Editor’ Note: This essay is the second installment of a series on the challenges posed by the digital revolution to the world of culture. We are delighted to acknowledge that the Hertog/Simon Fund for Policy Analysis provided critical support for this series.

Sometime in 2006, freshly graduated from college and newly employed as a junior editor at The Wall Street Journal, I decided it would be a good idea to publish my musings about the Internet. The op-ed quoted Joseph Conrad to the effect that newspapers are “written by fools to be read by imbeciles” and suggested that blogs are the new newspapers. It turns out that people do not like to be called imbeciles, bloggers in general and imbecile bloggers in particular.

The piece, which carried the headline “The Blog Mob,” was a sensation, a controversy, and, finally, a mistake. It is worth recalling not because it has mu ...