A few notes and links on the death of the blog, peak stream and the golden age of content strategy. Please join the conversation and share links in the comments.
- First, Kottke at Nieman Journalism Lab. I don’t think the stream killed the blog. I don’t even think firsties killed the blog. What killed blogs for me was that once they matured as a medium, they were indistinguishable from the media they purportedly replaced. I observed this among my fellow music critics, many of whom advanced from writing about music on their personal blogs to jobs at media outlets where they took over digital responsibilities at those media properties. I wrote about that phenomenon here. I don’t think it means the medium died; it’s that the pageview-driven business model and the editorial aspirations are out of sync.
- This brings me to Alexis Madrigal’s piece on the importance of “nowness” to the stream. We’re racing faster down the information superhighway than ever before and we’re tossing all of our souvenirs into Pocket, Instapaper and Evernote as we go. What Madrigal gets absolutely right is how a fear of missing out powers the ambition to read everything exhaustively. This is certainly true among certain discursive circles on the web. When I hit eject on music criticism, it was mere cultural moments before Odd Future hit. To this day, I have not heard Odd Future. This is not me saying, “I don’t even own a TV;” this is me saying that my life continued without this information. What Madrigal longs for is the Internet of the past. He’s underestimating the Internet of the present.
- Readers still crave destinations. Maybe the fetishization of the longread goes too far, since we’re probably just squirreling those articles away for a day that never comes, but people still want to land somewhere, at least for now. What Kottke and Madrigal’s pieces suggest to me is ushering in a golden age of content strategy. Content strategy was invented to improve business websites, but I’ve seen it applied for editorial, too. Deadspin, among other places, does a great job republishing stories and giving them new life, often decades later. I think that’s what Madrigal wants from the web. That Internet is there if you want it.
Attention still matters most. The best way to overcome FOMO online is letting your friends tell you about stories. You don’t need to have a “take” holstered for every topic out there. Your time and attention are still very valuable possessions. Cherish them.