David Pogue is apparently still on vacation and recycling the transcript of an old interview on his NYTimes blog, but I found some bits in there that were worth looking at, not as Thus Sprake Zarathustra, but just as something to mull over.
I never was as big of a Wonkette fan as so many people were, and that's an interesting subject for discussion all by itself. First, I sort of thought she laid an egg at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, as one of the first group of bloggers given press credentials there. I thought a bit too much raw ambition showed through, and I wasn't impressed.
But mainly, I never jumped on the Wonkette bandwagon because I just didn't think she was that funny. I dunno. Maybe some folks are starved for humor in the Beltway or something. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, tending toward the body-function/bathroom variety, perhaps, but too much of Wonkette back in the day seemed like ad hominem cheap shots that weren't all that clever. I always figured whoever hired her away probably could have done better.
Now how's that for a cheap shot? I am (remain) a big fan of David Pogue, and there are still some interesting observations below.
Wonkette’s Ingredients for a Successful Blog
A couple of weeks ago, CBS News Sunday Morning broadcast my introduction to blogging. As so often happens, my reporting for this segment involved some really interesting interviews, of which we could use only a few minutes’ worth in the final episode.
I thought I’d treat you, therefore, to a heartier excerpt from one of the most interesting interviews. Ana Marie Cox wrote the gossipy, funny, blog Wonkette.com for its first two years before taking on a column in Time magazine and a couple of book deals. Time announced today that she would be the Washington editor of Time.com. On the Web, she can be polarizing and controversial. In person, she’s funny and media-savvy; it was clear that she’s no stranger to TV interviews. In any case, what she wasn’t was boring. Here’s the transcript.
DP: And then, after two years of this, Time Magazine called with a contract.
AMC: Yes! I still can’t quite believe any of that actually happened. I’m still waiting for someone to come out from behind the curtain and be like, “Ha-ha!”
DP: But isn’t that the definition of a successful blogger, though, to get plucked from the blogosphere and given a column?
AMC: I think that’s what most bloggers would consider successful. I don’t think that. I think that blogging as a medium is just that. It’s a medium. And it has a very low bar to entry. But the reason why anyone does it, I think, has to do with, like, having an opinion you believe is worth other people hearing, and having something to say beyond to the three or four people you talk to every day. And I think that’s why people get into journalism.
And so it sort of would be a little odd if, given a chance to talk to a couple million people, rather than a couple hundred thousand people, you said no.
DP: So what are the ingredients then for a successful blog, apart from being entertaining or snarky?
AMC: I think it’s changing. Six months, a year ago, I would have talked about what I think made Wonkette successful and makes Gawker successful, to a certain extent, and other blogs: A strong, defined personality with a sense of humor about themselves. An ability to filter news quickly and to recognize, you know, what is interesting to other people as well as interesting to themselves, and finding the balance between those things.
What I think is changing is that people have now become addicted to the rapid update. You know, the not just 12 times a day; 18 times a day, 24 times a day. And it’s almost physically impossible for one person to do that.
And so I think that we’re probably going to see that the individual, strong-personality blog is not going to be at the forefront, because group blogs are going to be able to do what people expect of blogs better.
[Not only would I STRONGLY disagree with this assessment (I think it reflects her going over to the dark side, overly influenced by mass media assumptions), but there are some folks talking about POSTING LESS rather than more as a more effective blogging tactic (see Eric Kintz on MarketingProfs, for his post on Why Blog Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore). I think "feeding the beast" is not only a recipe for jumping on George Jetson's treadmill, it removes reflection and thoughtfulness from the equation.
I mean, in a world of information glut, endlessly pinging Google and Technorati may be one way to get noticed (as tabloids have also discovered near supermarket lines), but what about VALUE? What about contributing to the greater wisdom of the world? What about creating something that might one day stand the test of time, as some of George Orwell's essays did, written from here and there as a correspondent, for this reason or that reason? Many of the reasons Orwell wrote are long past, yet we still value and read his words.
Why not aspire to something more thoughtful, rather than trying to desperately OUT-PING a gazillion bloggers? It stands to reason that actually standing out for something OTHER than your pings might actually be an effective way to break out in the filters and feed readers. You know, just as Glenn Greenwald did or someone like that. There are quite a few people who aren't pinging themselves to death with little one-liners that will be as forgotten as quickly as most of the stuff Wonkette wrote.
The fact that Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis are leaning toward a hyperactive flurry of postings, as if the only way a blog can succeed in winning the lottery is by buying (pinging) dozens of tickets (posts) belies the fact that WHAT is said actually matters very little.
And to tell you the truth, I did not get into blogging as a rejection of mass media assumptions because I thought WHAT was said is immaterial. WORDS MATTER. Choose them with thought, imho.]
DP: Who are the readers of the blogs? Is it just the BlackBerry crowd? The white-collar coasts?
AMC: I think it’s people with time on their hands. People who work at white-collar jobs, have high-bandwidth Internet connections, and aren’t expected to produce, you know, widgets on an hourly basis. I think those are the blogveyers.
DP: I doubt it. So, blogs are read by this upper–
AMC: Well, they’re read by the opinion-elites, if you want to put it that way. Which means that they get written about disproportionately to how much they affect the world.
But because they get written about, they do wind up affecting the world. So–
DP: It’s self-fulfilling.
DP: And so what about this thing that blogs are killing newspapers?
AMC: You know, I suspect that The New York Times will never cease to exist. That dinosaur can’t be killed. That really would take a meteor, and I don’t think blogs are a meteor. They’re kind of like a tiny asteroid shower.
But The New York Times is going to have to change. I mean, all major media outlets are going to have to change to meet the demands of people who might, you know, have grown used to some of the things they get from blogs.
DP: So: 75,000 new blogs being created a day?
AMC: Yeah, I think that that may be true, but I can personally attest that I probably started, like, five blogs as a joke, as a whim. You know, like, a blog about purses. Or a blog about lipstick. ‘Cause it’s so easy. Like, why not go in and start a blog, and then it’ll die and never be heard from again? So I think that might be a large percentage of the 75,000 blogs being created.
DP: And how many of these people are just blogging for an audience of nobody?
AMC: I mean, they’ve replaced the family newsletter. You know, desktop publishing did a similar thing for print publications. But are we going to count every person that used Adobe PageMaker to print out their family newsletter as a new publication? No.
As far as I'm concerned, let a GAZILLION family newsletters bloom! It's still active media, and in doing so, it flies in the face of passive media and the push-button marketing brain-wash.
Active media says "Wake up, Neo!" Time to take the red pill.