Saturday, January 29, 2005

Blog New World

Last night I finished reading Hugh Hewitt’s newest book, “Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World."

The subtitle is a cogent comparison of modern bloggers to Martin Luther. In Chapter Two, Hewitt presents a wonderfully readable analysis of the events of the Protestant Reformation and marks the parallels with today's information explosion via the blogosphere. The invention of Gutenberg's movable-type printing press in 1449 changed world communications forever, and in 1517 Luther used the new technology to drive his message directly to the people, bypassing Pope Leo X altogether.

Sound familiar? It should. The internet is today's movable-type printing press, mainstream media is today's circumvented authority figure, and the bloggers are the new information reformers.

There is a breathless urgency to Hewitt’s writing about the current impact and future promise of blogs, and his enthusiasm for their endless possibilities is palpable and contagious. Hugh presents practical and innovative approaches to corporate and niche blogging that will appeal to forward-thinking publishers, musicians, sports franchises, and just about any special interest group.

With so much evidence already on the table to validate the enormous influence of the blogosphere, it is surprising that so little territory has been staked out by entrepreneurial bloggers. Hugh takes us through the detailed histories of how blogs have initiated and driven several major media stories in recent years. In large part due to bloggers, Senator Trent Lott had to step down as Majority Leader, the editor of the New York Times was compelled to resign, Dan Rather is “retiring,” and George W. Bush was elected to serve a second term. With such an impressive track record of dramatic results, it is curious that so many blog applications remain unexplored.

Hugh Hewitt is easy to listen to on his daily talk radio show, and he is equally easy to read. His style is briskly conversational, to the point, and always buttressed by meticulous research and presentation of facts. “Blog” explains that trust from readers is a hallmark of successful blogs. Trust can only be earned, and retained, by accurate information and prompt, honest admission of any errors. This trust is the open lesson of the blogosphere to mainstream media. Lack of trust is the reason that the old alphabet television networks are losing their audiences to the internet. If only the networks, and print media, would learn this inescapable fact, they might be able to stop the exodus of their viewers and readers to the blogs.

Hugh closes “Blog” with a clarion call to readers to launch into the rapidly expanding blogosphere lest we be left in the cyberdust of a new era in communications. His persuasive argument is so effective that it makes me very grateful that my little blog, , has been up and running for nearly six months. But he makes me anxious about not posting more often. I promise, Hugh, I’ll try to post daily going forward. I’m a nice Catholic girl, but the “Information Reformation” is one I don’t want to miss.