What are blogs and what happened to them?

Blogs, originally called weblogs, began in the 1990s as diarylike entries of information and opinion posted in reverse chronological order, with the most recent post first, on personal digital sites that could be accessed by anyone on the Internet—in other words, logs on the web. Blog readers could post comments and engage in dialogue with the blogger. The tens of millions of infinitely varied blogs on the Internet today also include photographs, videos, graphics, and links to other content on the Internet, with designed web pages and mobile device applications.

Journalists initially denigrated blogs as amateur musings by people in pajamas sitting at their home computers. But, over time, a growing number of independent bloggers, some working in newsroom-like groups, produced news and commentary that amounted to journalism about subjects on which they were or became expert, including economics, the law, technology, education, health, food, fashion, travel, parenting, and even the news media. Some of these blogs grew into widely followed sources of specialized news and comment, like SCOTUSblog about the law and the US Supreme Court, or Talking Points Memo about politics and public affairs, with their own staffs of journalists.

Some specialized bloggers eventually went to work for newspapers and broadcast media that merged the blogs into their news sites and expanded them with additional staff. At the same time, newspapers and broadcast media added more and more blogs by their own journalists, who post items throughout each day on incremental developments and inside information on such news beats as politics, international affairs, sports, business, technology, education, entertainment, and the media. News organizations also often use bulletin-like, staff-produced blog posts for minute-by-minute real time coverage of major breaking news events—from sensational crimes, terrorist acts, and natural disasters to political debates and election nights—until fuller stories can be pieced together.

A few blogs succeeded in their founders' ambitions of becoming major national digital native sites, including The Huffington Post and Gawker. Some smaller ones became hyperlocal news sites covering towns or neighborhoods for their fellow residents. Millions of others remain solo voices who may or may not mix newsy information with their commentary for relatively small audiences.

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