Hello Friends, if you follow my blog, you know that there's been a significant break in my "real" writing. I can't say that it was planned. It just sort of happened. The reality of my new job has rearranged my daily priorities a bit. Blogging for me has always been a way to explore the topic of lighting, share my own thoughts and share topics that I've researched. There was a time when writing a post a day was the norm, then it was three times a week. The truth is that time is so short for me during the day that it's been difficult to make time for writing. That said, I never stray too far from blogging. While I can't commit to a schedule, I have a list of topics I need to delve into soon.
I'd been thinking about my own blogging and the bigger ideas around blogging "is this platform still important? Why not just use Facebook or G+ as my platform? If I'm active enough on social media isn't that enough?" Then this interview with Martha Stewart made the rounds.
The quote that I think is firing up the design blog community is this one...
Who are these bloggers?...They're not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren't tested, that aren't necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.
When the clip hit twitter and facebook I found myself commenting on a thread in my friend Leslie's facebook stream. Many of the design bloggers I know and respect where pretty angry about what Martha has said. I won't quote anyone here, since I didn't discuss it with them first, but the core of their anger is two-fold. First, that bloggers do a lot to prop up Martha Stewart. They review her products and recipes, they boost her popularity and increase her SEO. The second is that she was also an amateur. She wasn't a trained chef when she came on the scene. She was just a woman with a lot of creative ideas and some skills for making them happen, just like many of the lifestyle bloggers she was deriding are today.
Martha Was Right
Here's my take as someone who's been a blogger for years. Martha was right. When Martha was trying to launch her own empire there were a different set of barriers to jump through. She had to present herself to editors and TV producers. She had to write a lot of articles and recipes for practically nothing as she continued to build a reputation in the industry. In other words, she had to go through the old media machine of evaluation and rejection before she could become the Martha Stewart we all know.
...And it terrifies her.
Today none of those hoops exist. With simple tools like Wordpress or Squarespace, hell with a Facebook account anyone can become a go-to resource for the same kind of information Martha has been profiting from for years. This terrifies her for two basic reasons.
1. It potentially divides her audience. If people only have so much time in the day and they spend it on Pinterest looking up recipes, guess where they didn't look it up?
2. It means that the next Martha Stewart could be out there in the legions of bloggers.
So What Should the Blogosphere Make Of This?
I think there are two lessons to take from this little episode. The first is that we have to acknowledge the criticism of blogging. There are bad bloggers out there. There are copycats and people who don't vet their information. That's just as true of interior designers as it is of food and mommy bloggers. Not every blog is good and while yours might be excellent it's important to realize that we are painted with the same brush as the bad bloggers and it's only our body of work that can speak for itself.
The second lesson is that the media landscape is changing. Martha Stewart doesn't owe bloggers anything (her SEO would be pretty great even without the Blogosphere). She sees bloggers as competition and frankly, she should. What Martha understands is that we are deciphering expertise in totally different ways than we used to...what you put out in the world on your topic of choice is going to be the criteria you are judged on, whether that's by an editor at Vogue or a group of friends on Facebook. There are no gatekeepers. The gatekeepers are the many on the internet who choose to share your work.
This brings me to one last point. Stop writing junk. Just stop it. We've been trained by the SEO schools and the social media experts that we must write every single day to stay relevant to the algorithms. Maybe. But I can tell you that when I write good quality content it gets shared. When I phone it in, it doesn't.
So when I take a break from writing it's because I don't want to write something rushed and short and not worth your time. I want to write something you'll take 5 minutes and read. I want to write something that might make you share.
Bottom line dear bloggers, write when you have something to say.
Am I wrong? Am I an apologist for the big media regime? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter. (@jamesbedell)