A Twitter thread by Jeff Jarvis caught my eye yesterday. “I far prefer blogs to email newsletters & podcasts” Jeff wrote, and I agree with him. I mused about why this was over my morning espresso. I pondered further during a cable internet outage at lunchtime. And now, when I am ready, I am writing a blog post about it.
You might read this because you’re an old style devotee to RSS and still subscribe to this blog. You might see a tweet I’ve written about the post. You might stumble across this post via DuckDuckGo or whatever other search engine of your choice. You might even get this via the email notification system – Mailchimp just mails out the latest post to whoever has signed up, something I have never pushed or promoted.
If you’re really keen you can link to it yourself, comment on it, quote it somewhere. And it might be useful to you on the day I wrote it, next week or next year. Whenever it is useful to you I am happy that is the case. And it is going to be free to access it as well, for however long this blog exists (it’s been running 16 years so far, and I am not about to stop).
With a newsletter the sender chooses when they want to bother me, not the other way around. And were I to produce a newsletter I would have to produce it to a regular schedule, which is the very opposite of blogging – I am going to hit Publish on this when I am ready, not according to some weekly or fortnightly schedule that is de rigeur for the newsletter as a medium.
If that were not enough, I am so damned overloaded with email anyway, does anyone conceivably want even more of it? And then were I to want to (re-)use something that was in a newsletter I received, do I have the right means for that? And navigation within newsletters remains lousy (yes, looking at you, Politico Brussels Playbook).
Perhaps more pertinently, what collaborative learning potential is there from a newsletter? I could send ideas to you in a newsletter, you could reply to the email, but whatever we together would learn from that would not automatically be public for everyone else to use, to learn from, to built upon, to adapt, to remix.
Stretching it a bit further, am I actually self confident enough to assume anyone would want to hear direct from me? I want and need the accountability of the open format of a blog (and Twitter) to check I am getting things right. It’s better for me, and it’s better for those people reading as well. Yes, trolling on open platforms is a problem (and damn am I sick of it on Twitter), but retreating to an essentially more closed system surely is not the right reaction to that – civilised open collaboration is what was great about blogging, and it remains a noble aim.
Many of the problems of newsletters are what keep me away from podcasting as well. Sure, I have been a guest on plenty of podcasts, notably those hosted by Tim Pritlove, but I struggle to consume them – I can’t fit the regular schedule of podcasts into my very irregular schedule. I can’t know if a podcast is going to be useful before I have got into it, and there are few experts or commentators I so universally appreciate so as to mean I would listen to everything they say. And just as with a newsletter, if I am myself unconvinced by a medium for my own person consumption, there’s no way I am going to persuade others of its merit.
Basically I refuse to make a podcast that would not have me as a listener, and I refuse to make a newsletter that would not have me as a subscriber.
Whatever their downsides, the open collaboration potential of blogging and Twitter, the search-ability, the accountability, their ad-hoc nature suits me better than anything else.
Now where’s the reinvent-hype-Substack thingy for blogging…?