I forgot that the stream versus page debate started over a year ago. Here’s Anil Dash’s roundup.
As Choire notes, this really only works if you ditch owning your content. There was an interesting debate on that last summer. Marco Arment argued against Medium, while Scoble more or less stopped blogging.
I think this takes us back to Madrigal on the stream. We’re living in a media environment where liveblogging is the norm. We want to follow breaking news in real time and we want to watch heated debates unfold on Twitter from the social sidelines. But if we care enough, we want to read analysis, too.
Madrigal’s point on FOMO is critical here. There are communities on the web that want to be in on everything as it happens. That doesn’t work because understanding doesn’t scale. This may explain why journalists TL;DR their own stuff in social. The challenge isn’t a question of format but relevance and the latter is challenged by the former.
We need to be better editors in every sense. We need to identify what’s important and necessary. We can’t dip our toe into the stream and learn by osmosis.
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.
We go to settlement on our Letterly Street home in a few hours. Once it’s over, it’ll be the first time neither Helen nor I have rented or owned a property in the Philadelphia area since we met in 1996.
You were good to us, Letterly Street. Thanks for all the wonderful memories.
Maybe I’m following the wrong people on social media, but has the word “overlooked” lost all meaning as it pertains to culture? It seems to me that when we’re still printing spoiler alerts for ten-year-old TV shows that “overlooked” has lost all explanatory power. Now when I see that word in a review, I roll my eyes. Chances are the reviews are just as overlooked as the culture they describe, if not moreso.
Sure, within your niche the new records from Vampire Weekend or the National may be on everyone’s lips, but it’s a safe bet that the word of mouth outpaces actual consumption of that particular cultural artifact. You may perceive that those records have gone mainstream, but the reality is your neighbor has never heard either band.
There’s definitely a bright side to this; with this shift, it appears to me at least that snobbery loses in the bargain. The on demand nature of culture now enables anyone curious enough to bookmark those things mentally and narrows the gap between the expert and the novice. Moreover, we’ve done away with the cultural monoliths that once dominated the pop cultural landscape that allow us to gather around real and imagined water coolers for discussion and debate.
But how do critics describe this shift as the pace of cultural creation plows under what came before? Blink and you could miss the next cultural epicycle. Has culture been marginalized or personalized? Can anything be described as ephemeral, or were we just always talking to ourselves, the myth of monoculture just another imagined community peopled exclusively by elites?
When Helen and I first settled in Port Fishington six years ago, we thought we’d made a bad decision. We’d moved from a vibrant, bustling street in Pennsport to a desolate block above York Street. We found lots of vacant houses and even less to eat. It wasn’t scary; the neighbors were friendly and welcoming. They planted the tree in front of our house for a few bucks and a case of beer! But we still felt like we’d left the place we loved for a place we could afford. That feeling of buyer’s remorse was hard to ignore.
Now that we’re getting ready to say goodbye to Philadelphia, we know we made the right choice moving here. This neighborhood flourished since we moved here, with fantastic new restaurants to go along with the music scene. We’ve been spoiled by having Greensgrow Farm around the corner. If you’d told me then that Stephen Starr would have not one, but two restaurants here, I would’ve laughed in your face. And then it happened. Heck, I introduced the #toomanygastropubs hashtag as a tongue-in-cheek complaint about our restaurant bounty.
We loved it so much, we started a family here. Charlie loves it, too! We’ve played countless games on the sidewalk in front of our house, saying hello to everyone who smiles at him as they pass. We made Memphis Taproom our living room away from home. We convinced our friends to move here, too! We’ve made great memories here. Port Fishington’s been good to us. We’re going to miss this place when we go.