Monday, February 21, 2011

The Birth Of The Micro-Audience

By Lars Trodson

The New York Times is wondering if long-form blogging is going the way of the written letter. It is Twitter and Facebook that are claiming the attention of young people, the newspaper tells us, putting at risk the health of people who want to try to express themselves in essays longer than 140 characters.

So many media outlets have declared so many things as “dead” in the past decade, you begin to wonder why anyone would listen anymore. Marriage, TV sitcoms, the novel, your local theater, etc. so forth and so on and all dead dead dead. It’s like actually paying attention to a meteorologist here in New England: What’s the point?

The heart of the issue -- for The Times -- is that blogging has fallen out of favor with the young. The article cites a Pew Research Center report that states that blogging among 12-17 year olds fell by half between 2006 and 2009, and that blogging for 18 - 33 year olds fell by two percentage points (!)

Few other details are given, but I’ll bet, one, that many of the precocious 12 year olds who started a blog got as far as exactly one posting and then gave up. This is hard work. I imagine the other reason so many other blogs have fallen by the wayside is because there are a lot of people who think they have a lot to say when they don’t really have anything to say at all -- that, or they just don’t know how to express themselves. To get to the computer every once in a while to write an essay about something you’ve given some thought to requires concentration and stamina.

Also, and this may be important to the young people, you don’t really have to worry about grammar and syntax in 140 characters.

Here’s the other reason why people have stopped blogging, according to The Times: “Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers.”

Lack of readers. I think that the inspiration for many, many blogs was the idea that you’d start a blog and very quickly get bought out by a major corporation or you’d get a book deal. That’s not to say this hasn’t happened, but its almost as mythical as the idea that your $25,000 independent film is going to get optioned by some major studio. In real life, it just doesn’t happen. And so, after a year or so of doing book reviews, or movie reviews, or writing about poetry, the inspiration wears off. You look at your Google metrics and see that you’ve been visited by exactly 64 people in the past month.

What’s the point?

And so, I think, those writers are opting to go the social networking route, where their audience is targeted to a very specific number of the people -- their “friends.” And, because of the interactive nature of sites like Facebook, they are bound to receive the kind of reader response that makes them feel as though they are at least getting through to someone. There is no longer that deafening silence.

So writing, among the young, may in fact be targeted in the future to these micro-audiences. Writers will be writing specifically for their peers and friends, without any interest in whether anyone understands or cares about is being said.

But blogging, even if you look at the numbers cited in the Pew report, is not dead. Blogging adheres to a kind of Darwinian principal: the strong survive.

We’re happy to say that Roundtable Pictures is coming up on its fourth anniversary and we’re more popular than ever. Our readership keeps growing, and when people visit the site they rummage around to see what we’ve done in the past. They stay awhile.

We don’t necessarily cater to any specific age group here, nor do we just concentrate on one medium. We’ve done a little bit of everything over the years and we always do it as well as we can. We’re also one of the only sites that writes reviews of movies and then posts our own films so that we’re subject to the same kind of scrutiny and criticism we sometimes give to others. It’s an honest and far exchange.

It’s a little early for us to be celebrating our birthday here at Roundtable, but it was good time for us to say thank all of you who have taken the time to visit us over the years and that we’re looking forward to a long and continued conversation with our readers.