I haven't found the right time yet to write about what Kevin Maney wrote a good article about in the USA Today. Blogs share a lot in common with their first-cousin pamphleteering. Over the past many centuries we've seen the advance of so many technologies making sharing information easier and cheaper. The printing press made getting a lot of copies of information out much cheaper than it had ever been before.
The argument is made that freedom of the press is only afforded to those who own one. Certainly blogging has made inroads in this area by continuing to cut the costs. The changes bear a strong resemblance to the advent of the laser printer dramatically cut the prices of sharing ideas and communicating information. Blogging makes it possible to link to other's information in ways that were previously not thought of.
The sheer amount of information produced annually, many times the holdings of the Library of Congress, are a part of moving modern societies into a post-information age. The information was marked by a move from industrial production to the production, collection and in cases hoarding of information.
When the first computers came on the scene the idea of having all of human knowledge in a computer seemed the stuff of science fiction. We now have easily the capacity to store human knowledge in the computer systems of the world. It is in this post-information age that the communications age has arisen. In 1980, having a wealth of information might have been enough. In 2005 it is not. At least as important, if not more, is the ability to communicate the information you have. Failing to communicate makes any amount of information worthless.
Blogging is definitely a product of the information age. Just as the number of family-and-friends newsletters jumped with the advent of "cheap" laser printers, there has again been a spike with the advent of personal websites (a.k.a. blogs). In the not-so-distant future many blogs will mean very little, and a few, those who know how to communicate well, will mean so very much.
There are already industries springing up around trying to game this system. Search engine optimization (SEO) is one such industry where purveyors are hocking their communication skills in getting more attention for their customers.
In the time of Thomas Payne the costs of printing pamphlets contributed to there being few pamphleteers. There were many more, but only a handful of them are much talked about today. Which blogs will be the topic of discussion in 2100?
This is one of the many pamphlets in the From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909 collection. It is also worth noting that the Wikipedia entry on pamphleteers makes the connection to weblogs as well. It is ironic that there are people taking offense at the comparison when much of the early freedom of the press in this country was used in the form of pamphleteers, whose work often took a position but was not held in the contempt many modern authors' historical lenses.