Categories
Society Websites

Blogs are a platform for normal people

Replied to Understanding blogs | Tracy Durnell by Murray Adcock.Murray Adcock. (theadhocracy.co.uk)

I am a big fan of categorisation debates, so the concept of trying to define what a “blog” is (or isn’t) piqued my interest.

Further exploring what makes a blog a blog — which I agree I haven’t quite landed on yet:

The fact that blogs take the form of a building argument, not necessarily voicing their intent or conclusion immediately, but instead guiding the reader through the narrative to naturally arrive at that conclusion. I agree wholeheartedly with this take, but I’m not sure that this is the essence of “blog-ness”. I think that’s just how people actually talk when given a platform.

(Emphasis mine.)

This connects back to the democratization of self-publishing, leading to greater influence of oral culture (as you point out).

The word “given” here got me thinking — like the soapbox example, blogging is when people create and claim a platform for themselves. The work is self-motivated. No one’s telling us what to blog about. It’s not fulfilling an assignment. The things people blog about are the things they care about enough to spend their free time considering.

And because it’s not “for a purpose,” because it’s self-directed, a blog post needn’t fit a formal format. A lot of blogging really is ‘talking through ideas’ in text, in real time — the thinking and writing happen together. (Or at least it is for me, though I’m sure it’s not the universal blogging experience 😉) Even when a post is edited before publishing to center a specific conclusion reached through the drafting, a tenor of curious exploration or earnest passion often carries through.

That’s part of what makes a lot of content marketing so vapid and noxious: not only is it hollow of meaning, but it’s uninteresting signalling barely disguised as thought. It’s the writer regurgitating what they believe other people want to read about, or what they think will make them sound smart or good or clever. (Not that self-motivated blogging doesn’t have some measure of this, as all public writing does, but blog posts generally don’t feel calculated and perfunctory the way many churn pieces do.)

Blogs tend to be personal spaces (or places attempting to make themselves appear personal, as with brand/ business blogs) that give a person or persons a platform, but one which they want others to consider.

(Emphasis mine.)

This makes me think of imitation bees: the corporate blog tries to pass itself off as a Real Blog by looking like one at first glance, then once you start reading you suspect ‘someone’s been hired to write this’… A lack of feeling, an unwillingness to voice opinions, an empty ‘we’, a cautious and bland tone, become apparent when writers produce for a brand that wants to gain the SEO benefits of a blog without risking expressing any personality. They want to give the appearance of sharing knowledge and participating in community and conversation, but those are positive externalities to their goals of drawing traffic, building reputation, and ultimately selling widgets. I wonder whether I’m being too inclusive in accepting everything that claims to be a blog as a blog…

Categories
Society

Investing commercial products with personal meaning, building identity through brands

Bookmarked The Trend Report™: Memory Purchase by Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick (The Trend Report™)

On the objectification of memories and a new “it” product.

In a way, this “famous recipe” was sponsored content. It was a remixing of products. These memories, this story of hers, was a personalization of capitalism, building a lore and culture around something bought.

But where this becomes a bit concerning is when…all of your memories are wrapped up in products, in stuff, in things that came-from-the-store.

To be American, to be of the twenty-first century, is to have no heirlooms but to own so many physicalized empty calories.

Categories
The Internet Writing

Substackification

Replied to All writing is centralizing onto Substack by Erik Hoel (The Intrinsic Perspective)

When writing is “decentralized” it just means it’s spread weakly out across the internet, it means different outlets and blogs and webpages all scrounging for attention via a thousand different streams—all of them used to living on the scraps, unprepared for the torrent of attention that centralization will bring. Neither RSS feeds nor hand-rolled email lists onboard the user into an ecosystem where everything has the same rules, the same ways of liking and commenting and subscribing, nor the same format, UI, layout, and mechanisms…

I feel like this article forgets about Medium, which at one time seemed like it would become the central repository for writing on the internet — but Substack offers a better compensation model for writers, and an easier way to follow writing with the newsletter subscription approach. I agree that Substack feels like it’s about at this network effect point.

I’m a proponent of the own-your-content IndieWeb approach so a new silo frustrates me, while acknowledging that it’s ideal from a user standpoint to have a consistent experience and provides a discovery platform. My compromise when I ran a Substack was to cross-post on my own domain. (What would be lovely from an IndieWeb standpoint would be for Substack to accept Webmentions as comments so this post would appear under the original article, but that’s not going to happen — there’s no incentive for Substack or creators to support decentralized users in their siloed ecosystem.)

I am encouraged by the number of people committing to longform writing online, especially in a world where hot takes and microblogging are top. (I agree that blogger isn’t an appropriate name for newsletter writers — they are different formats — and would propose ‘essayist’ for writers of article-centric newsletters, unless that sounds too pretentious 😂)
There’s something about newsletters that feels different to write than a blog, and it seems to be more welcoming and inviting to new writers (whether inherently or via zeitgeist) as well as traditionally published authors drawn by easy monetization and the plug-and-play interface.

But.

But.

The same thing that makes it easy for readers to join — consistency — makes it harder for writers to create their own brand beyond Substack: every Substack newsletter looks the same. They offer some personalization but the emails that land in inboxes look nearly identical. I frankly have no idea which writer is which. Last year I subscribed to a bunch of Substacks from women in their 20s through 40s, and it was disorienting to have no idea who wrote the current email I was reading, and which previous emails were by them. I wound up unsubscribing from pretty much all of them because I couldn’t figure out consistently which ones I liked 🤷‍♀️ While blog posts may look the same in my feed reader, I can click through to open the article in its original website to remind myself who the author is. The unique look of the website is enough visual cue for me, while apparently a logo in an email header isn’t.

This makes me think of Etsy, which could be a glimpse forward of the risks of a silo for writers who lock themselves into the Substack model, like lower payments or mandatory advertising to get traffic to your newsletter. I try to be conscientious about it now I’ve noticed it, but the usual answer about where something came from is “a seller on Etsy” rather than the actual shop’s name. Likewise, I’ll find myself prefacing comments with “some Substack I follow” — which I might also say about a blog, but I’m more likely to actually remember the author’s name of a blog because it’s a distinct entity in my mind versus part of the Substack collective. Earlier today, I was reading a new email newsletter, and didn’t realize the same author also wrote another newsletter I already follow, but they happened to link to an article in it 🤷‍♀️

Categories
Marketing

Brand through bullet points

Liked Palace Skateboards by Nick Parker (Tone Knob)

The brand that makes bullet points bare cool.

Part of the magic is that it’s not quite a voice. It’s more like a ‘format as filter’ that helps turn an individual’s voice into something recognisably ‘Palace’ without anyone having to do anything as try-hard as ‘write in a tone of voice’.

The examples are awesome.  Love to see a brand commit to something that people outside their audience might find weird but is perfect for who they’re talking to.