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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged blogging

In some parts of the world, blogging is still very much a revolutionary activity:

Pakistani blogger Aasim Saeed who went missing earlier this month has been found but has quickly left the country fearing for his life, his family said on Sunday. Saeed’s father said his son was detained by “state agencies” while visiting Pakistan from Singapore, though he did not name which one. Pakistan’s government and Federal Investigation Agency have denied holding any of five liberal activists who went missing this month.

He, at least, is alive and visible. There are questions about others:

Five liberal activists, some of whom have posted blogs criticising the political influence of the military and speaking for the rights of religious minorities, had each gone missing separately since Jan. 4.

Dave Winer:

You can look at journalism as a process that yields a result. It begins with an interest or a question. Are young blacks voting for Hillary? Begin with interviews, find young blacks, ask them. Talk to a few pollsters and sociologists, get expert opinions All the time you’re doing searches to find these people, you may not even have to speak with them, just read what they’ve said on Twitter or their blogs. Then you write it all up, edit it, add some pictures, maybe a video, give it a title, hit Publish. That’s a process and the result it yields. That’s journalism, imho.

Y’know, that’s not bad.

Dave Winer reiterates his distinction between blogging and journalism, in the wake of Gawker’s end:

Blogs are what sources write, not what reporters write. An irreverent scandal sheet written by professional reporters is not a blog.

The piece that triggered his comments proclaims that blogging is dead. Even within its own words, though, it contradicts that idea with a more complex one – that blogging is now just one of a ever-growing number of ways of expressing yourself online. Blogging has more competition – and is edging towards middle age. Nothing wrong with that.

If anything, the end of Gawker is just your cool, rebellious friend who got ever more frantic through his early 20s, dropping out of sight because eventually the lifestyle took too much toll on him. Blogging is entering the early stages of middle age, and becoming both compfortable and useful. As MG Siegler wrote earlier, when asks
ed why he still writes a blog:

My first answer is the best one: writing helps me clarify my own thoughts on any given topic.

That will never stop being useful.

Of all the things I expected to find in the WHSmith in Clapham Junction, this was not one of them:

Blogosphere Magazine on sale in WH Smith

Blogosphere? (Top shelf, right hand side.) There’s a word I haven’t heard – or used – in a long, long time. It’s a magazine that is

for bloggers by bloggers

Well, nearly 15 years in, I’m pretty sure I count as a blogger, so I picked up a copy. A £5 gamble based on nothing but a much-mocked piece of jargon. Get in there.

An indy mag at a mainstream price

It’s a curious beast this magazine. It has the feel and heft of an independent magazine – the sort of thing you’d find lining the walls of magCulture, and which you’d expect to cost around a tenner. But it’s very much priced as a mainstream mag. There’s a limited range of adverts – but some big brands are represented there, including Canon and Olympus, who seem like a good match for the target audience.

Talking of target audiences – who do they seem to be? I’d say it was clearly targeted at blogger and would-be bloggers, with a side order of blog readers. It’s a stark reminder that lifestyle blogging has become so pervasive that the audible of creators and wannabe creators (however oxymoronic that may seem) is sizeable enough to be a targetable niche in its own right.

If you want an example of this in action – check out a post on a major fashion blog, where all the commuters seem to be bloggers themselves. For example:

Wendy's Cookbook comment linkers

There’s an interview with the editor and founder on Passion Pods which I listened to this evening while preparing dinner for the family. It wasn’t a great surprise to hear that Alice Audley probably identifies more with the label “journalist” than “blogger” – she started blogging because she was told it was a good route into journalism, and she worked at The Telegraph before quitting last summer to run Blogosphere full time. The whole enterprise is a very journalistic take on blogging – right down to the absence of the magazine’s content on the website. That’s intentional, it transpires – Audley subscribes to a variation on the “original sin” theory about the tribulations of journalism: we shouldn’t give away what we expect people to pay for in another medium.

Regular readers will know what I think of that…

A slice of the blogosphere

Incisive wisdom on choosing your friends

Despite the title, Blogosphere is very much just about a small slice of the blogosphere. Don’t expect to find any trace of political, business or science blogging between its quality stock paper pages. This is lifestyle blogging all the way. In fact, I wonder how aware of the wider history and role of blogging the core team are. Audley describes a blogger who kicked off in 2006 as a “pioneer” in the Passion Pods interview – I wonder how the 1999-era pioneers whom inspired me to start back in the early 2000s would react to that idea.

But, this really doesn’t matter. This is a quasi-independent magazine with a mainstream price, targeting that band of aspirational lifestyle, food, fashion and travel bloggers that are much of the growth in blogging at the moment. It’s almost like Bloglovin’ came to life, and was then incarcerated in the pulped corpse of dead trees.

And the general design ethos of the magazine reflects that audience. There are some lovely sketches used to differentiation some sections:

Blogosphere's agony aunt

It’s got that young, urban, almost-hipster-but-not-quite vibe of lifestyle blogging, even if some of the featured bloggers are nearly as old as me…

Blogging with ink and paper

Profiling bloggers

A surprising chunk of the magazine is taken up with single page profiles of various bloggers. On one level this is fascinating – each is a mini-interview in its own right, and so you get some interesting insights into motivations and interests. On the other, it’s slightly frustrating. You end up sat there with the magazine in one hand and your iPad in the other, typing in URLs to check out the sites. This is where I longed for better online version of the content. It would allow you to separate the “lean back” enjoyment of reading the print product from the “lean forwards” checking out links.

The majority of the content is as lifestyle-y as its target audience – profiles of significant players. for example. This should give you a taste of the general tone:

There’s some advice on blogging, too, of variable quality. Some of its is sound and good practice while, for example, some of the SEO advice is at the very least, questionable, if not actively wrong.

It’s split into six sections:

  • beauty
  • fashion
  • food
  • travel
  • lifestyle
  • photography

Each is curated by a blogger know for their work in that space.

But the surprising thing about it is the sheer heft of the magazine – this is a 162 page behemoth, with only a small number of ad pages. It’s published quarterly – and that’s probably a good rate given the sheer amount of content on offer.

Verdict

Will I buy more of Blogosphere? Oh, yes.

Look: I’m not in anyway part of the target audience. The tag line “for bloggers by bloggers” would be more accurately rendered as “by a subset of bloggers for a subset of bloggers who aspire to be like that first group”, and I’m not any part of that. But the magazine sits at the heart of that cultural zeitgeist in blogging, and it’s useful to me in my work because of that.

Plus, it’s a bloomin’ lovely magazine. And magazines were my first love, personally and professionally. It’s nice to see my two passions, one former, one current, mingle in this way.

Further Reading

A blog is a bet on the long-term value of your content

Luca Sartoni on why he still blogs:

Social Networking Sites come and go. In ten years from now, Facebook will be different from what we are used now, it’s inevitable. Most likely, all the content we are publishing there it will be accessible in ways we cannot imagine now, but there is a chance it won’t be that easy to extract the whole value we are creating within the walled garden.

Now, admittedly Luca works for Automattic, which is the dominant player in the WordPress world. But his point remains valid: use social platforms for short-term gain, but always have an eye to the future and that means your own platform.

When I started in the social media game, the editors I worked with wanted to do things in MySpace and Second Life…

The stranglehold of the journalistic orthodoxy

A brutal condemnation of the mindset that has stopped traditional journalism embracing change – and still does – from Om Malik:

Instead of trying to understand this change in behavior, the media establishment kept saying, “It’s not journalism.” It focused on how and what, failing to ask, “Why do people read blogs? Why do people blog?” If they had, then it would have been easier to understand how the business was changing. In December 2001, I started blogging “tech news,” mostly because it seemed obvious — an industry as fast-paced and constantly changing as technology is going to need more than a monthly magazine to cover it. An industry as pervasive as technology would need something more consistent than just the occasional piece or two in the business section.

So much here that resonates deeply – and so depressing that we haven’t moved beyond it.

There’s a certain genius to Medium that I think gets easily lost.

Medium has solved the biggest problem in blogging: maintaining a blog.

Look, running a blog is hard work. I’ve been running this one for 12 years now, and it remains a hungry beast gnawing at my mind, reminding me that it needs feeling with juicy, tasty posts, or it will die.

Finding, building and maintaining a readership is the hardest part of blogging. And it does’t get easier over time, either.

A ready-made audience

Medium \logo 2015

Medium take that pressure away. Have you found a decent Twitter following and have something longer to say? Hey, turn to Medium, where you have the opportunity to write – and find an audience however infrequently you post.

The part of this that should alarm the journalism profession is that this is another way of cutting us out of the equation. That’s no accident. Medium is actively courting US politicians:

In a sign of how much Medium is banking on Washington’s frustration with traditional news outlets, the San Francisco-based company established a D.C. office last spring and has spent months recruiting new voices in Washington.

Working mostly out of a shared work space on Pennsylvania Avenue, just blocks from the Capitol, Medium’s small team has worked the phones and done face-to-face meetings in coffee shops and congressional offices, making the case for its service and training prospective users on the most effective ways to use it.

Sources go direct

Dave Winer has been talking about this possibility for years – he calls it “sources go direct“:

What it means is that now the newsmakers and the people who want news are directly connected.

The newsmakers don’t need the intermediaries to reach the people who they influence.

I’ve understood this longer than most because the press stopped believing that my software had a market right around the time I discovered the web. So with nothing to lose, I decided to try to talk directly to the people I cared about, at first via email, and then through the web, and it worked!

The social graph – the networks of connections and relationships that social networks harvest from us – makes this a much more viable proposition for people who don’t find it natural and easy to write for the web the whole time to find a readership when they have something to say.

We are no longer the gatekeepers of that dissemination role. And that challenges us to understand what our role is in this new dynamic between those who are newsworthy and those who want to read about them.

Interesting times, indeed.