In 1964 Art Kunkin published the first edition of the Los Angeles Free Press. In his book, Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, author John McMillian describes Kinkin’s publication as, “widely considered to be the youth movement’s first underground newspaper.” By the late 60’s, hundreds of free press inspired newspapers were being independently distributed by radicals for change, both political and economically.
The 60’s counter-culture youth felt that major media outlets, being pressured by deadlines, executives and affiliation could not evenly and accurately portray global and local news. People craved new forms of media that redefined conventional news coverage. The underground press gave a voice to the voiceless in one the most tumultuous periods in American history.
Even as technology improved, publications from the underground press often struggled to reach audiences nationally and globally. This inability to reach wide audiences that plagued the underground press in it’s infant stages begs the question, If something is not being read, does it still matter?
With 49,039,797 registered Tumblr users and 72,194,795 WordPress blogs in the world, reaching a global audience is more accessible than it has ever been. But, with technology that allows us to reach every corner of the globe, the voice of the independent has become oversaturated. The underground press faced a problem of too little distribution while the new generation of bloggers struggle with an over abundance of content. Both forms of independent media suffer from the same shortage of viewers but for very different reasons.
If asked whether their voice mattered, conceivably, any member of the underground press would say that–yes it did. As one of over 100 million bloggers, if you are only reaching a small audience is your art having any impact? The argument in the case of the underground press is that, due to the fact that they spoke on issues involving social change, if only one person read their work, it mattered. For bloggers writing about food, tech and music does the same apply?
Jamin Warren is the founder of the video game blog Kill Screen and he has no doubts about his sites impact on media culture. “I think we’re having a long-term impact on how people think about games. That’s the most important thing to me personally and seeing that we’re advancing the dialogue and publics understanding of the medium is an amazing thing to be a part of,” said Warren.
Kill Screen was named one of Time Magazine’s top blogs of 2011 and is undoubtedly making an impression on popular culture. The voice Kill Screen has cultivated is what makes the blog matter, not the amount of visitors or traffic.
Even if your video game or fashion blog has a fraction of the visitors that sites like Kill Screen have, your work is making an impression. The free press in the 60’s fought to have a say during a time when making a difference was limited to the rich and powerful. As members of the blogging generation we have the ability to make every post, tweet and video count. The amount of views that your blog receives does not make your work any less important. The fact that we have the opportunity to make our voices heard more than any generation before should be reason enough to keep on blogging.