Michael Kinsley: You’ve Got Blogging All Wrong – Hello Felix Salmon Too

Blogging Quality - Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens Buy at Art.com

This week, Michael Kinsley, the founding editor of the online journal, Slate wrote a piece for the Times titled, “Read All About it: How the Blogosphere Killed Good Writing” based on his observations about a Felix Salmon post about the quality writing on the Internet.

Kinsley argues that when it comes to writing online, “sheer quantity trumps quality.”

This opinion piece by Kinsley was published in the same week that Emmy award-winning journalist Charlie Rose (who I admit — I am madly in love with) interviewed Salman Rushdie for Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

The conversation was all about the quality of writing.

It seemed like my dream week was surrounded by the subject of writing quality, intermixed with my own personal angst about continuing to push us to be better bloggers on 8 Women Dream.

Sometimes we succeed. Other times it’s a crap-shoot.  It all depends on our timing and delivery.

The universe has a sucky sense of timing sometimes … I’m just sayin’.

These writing observations brought me to that place in my gut where I’m bugged when people try to quantify blogging, bloggers and writers in general — then compare it, and us, to print, or anything else they feel resembles a “better” writer.

Sometimes it feels like we are trying to compare Picasso to Salvador Dali.

Blogging is not the same animal as novel-writing. It’s like saying that a cougar and a house cat are the same. They may have similarities, but they are not the same animal.

Covers from the Monthly Issues of "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" by Charles Dickens

In Charlie Rose’s interview Salman Rushdie mused how Charles Dickens wrote many of his stories in weekly, or monthly parts — known as serials. Each month readers could buy a new chapter to the story. It was an entirely new way of publishing a novel — a way that more people could afford at the time.

It was considered an odd way to pen a novel — does this sound familiar to you bloggers?

Some critics feel that Dickens way of breaking his novels up into series is why (once they became a completed, bound book) the descriptive sections of these novels are difficult for readers to get through — even when these readers love the story.

The quality of writers, authors and publishing companies have always been a hotly-debated subject.  Enter the bloggers and the Internet and suddenly we are all pitted against each other.

When you decide to become a published blogger, you enter into this fire-pit of writer-critic ashes at war with the smoldering coals of modernization –sometimes burning each other in the process — not realizing that we’re together in the same place — fighting the same publishing battle.

Quantity does matter on the Internet. Kinsley is right about that.

The reason quantity matters is that an online publishing platform like ours has to grow from the size of a flea to the size of the State of Texas — just so people who will want to read this (and hopefully love what is written here) can actually find it on the Internet.

It’s not that quantity matters OVER quality, it’s that quantity is what gets you found above the millions and millions of websites on the Internet.

Headlines in British Newspapers Telling About End of Candy Rationing - Buy at Art.com

It’s the sheer size of the Internet that drives this need for quantity and it’s why the Huffington Post wanted to publish 50 blog posts a day. After a while, you can’t be ignored on the web when pumping out that kind of volume.

Can you name the last QUALITY post you read?  What was it about?  Who was the author?

This doesn’t mean that the quality writing isn’t everywhere on the Internet — it just means that when you were in the mood for reading a certain kind of writing on the Internet you couldn’t find it with the search terms you used.

Hell of a way to judge writing don’t you think?

In order to produce quantity and volume for an Internet publication, you’ve got to shorten your writing turn-around time. Your convoluted novel-type writing thoughts need to sweep in and catch the world by the throat at this given moment in time as quickly as you can pump it out while feeding a baby, doing laundry, working for corporate America, and managing the bills.

And you have to produce a ton of it.

Readers scan what they read on the Internet, because it is f’n hard to read on this platform, so you have to further present your writing in a way that will hopefully grab the attention of the masses, make them stop, and take a breath while staying with your prose long enough to lose themselves in your short story.

And God-forbid that they actually like it and remember to bookmark it so they can find you again.

This is not the easiest thing to do in a digitally-distracted world. And often times it has nothing to do with the writing ability of the blogger.

Maybe the blogger only wrote a great headline.

And the rest of what they wrote did suck. Or the website was down. Or the site took too long to load.

Or maybe they’re the next Dickens, but no one knows anything about them because they can’t find their blog due to the fact that their post headlines always suck — ALWAYS.

Or maybe their post headlines are great, their writing is great, their site keywords are great, and they actually could be the next Dickens — but their site just isn’t big enough to be found online by anyone. When this is the case, quantity matters over everything.

Bigger websites are better when it comes to Internet writing.

And so you can’t compare quality and quantity — just like you can’t judge Dickens for the fact that he wrote his stories in pieces and sold them in a series of small publications.

It’s like arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. I think both are equally important to dream bloggers who like scrambled eggs when they’ve been writing all day.

But let’s not let words like “bloggers” and “blogging” divide this art.  We are all writing — aren’t we?

Many writer’s dreams are coming true because of the quantity of publishing choices available to them … right?  Isn’t this what dreaming is all about?

And … the quality — we ARE trying! Every damn day.

Catherine

 

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Catherine Hughes, Be an Online Success

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed.
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