Further exploring what makes a blog a blog — which I agree I haven’t quite landed on yet:
The fact that blogs take the form of a building argument, not necessarily voicing their intent or conclusion immediately, but instead guiding the reader through the narrative to naturally arrive at that conclusion. I agree wholeheartedly with this take, but I’m not sure that this is the essence of “blog-ness”. I think that’s just how people actually talk when given a platform.
This connects back to the democratization of self-publishing, leading to greater influence of oral culture (as you point out).
The word “given” here got me thinking — like the soapbox example, blogging is when people create and claim a platform for themselves. The work is self-motivated. No one’s telling us what to blog about. It’s not fulfilling an assignment. The things people blog about are the things they care about enough to spend their free time considering.
And because it’s not “for a purpose,” because it’s self-directed, a blog post needn’t fit a formal format. A lot of blogging really is ‘talking through ideas’ in text, in real time — the thinking and writing happen together. (Or at least it is for me, though I’m sure it’s not the universal blogging experience 😉) Even when a post is edited before publishing to center a specific conclusion reached through the drafting, a tenor of curious exploration or earnest passion often carries through.
That’s part of what makes a lot of content marketing so vapid and noxious: not only is it hollow of meaning, but it’s uninteresting signalling barely disguised as thought. It’s the writer regurgitating what they believe other people want to read about, or what they think will make them sound smart or good or clever. (Not that self-motivated blogging doesn’t have some measure of this, as all public writing does, but blog posts generally don’t feel calculated and perfunctory the way many churn pieces do.)
Blogs tend to be personal spaces (or places attempting to make themselves appear personal, as with brand/ business blogs) that give a person or persons a platform, but one which they want others to consider.
This makes me think of imitation bees: the corporate blog tries to pass itself off as a Real Blog by looking like one at first glance, then once you start reading you suspect ‘someone’s been hired to write this’… A lack of feeling, an unwillingness to voice opinions, an empty ‘we’, a cautious and bland tone, become apparent when writers produce for a brand that wants to gain the SEO benefits of a blog without risking expressing any personality. They want to give the appearance of sharing knowledge and participating in community and conversation, but those are positive externalities to their goals of drawing traffic, building reputation, and ultimately selling widgets. I wonder whether I’m being too inclusive in accepting everything that claims to be a blog as a blog…