I was in university when I discovered Larvatus Prodeo. I don’t remember how I first came across it, but at one point it was a big part of my media diet. I was a consistent lurker; the first time I left a comment, a lecturer at uni mentioned it to me the next day in the corridor, which scared me off doing it again.
But those were days when blogs were at the cutting edge of what it meant to publish online. I think roughly half of my QUT creative industries subjects had a piece of assessment that amounted to “write a blog”. Perhaps some of my continuing fondness for the format and genre of blogging makes sense when you think of how much I thought about it and practised it in those years of intensive study.
Fast forward to 2012, and Larvatus Prodeo has made its final post. It feels like something of a watershed moment in the Australian political blogosphere (“Ozplogistan”, as John Quiggin and others like to call it), maybe representative of even broader trends in online media production.
I still think there’s some value in the blog format, and I’m obviously reluctant to give up on it, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post. So in that spirit I’ve collected some thoughts from blogs that I think say something worthwhile about the end of LP.
Firstly, Liam Hogan makes some nice points about political discussion shifting to social media:
Before there was twitter, there was back-and-forth on whatever blog it was that you happened to be a regular at, clicking and re-clicking F5 to refresh your browser to draw up new stoush. It was a proto-social moment, using the medium of long-form written posts with comments fields for something for which it wasn’t very well designed. And it was a specific moment in time that is now passed.
I haven’t been a regular at LP for a significant time—the comments fields there, as at all blogs, are a different and frankly, not as valuable location for sociability. Perhaps twitter and facebook and other social media platforms can be the space for Left and Right to again share the same jokes; but I don’t think so: they don’t offer nearly the same scope for performance and audience. I am both sad and glad that Mark, Kim, and LP’s administrators have chosen to shut up shop. I am sadder at what’s been missing.
Tigtog also identifies a change in tone over the years:
Over the years that sense of fun it had back then has faded, as many of the more eloquent snarkers decamped for Twitter with their witty observations rather than confining them to a single comments thread on a single blog. A number of core bloggers from the early years also found that career and/or family demands, or other changes, left them without the inclination to post there any more, perhaps partly as blogging moved from the cultural fringes to a more central social awareness alongside the convenient rise of less time-consuming social media. This shift also produced greater numbers of tendentiously stoushbaiting driveby arsehats rather than the amusingly perspicacious gadflies to which we had been more accustomed, and blogging generally, but on a blog which was a political target particularly, became rather more of a chore.
I was also interested to read comments on that thread from Tigtog and Brian, talking about how moderation became an “inhibiting factor for recruiting new team members”.
Elsewhere, in a comment on Club Troppo, Anna Winter suggests “people are moving to blogs that are smaller, with smaller comments threads” rather than giving up on blogs altogether.
I’m not sure I agree entirely; I suspect big sites like the Punch and the Drum and the Conversation have influenced the landscape too. That’s how I interpreted John Quiggin, anyway:
After disdaining everything to do with blogging for years, the mainstream media embraced the idea with enthusiasm five years ago or so, putting much of their content in blog form. The big media blogs now attract much larger audience than independent efforts like this one. Second, there has been the rise of Facebook and Twitter, both of which supply a lot of what attracted people to blogging in the first place. Twitter, in particular, can be quite close to the original form of blogging, based on short (very short in the case of Twitter) links to interesting material found on the web.
I think there’s still a place for independent blogs. There’s obviously an appetite for long-form writing out there—what else would we tweet about?—and not all of that will be provided by the Drum or the Punch or the Conversation, or even Crikey or New Matilda. I hope Anna Winter is right and the little blogs live on.