There will be a tendency in the wake of the news that Andrew Sullivan is going to stop blogging to conclude that blogging, as a form, is dead.
The already waning blog era is officially over, time of death 1 PM on 01/28/15. http://t.co/wmxueaBqR3
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) January 28, 2015
That's not a new idea — BuzzFeed's Ben Smith has been on the Blog-is-Dead bandwagon for several years — but it is one that will pick up more momentum because of Sullivan's prominence as one of the earliest and most prominent bloggers in the U.S., and the world.
Sullivan, whether wittingly or unwittingly, plays into that idea in explaining why he is saying goodbye to the blog. He writes:
I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It's not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me — an ever-shrinking populace — a "blog" is simply a publishing medium. It's a way to put content on the Internet — usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing — opinionated, snarky — that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake.
Back to Smith for a minute. Before he became an Internet kingpin, he and I were colleagues; he blogged about politics at Politico, I did it here. (Depressing!) What Ben did — lots of short hits, breaking news, excerpting from other articles — was totally different from the longer-form analysis I was largely practicing at the time. We both succeeded as "bloggers," but with totally different approaches. (I've come to realize, over time, that Ben's approach to covering political news online was closer to right than mine.)
Compare the Fix circa 2008 to the Fix circa 2015. Back then, we trafficked primarily in breaking news and news nuggets. I did some analysis but, by and large, it was a news blog — for lack of a better term. Today, we have invested heavily in analysis — both in text form but also in graph, tweet and chart-of $1,000-worth-of-Popeye's form. Aside from the name, the Fix of 2008 and the Fix of today don't much resemble one another.
(Sidebar: I think that's a good thing. If you don't try to evolve on the Web, you quickly become Blockbuster to whoever becomes Netflix. I still love politics as much as ever but I am older now and like writing and doing different things. The blog changes reflect those expanding interests.)
The evolution of the blog — at least as I do it — is evidence of my belief that in an age of Twitter, being a "news" blog is of diminishing value. So many people — and it will only get larger — consume all of their breaking news from Twitter that spending lots of time re-doing a tweet from the Associated Press into a blog post seems increasingly pointless to me.
But, again, a blog isn't any one thing. For me, the idea of a blog — or blogging — that works is reported analysis told through a variety of textual and visual mediums. You could call them — as newspapers tend to do — "analysis" pieces and run them as articles. You could call them — as the graphics world does — data visualizations and run them as infographics. The bigger point is: It's journalism, on the Web. It doesn't matter what word you ascribe to it.
And, as long as people want to read smart and shareable analysis on issues in the news, I think blogging — at least as I conceptualize it — will be just fine. I think Andrew Sullivan and Ben Smith probably agree.