After 100 Posts, What I've Learned By Being a Blogger
This post marks my 100th article on Professionally Incoherent. Normally, I’m not one to trumpet my online numerical “conquests” – number of tweets, tally of Facebook friends, etc. But the fact that I’ve written a hundred posts on this site over the past eight months seems like a good jumping-off point for an article on what I’ve learned about blogging so far.
I’ve found that being a journalist in 2011 and beyond will increasingly require the kinds of skills developed by running a blog, like writing an independent publication or interacting directly with readers. In a changing industry, it’s those kinds of skills that keep journalists employed.
It doesn’t matter what platform you use – WordPress, Blogspot, Blogger, whatever – there is value in writing a regular blog. This is because of journalism is headed towards a heavily individualized structure, based on the way bloggers run their personal sites – largely independent of senior staffers.
On most blogs, it’s the blogger’s responsibility to do everything. They must be their own fact-checker and copy-editor. They must know how to edit photos and build site design elements. They have to find ways to stretch across multiple media (text, audio, video and social platforms).
Then there’s the matter of working with the chosen blogging platform itself. As if preparing the content wasn’t enough work, bloggers also have to learn how to operate within the posting structure of their chosen platform. Even though it doesn’t require much knowledge of HTML or CSS coding anymore, you still have to figure out how to build a navigable site that viewers like to look at, and will continue to visit.
It’s something I’ve been teaching to undergraduate students and colleagues alike as part of my Master’s program, and it’s through this that I’ve noticed just how much goes into the running of a blog. A blogger becomes a one-man newsroom, and large media organizations prize that kind of multifaceted ability, perhaps more than they prize good writing.
I’ve done enough newsroom tours (plus a two-week, 9-5 internship) and I’ve seen enough journalism job postings to know what established media organizations are looking for. They see bloggers who can do everything themselves. Then they see their own newsrooms, with a system of reporters, editors, producers and cameramen, and instinctively want to cut jobs and condense.
You could write a book about whether that last tactic a good idea (I’ve personally witnessed the strain multi-platform journalism can put on reporters). Nevertheless, we’re at a point now where this individualization in journalism is almost impossible to stop. The best strategy is to teach ourselves as many new skills as possible, in an effort to make ourselves marketable in the media industry.
It might sound like I’m a bit beleaguered by all this blogging self-education and what it’s doing to journalism. There is a significant silver lining – the direct connection blogging allows between the writer and the reader. I’ve had more fulfilling experiences reading and replying to reader comments than I ever thought I would. In fact, after seeing the snarky comments on some sites, I thought I might dread the feedback.
Instead, blogging has allowed me to connect with readers in England, Indonesia, Australia and elsewhere – all of whom helped encourage me to continue my work on the blog. It reminds me that what I have to say (even on a subject covered by many other bloggers) is having an impact somewhere.
As chintzy as that may sound, it’s a feeling that other bloggers will recognize and appreciate. It’s one of the reasons I’d recommend blogging to anyone who feels they might have something to say about a subject that matters to them.
When I started Professionally Incoherent, I had no idea whether it would grow at all. I was fortunate to pick a subject (entertainment and social media) that resonated with people. But I shouldn’t discount the amount of work I’ve put into this site – designing logos and header images, moderating comments, copy-editing old posts and actually writing new articles.
I’d like to think that it’s partially because of this effort that I’ve seen viewership grow steadily over the past few months. I know, however, that a majority of my viewership is based on viewers coming in off search engines – not a bad thing, but a sign that the Professionally Incoherent “brand” is still in its infancy. That’s why I’m always grateful for the people who share my site with their friends on social media, or link to it on their own blogs. It soothes my fragile self-esteem, so keep it up!
All joking aside, I know I’m into blogging for the long haul. I’m committed to making the next hundred posts as educational for me and as interesting for you as the first hundred. As for the effect blogging will have on journalism, I think it will be hard to define for some time yet. There’s no denying the influence blogging is having on established media organizations, especially in how those organizations hire people like me.
Learning how to blog may not present the same kind of “adapt or die” scenario to journalists as the Internet did when it arrived, but I think we’d be foolish to discount the platform’s power to inform, to entertain, and to spark meaningful conversations with readers. It’s important to remember that we can chatter all we like about "how the media works" from our own perspective, but the exchange that really matters is the one we have with our audience. If it wasn’t, why would we bother with all of this, anyways?
I’d like to know what you think about this issue. Do you agree that blogging is still having an impact on the media industry? Has it been eclipsed by Twitter? If you’re a blogger yourself, what has your experience been with the medium? Post your reaction in the comments section, and browse through some of my other articles about the Internet:
If you liked this post, follow me on Twitter (@jrobertsnow). There you’ll find notifications about new posts on Professionally Incoherent , links to interesting developments in the movie, TV and Internet worlds, and other stuff I find interesting. In short: life, the universe and everything!