Statistician Andrew Gelman has a new post in which he talks about how he got into blogging and what he’s gotten out of it. His remarks were in response to a reporter asking him to comment on a political science group blog in which he’s involved (The Monkey Cage) becoming part of the Washington Post newspaper.
This move by The Monkey Cage blog is part of a longstanding trend in parts of the blogosphere. Many of the pioneers of blogging were commenters on politics and economics. But now the most widely-read of those previously-independent, unpaid bloggers have mostly become paid professionals who in many cases blog for major media outlets (e.g., Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Nate Silver). Something similar has happened with some previously-independent popular science bloggers. For instance, as far as I understand (please correct me if I’m wrong!), Ed Yong and Carl Zimmer used to blog independently, but now are associated with National Geographic (while continuing to do freelance writing work for various venues).
Idle thought: Could you ever see an independent science blog (by which I mean, one aimed at scientific professionals and science students rather than the general public) going a similar route? For instance, someone’s blog becoming an “official” part of a journal or something? Of course, there are some journal-associated blogs, such as Oikos Blog. But in every case I’m aware of, they were founded by the journal. And if a journal were to bring a previously-independent blog on board, the blogger probably wouldn’t get paid; the benefit to the blogger would presumably be access to a larger or different audience. I wonder about this in part because there is precedent for it. John Lawton used to have a regular column in Oikos, called “View from the Park”. It was sufficiently blog-like that the memory of it was part of what inspired both Brian and I to blog. And a couple of years ago an Israeli ecology journal invited Bob Holt to write a series of informal commentary-type papers that read like blog posts. Interestingly, both of those blog-like columns were quite different from existing journal-associated blogs, the content of which tends to be tied to the papers the journal publishes. I’m speculating, but probably part of the reason both those blog-like columns happened, despite not being tightly tied to the journal’s papers, is that they were written by very prominent, widely-respected ecologists. I’m speculating here, but I suspect that’s part of what was attractive about them from the journal’s perspective. You can trust that you’ll be happy to publish whatever someone like John Lawton or Bob Holt writes, and you can trust that readers will want to read it. I wonder if someday another science journal will try to do something similar, either with a prominent scientist who’s also a blogger (hi, Rich!), or a scientist who’s best known for their blogging.