Monday, January 4, 2010 Leave a comment
Originally published August 3, 2009.
Everyone has their net surfing routine, the order of Web sites they check the first time they get online during the day. On most days, mine is Gmail, school e-mail, Penny Arcade, Anders Loves Maria and Facebook. My partner’s routine is e-mail, Facebook, Fark.com and MSNBC.
For many, the web routine includes checking a number of blogs to see their daily (or even more frequent) updates: I Can Has Cheezburger, Fail Blog, Cake Wrecks and Look at This F—ing Hipster, to name only a few. Blogs have increasingly become the focus of the print media industry given their viral popularity in the last few years.
But given what seems to be the standard format of blogs, are they really the magical panacea struggling newspapers expect them to be?
Sites like Tumblr and WordPress, while they offer customizability, make it easy to organize blogs into what has largely become the uniform look of the blog. Content is typically image-heavy with minimal text—posts feature a picture that adheres to the theme or topic of the blog and a brief caption. Tumblr essentially operates like Twitter but with the ability for users to post photos outright instead of links. WordPress’ utility ComicPress serves to populate the blogosphere with still more image-based posts in the form of webcomics, including notables such as PvP, Little Gamers and Anders Loves Maria.
The blog, like film and television before it, encourages people to embrace primarily visual culture. Many have adapted to and even come to prefer content in concise, obvious, manageable bursts. They are the kind of bursts both furthered by and intended for viewing on gadgets that saturate the market: laptops (and now netbooks) appearing in classrooms and coffeehouses, cell phones and iPod Touches resting in pockets. They’re especially good for that quick break between assignments at the office or that moment of boredom in class.
Is this really what print media hopes to become? In that case, are newspapers planning on reducing their content to streaming news feeds online containing an Associated Press photo and caption?
It’s difficult to imagine this dramatic overhaul actually taking place. But it’s even harder to imagine newspapers successfully converting a text-based communication of information into the burst that fills those momentary pauses/compulsive internet checks during the course of the day.
I’m not denying that this compulsive behavior has created news junkies, too. Their increased presence, proportional to our growing accessibility to the internet, is verified by the development of sites like Fark and Digg.
There’s also Drudge Report, Huffington Post, Daily Kos and, in Illinois, Capitol Fax. Yes, their content all centers on text — news stories and opinions pieces — but they still hinge on the visual aspect of blogs that makes the medium nearly incapable of presenting objective news information. Drudge Report and Huffington Post both employ huge images with attention-grabbing captions in the same vein as our favorite lolcats. And though the extensive readership of Kos and Cap Fax might be encouragement for the print media industry, they deal in opinions, not news. To equate the two is dangerous territory, embodied by the increasing attitude that the Daily Show is the best place for news content in mainstream media.
Are opinions and special interest blogs (like sports and entertainment) a good starting point for newspapers looking to adapt to the challenges of the Internet Age? Yes. Can blogs save newspapers, publications inherently designed to present factual news content? Not unless we’d like to condemn ourselves to adding I Can Has Noozstory to our daily web routines.
Chelsea is a student in LAS.