David Dayen, writing in a Naked Capitalism fundraising post:
As we’ve seen, the blogosphere isn’t in such good shape these days. Google has undercut the online advertising funding model, and writers are struggling to combine financial security with editorial independence. I can say with experience that the freelance market is, to put it mildly, hazardous. Websites are experimenting with new funding models that actually aren’t all that new; it’s mainly a distributed, populist version of the old concept of patronage. By giving a donation, you announce that this project has value, that it’s worth something to you. The alternative is akin to the patronage archetype of the Middle Ages, considering the billionaire purchases of news outlets, mergers and acquisitions, and the hollowing out of what made the new publishing tools of the Internet, for a brief period, something special. By donating, you consent to opening up the range of debate, to keeping the flickering spirit of alternative media alive...
Since I never relied on advertising I can't say anecdotally how Google "undercut" it. Dayen could be more specific about this claim. Google's adwords created the spam incentives that bedevil small websites, as we've been discussing. But Google is still the largest traffic-driver here, and the main reason for a steady stream of unsolicited email requests to advertise on this site.
The mid-'00s blogosphere declined not so much for lack of funding -- blogs are cheap -- but because (i) most individuals don't have that many posts in them, as demonstrated by Cory Arcangel's joke blog of people's apologies for not posting, and (ii) the corporate blog silos offer a place to put up content sporadically and "have a presence" without cost or the headaches of keeping a site alive in the modern spam- and malware-filled web.
This represents, if not a loss of utopia, at least a loss of biodiversity: to some degree tumblr-ers all share the same genes, aren't hardened by the challenges of independence, and thus are the farm-raised salmon of creativity, ha ha. Same for Facebook, etc.