Book review: “The Rise of the Blogosphere”, by Aaron Barlow

On: September 15, 2008
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About Ali Balunywa
I have 20 years experience in the print media in Africa and Europe. I am in possession of a Bachelors degree in social sciences from Makerere University in Kampala and a post graduate diploma in Journalism and Media management. I am currently following a Masters of Media in New Media studies at the University of Amsterdam.



Ali Balunywa 13 september 2008


“The rise of the Blogosphere”, a book by Aaron Barlow was published in 2007 by Praeger publishers. It is a hard cover book in which Aaron in very interesting prose takes the reader through the history of the main stream media and the dawn of the blogs in the historical context of the American press.


Aaron Barlow’s purpose of writing this book was to provide the reader with a cultural/historical account of the blog and to analyse the different aspects of the phenomenon. The author writes the book from a point of view of a disappointed mainstream newspaper reader and a blogger. He does it in a non technical way which is easy to follow by non technical readers.


The book is in the field of the Media genre with emphasis on the rise of the new media. His intended audience are media students, media practitioners and bloggers and also serves as a scholarly resource. He wrote the book in an informal coherent, concise and simple style that is easy to understand by any reader. The book is organised in such a way that the reader is taken through the metamorphosis of the main stream media over the last 200 years. The chapters are arranged chronologically and he winds up each chapter by pleading the case for alternative media.


The book furnished me with a lot of information on the history of the media. It also answered many questions over the way news is presented and why. In addition, it justified for me the use of the objectivity rule in media reporting. These and others are lessons that you won’t get in a journalism school.


The book scores highly in achieving its purpose because the reader is provided with a historic/cultural analysis of the evolution of the blogs. I recommend this book to all students of journalism, the new media and lay people interested in media affairs. The book will furnish you with historical facts pertaining to the mainstream media and provides you information on how blogs came into being.


The theme of the book is the effect of the main stream detaching itself from the  public sphere (people).  The author goes out of his way to explain how the main stream media deviated from its founding objectives of initiating and participating in political debate and instead turned professional thus removing itself from the public sphere. The author is very supportive of the new media (blogs) to take from where the main stream media left, to reconnect back to the people.


The author presents his case by outlining the history of the main stream media since the 17th century in America. He takes us back 200 years and mentions the important personalities in the industry since. His argument that the main stream media detached itself from the people is explained by examples of the newspapers then. How they professionalised then commercialised the industry and in so doing isolated the people.


The book is an eye opener and thoroughly explains how the blogs commenced. However, the book is not written  objectively per say, for the author writes with a foregone conclusion regarding the main stream press. In every chapter he makes his case for alternative media because of the actions of the traditional media. He never tires to mention that commercialisation of the press detached it from the people as the owners chased after profits instead.


I don’t agree with the author when he sounds the death bell for the main stream media and in his opinion thinks the blogs will take over. I think the traditional media still has a lot to offer the people. What is wrong with professionalising a vocation? Engineers, doctors, lawyers have done it and the sectors are still vibrant. Why should it be the journalism profession to expire? I do support objectivity in the industry because the opposite would cause more chaos than the author thinks.


According to the Miniwatts marketing group research of August 2008 out of the 6.6 billion world population, only 1.4 billion use internet. It is therefore not possible that the main stream media can be affected to a big extent by blogs. According to the World association of newspapers (WAN), newspaper circulations world-wide rose 2.3 percent in 2006 while newspaper advertising revenues showed substantial gains.

WAN said global newspaper sales were up +2.3 percent over the year, and had increased +9.48 percent over the past five years. When free dailies are added to the paid newspaper circulation, global circulation increased +4.61 percent in 2006 and +14.76 percent over the past five years.  And in the third world for example, newspaper circulation is continuously growing as more and more radio and television stations open up.

The author’s frustration with mainstream press arose out of his failure to find news about Africa when he returned to America. And since he was just resettling in America, American news did not make any sense for him, thus the disappointment. In my first years in Europe, I also didn’t find anything for me to read in the European media. It was therefore normal for me to feel nostalgic about home and the media left behind. But this did not make me condemn the European media!

The author however, supports his argument by quoting many authoritative individuals whom he included in his notes at the back of the book. He also included an impressive list of the selected bibliography.


All in all, the book makes very interesting reading and I highly recommend it to everyone.




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