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.
Two interesting things about blogging lately:
First from Marco Arment
Then from Robert Scoble on why he’s using G+ and Facebook for blogging.
I tend to agree with the former, but I’d much rather do what Scoble is doing. Why? Because it’s much lighter weight than coming here to write AND it doesn’t have the audience built-in that other social networks do. I see that Share button when I’m in Gmail and think, “That would be so easy!”
What’s keeping me from making the switch? Audience. Sure, I have never been good about writing every day, but WordPress makes it easy for people to find stuff I’ve written about since I started blogging. Google+ is getting better at helping people find me in the context of other search results, but it’s not quite the same.
But why not LinkedIn? Tumblr? Medium? They’re all interesting places. I often think I should use LinkedIn as my default social network and share out to Twitter from it!
Put another way: why shouldn’t I switch to G+ or Medium, you know, beyond owning my platform?
To me, the long tail benefits are worthwhile. WordPress is easily bookmarked and shared. Google+ is a neat little ecosystem, but that’s just it: it wants to be self-contained in a different way that most other networks.
You may have noticed some changes here recently. Here’s a hint: fresh content! Want to know my secret? The Poster app! Now I know we’ve all heard that the iPad is not a content-creation device, but I’m finding it pretty easy myself. In fact, I haven’t reopened my MacBook once, not even to change my blog theme!
Why do I like it so much? It doesn’t try to do anything more than allow you to draft, schedule and publish content. I don’t need a reader baked into the app, or to see stats on my personal blog. I just want to dive in and bang out 250–500 words about something I liked enough to write about. Like Poster! If you want to start using your iPad for blogging, you should check it out.
I wrote my last post about a personal content strategy months ago. I don’t even know how many times I’ve tweeted over that time. Gizmodo asked its readers if they still maintain personal blogs, acknowledging all the ways other services have filled the space blogs once monopolized. It’s a question that fills me with dread.
I mourn the loss of a vibrant personal blogging community, but then again, everyone I used to follow got jobs blogging. And while I find realtime communication fun, there’s a gratification gap between tweeting and longform personal writing for me. I find writing to be a cathartic experience and I used to draw inspiration from my favorite bloggers that drove me to write in a way that was different than reading the newspaper or a magazine. I bet I’m not alone in that, but most of my peers quit their personal blogs, too.
When I say gratification gap, I’m talking about how blog comments showed more appreciation for the work than a fave or retweet. Granted, reach has exploded with those realtime social experiences, but it’s also divorced the work from painstakingly building an audience that looks forward to a piece of writing. I used to be so encouraged by those experiences. In fact, I still find myself thanking friends who take the time to write. I miss rooting for my writing friends as much as I miss them rooting for me.
Do you still write your personal blog? Where do you draw inspiration? If not, do you miss blogging, or is this just nostalgia for, um, 2003?