allowed to hold opinions that differ from the PC standard has made Volokh Conspiracy a blog that I only occasionally read now.

    1. Does anyone else have the same observation as I did–that the value of the comments took a huge nosedive with the change to Disqus and their abominable nested comments?

      I find myself really appreciating what Eugene and a few of the other bloggers there have to say, yet at the same keep have to be reminded to go there. It’s like the difference between taking a walk on a nice warm, sunny day, vs taking a walk when it’s cold and rainy. The amount of prep means it can’t just be a spontaneous activity…

      1. Even way back when the commenters were pretty totalitarian leaning. I briefly was a contributor to Volokh Conspiracy — but then the gay activists made it very clear that they would not read Volokh Conspiracy unless I was kicked out. So I was a contributor for about a week. And yes, it is part of what contributes to my distaste for America’s smallest and loudest collection of crybabies.

  2. The comments were actually more “right of center” than usual with the recent court ruling regarding the Army Corp of Engineers. I was surprised. I only visit the site occasionally and find it dry as a non-legal eagle. However, it is a valuable resource when you want to read a case and hear an expert analysis that you may or may not want to agree with. Sorry to see it get gobbled by the the Post of all papers… Blech.

  3. What I see as happening is that newspapers are starting to hire subject matter experts and not writers. For too long these rags hired know nothing writers to cover topics they didn’t understand. Now these papers, trying to stay profitable, are hiring on experts to work on a per Diem or part time basis. Papers will lower costs, and content quality will rise.

    1. That could be one positive side to this. Maybe it’s not universally true, but I just have a very low opinion of the Washington Post’s brand. Not as low as the Philadelphia Inquirer, or Gannett papers in general. But it’s still not high.

  4. I was sad to see it going behind the pay wall too. And maybe subscribing wouldn’t be too bad except its like $200 a year! Seriously it should be $50 at most.

  5. Crap, there goes the neighborhood……..

    Please tell us you will still be here???

        1. It’s not selling out. It’s the beginning of an invasion on the enemy’s dime.

          For example, what if, instead of abandoning California, a big pile of Texans moved in…

    1. I have no current plans to quit. Though, I will say I can’t keep doing this forever. But I’ve been saying that for a while now and I keep going.

      Though, I am considering a theme update to make the blog a bit more mobile friendly, and to give it a cleaner look. But I am not planning to quit.

      1. Mobile friendliness would be great. I do the vast majority of my blog reading on my phone.

      2. As someone who regularly read to safe and iPhone , I’m a fan of the current theme. Also, I absolutely detest being forced to use “mobile” versions of sites.

        Keep in mind that your theme is part of your brand; you need to be very careful lest you new-coke yourself.

      3. What HSR47 said.

        Sebastian, SNBQ is *already* one of the most mobile-friendly blogs out there. Like HSR47, I also use an iPhone (older 3GS) and on SNBQ I just load the page, double-tap the column to resize to fit the text, and it’s perfect. Entire posts visible without having to click through to another page, readable text and background…I wouldn’t change much, at least for iPhone users.

        Most “mobile” themes on blogs I frequent just add extra annoyance. (Are they written for “feature phone” users or something, or do regular web pages really display that badly on Android?) Annoyances like having only a one-or-two sentence blurb for each post (so you can’t read without a bunch of clicking, and you can’t skim to see if a topic interests you), making graphics non-resizable, unthreading comments so you can’t tell who is replying to whom, etc.

        To me, sites with a mobile theme merely add the extra annoyance of having to find the “View Full Site” link in order to read the fracking page. And sites that require me to enable Javascript first in order to switch to “full site”, I usually don’t even bother to read.

        If you do choose to go with a mobile theme, please choose one that I can avoid with a “m=0” at the end of my bookmark, and don’t auto-detect every time, please! And don’t truncate posts; it’s a whole lot easier to scroll than to hit links and then back buttons over and over.

        1. I don’t like a lot of mobile themes either. When I say mobile friendly, I don’t mean one of those ridiculous things you see in a lot of sites. I mean a simpler version of the regular main site.

          1. I still run into the problem where post/comment text gets underneath the right sidebar boxes. Reading off an iPad.

          2. Hey, had to log into the site on my phone to be positive, but seems to look and act just like the computer site as far as I can tell.

            I’m using an android smart phone with Firefox mobile browser, your mileage may vary :-)

            (note, the original droid browser sux, replace it!)

  6. Now this is frustrating: the volokh website is still up, but it quickly redirects you to the Post.

    I do not like how they handled this at all.

    1. I have mixed feelings about it, because I hold most of the Conspirators in very high regard. I believe they deserve whatever they think they can get from their hard work. But at the same time, as a layperson to the law, I learned a lot (and that is an understatement really) from reading The Volokh Conspiracy since about 2003 or so on an almost daily basis. The big thing that disappoints me with their “sale” or whatever to WaPo, and going behind a paywall in six months, is that it’s not going to be possible for someone coming along now benefit in the same way I did from their wisdom and insight… at least not without forking over cash they probably don’t have to WaPo.

      1. Apparently we’ll still be able to read the blog via RSS? No wonder they call the paywall “permeable”–that’s basically a full discount for the tiny minority of nerds who know what feeds are.

      2. I absolutely agree here.

        It was nice having a place where I could get the views of several well-regarded persons on matters of law and the constitution. There are only a few of those online, and it’s unfortunate this one is going away (I will not pay the WP for anything).

        Also, Eugene’s coverage of 2A issues is excellent.

  7. I read the Conspiracy often and am truly saddened by the buy out. However, there is also Josh Blackman’s blog and the Pacific legal foundation blog. I only hope comments at the other sites pick up for useful discourse.

  8. well, they got Balko too, which is a shame for the same reasons, but then i suppose it doesn’t hurt to get better ideas kicked out to the average WaPo reader.

    and to be frank, it’s not the most robust paywall out there.

    1. With Balko it was actually a good thing, since he had been residing at the Puffington Host prior to moving to WaPo, so it was a bit of a step up for him.

      OTOH, I think the WaPo is going to get a hell of a lot more out of this deal than Volokh is.

      1. yeah, that’s a fair point regarding HuffPo to WaPo. but in some respects, both kind of suck.

        that said, if people whose work i respect can benefit from this, that’s a good thing regardless.

  9. Sebastian,

    The Post, like all major media, skews Left Wing. But the impression you are going by comes from the Posts past. Remember, they are now owned by Jeff Bezos.

    I think we will see that having some impact on editorial direction – perhaps not perfectly in the way of guns – but certainly overall with regard to liberty and free markets.

    As if to prove this point, the announcement today came on the day we also learned that the Washington Post canned that fraud Obama campaign shill Ezra Klein (they tried to put a positive spin on it, but the details are all the same – Ezra tried to get 10 figures and sell both his content as well as the gee whiz speed at which wonkblog was able to publish. Jeff Bezo basically laughed at him and showed Ezra and his technology team the door. The Post said they are moving on, but Ezra and his team don’t have a place to move on to. Ooops) this is a very much welcome development and a positive gain for common sense.

    1. Don’t mistake the Ezra Klein fiasco as a sudden change in heart. The WP loves Klein and would love to keep him. The issue is nobody there could have given Ezra Klein what he wanted. His ego-driven demands were over the line for any news outlet. The decision seems to be less a matter of philosophy than of necessity. They simply could not afford wonder-boy’s dream. Once Klein went public with his gripes that WP wouldn’t expand his name brand (in a rather transparent attempt to apply public leverage on WP), he was also forced into leaving. He went all-in and lost. I think maybe six months from now he’ll be wishing it all went down differently.

      Locally the WashPo has been the same editorial rag sheet favoring all things lefty. Bezos has had zero impact from what I can tell. The local beat likes to bang on anyone vaguely conservative, and then sparsely cover (up) for the left. You will read great amounts of trash about a bridge lane in NJ, but little about a Lt. Gov in Maryland who is running for Governor on his success implementing ObamaCare in Maryland. Problem is…it doesn’t work and the Lt. Gov has been a no-show during the whole period it was being built. Also the little fact they openly lied about progress.

      For Bezos this is probably a place to leverage a little editorial influence in his version of free markets: making sure that beltway persons hear how important it is to protect internet commerce, and the like. He is getting pushback on Amazon warehouses and tax nexus nationally and wants a federal law to “fix” their problems. WashPo is part of that plan, I am sure.

      I doubt he cares one whit for the little guy. It’s more an issue of protecting the mothership using any tool he can buy or muster.

  10. The Post is the enemy but all paywalls are bad because they give a financial incentive to limit your news sources.

  11. Learn how to use an RSS reader. With Google Reader gone, I’ve settled very comfortably on It’s as easy to learn and it will VASTLY increase your rate of news consumption compared to ‘manually’ visiting each site, wading through their disparate UIs and the more obnoxious ad schemes out there (audio, video, splash pages,etc). RSS even works with most forums (fora?), so I even use it it to keep an eye on The High Road, The Firing Line, etc.

    1. Tiny tiny Rss hosted on a Amazon Micro instance. Last bill was for 71 cents, and it’s in my control. But, LAMP stacks aren’t for everyone.

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