Looking around online while following the trail of Moveable Type plug-ins and tricks for a project I'm planning, I came across the blog of Jeffrey Zeldman the owner of a design studio and speaker at various events. I noticed that his site carries an ISSN number. What is an ISSN you ask?
The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is an eight-digit number which identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials. More than one million ISSN numbers have so far been assigned.
It is managed by a world wide network of 77 National Centres coordinated by an International Centre based in Paris, backed by Unesco and the French Government.
The ISSN is used by various partners throughout the information chain: libraries, subscription agents, researchers, information scientists, newsagents (through its barcode version).
So this means presumably that his blog is being included on lists of library periodicals, and in all sorts of guides to periodicals both online and off. But it's a blog you say. Exactly which is why it is great that he registered it. I think there should be a push to do this. It's free and it pushes a dialog towards a definition that people understand.
I had yet another conversation this weekend with an editor from a large magazine who didn't know what a blog was. Why is that? Is there something about the term blog that is difficult to understand. We have all of these other great terms like zine, magazine, periodical, broadsheet, newsletter (now that so many of us use newsreaders to read our favorite sites isn't the line between e-mail newsletter and site disappearing as well?), and diary to name a few. Don't the sites we are reading and creating fit into those categories? In fact if you look at the wikipedia's definitions of some of these terms you will see things you find familiar. Boing-boing, and the late great Feedmag.com are linked to as examples of zines. I would argue that a site like Talking Points Memo is a broadsheet, since comments or trackbacks aren't turned on isn't it really a forum for Josh Marshall's brilliant sleuthing. That the sites weblogs inc. and corante run are akin to b2b magazines that Penton and VNU put-out. In fact paid-content's partnership with BillBoard reinforces my point. What are; The Morning News(they have an ISSN too) , the gothamist, if not periodicals - dailies if you must define them further?
A good friend has suggested that saying something is a blog is like saying a book is a paperback. I agree. Even the lyrics of the Beatles, Paperback Writer back her up since according to the wikipedia it is a song about a writer who is writing a book based on another book - and that is the essence of the original term of blogging.
What is so wrong with using these terms? Don't misunderstand me I do think something huge is going on but I don't think it is blogging. I think it is the transformation of media and the nature of the relationships we have to more traditional media. I think it is tool and technology based, in that groups can start substantial sites with little investment, that voices can be heard and now easily subscribed to, a global generation of writers, artists, and thinkers for whom the computer and the Internet are part of their everyday lives. I think that the more we use the term blog to cover a whole spectrum of activity the easier it becomes for the FEC to contemplate regulations, the easier it is for traditional media to think of it as outsider movement unlike the assault on their franchise that it really is, the easier it is to be marginalized.
I also think that it keeps the ownership of the idea with people who were involved with creating the tools. The small backlash to the Times article about Odeo points this out. Here you have one of the creators of Blogger being given credit for taking podcasting to the masses. It's like thinking about word processing online being possible only because of Microsoft word. Perhaps blogging has outgrown its creators? Does it really need a name?
Far more interesting, to me at least, is the fact that all of this is leading to discussions like the one held at the American Press Institute - Whose News? -Media, Technology, and the Common Good with notes and an ongoing dialog I can read online from many participants .