Emergency Shelter

Image by orvaratli via Flickr

The fact that information is no longer scarce should surprise nobody. A very salient comment in the Scholarly Kitchen recently put this into a brand perspective. But this flood of information is threatening to drown people

The audience is becoming defiant.

I wrote recently about how students as Michigan State University have hidden themselves from public email view, relying instead on the sheltered zones of Facebook and Twitter for communication with smaller, known groups of associates they have control over. Now, an essay in Wired considers trends in blogging, once a wide-open form of personal communication, and how the tsunami of information is causing bloggers to flee to higher ground.

Not only are readers hiding from the storm, but authors are seeking shelter, as well.

One blogger has retired from the medium owing to its lack of intimacy now that blogs are so mainstream. Other complaints are that professional blogs are drowning out personal blogs, and that writers craving connection with an audience are finding the actual audience too large, heterogeneous, and unwieldy.

Where are they going?

To email lists, to Facebook, and to other niche community sites that allow blogging but also limit the experience to a defined, selected audience.

Talent wants a spotlight. In the general blogosphere, it’s like the house lights are always coming up, and the star bloggers are beginning to seek more intimate venues, a soft blue spot and an audience that still gives them a buzz.

Twitter is a real beneficiary of this trend, with the brevity of the form, instantaneous feedback, and messaging tools contributing to its popularity (the new iPhone hasn’t hurt, either).

As Paul Boutin, the author of the Wired piece, puts it:

Twitter — which limits each text-only post to 140 characters — is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004. You’ll find Scoble, Calacanis, and most of their buddies from the golden age there. They claim it’s because Twitter operates even faster than the blogosphere. And Twitter posts can be searched instantly, without waiting for Google to index them. As a writer, though, I’m onto the system’s real appeal: brevity.

As owners of niche communities, STM publishers would seem to have an advantage. What might we do with it?

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


1 Thought on "Authors Seek Shelter"

“Flee to higher ground”–yes, though we would also agree that no patient should be left behind.

Forgive two and a half literary parallels—

Machiavelli has a great analogy: in battle, when there is confusion, an army should “flock to the banner” to reorganize, but then they return to battle.

Ortega Y Gasset’s essay on “Historical Reason” (1940). He notes that in mythology the fauns, acolytes of the God Pan, had the role of crying out prophecies in the forest, but could only be understood by those capable of deciphering their significance. He then quotes Cicero: Saepe etiam in proclis fauri auditis (Sometimes in battle, faun’s voices are heard). The internet needs some fauns to cut through the noise and help find the right signal.

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