Blogs Will Save Us
Jia Tolentino laments the slow death of blogs in the New Yorker.
“The result is editorial latitude to be obscure and silly and particular, but the finances are increasingly hard to sustain; media consumption is controlled these days by centralized tech platforms—Facebook, Twitter—whose algorithms favor what is viral, newsy, reactionary, easily decontextualized, and of general appeal.... And now, in 2018, the economics of online publishing are running everyone off the map.”
Blogs are direct media, straight from the mind of a human to the internet. Although she’s largely discussing sites I consider an order of magnitude above blogs like this in sophistication (though an order of magnitude below online newspapers and magazines), she gets it right when she writes:
“Before I came to The New Yorker, my only professional writing experience was at blogs, places where a piece like this one, about disappearing blogs, would’ve been either eighty-five words or three thousand, and the lede would have been abrupt and vividly unprofessional, like a friend grabbing you by the collar at a bar. The image above the text would be some low-cost visual joke—a screenshot, or a cheesy stock photo—and the editing would’ve been as intimate and odd as a tarot-card reading, or nearly nonexistent, or maybe both. Blogs were a one-man-band situation: if you were a blog editor, as I was, you were also a blogger, and many other things besides, so you would spend your days not just writing and editing pieces but formatting and tagging them, finding art, scheduling and publishing, posting everything on social media yourself.”
Where I think her analysis falls apart is within niche fields that never could appeal to mass audiences in the first place—like beer. Here blogs are flourishing. I have grown into the medium thanks to sponsorship by Guinness. A monthly check does wonders in terms of focusing the mind; now I think ahead about what I want to write (sometimes) and even do a bit of reporting. When I look out at the landscape of beer writing, most of my consumption happens at the blog level. This is particularly true if you consider Good Beer Hunting a blog—and I do, in the manner that Tolentino considers The Awl, Grantland (RIP), and Toast (also RIP) blogs. Magazines like BeerAdvocate and All About Beer do great work, but the latter is in perpetual financial crisis and it gobbled up Draft recently to try to stave off irrelevance by entering the frothy, bloggy world. And legacy mags rarely set the conversation. They are best at well-reported long form journalism, but these pieces usually just advance thinking that’s already happened online.
Years ago, when social media became ascendant, blogs did seem doomed. But then the limitations of social media presented themselves: conversations were siloed, information was lost after a few days, and longer, nuanced points were all but impossible. Blogs are faster and more interactive than magazines, but more thoughtful and permanent than social media.
Beer blogs are far from dead; in fact, one could argue they’re more indispensable than ever.