As one of the more, ahem, seasoned bloggers, I can remember when mainstream journalists looked down upon us as "socially inadequate" angry ranters who were no replacement for serious journalism. But I'm starting to think that the opposite is increasingly the case. It is mainstream journalism that comprises linkbait (Samantha Brick), trolls ("Rod" Liddle, A.A Gill, The Mail's nastiness towards female celebs) and shallow self-absorbed diarists, whilst many bloggers are serious, intellectual and high-minded.
I suspect there are two pressures which might amplify the tendency for bloggers to go "up market" and the mainstream media down.
One is incentives. Many bloggers blog in order to build a reputation, whereas the paid media needs eyeballs. Linkbait that attracts eyeballs - if only ones connected to brains which think "this woman is a moron" - are good for the media, but no use to a blogger who wants to advance a reputation for intelligence. The (I fear distant) possibility that academics will get professional credit for blogging would exacerbate this difference.
In this context, we shouldn't bemoan newspaper paywalls too much. The virtue of these is not so much that they finance serious journalism, but rather than they disincentivize trolling and linkbait.
Secondly, there's the tendency for people to specialize in what they are best at. Mainstream journalists have an advantage over bloggers in some things - such as celebrity and Westminster gossip - but a disadvantage in other respects; such as their excessive deference and ignorance of statistics. This creates a space for intelligent blogging.
Now, of course, it would be silly to exaggerate and pretend that bloggers are all pointy-headed highbrows whilst the MSM are all trolls. Instead, I suspect blogs are a little like the BBC. There's a lot of rubbish, but the structure of incentives is such as to facilitate a minority of great work to a greater extent than is the case for the capitalist sector.