Second, even for more academic research, the journals ceased being a means of communication a long time ago - more than 20 years ago for sure. New research would be unveiled in seminars, circulated as NBER Working Papers, long before anything showed up in a journal. Whole literatures could flourish, mature, and grow decadent before the first article got properly published - this happened to me with target zones back in the late 1980s, where my original 1988 working paper had spawned a large derivative literature by the time it actually got published. The journals have long served as tombstones, certifications for tenure committees, rather than a forum in which ideas get argued.
What the blogs have done, in a way, is open up that process. Twenty years ago it was possible and even normal to get research into circulation and have everyone talking about it without having gone through the refereeing process - but you had to be part of a certain circle, and basically had to have graduated from a prestigious department, to be part of that game. Now you can break in from anywhere; although there's still at any given time a sort of magic circle that's hard to get into, it's less formal and less defined by where you sit or where you went to school.
Since there's some kind of conservation principle here, the fact that it's easier for people with less formal credentials to get heard means that people who have those credentials are less guaranteed of respectful treatment. So yes, we've seen some famous names run into firestorms of criticism -- *justified* criticism - even as some "nobodies" become players. That's a good thing! Famous economists have been saying foolish things forever; now they get called on it. [bold added]
This is from Paul Krugman, "Our Blogs, Ourselves." I agree with all of the above. In fact, Krugman is saying what John Goodman and I have been talking about on the phone in the last few weeks. The blogosphere really has changed things. It will be interesting to see when someone gets tenure based mainly on blogging and not on writing for academic journals.