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Blogs pick up where media leave off

Their mini-empire is housed in a garage apartment near Elmwood Avenue.

Walk up the driveway, ring the bell, say hello to a snow-white, pony-sized canine named Mukluk and peek into the future.

The source of their power rests in a pair of computer laptops set on a kitchen counter.

Here they monitor and control a growing sliver of the New Media, a brave new world that threatens the old ways even as it opens doors of human connection.

The new possibilities prompted Newell Nussbaumer to close the door of Thunder Bay, his lava lamps-to-leather briefcases gift store on Elmwood Avenue.

It led George Johnson to partner with his old Nichols School buddy to create the online entity buffalorising.com.

Self-described as "New Buffalo's News Daily," the blog -- a Web log -- is equal parts online newspaper, community bulletin board, city cheerleader, ad space and reader forum -- all delivered daily via cyberspace. No printing press. No delivery trucks.

"News is becoming more of a conversation," Johnson said. "You can express opinions online in real time. You don't send a letter to the editor and wait a week."

Thousands of people check in every day, most of them more than once. Advertisers seek them out. Their muscles already flex. The blog's reader forum on a proposed Elmwood Avenue hotel, as much as any single thing, prompted the architect to shrink it from five stories to four. The bulk of folks at a recent public meeting already had vented on buffalorising.com.

"Online discussion," noted Johnson, "led to off-line action."

Media revolution is in the air -- or, more precisely, in cyberspace. Buffalorising.com is one of dozens of local blogs, and arguably the one most fixated on community issues.

Daily newspapers are nervous and TV news can't rival a blog's public interaction.

"I think of it as an adjunct to the daily newspaper," Johnson said. "It's like part op-ed page, part wannabe newspaper."

Nussbaumer and Johnson started the blog last year, Johnson said, "for the price of a nice vacation." Nussbaumer, 38, is boyishly eager with blond surfer good looks. Johnson, 37, dark and cerebral, tosses around words like "transparency" and "granular" when talking about media.

Nussbaumer makes a living off the blog and the quarterly magazine of the same name that spawned it.

But more than commerce, it is about community. Buffalorising.com is another layer of glue holding the city together and bonding folks of similar interests -- chief among them being a better future for Buffalo. Readers include the next generation of Buffalo activists, picking up the torch from aging yuppies.

Its stereotypical core audience was weaned on Spot Coffee, is attached to iPods and navigates the Internet like postmodern Magellans. Ani DiFranco is an icon and Chippewa Street pioneer Mark Goldman is the patron saint. Loyalists are more comfortable reading news on a computer screen than on a printed page.

"Unlike a newspaper, we don't have to cover everything," Nussbaumer said. "We can focus on community-building issues, like the [proposed Elmwood] hotel . . . We fill a niche that people want to explore."

If the daily newspaper is a big, powerful, but -- in an Internet age -- comparatively slow-moving train, then a Weblog is a red roadster careening around a curve.

"Media will be radically redefined over the next 10 years," Johnson said. "Mainstream media will no longer have an attention monopoly."

The gap already is being filled by Internet news sites and blogs. The world changes. The future has begun. Johnson and Nussbaumer are pioneers.

Two bright guys, a garage apartment, a couple of laptops. The ingredients, in the Internet age, of a mini-empire.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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