the promise of blogging for me has always been
the ability to have my own printing press and know
that nearly everyone else in the world had access
to one as well.
You say this and you are surprised that the average level of quality of published material went down? There's almost no way it could do anything else. There are a whole bunch of excellent blogs out there that wouldn't exist otherwise, and there is obviously a lot more communication nowadays. That's where you win: there's a lot more communication, some of which is excellent. Of course the average was higher when there was a higher barrier to entry, but that's not the important metric.