Rohan Maitzen, herself a long-time proponent and distinguished practitioner of "academic blogging," recently wondered whether the "hope for the beneficent effects of blogging" expressed by many of the earliest champions of academic litblogging (including, it must be said, me) "fizzled out, or [was]. . .(even to a minor extent) realized." Rohan's own answer to her question is, generally, that this hope has not been realized, observing that "I haven’t seen much change in the way things operate generally in the academy, and if anything, the number of bloggers actively promoting a significant shift in the way we understand scholarship and publishing seems to have declined."
I mostly agree with Rohan's assessment, at least where what could specifically be called academic blogging is concerned. She cites a few pieces written by John Holbo, the founder and editorial mastermind of The Valve, arguably the first academic literary blog to gain a large readership (and to which both Rohan and I were contributors), that established fairly ambitious goals for academic litblogging, although Holbo more or less advocated for litblogging as a kind of "complement" or "supplement" to academic criticism, an "informal discussion of academic work" that to a degree exists as a second-order sort of discourse that makes "academic work" more accessible. Some contributors to The Valve did indeed post such "bloggy" discussions of literature and literary issues (informed but informal), but there have been few if any subsequent blogs that have really attempted to emulate or extend the style of academic blogging introduced at The Valve. There are many academics who blog, but, by and large, not about literature.
However, my own interest in blogging always was and is in the possibilities of the blog itself as a form of critical discourse, as a mode of serious literary criticism. In creating The Reading Experience, I was attempting to move away from academic criticism per se and try out a different sort of approach that would retain some of the assumptions of academic criticism (as I understood them) but would assume as audience readers beyond other "specialists" in a "field." For several years it seemed to me I was having some success in this endeavor, as TRE gradually built up a fairly decent "hit count" (my page visits were never as impressive as those received by the most popular of the early litblogs, but looking back now the numbers seem prodigious) and garnered my share of external links. In addition, more and more blogs were attempting the same sort of thing I was doing (including Rohan Maitzen), and while I can by no means claim that my blog was itself the inspiration for this increase, as there were certainly other blogs contemporaneous to mine featuring criticism of substance, I think it is fair to say that the notion that a lowly blog might feature such criticism is not at all as peculiar as it might have seemed to some in 2004.
Literary blogs as well, it seems to me, prompted the rise of other websites that were not, strictly speaking, blogs but that certainly took advantage of the audience for serious book discussion blogs had helped to create. Thus, online publications such as The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Open Letters Monthly could be said to be the legitimate heirs to literary blogs (other publications, such as The Quarterly Conversation and The Critical Flame, are direct offshoots of blogs), and it really can't be denied that literary criticism and commentary online in general is much more substantive and self-sustaining than it was ten years ago. This is not to say blogs in the form they took ten years ago have carried the day as the primary source of criticism in current literary culture, but surely that culture has changed because of the rise of the literary weblog.
But in her post Rohan Maitzen expresses less concern for the present literary culture than for the institutional practices of "academic literary studies," fearing that "there has proved to be too much inertia in the larger system to which academic scholarship and publication belong" for blogging to become much of a part of that system. Undoubtedly her fear is justified. "Academic" literary blogging defined more narrowly hasn't blossomed except in isolated cases, most prominently in the kinds of posts Rohan has written on her own blog. I would argue that not only inertia is to blame, however. It's not just that academic advancement depends on quantification of achievement (how many articles, how many books?) but that such quantification can be accomplished much more directly when the achievement is embodied in a physical object--the printed journal, the book bound between its tangible covers.
More importantly, not only are academic critics most often preoccupied with their own "area" of specialization, but these areas are usually centered around questions--historical, cultural, political, theoretical--ancillary to literature per se. Academic bloggers so often turn for subjects to the vicissitudes of the academic life itself because ultimately very many of them just aren't that interested in discussing literature.