How blogging is like the mattress industry

So, reading around the internets today with the new PC 2.0 on the membrane, it occurred to me (as I passed through Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, Balloon Juice, and the other usual suspects) that to be a professional blogger today you basically have to be willing to say almost exactly the same thing as everyone else for some significant percentage of the time. And then for some of the time you have to say something different, or say something about different things. And the reason people read your blog is because, (a) they know they’re going to get comments on the big issues of the day (in politics, today, the Pennsylvania Voter ID decision), and (b) they will also get some other stuff that is unique to you, more or less.

I don’t think it was like this years ago. That is, I feel like there was much more differentiation among bloggers of a certain type (politics) than there is now, and that one of the effects of the professionalization of blogging has been to push everyone towards more similar content, with minor differences that in the long run don’t amount to too much.

On that same subject this Rohin Dahr piece on the mattress industry is getting a lot of play. Here’s the block quote featured by both Drum and Sullivan:

The top four companies (Sealy, Serta, Simmons, and Tempur-Pedic) make up 59% of the industry revenue. The top fifteen mattress companies make up a whopping 81% of the market. Low levels of competition lead to consumers paying obscenely high prices for mattresses.

As Drum points out, this structure doesn’t seem that surprising in a mature industry. Perhaps that’s why blogging is starting to look like it.

4 thoughts on “How blogging is like the mattress industry

  1. Part of the maturation of the form (and the homogenization of content) has to do with the fact that the blog has become a (necessary) supplement folded into existing media (TV shows, newspapers, magazines, films, etc.). So, it’s not just that the bloggers have professionalized, but that the professionals have started blogging. I don’t know how many blogs features now, but there are a lot.

  2. Yes, absolutely. It makes me wonder what the future is of a blog like this one. There are a few truly unusual, highly compelling voices out there (TN Coates is one), but everyone else is covering 50-80 percent of the same territory.

    I noticed a few months ago that the Valve has shut down entirely. Of the academic blogs I used to read, Crooked Timber is, I know, still going. Are there any other academic blogs out there that any of you still read?

  3. Even without the very real force of professionalization mentions (Hi!) it seems generally true that the growth in the number of blogs isn’t met by an equal growth in subjects to discuss (though there is some growth) or even meaningfully different reasonable perspectives.

    And while a new brand’s high-quality cheap mattress is a boon to customers, the cost structure facing an internet reader is a little murkier. Is the reboot of printculture exerting downward price pressure somewhere? Can “exerting downward pressure somewhere” be our new motto?

  4. I just wanted to comment so I could say hi back to you t.wesp! I also like the idea that any blog we feature on our blogroll is worth a little less because of that linking. Heh heh.

    As for academic blogs, I think I stopped reading them (except for the occasional links I’d click on the CHE or Inside HigherEd sites) when I stopped writing for printculture. Now, maybe I’ll start again?

Comments are closed.