Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, And Megan McArdle vs. Seth Godin on Blogging

Reader Murphy posted a link in the comments to this post about journalism and data. It’s an essay by Megan McArdle lamenting Andrew Sullivan’s retirement that advances angst expressed by Ezra Klein (linked here) on that event that fingers social media as the culprit killing blogging.

Here’s a money quote from that essay:

But the problem with the old model of blogging is not just social media; it’s that blogging is exhausting. Two or three items a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but it takes a long time just to find something you want to write about. And the slowly dying ecosystem of other blogs makes it harder, because there’s no longer a conversation you can just easily hook into. Instead of plopping yourself down at a table where people are already talking, you have to wander through a room filled with people who are speaking to an audience through a megaphone and decide which of these oratorial topics might interest your own audience and a few thousand of their Facebook friends. It’s much lonelier, and consumes more energy, than it was in days of yore.

It’s hard to find something to write about. You can’t just hook into a running conversation. Who knows what your audience (and their social network) wants to read? It’s lonely.

Sullivan said this in the post announcing his retirement:

We’re a tiny team, already stretched beyond any sane life/work balance, with no financial backer, and a work ethic that might be alternately described as manic or masochistic. I’m not the only one exhausted and drained after years and years of intense, always-on-deadline work – not just editorially, but also these past two years in running a small business. We’re a very tight ship as we are, with a drained crew.

Making a career out of blogging seems impossible and, frankly, not worth attempting.

But blogging as a personal discipline that keeps you honest and supplements your other work? There’s nothing stopping us from doing that. You write about personal and professional learnings; you start conversations; you write for yourself first and then see if there’s an audience for what you’re writing. That has always been the harder work of blogging–of all writing.

Here’s Seth Godin’s approach to blogging:

I believe that everyone should write in public. Get a blog. Or use Squidoo or Tumblr or a microblogging site. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly–you don’t need more criticism, you need more writing.

Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something.


8 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, And Megan McArdle vs. Seth Godin on Blogging

  1. Did you notice the part where they mention that the successful long-term bloggers have a financial backer? Often in the form of university tenure.

    You are similarly backed, Rocky.

    And still. Blogging takes work. I love how this article calls it out.

    I’ve blogged since May 2002. I used to do it every day, talking mostly about music and books. The posts were shorter and lower quality than what I do now, which is about once a week. But hey, I’ve gotten a lot better.

    I think Seth Godin’s idea is that blogging is mostly for the blogger, and a bit for other people. Write every day because it helps YOURSELF.

    Not everyone is a blogger. Some people would be better doing other kinds of expression. Some people “I’ve always meant to start a blog…”

    I get exasperated and Yoda about it. There is no try. Do or do not. If you don’t, then it’s not your thing. It doesnt’ have to be your thing. It really doesn’t.

    1. Indeed I am backed–by a full-time job–so that my blogging is not a do-or-die venture. Back when I was waiting tables, though, I did some of my best writing. I was frustrated, but I was learning, and all of that pushed me to write in a way I hadn’t before. Once I was safely cradled in a church job again, the urgency went away. What I’m discovering now is urgency that’s not dependent on external circumstances.

  2. One word kept running through my head as I read Sullivan’s retirement post–Sabbath. I will miss his voice. Glad, at least, he’s stepping away from that schedule before it killed him or his staff. Hope he finds a way to live sustainably.

    I like Godin’s idea of writing every day. Why does it have to be public? On one hand, I get that the things people like the most (from my writing) is not always what I like the most, so maybe I shouldn’t be some arbitrary gate keeper. But writing every day also means that some of it will be crap. Does that need to be public too?

      1. That makes sense. Even though I’ve been blogging for a while now, I confess that each time I post, I worry that it is a completely narcissistic enterprise. “Who would want to read this? What in the world are you clogging up the internet for? ”
        And yet I still blog. So. Umm. Yeah.

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