After listening to 10 interviews for the new editor position at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I do there, as well as the perceptions the interviewees have of the job, and of the company. And of the Internet. Many of the interviewees had a print background, or a journalism degree that left them without a job in their field. And when one candidate asked what my favorite part of the job was, I said something like, “I actually get paid to write.” It’s still kind of shocking. I also said, “the people I work with” (If any of you are reading this), but that’s not what this post is focusing on.
I think this post is about how the Internet format is changing how we gather, utilize, and enjoy information. How do we humans navigate the business of Google to get to our news and pleasure reading? Which comes first: the ad or the story? The whole business of the reading the Internet reminds me of when I was kid and I’d wake up early on Saturday morning to watch Scooby-Doo followed by He-Man followed by Super-friends, and ending with the Smurfs. It was so fun hanging out on my parents’ waterbed in my jammies, until noon, with my sister. Then one day, along comes my dad and says, “You know these shows are just long advertisements for toys.”
Wait, what? Then why are there commercials for Barbie’s purple corvette in between? Ha! So there! But, later, looking around my room at my collection of Smurfs, or eating out of my Scooby lunch box at school, I knew what my dad meant. And I felt a little sad. But I still loved watching my stories. Because that’s what I was in it for — the story.
I think that’s what reading the Internet is at the moment. Or, at least it’s how I think of my part in creating blog content for the Internet right now. Blog posts are like cartoons. There’s a story and there’s an underlying marketing strategy. It’s fun to read to blog posts and that’s what brings us to certain blogs. Or, there’s an answer to a question. Or, there’s news, gossip, or something at which to point and laugh.
We seem to be in an era of information where experts are no longer regarded. At least not as much. I no longer read the Hornbook to find out which young adult books librarians and reviewers are calling great. I go to Goodreads to see what my friends with similar tastes are reading. I can’t even personally name a reviewer of books. I can however name several book bloggers. One in particular I remember once tweeted something like, I’m not a reviewer. I’m a blogger. It’s not my job to be expert in the quality of a book. I just write about how much I like them. Yet many publishers are sending this blogger books because she influences sales. Good for her. That’s awesome. I personally regard expert readers in my field as other authors, not reviewers. But it’s not like authors are trained in reading. Wrong or right, the untrained (whatever that means) reader’s opinion is well regarded. I have to think it’s in large part because access to so much information and opinion is at our fingertips. We no longer have to rely on print publications or professors to guide opinion.
So, I will argue that in general, blog readers don’t need or really want expert content. Maybe because we don’t know how to define it, who the experts really are. Maybe we trust Google too much; and that’s why we rarely dig deeper than the first page for information. But I don’t think it’s so much that as it is that we don’t care. Because most of the blog reading we do on the Internet is not for academic research. If it is, then what are you doing on a blog? I think if we’re on a blog, we mostly want our Saturday morning cartoons. We want interesting content. Thoughtful content. Nichey content. Relatable content. And who cares if it’s on a site that happens to be an Amazon.com affiliate? And while many people (at work) go on and on and on about creating authoritative content on a blog, I’m inclined to roll my eyes at that. It’s great that anyone can be seen as an authority, but that’s a sub-point–an effect of the changing nature of how we now get our information. Going back to how I first understood the point of blogging: it was about creating a conversation. It was fresh content, immediately publishable, that engaged friends and people with common interests. I think that is still what’s at the heart of anyone who decides to start a blog, whether it’s personal or for business. Blogging is still about being invested in a story and/or a community. Just like being a kid who is invested in watching the smurfs outwitting Gargamel every Saturday morning.