A very interesting post by Guardian technology editor Charles Arthur arguing that “The long tail of blogging is dying”, citing a drop in pingbacks, and an increase in “brown blogs”- those that appear brown in NetNewsWire, after not being updated in over 60 days (he references the NYT piece about Blog Falling In An Empty Forest.)
A few thoughts.
Why Twitter is good for blogs
Arthur argues that it is “still quite rare for people to make a comment on a piece in a tweet”. Maybe so. But I think it is getting less rare. I prefer making a tweeted comment on a post or piece as it is public, rather than being confined to a small corner of the internet. Also, I can direct tweeted comments straight at the author, or another person who has tweeted about it, rather than beginning a blog comment with a hopeful @ sign. And I can stamp my identity on my comment a lot easier. And yes, I can show off about the fact that I’ve read it. Twitter seems a much more communicative, and collaborative way of interacting with a blog. It’s a more natural home for the long tail to live in. But this doesn’t mean the tail is dying, it just means that it has migrated to more fertile pastures.
Why Twitter is bad for blogs
However, my mother is a child psychotherapist, and has moaned at me for years about the progressive shortening of attention spans. She is mostly right. There is a chicken and egg argument here… perhaps consumers decided they wanted less, and so the providers started making things smaller. Or perhaps the providers started making things smaller, and the consumers got used to it.
Either way, Twitter is a child of our times. My RSS reader sometimes feels like a five-course meal. Twitter is tapas. And yup, it is ideally suited to my shortened attention span. (And you can never close comments on Twitter- slightly paradoxically, comments have been closed on Arthur’s blog. As he tweeted at me, this is a regular occurrence after a set time.)
If you wanted to you could even apply the web>print argument to the tweet>blog comment case. Or indeed the larger tweet>blog itself case. It seems somewhat inevitable that people will start favouring this brilliantly pithy medium over relatively weighty blog posts, in the same way that people favour online content (with greater access to backstory and related content) over reading hefty, stand-alone editorials and columns in a newspaper.
The internet is an ideal platform for brevity… but there is perhaps a danger that it will kill off long-from deliberation. I sometimes worry that Twitter is the harbinger of all the things my mum rails about… the preference of breadth over depth, of pace over precision, and so on. It lends itself to people who want to know a little about a lot, rather than a lot about a little. And this itself breeds that depressing feeling that you just…don’t…know…enough. It’s a kind of gnawing 2.0 depression; a self-perpetuating chase of infinity.
I’m absolutely a part of this, sometimes. I occasionally catch myself lapsing into the role of a crazed news junky, skimming tweets and re-tweeting them before I’ve even read through the link properly. It is instantly satisfying. In this way citizen journalists are no different to professional journalists (although I happen to be both)- they want to get there first. Getting there first is cool. It will get you followers. Play the right Twitter game and you’ll have 500 followers in the same time it has taken an established blogger to get 5 RSS subscriptions. Extend this all to the Nth degree and there you have it… no more blogs. A tragedy.
But as I’ve argued previously, there is no reason whatsoever for fast and slow to be mutually exclusive. I adore breaking away from the Twitter highway to feast on a meaty blog post for half an hour. Long live the blog! Even if it means I’ve missed 300 tweets, and am only the 2478th person to find out that Michael Jackson died. And if you’ve made it to the end of this post, you’re the same as me, and blogs are safe, for now. Anyone?
Now, where was I…. *clicks open Tweetdeck*.