I read somewhere recently that Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter is developing an online space with which to showcase decent writing across all subjects. It’s going to be huge… and very different to that immediate, off the cuff, twitter speak.
That, to me, seems like a very good idea.
There is an article in the FT Weekend by Robert Cottrell, who has the luxury of being able to read all day for a living and is editor of The Browser, www.thebrowser.com a space that provides discerning articles for like minded people. I haven’t checked it out yet. I suspect it’s going to be too highbrow for me (is that one word or two?O, but I am loving the concept and the whole positive tone of his article.
Instead of saying, like most people, that the internet is filled with “white noise” and endless rubbish, he says that “the amount of good writing freely available online far exceeds what even the most dedicated consumer might have hoped to encounter a generation ago within the limits of printed media”. That said, he estimates that only about 1% is of value to the “intelligent general reader” – the demographic of which he describes as those who might read The Economist, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs or the Atlantic for information (so not Mail Online then??).
Every day he finds articles that are plainly written, strongly argued and highly informative. This, he says is because professionals are beginning to take to their own blogs and write about what they know. “As a gross generalisation” he says, “academics make excellent bloggers, within and beyond their specialist fields. So too, do aid workers, lawyers, musicians, doctors, economists, poets”…and so his list goes on. “They blog for pleasure; they blog for visibility within their field; they blog to raise their value and build their markets as authors and public speakers; they blog because their peers do”….and I would add to that that they blog because all of a sudden they can – without being judged, they can find a niche audience. They also won’t have their article culled and rearranged by a publisher. Heaven.
Robert Cottrell argues that “the writer is everything” and ergo “the publisher (with a few exceptions) is nothing”. This is simply because another model is evolving – that between the writer and the reader – without the publisher. Slowly the middle wo/man is being cut out. He thinks the reader will even pay to read what the writer has to say if they find it of value. Publishers simply like to muddy the waters by adding advertising and tweaks. “Readers” he says “have no need for publishers”. In addition he notes that good writing floats about – the original source of publishing is becoming irrelevant thanks to the rise of social media – that is to say, it’s all about friend’s sharing links – it doesn’t matter where it originally came from.
Another very good thing about online writing he says is that old stuff can still be read – OK so we are all still obsessed with new material thanks to the way we have been indoctrinated to believe in “yesterday’s news” being fish and chip paper – his prediction for a key job for the future is that of “archive editor” – someone that ensures all the old stuff gets read.
Finally, he argues that writing online is “a force of brevity” – something not often argued. He says it’s great because you can cut through the crap of X number of words, additional explanations, research….you can just write what you want and assume the readers know how to Google answers if necessary. You don’t have to fill a space you have been paid to fill. Therefore it’s all more honest and real. You don’t have to introduce people, source every person and place. “You can keep your thesis lean and topical”.
So there we are then. My sentiment exactly.
Now all I have to do is persuade my doctor brother to write me something of interest to post on my blog…..go on …. pleeease……you know you want to.