A Simple Media Comparison Between Publishing on the Internet and in Print. (i.e. blogosphere vs. magazines)

by phil on Monday Jan 24, 2005 2:47 PM
blogging, theorizing about mediums

Lifecycle of Articles - In magazines, an article appears on the shelf for a fixed period of time and disappears, with little reverberation afterwards, save for the occasional letters to the editor or op-ed. On the Internet, reverberation is heavy, and often more important. As an article gets linked, it then gets read. As it gets read, it gets commented. Eventually the article balloons into something more than the original post. So while in the print world, the buzz comes after the article's publication, in the blogosphere, the buzz is the article's publication.

Articles in the blogosphere also grow and shrink as need be. There are plenty of retractions, re-editing, and addendums. Articles are dynamic in the blogosphere, but static in magazines.

Auxiliary Comments - There are no forums in magazines, which is unfortunate. There are reams of great material within forums, and often the commentary is more important than original articles. Look at the popularity of the acronym RTFA (Read the F-ing Article), a common exhortation on places like slashdot.org. The user often bypasses the original article and goes straight to the highest-ranked posts. That's where the good stuff is. A lot of good writers feel comfortable commenting after someone has posted the original article, but won't have the desire to collect their own works into a blog or portfolio. Magazines and newspapers have no forum aspect. The printing is the end. There is no town hall meeting.

Group Authoring - I don't like how the blogosphere is like a flat plane of single voices. In magazines, there's a lot of collaboration that goes into the production of the original article. There is the original writer who gets the by-line, but there's also copy editors, illustrators, photographers, an editor-in-chief, and a publisher. Plus interns to get the coffee and analysts to do fact-checking and data-gathering. In print publishing, this group authoring is concentrated and organized.

There is a sense of group authoring in the blogosphere. You will discover a video with no text associated with it on one site. But you will find the commentary on many other sites. So there is an emergent group authoring on the Internet. However, you may not always find the relevant information. I often read articles on the Internet missing some basic and crucial information, and it will only be a week or two later before I find a related article that fits the pieces of the puzzle.

There is one example of heavy group collaboration working well, even better than magazines, on the Internet that I want to highlight: Wikipedia's coverage of the Tsunami. There are hundreds of people working on the article, bringing in all the relevant graphics, statistics, and histories that I couldn't find organized anywhere else.

A single blogger, on the other hand, can only provide her one voice. This provides deeply personal stories and novel theories, but not really broad and rich content.

Concentration of Risk - Time Magazine can delegate and pay reporters to cover the Inaugural because they can guarantee they will generate revenue from that coverage. They may also send ten to twenty people there, even if only the material from only five of them generates eighty-percent of the interest in their articles. In the blogosphere, on the other hand, it's unpredictable whether an author will get proper payoff from doing a specific coverage.

Service-oriented - Magazines are more service-oriented than blogs. In the New Yorker, for example, every issue has a catalog of all cultural events happening in NYC. Someone is paid to collect that data. It's really mundane to produce it, but it's important. The blogosphere, on the other hand, consists of people at-will doing every piece on whim. They don't provide consistent sub-services. Instead, they write about what they want to write about. Leave the collating to the monkeys, or automated places like craigslist.

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