Social media, and sociability, vs. blogging

by on January 31, 2015 at 1:58 am in Economics, Uncategorized, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

…blogging, for better or worse, is proving resistant to scale. And I think there are two reasons why.

The first is that, at this moment in the media, scale means social traffic. Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don’t deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don’t go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand.

Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. Alyssa Rosenberg put it well at the Washington Post. “I no longer write with the expectation that you all are going to read every post and pick up on every twist and turn in my thinking. Instead, each piece feels like it has to stand alone, with a thesis, supporting paragraphs and a clear conclusion.”

The other reason is that the bigger the site gets, and the bigger the business gets, the harder it is to retain the original voice.

That is from Ezra Klein, there is more here.  (I recall Arnold Kling making a related point not too long ago, does anyone have the link?)

If you haven’t already noticed, we have no plans to chase traffic from social media, at least not by changing our basic interests and formula.

Here is another thread I found online:

“The majority of time that people are spending online is on Facebook,” said Anthony De Rosa, editor in chief of Circa, a mobile news start-up. “You have to find a way to break through or tap into all that narcissism. We are way too into ourselves.”

There is more here, from David Carr, mostly about selfie sticks and Snapchat.  The human desire to be social used to be a huge cross-subsidy for music, as young people used musical taste to discover and cement social alliances.  Now we don’t need music so much to do that and indeed music plays a smaller role in the lives of many young people today.  This has been bad for music, although arguably good for sociability and of course good for Mark Zuckerberg.

The “problem” is that the web gives people what they want.  Those who survive as bloggers will be those who do not care too much about what other people want, and who are skilled at reaping cross-subsidies.

Addendum: Kevin Drum offers comment.

1 Colin January 31, 2015 at 2:08 am

“and who are skilled at reaping cross-subsidies.”

What do you mean by this?

2 Kyle January 31, 2015 at 9:07 am

Selling books or using it to build an audience and get paid speaking fees I think are the types if things he’s thinking about.

3 prior_approval January 31, 2015 at 9:22 am

Well, any chairman and general director of a donor only funded policy institute who needs to worry about selling books or speaking fees is a true second rater.

4 Steve Sailer January 31, 2015 at 2:10 am

“The human desire to be social used to be a huge cross-subsidy for music, as young people used musical taste to discover and cement social alliances. Now we don’t need music so much to do that and indeed music plays a smaller role in the lives of many young people today.”

Interesting.

Anybody know of any studies of how specific music tastes tie into sociability?

5 Christine January 31, 2015 at 8:47 am

Music used to be the primary definer of cliquedom. When I was a teen and young 20, music was SO important to me, as part of my self-identity, and just plain important. When I used to travel, I used to MISS my records.

6 HL January 31, 2015 at 9:24 am

The goths, the stoners,emo kids, etc. cliques are not as rigid now musically. Rather now you see anime kids, furries, vidya game fanatics, etc. I think they just changed media and sexual preferences tbh

7 andrew January 31, 2015 at 2:12 am

I must push back on one point good Sir – how do we know that music plays a “less important role” in the social lives of young people today??? Has anyone forgotten the huge amount of reputation as capital that can be garnered by being known as a music snob who is always in the know about the hottest up-and-comers in the “underground” music scene? Has anyone seen the Web traffic on music streaming websites like SoundCloud and similar services?

8 The Original D January 31, 2015 at 11:31 am

If I’m a record executive trying to scale my business, which is what this post is about, I would prefer a bunch of sheeplie buy my Britney Spears records than a handful of snobs debate Bob Dylan vs Leonard Cohen.

9 Brett January 31, 2015 at 2:51 am

Those who survive as bloggers will be those who do not care too much about what other people want, and who are skilled at reaping cross-subsidies.

That’s pretty much what sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed already do. They use the gossip and pictures to drum up traffic that pays for some of the better reporting they do (and they do some good reporting). It’s easier to do that when you’re self-owned, because you can decide to take a lower profit level after you’ve paid your debt and operating expenses.

10 honkie please January 31, 2015 at 6:00 am

Those who survive as bloggers will enjoy blogging and have a day job also.

Separate point. I think it’s no coincidence that MR isn’t Facebook-driven and the comments section is mostly reasonable and often excellent.

11 bjk January 31, 2015 at 6:06 am

“a way for me to workshop ongoing intellectual and critical concerns , , , with a thesis, supporting paragraphs and a clear conclusion.” Oh yeah, sexy talk!

12 JJ January 31, 2015 at 9:38 am

Almost all of the analysis of things like this is helped a lot by remembering the evolutionary origins of the term meme.

13 ladderff January 31, 2015 at 9:59 am

We would not want a society in which the masses are addicted to gin or meth. I don’t see why we should be so non-judgmental about Facebook addiction.

14 datroof jackson January 31, 2015 at 11:44 am

John McLaughlin: “Wrong!! Facebook is an opiate like God or football. The others you mentioned breed violence.”

15 Jan January 31, 2015 at 10:15 am

And here’s TC’s take on Andrew Sullivan, posted on Ezra Klein’s Vox.com. http://www.vox.com/2015/1/31/7954165/andrew-sullivan-tyler-cowen-intellectual

16 zeitgeisty January 31, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Log-rolling in our time.

17 Edward Burke January 31, 2015 at 10:46 am

When do we get to witness the debut of anti-social media?
I spend hours each day not consulting Facebook and STILL in all my searching I cannot find what I’m looking for . . . .

18 BC January 31, 2015 at 11:50 am

We can definitely see here the differences in perspective between Tyler and Ezra, even though they are both ostensibly “content providers”.

Ezra is a commercial journalist. Advertisers are his customer. He sells them a product — content — which they can use to attract eyeballs to their ads. (An alternative commercial journalism business model is, of course, to sell content to readers.) Naturally, Ezra is concerned with “scale” and traffic.

Tyler is a non-commercial blogger. (Since both Ezra and Tyler are high-quality “professionals”, commercial vs. non-commercial is probably a better way to characterize them than professional vs. amateur.) He (and his readers) are both *customers*. We know that they are both customers in the blogosphere because they both pay, rather than get paid, to participate. They both gain utility as customers of the ISPs, computer and smartphone manufacturers, etc. in the same way that both parties on a phone call are customers of the phone company. Tyler uses blogging as a way to communicate and express his views. Tyler doesn’t care about chasing traffic any more than most of us care about placing robo-calls.

19 education realist January 31, 2015 at 11:54 am

The Nate Thayer incident happened almost two years ago, and at that time I wrote “Writing for Free, but Not as a Writer”:
https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/writing-for-free-but-not-as-a-writer/

“Writing is just the means of creation of a package of ideas, and the ideas are what drive me to write…..I like to think I write well. But I could never be a Writer. Never mind that I’m too slow, and too long, to do this for pay. Never mind that I love teaching and wouldn’t want to give it up. I don’t want to be a Writer because I’m not interested in telling someone else’s story. ”

And yeah, I have a day job.

20 jseliger January 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Those who survive as bloggers will be those who do not care too much about what other people want

I’m struck by my own inability to to judge what people “want.” I mostly write about books and idea. The two most popular posts I’ve ever written, however, are about why prospective doctors should actually be nurses or PAs and a keyboard review. They do both conform to the “standalone” rule mentioned in your post.

The hit distribution on posts is very power law, with the top posts getting four to five times as many hits as those in positions three and four.

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