Dan had a spirited discussion with an informed reader of our blog about the fact that many of the best blogs have relatively few readers while the "sound bite" blogs are rakin' em' in.
On a parallel note, one of my favorite writers, the science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, died recently. Lem was Polish and fought the Nazis in WW2 and lived under communism. As a result, his themes were often oblique compared to the typical science fiction "shoot 'em up" themes. His most famous book, Solaris, is a fascinating novel about a distant planet that is one sentinent organism that plays with the sanity of explorers above its empty ocean. Do not be put off by the not-so-good movie with George Clooney, the book is much better.
When I was growing up I worked in a bookstore. The bookstore only hired people of college age but when I turned 16 I kept applying, over and over, until they finally had pity on me and took me in. I loved books and still have shelves of them creaking everywhere.
Prior to working in the bookstore I had dreams of being a writer. I read my favorite authors such as Lem and many others and really thought that someday, if I worked hard enough, I could be one, too.
However, what I saw in the bookstore totally dashed my hopes. Even though the bookstore was a high-end bookstore (for its day, prior to the Borders / Barnes and Noble superstore world) whenever a diet guru came on TV the place was flooded with suburban housewives craving the latest tips in the form of the inevitable bestseller. We sold an amazing number of books about astrology, romance novels, and terrible "action" and "western" series books.
The books I liked, the authors like Lem, gathered dust on the shelves. Though I tended to them well, turning the face of the jacket to face the aisle (not the spine), no one bought them, and ultimately we sent them back to the publisher in a big box (or tore the cover off if they were paperbacks and the publisher didn't want to pay the freight - I ripped apart many, many books that way. Don't even get me started on the economics of that insane industry).
What did I learn? Commerce isn't art. If you want to make a living, you need to give the people what they want, and 99 times out of 100 that means you are generating, well, crap. The good books gathered dust, and the topical diet and fad books sold like crazy. Danielle Steele, I can still see her garish covers when I close my eyes today.
So what does this have to do with anything? Blogs are the same as my bookstore. Most of the superficial, flashiest, emptiest stuff rises to the top because they spend time on the equivalent of a bodice-ripping cover starring Fabio rather than worrying about crafting an interesting and unique piece.
Because that is what the vast majority of people want.
It is easy to digest and it goes down smoothly. You don't have to think a lot, all of your pre-conceptions are met, out of the box.
Thanks to the web, however, we can publish what we want, for free. I don't have to worry about the economics of this process, because I am not relying on it for my livelihood. This is what freedom is about, freedom of speech, and freedom to have a solid discourse with those that want to join me.
Or you can just click back to the big blogs and I won't miss you, either.