Radio had its golden age in the 1930s. In the 1950s, it was television’s turn. Historians may well date the golden age of the blog from 2004—when Merriam-Webster.com’s most searched-for definition was blog. How long can it last? Who knows? Here’s what we discovered about the new medium this year
Blogging Can Get You Fired
When Delta flight attendant Ellen Simonetti, 30—a leggy blond and self-styled “queen of the sky”—began her blog, she thought it would be fun to post pinup snapshots of herself in uniform. Delta wasn’t amused and promptly fired her. Undaunted, Simonetti retitled the blog Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant and detailed her legal battle to get her job back.
GO TO: queenofsky.journalspace.com
Bloggers Get Scoops Too
After book editor Russ Kick read that the U.S. military was clamping down on press photos of coffins coming back from Iraq, he didn’t just pen an angry rant on his blog, the Memory Hole. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request—and embarrassingly for the Pentagon, was mailed a CD from the Air Force with 361 coffin snaps, which he promptly posted. The national press, which hadn’t thought to ask whether the military had pictures, beat a path to Kick’s door.
GO TO: thememoryhole.org
Bloggers Keep News Alive
So your blog hasn’t succeeded in getting national attention for your pet issue? Don’t lose heart. Just blog, link and repeat. It worked for conservative bloggers like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who trumpeted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s claims this summer, as well as for liberal blogs like Daily Kos, which investigated evidence that President Bush wore a wire in his first debate. Some of the issues had questionable merit, but persistent bloggers made the subjects tough to ignore. Say it enough times online, and someone is bound to hear you.
Bloggers Can Be Titillating
In May a blog graphically detailing the sex life of an anonymous Capitol Hill staff member prompted D.C.’s most intriguing game of guess-the-author since Primary Colors. Jessica Cutler, a.k.a. Washingtonienne, was later outed and fired by her boss, Ohio Republican Mike DeWine, for “inappropriate use of Senate computers.” (Her site is not for kids.) In another sign of the times, her first postfiring interview was with Wonkette, another Washington blogger.
Bloggers Can Be Fakers
Plain Layne, a highly personal blog supposedly belonging to a Minnesota lesbian named Layne Johnson that drew thousands of fans over 3 1/2 years before mysteriously disappearing, was revealed to be a hoax. Hundreds of fans helped track down the real author, Odin Soli, 35, a male entrepreneur from Woodbury, Minn. Later in the year, fake Bill Clinton and Andy Kaufman blogs became hits.
Bloggers Make Money
Earn a living in your pajamas! Online ads (along with Google’s automated ad server) allow popular bloggers to go pro. Joshua Micah Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com, a political blog, says he makes $5,000 a month from banner ads—enough to hire a research assistant.
GO TO: talkingpointsmemo.com
Most Bloggers Are Women
Men may have taken the lead in the early (read: geeky) days of blogging, but that’s not the case now. According to a survey of more than 4 million blogs by Perseus Development, 56% were created by women. More bad news for the boys: men are more likely than women to abandon their blog once it’s created. Call blogging a 21st century room of one’s own.
GO TO: blogsisters.blogspot.com
Candidates Love Blogs
O.K., so Howard Dean never wrote his blog. But his campaign workers posted a surprisingly intimate online diary of life on the road, and Dean had collected $20 million in contributions via the Internet alone by the end of January 2004. It didn’t take long for other politicos to catch on. When New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer announced that he was running for Governor this month, he did so on his blog.
Pets Have Blogs Too
It started as an in-joke among feline-friendly bloggers: why not post pictures of their cats every Friday afternoon? Friday catblogging became a hit, and soon even NASA was playing along by posting pictures of the Cat’s Eye nebula.
GO TO: carnivalofthecats.com
Anyone Can Do It
Blogs wouldn’t be such a democratic medium if they weren’t so easy to set up. The most popular service, Blogger, owned by Google, boasts features like push-button photoblogging. Microsoft has launched a trial version of its own blogging service.
FROM THE DECEMBER 27, 2004 ISSUE OF TIME MAGAZINE; POSTED SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Time Inc. All rights reserved.