Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Is there life after The Huffington Post?
Several weeks ago The Huffington Post approached me with a proposal to republish Overgrown Path posts on their US edition. This opportunity clearly deserved serious consideration, and as part of that process I sought the opinion of some people in the industry that I respect. All the responses were thoughtful, but predictably they ranged from "fantastic - go for it!" to "don't under any circumstances nail your colours to that mast". One industry maven, whose opinions I have a lot of time for, responded positively and said "Without strong syndication or aggregation (like Huff) I don't see much future in blogging" and this set me off down the current path.
I happen to share that view of "I don't see much future in blogging" but am not convinced that syndication and aggregation is the longterm solution, because the problems runs deeper. The received wisdom is that micro-blog formats such as Twitter and Facebook have usurped macro-blogs like An Overgrown Path as the media of the moment, but I disagree. Instead my view is that classical music blogging in both micro and macro formats is losing its appeal because a number of high profile bloggers have sucked the genre into a vicious downward spiral. This spiral means blogs are fast becoming no more than an echo chamber for industry press releases and salacious gossip leavened occasionally by that perennial fallback for the creatively challenged, a YouTube video. Let's not forget that yesterday's corporately-cooked lunch is unappetising even when reheated by syndication and aggregation.
I do not claim to being an expert on social media, but it appears to me that not only is the future for blogging bleak, but also that the bandwagon for The Huffington Post and other aggregation and syndication distribution models is losing momentum. It is just a sample of one, but the most iconoclastic writing about classical music that I have read recently, Gavin Plumley on Philip Glass' Ninth Symphony, appeared in The Hudson Review; a journal that is not just subscription only, but also does not have a digital edition other than through the JSTOR academic network. Or maybe it is not a sample of one: the Guardian recently reported that the influential satirical magazine Private Eye has reached a twenty-five year circulation high, despite, or perhaps because of, not having a digital edition. Could it be the social media pundits cannot see the wood for the trees? Is a hybrid model of micro-tasters pointing at paywall/paperwall protected macro-content of quality emerging?
Regular readers will know I am not a fan of bandwagons, which means I have passed up the opportunity to become an unpaid but legally liable Huffington Post contributor. There are many reasons for this decision including my discomfort with their transparently one-sided reward model, and a concern that my writing would be constrained by exposure to a much bigger but very different audience. But the clinching reason for saying no simply shows how unwordly this little blog is. In eight years of blogging I have only written once about our cat, but I simply decided I did not want photos of Ginger appearing on The Huffington Post.
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