B l o g g i n g
"I read the blogs today, oh boy..."
There is something elementally good about them. There is something excellent about
the independent individual wrangling with the truth or projecting a world view that
is his or hers. We do see some problems, however much we support the idea.
Most of the bloggers make the mistake
of beginning writers. They believe everything they think and write is important.
Good writers chase this fantasy out as quickly as possible. Blogging seems to
encourage it. Tant pis. Millions of useless words dance along the daily landscape, why add to it?
Well, why do people with no talent sing in the shower? Because it's fun and liberating to do so.
The attention thus far has been on
journalism. To quote the late baseball announcer, "Holy Cow."
Why? Well, it's
mainly because journalism is filled with wonderfully idealistic types who are also
very resourceful. It's a natural fit for them.
There will be definite contributions made by
the bloggers even as the revolution dies
a peaceful death in a few years. The motivation for some
of the journalism bloggers is purely a gross kind of socialism to fight the
media empires. I don't blame them. And I encourage it even though I have yet to see
anything approaching a new journalism.
The French Revolution was motivated in much the same way
and ended up with streets-full of babbling and insane ideas that quickly lost favor.
However, the aftermath was significant.
There will be more collaboration, no question. Journalists and editors will use
bloggers and vice versa. The blogosphere will be a kind of grooming area for new
talent. Most of the bloggers will feel rather exploited down the line and give up
But to say nothing will happen or there will be no impact is rather stupid. And
I wouldn't make that argument. And on a good day the net/blogosphere is the most
exciting playpen on Earth.
The question to ask is, "what do people want from the news? What are they looking
for?" That depends on many demographic factors like age, income, education, region
and so forth. I want historical context and some degree of intelligence playing in the
middle of "whatever." I find it in decent journals, some newspapers, few if any blogs.
I know what the news is. I know a helicopter went down in Baghdad today. Would it improve
the story if a guy was on the ground as it was happening tapping the sad story out? A
helicopter goes down and good men and women die. This is a story. It's not a story that should
die soon but then what about the Tsunami, the American hostage, the train derailment, and
other fractured moments of our reality? Or, is it our reality?
To say reality is so fragile that the press can construct or destroy it is saying
too much. The press can only construct or destroy what the people believe. And the
people have abandoned the press as a "belief system." That is where the crisis
in journalism exists. And reconstituting a "belief system" through blogs doesn't look
credible to me. It's going to take something a good deal more fundamental.
So even though blogging in journalism has received a good deal of coverage from,
of course, journalists where is blogging going to take off? That's a hard one to
Blogs, in even more precise
ways, are where writing, information, knowledge, and technology
meet. But, absent from them are the same jewels necessary for
a website: Business models. And without that model(s)
people tire of doing things for free, the novelty loses its
steam and the restless people move to a new adventure.
They are, then, another piece of the self-publishing puzzle and join with self-published books,
websites, e-books, chapbooks of poetry, and other products of doing it oneself.
And the huge problem in that area is simple: There is nothing demanding what you
are doing. You have to create the demand. The bloggers are trying to create that demand
just like the e-book people did. "Create buzz around the activity itself and then those
participating in the activity will, en masse, benefit! Yeah, man, what a game this is!"
But, the sad truth is that there is no real demand. There is curiosity. And until
there is demand there won't be a business model. That's why the self-publisher has to
help create the demand and do some marketing.
The best thing bloggers can do is find those who have created and secured a demand
from the market and then offer their services to further enhance the demand-side.
It reminds me of a lesser counter-culture that I experienced from the mid-60's to the
mid-70's. People underestimate the power that the counter-culture had at that time and how it managed to change a few things.
In the counter-culture the idea of personal computers was cultivated, as was solar power, better eating habits, ecological values,
senses cleaned of the modern muck, and an appreciation for art and beauty.
Good things will emerge from the present fascination with the dot.com rage
and the good things will lodge in the mainstream that, still, doesn't know what is upon it.
Some of the absurd claims I've heard in relation to blogging:
- It decentralizes power by undermining "corporate interests."
I wish; all it does is provide another tool for corporate
interests. When all the rebel bloggers have burnt out on the
exercise the corporate world will be hiring young bloggers
from State U. at pretty decent salaries. "Make us sound real
good. Connect to our customers." They will be given the
Cluetrain Manifesto to read and go from there.
- Blogging creates new forms of community.
This is closer to the truth but then what is a community?
I suspect the virtual community is as real as the virtual
love affair. Yes, on a certain level there is a connection
but it leaves too much out and the community quickly folds
when people lose interest.
- Blogging makes everyone a writer and publisher.
Oh boy. As we've noted before, the one salutary effect will be
the production of new readers.
More than a few bloggers are full-time journalists and
these activities can produce a conflict of interest.
N i c h e s
This article by Roxanne McDonald is a good introduction into
what we've harped on here: The need for the writer to find
a niche. It's difficult for writers because, as we mentioned
last issue, writers come from humanities programs that teach
a holistic approach to things. To fragment, separate, exclude
is not politically correct. But, the world does that very
deed and if you are going to write professionally you have
to play along with the world. Or, as Kafka said, "If you're
in a race with the world, bet on the world."
She actually defines where the word, "niche" comes from so
for no other reason go read the article.
"Senior memoirs are booming," said Calvin Reid, an editor at
Publishers Weekly in New York. "Print-on-demand vendors are
publishing hundreds of thousands of books each year, the
overwhelming majority of which are meant only for an audience
of family and friends."
Here's an example of a niche, a growing market, and yet little
expectation for the book except as something to pass on to
family and friends.
Magazine ad revenues are up for the first time in four years.
This article delves into the economics of magazine publishing
and is useful for anyone connected with the world of magazines.
R e s o u r c e s
I went through a few bookstores over the holidays. They get very
lively a week before Christmas or so. One thing struck me more
than anything. When I am in a bookstore I am surrounded by
enormous talent of the past and present. I saw a new line
of classic novels selling at $5 a copy. These are dense, complex Victorian
novels that show enormous capacity. I even saw people milling
around the poetry section.
I'm sorry to say they've reduced
the writing resource section at the Barnes and Noble I go to.
A good bookstore can be about the most resourceful place in
the world. Books are quintessentially about the liberation
of mind. It's interesting to me that right around the corner
from the bookstore is a multiplex movie theater. When I go
into the movie theater and watch a movie I am reformatted in
a way. The movies are a modern sort of opera where everything
is magnified and mythical. Live theater is still more memorable
than movies; live sporting events or lectures are more memorable
than movies or TV.
Books are still the most useful, profound, quixotic, imaginative
creatures around. Books are written for other people, not for oneself.
Books are written because people like to travel to Paris and
want to know how to get around. They are written because people
want to read about the D-Day invasion or the latest information
about diabetes. And writers have to orientate themselves to what
they know that other people want to know. If I have traveled
to Paris and know my way around, can write, then I can put
that talent at the service of others.
The whole area of book publishing is a fascinating one. We've
had more than a few writers on sunoasis.com mailing list who
have published books at excellent houses. It's a very competitive
environment, sometimes it appear irrational. And one function
of a publication like this is to try and make the process much
more rational so a writer doesn't feel like they are in
a dust storm looking for small pieces of gold.
If book writing is your thing, your goal, then do a lot of
research on the topics of your interest. Research who publishes these
subjects and what agents handle the material. Every book that is
published on your topic is a competitor. Remember, editors
want to reduce competition. They want to publish a book that
has little competition. Use some imagination to take a topic
and put a slant on it that is original and can be enriched
Find the topics of interest that drive through you with fascination. Take two or three
subjects and keep rolling them over in time.
For those new to the Net or overwhelmed by the nature of the
online job market I suggest you look at the Cyber Search Tutorial.There
are more job boards and classifieds from metro newspapers.