I feel like I spend far too much time thinking about Internet content and communication channels without actually using enough of it lately. Twitter and Facebook and the random stuff I've written here about long-form and short-form content.
In any case, through a link from the Tumblr page of a baseball writer, I just came across something fairly interesting. Check this out. A technology guy named Sam Lessin, who founded something called Drop.io that lets people share files... he's written a blog post announcing that he's ending his blog and switching to a pay newsletter delivered via e-mail, and he's created a tool where people can create their own pay newsletters, have people pay through Amazon, what seems like an impossibly easy back-end, and the writer posts by sending an e-mail to a specific e-mail address.
[I almost wrote something stupid here. Stupid like this: "I would blog more if I could blog by sending an e-mail instead of opening up the Typepad window." But I'm actually pretty sure I could do that, if I clicked some button somewhere in the Typepad interface and enabled it. So maybe I should do that.]
What's interesting to me about Sam's post is how he talks about why he started blogging, and why he's done. I think a lot of what he's saying is very much related to why blogging has become less interesting for me. He talks specifically about something he calls communicative margin:
Communicative margin: It is gone. There is no margin left in blogging (nor is there margin left in twitter/fb status potentially)... the flight pattern is too full, you don't get any prizes anymore for showing up, and the people I really respect/want to share ideas with have mostly stopped reading blogs.
And I think he's sort of hit right on it. When I started blogging, there was something unique about the form, there was something interesting about being one of the relatively few voices out there talking about law school, or whatever I was talking about. I don't know that there are actually, say, more law school bloggers now than there were five years ago, I really don't -- there might even be fewer, or at least fewer doing the kind of stuff that a bunch of us were doing back then -- but there was a relevance and a worthiness -- even if just an imagined relevance and worthiness -- that I don't think exists now in the blog world. You did get a prize for showing up. You got readers, and you got to feel like part of a community. Now that everyone is sharing everything in some form -- Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr -- there is no prize for showing up to the party. In fact, not showing up to the party makes you an outlier.
A sixty-year-old friend of mine asked me the other day why I don't post to Facebook more often. I've had multiple conversations in the past month or so about why I don't regularly use Twitter, why I don't use Foursquare, and why I didn't accept someone's LinkedIn request quickly enough. A blogger whose blog I read told me he doesn't read blogs anymore. I don't know if anyone reads blogs anymore. I read a few, but I don't know if the ones I read are even really blogs by the definition someone would have used a few years ago. Some are closer to mainstream media than any sort of blog -- Deadline Hollywood is not really a blog, even if that's the form it takes. And I read two or three blogs by people I know, who post twice a month, and it's functionally the equivalent of an e-mail or a Facebook update.
Sam Lessin ends his post by saying, "the old is new again. I am starting a paid newsletter" and he's exactly right -- that's where the form started, right? Well, I think it started at unpaid newsletter, but e-mail newsletters were the pre-blogs, right?
I don't know if e-mail newsletters are going to become the new (old) blogs, or there are sixteen other new forms on the horizon. To some degree, I feel like I could make an argument that at some point it's inevitable that we move toward some sort of consolidation -- that it's unsustainable to check Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, e-mail, websites, etc often enough to stay in whatever loops of communication you want to be in -- that we can only exist in a world of real-time communication if we can fold it all into one system. But I don't know that that's accurate -- I'm surprised at the number of people I talk to about this who don't use an RSS reader (like Google Reader), because RSS completely changed the way I consume the Internet. And at the same time, I'm sure I know people who would be surprised that I blog on the Typepad home page, and check Twitter on Twitter.com (I've tried Hootsuite, and some other tools, but nothing sticks) and have my gmail account run through Mozilla Thunderbird using POP instead of IMAP, so I end up deleting things from two different places (I am right at the edge of using technology terms I don't really understand -- I'm sure "using POP instead of IMAP" can't possibly be the right phrasing for what I am doing, but I have no idea how else to say it, or how to make that make sense).
Unrelated, COMPLETELY: I'm playing around with the idea of running a workshop about turning blogs into books. As in, helping people turn their blogs into memoirs or novels. If you want to help me brainstorm this idea, if you potentially would want to be involved in this workshop, or if you know ANYTHING about how to obtain free or cheap space in New York to hold a workshop, shoot me an e-mail? (the slightly longer version of the last sentence: If you can help find me space to hold a workshop -- a small room that holds a dozen chairs, with no a/v capabilities required? -- you or someone you love can (of course) come for free.)
[Edited to add: some more clicking got me to Dave Morin's tumblr post where he says goodbye to blogging and hello to a pay-per-month e-mail newsletter -- some of the same issues as I've expressed here:
I have often missed the early days of blogging (circa 2002 and onward). Back then I was often inspired by the medium to write down my thoughts early and often. Over the years individual blogs have waxed and wane in signal quality depending on the overal information dynamics of the Internet and the social web. In those early days, there was an abundance of high signal, long from content. ...
Over the last several years hence, the quantity of public information on the Internet has increased substantially. Recently, Eric Schmidt, of Google, remarked that “There was 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003.” He continued, “Now that much information is created every 2 days.” We are creating more than ever across this ever expanding medium that we love.
Information is subject to the same simple economic rules of scarcity as anything else. Information by definition is scarce. When you publish information to the public Internet it faces an immediately diminishing marginal utility curve. Almost immediately the information becomes commoditized. My preference is to create premium information for those of you who take the time to read my thoughts and ideas.
And so, the quest continues to find the right place to express one’s ideas and opinions in the medium in a way that inspires. A blog is no longer that medium for me.
Interesting. If this stuff sparks anything with anyone else, e-mail me -- I'm suddenly thinking about an idea to marry this blog-to-newsletter notion with books and e-books and where that business seems to be heading. That's a vague sentence because I've only spent twenty-three seconds so far thinking about what I mean. But e-mail me if you want to engage on this.