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

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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 commenters 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 any way 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

Bloggers at work

Rogers Cadenhead on the news that Google Reader’s death was the nail in the coffin for Seth Finkelstein’s blog:

Finkelstein’s a much-needed voice in tech because he’s allergic to bullshit. As an admirer of his writing I hate to see his site close, but I can’t argue with his premise that the rewards of running a personal blog with moderate traffic aren’t high enough to justify the effort. Blogs don’t receive as many comments as they used to, and the amount of conversation a blog post attracts elsewhere seems to be dropping as well. Now that millions of people have social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, they have a place they can comment with home field advantage. They don’t need to play on the road and respond on your blog.

One Man & His Blog is very much a moderate traffic blog – but its traffic is the highest it has been in the decade it’s been running, and is growing month-on-month. There’s been no sign of that reversing since the Google Reader shut down, although it’s possible I’ve lost readers who were only reading in a feed reader. Comments come and go in bursts, but most discussion actually seems to happen on Twitter.

This blog is my storefront – a showcase of my work, my thinking and my expertise, and there’s very little work I’ve had since I dived into consultancy 18 months ago that has not come from this blog in some way.

Do I sell ads here? No.

Do I get a heap of comments? No.

Do I get a boatload of traffic? No.

But I do get work from it. It’s really the only marketing I’m doing. because of that, I’m able to contribute my share towards supporting my little family – and that’s all that matters in the end. As Hugh Macleod said a very long time ago – blogs are a great way to make things happen indirectly – and that remains as true as ever.

A couple of blog recommendations for you, to drop into whatever you’re using to replace Google Reader…

Adam’s Apples

Adam's Apples - a blog
Adam Scott is the creative director of FreeState and a master of brand-related storytelling. Remember my liveblogging from the Zeitgeist Project in Berlin? They were the people behind it.

His new blog Adam’s Apples is a buffet of interesting ideas about narrative expressed in a physical context. Must-read.

Not So Thin Lizzie

Not So Thin Lizzie - a blog
One of my (now ex-) students from the Magazine Journalism MA at City University has spun off her own food blog from the project blog she did as part of the Online Journalism module.

Not So Thin Lizzie is a journey through her interest in food. Pop over, salivate a little and give her some encouragement.

Are you familiar with the expression “tl;dr”? Classic “internet speak” for “too long; didn’t read”. It’s often used in a mocking, trolling sense. 

Well, now there’s a new variation on it: bp;dr

“behind paywall; didn’t read”

In the context I just came across it, it was applied to a scientific paper, but obviously the phrase is going to hit the journalistic world sooner or later. As increasing numbers of outlets erect paywalls, more and more people will find themselves in a bp;dr situation. Some will pay, many won’t.

This reminded me of Jon Bernstein’s recent meditation on the catastrophic effect The Times’s paywall had on its blogs, especially Comment Central, which is a shadow of its pre-2010 self:

A blog like Comment Central really needs to be free. There simply isn’t the community among the subscriber base to make it thrive and blogs work best when thoughts are shared, posts link out and are linked to, and discussions are prompted by the opinions and insights expressed. All that needs to happen beyond the walled garden of a single publication.

I think people would do well to pause and remember that, as they rush to erect paywalls around their content, that there’s a price for the publisher as well: isolation from the online conversation that determines relevance and attention. Some years ago, I was involved in an effort to build free access content for one online site that had been paywalled for a decade – because its isolation from online discussion and linking was hitting both its reputation and its search traffic. However good the reputation of this site’s journalism – to the internet, it looked like it didn’t exist. 

bp;de

Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines is five years old. At this rate it might out-live the industry:

Actually, of course publishing will survive, but in five years time there will be fewer titles and fewer big companies. Magazines will continue to close, publishing businesses will go out of business or merge, and fewer people will be employed. We will continue to read articles (on mobile devices, obviously) about the ‘vibrancy’ of print because another tiny indy publication has launched; the PPA will continue to send out press releases about the health of the industry even as its membership continues to fall; and senior executives will continue to pay themselves ten times more than most of their employees as their reward for managing decline.

There’s so much that’s quotable in the post, that I had a hard time picking out just one par. Go read

Congratulations, Private Frazer, you miserable old sod. 🙂

Steph:

For the next ten days, starting tomorrow (Tuesday), I’m going to write a post a day. I’ll keep it short: blogging used to be quick and dirty, and somewhere between the arrival of Facebook and Twitter, posts have started growing into long essays that take hours to write.

Great idea. I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with handing over content to Twitter and Facebook just because it’s short. This is a space I own and control. I need to nurture it more… and so I’m joining in. 

One of the nice things about shifting from a corporate employee to freelance consultant-for-hire type, is completely defining my own work style and tools. For example, I just figured out how to solve the “where did I read that?” issue that often plagues me when blogging. For example, while writing this for NEXT, I wanted to refers back to a couple of blog posts I’d read. This is how I ensure that I have the last month’s worth of blog reading available to me at all times. 

My Mac RSS readers of choice is Reeder. It has this handy little setting:
Reeder read settings
With things set up like that, I have a 30 day archive of my subscribed feeds, one that’s searchable offline, like this:
Searching Reeder
Dead handy that. Next to sort out is long-term reference storage, which is probably going to involve Evernote and Instapaper in some clever way…

Andy Boyle:

It’s time to stop bifurcating your content as blogs and news because they run on separate systems. It is all content, so why not call it that? Even if you have outside people writing posts on your website that are unmoderated by your staff — that’s still content that’s part of your media outlet’s website. I don’t have any research proving this, but in my short journalism career many media outlets just slapped the name “blog” on something because it lived in a different CMS. We should stop this. Please.

No, we shouldn’t.

Blogs aren’t just about the technology. Blogs are about tone of voice, an approach to community-focused publishing, linking and focus. You can deliver news through a blog, sure, but you won’t be doing it in the same way you do traditional news.

He’s essentially arguing that we should stop calling newspapers by that name, and call them all magazines, because hey, they’re all printed on folded paper, right?

If people are separating “blogs” and “news” purely on technology, then yes, they’re idiots. (It’s also another category error. You can deliver news through blogs, but not blogs through news. See?)  However, if they don’t understand the distinctions between the two media, and perceive them all as a mish-mash of content, they they don’t understand the subtleties of either medium.