Last updated on July 16th, 2022 at 12:27 am
This week, Michael Kinsley, the founding editor of the online journal, Slate, wrote a piece for the Times titled, “Read All About it: How the Blogosphere Killed Good Writing,” based on his observations about a Felix Salmon post about the quality writing on the Internet.
Kinsley argues that when it comes to writing online, “sheer quantity trumps quality.”
This opinion piece by Kinsley was published in the same week that Emmy award-winning journalist Charlie Rose (who I admit — I am madly in love with) interviewed Salman Rushdie for Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.
The conversation was all about the quality of writing.
It seemed like my dream week was surrounded by the subject of writing quality, intermixed with my angst about continuing to push us to be better bloggers on 8WomenDream.
Sometimes we succeed. Other times it’s a crap shoot. It all depends on our timing and delivery. The universe has a sucky sense of timing sometimes. I’m just sayin’. These writing observations brought me to that place in my gut where I’m bugged when people try to quantify blogging, bloggers, and writers in general, then compare it, and us, to print, or anything else they feel resembles a “better” writer.
Sometimes it feels like we are trying to compare Picasso to Salvador Dali.
Blogging is not the same animal as novel-writing. It’s like saying that a cougar and a house cat are the same. They may have similarities, but they are not the same animal.
In Charlie Rose’s interview, Salman Rushdie mused how Charles Dickens wrote many of his stories in weekly or monthly parts known as serials. Each month readers could buy a new chapter to the story. It was an entirely new way of publishing a novel–a way that more people could afford at the time.
It was considered an odd way to pen a novel. Does this sound familiar to you?
Some critics feel that Dickens’ way of breaking his novels up into series is why (once they became a completed, bound book), the descriptive sections of these novels are steep for readers to get through, even when these readers love the story.
The quality of writers, authors, and publishing companies has always been a hotly-debated subject. Enter the bloggers and the Internet, and suddenly we are all pitted against each other.
When you decide to become a published blogger, you enter into this fire-pit of writer-critic ashes at war with the smoldering coals of modernization–sometimes burning each other in the process, not realizing that we’re together in the same place fighting the same publishing battle.
Quantity does matter on the Internet. Kinsley is right about that.
The reason quantity matters are that an online publishing platform like ours has to grow from the size of a flea to the size of the State of Texas — just so people who will want to read this (and hopefully love what is written here) can find it on the Internet.
It’s not that quantity matters OVER quality; it’s that quantity is what gets you found above the millions and millions of websites on the Internet. It’s the sheer size of the Internet that drives this need for quantity, and it’s why the Huffington Post wanted to publish 50 blog posts a day. After a while, you can’t be ignored on the web when pumping out that kind of volume.
Can you name the last QUALITY post you read? What was it about? Who was the author?
This doesn’t mean that the quality of writing isn’t everywhere on the Internet. It just means that when you were in the mood for reading a certain kind of writing on the Internet, you can’t find it with the search terms you used.
Hell of a way to judge writing, don’t you think?
To produce quantity and volume for an Internet publication, you’ve got to shorten your writing turn-around time. Your convoluted novel-type writing thoughts need to sweep in and catch the world by the throat at this given moment in time as quickly as you can pump it out while feeding a baby, doing laundry, working for corporate America, and managing the bills.
And you have to produce a ton of it.
Readers scan what they read on the Internet because it is f’n hard to read on this platform, so you have to further present your writing in a way that will hopefully grab the attention of the masses, make them stop, and take a breath while staying with your prose long enough to lose themselves in your short story.
And God forbid that they like it and remember to bookmark it so they can find you again.
This is not the easiest thing to do in a digitally-distracted world. And frequently, it has nothing to do with the writing ability of the blogger.
Maybe the blogger only wrote a great headline. And the rest of what they wrote did suck. Or the website was down. Or the site took too long to load. Or maybe they’re the next Dickens, but no one knows anything about them because they can’t find their blog since their post headlines always suck. Or maybe their post headlines are great, their writing is excellent, their site keywords are great, and they actually could be the next Dickens — but their site isn’t big enough to be found online by anyone. When this is the case, quantity matters over everything.
More prominent websites are better when it comes to Internet writing.
And so you can’t compare quality and quantity, just like you can’t judge Dickens for the fact that he wrote his stories in pieces and sold them in a series of small publications. It’s like arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. I think both are equally important to dream bloggers who like scrambled eggs when they’ve been writing all day.
But let’s not let words like “bloggers” and “blogging” divide this art. We are all writing, aren’t we? Many writers’ dreams are coming true because of the number of publishing choices available to them, right? Isn’t this what dreaming is all about?
Catherine Hughes is the founder, content director and editor-at-large of 8WomenDream. She is passionate about helping women step out of their own way and strike out into a world waiting for their special talents. She’s a published author and a former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine has helped companies both large and small create engaging web content, social media narratives, and unique blogging platforms. She claims to be a redhead, but don’t hold that against her.
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