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Follow-up to Farhad Manjoo's blog post. I mean article.

October 19, 2010

blog.jpegThe journalist Farhad Manjoo (one of my favorite commentators on new media and technology in general) has written a terrific piece in Slate about how the line between blog posts and articles is beginning to blur.

"The design shifts—with blogs looking more like magazines, and magazines looking more like blogs—aren't just superficial. These changes in presentation are collapsing all distinctions between "blog posts" and "articles," writes Manjoo. "What's more, the lines are blurring—blog posts are looking more like articles, and articles are looking more like blog posts...So what's the difference—what's a blog post, what's an article, and does it make any difference vis-à-vis how you navigate the Web?"

I've long maintained that the essential difference between a blog post and an article is that a blog post is a sort of fast riff on a subject that isn't necessarily governed by the usual rules that govern traditional publishing such as word-lengths, multi-perspective reporting and deadlines. A blog post can be about anything. It can skim the surface or go deep depending on the preference of the author. There doesn't even need to be a news peg. And bloggers, in the traditional view, are their own editors. They make up the rules and bear the full brunt of the fallout for what they write.

On the other hand, I've generally thought of articles as being pre-meditated, more carefully researched and fully reported pieces that appear in media outlets beyond my own self-published blog. I am always paid for articles I write, but I do not get paid for blogging. And there are always gatekeepers shaping my articles. Article ideas have to be approved by editors. The editors also contribute (sometimes heavily) to the final look and feel of the story. An article is a team effort whereas a blog post isn't.

Manjoo's piece is interesting because it makes explicit the changes that are occurring in the media industry now that blogs have become a core part of many traditional media outlets' operations and blog-centric enterprises like Gawker turning profits. Gawker and entities like it are able to pay their bloggers salaries because blogs, particularly those about popular topics such as political and social gossip, cars, sex and sports are garnering so many millions of eyeballs which translates into advertising dollars.

As an arts blogger, I continue to maintain my own codes for what constitutes a blog post versus an article. But I do this partly out of financial necessity: until I can make a living from writing an arts blog, I can only devote so much time to researching and writing it. I also feel that the riffing, off-the-cuff nature of a blog post, is something to be prized. There's room for both kinds of writing -- the fast and dirty, and the slow and carefully researched -- in the world of words.

I've a feeling that it won't be long until my approach will seem super old-fashioned, though. Or maybe, because of the non-remuneratory nature of most arts blogs, the arts blogging world will stay behind other more wealthy areas of the blogging community. Those guys may well, as Manjoo's story suggests, move to the magazine-like layouts and legions of editors of old-style publishing. That'll be ironic. I wouldn't be surprised if the arts blogging world doesn't get there, at least for a long time. Which may be a good thing.


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