Infographic of the Day: "The Age of Crap"

As blogs proliferate, does their usefulness decline?

Blogger Brian Cray has a bone to pick with all you other bloggers out there, and to illustrate his problem, he created the graph above. As he explains:

Everyday I see more crap clogging my Twitter stream and delicious iGoogle boxes. "Top 10 things widgets for your Web site." "5,000 ways to do __________ in jQuery." Well, it all wasn't crap at one time. At one time it was somebody's hard original work. But after the 50th article rounding up the same damn thing it's suddenly crap...Is there hope? Yes. When I see articles by Paddy Donnelly, Dustin Curtis, and others spreading originality I get hopeful.

Man's got a point. We love us some Dustin Curtis. And frankly, FastCompany.com is guilty of all of the sins he's enumerated, because even though we do original reporting, we also do round-up posts, trend pieces, and the like. Hell, we even reblog quite a bit, albeit with some context and opinion layered on top.

But here's where we part ways. Cray's argument probably applies to the majority of amateur blogs out there. But even if you're a more professional, journalistic blog publishing upwards of 40 stories a day, you're not gonna be able to produce the type of content that Dustin Curtis produces once every six months. The fact is, Web content isn't just about "generating content." Newspapers and magazines--the original models for content generation--are getting replaced online. But newsy Web sites don't work like a newspaper or a magazine.

Print media usually tries to get the whole story, and present it as completed product on the printed page. They don't cover it as it moves. Web publishing does, and as a result, it's far more diffuse. A chorus of voices help push forward an initial tidbit of news--adding context and opinion, situating that news into the world, so that readers will actually give a crap. Because frankly, your average media consumer doesn't have time to read 985 blog posts a day (my own average this month, according to Google reader). Most of those 985 blog posts are, as Cray suggests, crap. Many are original crap. But it's crap you have no reason to care about, unless you're a journalist addicted to news-crack.

And why do 95% of all the big, mainstream sites like FastCompany.com, TheAtlantic.com, and NYMag.com function in essentially the same way. (You'll notice that these are all nominees for Magazine of the Year, recognizing print and Web integration.) The magazine spends resources getting the entire story, dozens of times over, and publishes these once a month. But day to day, the Web editors and writers scour the Internet, looking for news that can be recontextualized to matter for their specific brand of reader. Sometimes these readerships overlap between Web sites. But often they do not, and that's a beautiful and necessary thing. You don't read NYMag.com for the same reasons you read FastCompany.com.

And that in itself is a valuable service in the information age: When there's too much information, it's valuable to have a (free) source of news and original content, curated for a sensibility that suits your own. (Just ask Jason Kottke, if you're curious about this model.)

Now, this might not seem like an ideal state. But it's one created by the market. Blog and Web site readerships are skyrocketing. Newspapers and magazines are struggling. More and more people are deciding they'd rather get tidbits of bunches of stories, as they develop, for free--and less and less want a tightly bound, carefully selected group of stories once a month, when the news has already been trampled on by hundreds of blogs. That's modern publishing in a nutshell.

[Via Brian Cray]

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1 Comments

  • Michael Borowiecki

    That's a pretty daft assertion to point to the little guy and say, "hey, your blog is crap because you repackage content, learn and apply ideas from other successful blogs and use a popular open-source blog platform!"

    Yes, blog software is making self-publishing easier and faster than ever before – which has led to a rise in small, independent blogs online. Yes, some topics appear to be written and rewritten more often than others. And yes, for anyone that publishes content online knows, there are plenty of blogs and websites ready to steal your content for use on their own site in a continuing quest to make a few more AdSense dollars.

    But, for the legitimate small-time blogs that have painfully built and retained an audience, regardless of whether they publish unique content or repackage content for their readers, how can one rather broadly and belligerently claim that blog is crap?
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