April 09, 2008

Yeah, But. . .

LeBlanc sent me this via e-mail (for those not familiar with LeBlanc, she's here).

It's an interesting read, another in a long line of articles over the years about the decline of newspapers and the need to change, and I agree with quite a bit of it. Not all, though.

National and world news is now, in my opinion, practically the sole domain of the Web. If you're consulting a hardcopy newspaper or a magazine for your worldly news, you're at least 24 hours behind anyone with an Internet connection. I gave up my TIME subscription years ago, because I had read about all the main topics a week earlier. It was like watching a re-run.

Still, there are newspapers that recognize in-depth, local reporting is the key to remaining viable. The Rochester Post-Bulletin, for example, though I do so enjoy taking jabs at them from time to time, is a newspaper that's taking bold steps to focus on local stories, while at the same time opening up their articles to virtually unfettered reader commentary (which can get immediately tiresome, believe me).

On the other hand, you have the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which seems to regard the Web as some sort of annoying Ham radio, that's bound to go away if they just grit their teeth hard enough and wait it out. Oh, sure, they're dipping their toe in the water with such endeavors as buzz.mn, but seeing as how they've been promising a redesign of that site for almost a year, and we're still being subjected to the image of the dog-faced boy, I don't get the feeling they're taking it all that seriously.

All that said. . . er, written. . . I have a confession to make. As much as I like blogging/ThunderJournaling, and as much as I've been a proponent over my six years of penning content, I see blogging on the decline. Oh, sure, you have your old guard, the bloggers who have been in the thick of things for four or more years and show no signs of letting up, but I've deleted a lot more abandoned blogs from my blogroll than I've added over the past couple years. MySpace and FaceBook have exploded in popularity over the last couple years, because their GUIs (yes, GUIs; get off my lawn) are a lot more intuitive and user friendly than even Blogger can provide.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I see a shift taking place where people are gravitating back towards more traditional news outlets, except that they're gravitating towards those outlets that have evolved a bit to include some of the community aspects of blogging/myspace/facebook/forums.

Unfortunately, that shift has given birth to such online embarrassments as "Minnesota Monitor," which has devolved into a parody of a parody of itself. If you take that site seriously, there's not much modern medicine can do to help you. Even MSNBC.com seems to be yelling headlines at you in the hopes one of them will stick.

On the other hand, there are media outlets, such as the aforementioned Post-Bulletin, which do seem to understand how to move forward and survive.

I guess I have no real point to this post, other than to state that I'm awesome, and my ThunderJournal's not going anywhere any time soon.

Posted by Ryan at April 9, 2008 08:13 AM | TrackBack

And without the internet, Peevish would never have been able to call you a "witless git".

Ah, progress.

Posted by: LearnedFoot at April 9, 2008 09:48 AM

It was a very "Harry Potter-esque" insult, really.

Remember when he said I wasn't worth beans as a person?

A witless git who isn't worth beans. . .

That's comedy gold right there.

Posted by: Ryan at April 9, 2008 10:33 AM

I wonder how much of the decline of blogs has to do with the increased policing of blogs. When I first started blogging it was still pretty safe to blog from work and pretty common to blog about work. Likewise family stuff, sex lives and so on. People used to blog like there was no tomorrow, but now intelligent people are much more careful. A friend of mine had her blog dragged into court, and her (soon to be ex) husband tried to use it to get custody of their kid. My bitchwhore mother tracked mine down, in spite of what I thought were fairly extensive efforts on my part to anonymize the blog. And Odin -- well. He was a big fat liar and all, but people were calling his house and harassing his family.

Stupid people still blog their extreme antics, but it's a different dynamic. Once upon a time, interesting people blogged about their weird personal lives, and the writing was good and the arguments were funny and the comments were sometimes incisive and clever. But a lot of those people have abandoned the medium because of things like Deuce and my friend above. Now it's just a bunch of rednecks and Jerry Springer disciples trying to get your attention with pictures of boobs. There have always been pictures of boobs, of course, but there used to be other options.

Ryan, that would be your cue to post a picture of your boobs.

Posted by: Joshua at April 9, 2008 11:37 AM

I've had this site cause me work-related problems on several occasions, much more so recently than in the early years, so you may be on to something about the policing thing, Joshua. There's a reason I keep changing the title of my blog, and it's almost entirely to keep Google guessing in case a current or potential employer comes sniffing around.

Posted by: Ryan at April 9, 2008 11:44 AM

Joshua's comment -- "once upon a time, interesting people blogged about their weird personal lives" -- sent me back to the last of the good old days:


Almost all the links are dead now. Remembering many of those blogs, they couldn't exist today. Not without divorces, firings and non-hirings, failed security clearance background checks, etc. There's a reason Diarist.net petered out in Q4 CY04, the same quarter Google went public.

Hard to believe this is my 16th year on the interwebs. You summed it up better than I ever could:

On To Other Things

Posted by: Odin at April 9, 2008 09:47 PM

I guess I have no real point to this post, other than to state that I'm awesome, and my ThunderJournal's not going anywhere any time soon.

And for that we are truly thankful.

Posted by: Donna at April 10, 2008 10:22 AM

thx for your insight on that link i sent - i wondered what you would make of it. it's all changing and evolving so quickly i can't really tell what the deeper trends are and what are just swirls on the surface.

i myself sort of treat Facebook like the Ham radio - i hope it'll go away.

i do notice my own habits changing quite a bit. since i started using Google Reader i read a shit ton more news from sources i never really would have read much before, and don't read the SF Chron nearly as often, although now that they allow comments on their articles too they are MUCH more entertaining. i still do read print sources like the New Yorker, mostly because i'd rather have a thin print mag at the table with me on a plane or train or at a restaurant than a laptop. formats have their purposes.

as for blogging, i never really got my news from blogs, so i've always mostly just read personal blogs, and i agree 100% with joshua (and Joshua, i still miss your blog and if you have started another one i want the link, dammit) that the quality of personal blog writing has steadily declined over the years. i don't know so much about the use of the word "policing" as much as the world "Google" has had the bigger effect. whereas years ago when i started my blog you'd have had to dig around to find it (even though the URL is my name, some people still couldn't find it), but now all you have to do is pop that prospective employee's name into the google search box and viola! you get everything ever written about them on the internet. definitely puts a damper on things. even those of us who weren't blogging anonymously felt we had a bit of a buffer between online and real world up until bout 5 years ago. then it all collided.

anyway. yeah.

Posted by: amy.leblanc at April 10, 2008 12:18 PM

Hey, look at that. It's a comment from Odin.

Posted by: Joshua at April 10, 2008 08:26 PM

Not such a surprise, really. Whatever Odin's impetus for creating and maintaining Plain Layne, it wasn't hard to recognize his business savvy and his thumb on the pulse of the Web. Whether guy or girl, the person knows their stuff. I even e-mailed him for resume/job searching advice a couple years after the Layne implosion. His reasons for his Web alter egos are his own. He could be running another one, for all I know. Regardless, I don't think of him as a bad person. Rather, he's a family man who let a bit of a Web fantasy get the better of him, and was fairly embarrassed when the Internet caught up with him. The Web evolves fast enough to catch everybody having done something, or trying to maintain some level of anonymity.

Look out behind you! It's the Internet!

Oh, also, hey Odin. How are things?

Posted by: Ryan at April 10, 2008 09:26 PM

FYI there is a whole series of blog posts on this topic rolling out on the Britannica blog site that has been rolling out over the past week or so, discussing the various aspects of newspapers v. online media:


Posted by: amy.leblanc at April 11, 2008 03:05 PM

Life is even better in my latitude than yours, Ryan. Nothing like ice fishing in April. It's the kind of thing Layne would've blogged about, hey?

No new alter egos here. I'm working on the same old successor project -- The Mexican Year. I've burned out on it several times, but the characters seem like friends now. I can't leave them stranded mid-year.

I'm blessed as ever with my two rambunctious kids and saintly wife. A golden retriever joined us last year. So did a toad. Last family vacation was to Africa -- we traveled through Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. I'm at my 7th startup now.

My invite still stands. Next time you come up to the Twin Cities (of Sodom and Gomorrah, as Mitch likes to say) drop me a line. We'll go have drinks with Nick Coleman or something.

Posted by: Odin at April 12, 2008 09:19 AM

Oh yeah, almost forgot -- following up on Amy's link, another good source is Jeff Jarvis's blog:


Jarvis directs the interactive journalism program at CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism and consults to media companies (most notably The Guardian UK). He's a fascinating read about the struggle of traditional newspapers and the rise of new media. I didn't see him listed among the contributors to the Britannica newspaper and net forum, so I thought I'd mention his blog.

Posted by: Odin at April 12, 2008 09:26 AM
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