Salon Blogs birthday report

Mark Hoback and a couple of other people have asked that I take the one-year mark for Salon Blogs as a chance to offer some state-of-the-project notes, since I originally described it as an “experiment.” “Experiments have results, positive, negative, or ambiguous,” Mark wrote in the comments below.

True. On the other hand this is not a lab experiment with a fixed time and the goal of proving or disproving a hypothesis. Like so much else on the Web, it’s more like an ongoing improvisation.

So the first thing to get out of the way is the business stuff. Salon Blogs has not resulted in vast numbers of people using the service, nor has revenue from the service (which we share with UserLand Software) had any significant impact on Salon’s bottom line. That’s no huge surprise to me; I’d have been (very happily) surprised if the opposite had happened, and such huge throngs of people signed up for blogs that it added major new revenue for our company.

What this means, though, is that Salon Blogs for now has to remain what it has been from the start: a labor of love. We don’t have spare bucks to spend on marketing it or revamping it. Our partner company, UserLand, is currently in transition after the departure of its president, John Robb. My hope is that over the next year, if the economy actually improves and Salon manages to end up in a better place financially, we might look at structural improvements to the Salon Blogs service. For now, it is what it is.

And what that is, for me, is still great, and utterly worth the energy we’ve put into it. Blogging is a vast terrain these days — and with AOL about to step into the fray, bound to get vaster. From where I sit, our little piece of the blogosphere has more creativity, personality and quality per URL than any other comparable community of weblogs. Aside from the business side, the other “result” of the experiment that does not surprise me in the least is that the greater Salon community would turn out to harbor so many great bloggers — and so many new ideas about what to do with a blog.

The only thing I could reasonably predict, going into this project, was how thoroughly unpredictable the range of bloggers and blogging would be. I had no clue that Julie was out there somewhere, ready to dig into thousands of Julia Child recipes… or that the Real Live Preacher was looking for a virtual pulpit for his stories… or that the Reverse Cowgirl was about to begin a new trend in “sex blogging”… or that Mark Hoback was going to plug the collective talents of the Salon bloggers into a weekly anthology on a whole ‘nother site… That we would have blog novels and stuff about software development and teenagers’ international correspondence from the early ’70s and an in-depth discourse on Why Your Wife Won’t Have Sex With You and so much else that I’m sure I’ve missed or failed to recall.

All is flux, and so we have lost some great blogs, too (I miss The Raven, and just saw that No Code has moved on too, and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting).

One of the things I’m disappointed about is that the exigencies of my own life (including being the parent of two wonderful and all-consuming boys approaching four years old) and job (including the ever-changing challenges of keeping an independent original-content Web site afloat and up-to-snuff) mean that there’s only so much reading and blogging I can fit in. But that’s a good kind of problem to have.

Since in the coming year it is unlikely that peace, love and understanding will conquer all, and more likely that the flow of news and events will continue to provide us with too much to talk about and to be disturbed by — including more than one election! — I can’t think of a better group of cantankerous, contrary, eloquently individual people to be posting with. Thanks to all you bloggers, past, present and future.

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