Shifting plates

Interesting moment from the mid-atlantic Young Clergy Women’s meet up:

YCW: [Major editor of Christian magazine] doesn’t read blogs.

Me: Why?

YCW: (Shrugging) She doesn’t think they’re important.

Twenty-something CW: (Bursting into laughter) She’s going to be shocked in ten years. All of her readers will be dead, and she’s going to wonder what happened to them.

We all laughed. We know where the next generation of readers are, in front of the computer, reading blogs.

Most people in publishing are renegotiating their business plans, becoming more fluid with the Internet conversation, engaging a new generation, or they’re trying to ignore it entirely. Yet, the developments can’t be disregarded for too long. The plates are shifting on the surface of our thought, and it will be fascinating to see where we end up. Here are some major developments:

Knowledge equals power has given way to a movement where sharing knowledge equals power. For example, while in the past, a site like Theolog (Christian Century’s blog) would be competing with Out of Ur (Christianity Today’s blog), ignoring its existence, pretending that it doesn’t matter, and doing whatever it could to amass the other’s customers. Now Theolog links to Out of Ur on their blogroll, inviting their readers to visit the other site.

The shift in thinking is potent, and it reflects a major development in social and information networks. It’s no longer about amassing information and disseminating it from one central source, but it’s about becoming a part of a greater network and community.

Publishing companies decide who’s worth reading has given way to a movement where people decide who’s worth reading. I honestly didn’t understand what an impact blogs had until I began writing one. Are they the center of all good thought, dismantling all of our academic and publishing institutions? Of course not.

Writing a quick unedited blog entry every morning is not the same as investing the major time, research, and energy that it takes to write a book. And there’s great wisdom in having more people involved in the publication of a piece. It could never replace the heft of thought that goes into most academic degrees.

Still, I can’t help but be amazed at the audience that a blog can reach. Reverendmother, who’s been writing beautiful daily posts for years, likens it to a message in a bottle. We now have this ability to write something down and send it out. And people are picking up the bottles, unscrolling the notes, and paying attention to them.

Making money on subscriptions and advertising will need to make way for…well, now, here’s the problem. Publishers need to make revenue. Writers need to be paid for their work. But where’s the cash flow going to come from? If readers gravitate to self-generated publications, will more writers abound without any pay?

Some see the answer in a sort of cable-style Internet, where people will have to pay to go to premium sites. I hope that’s not where we’re headed, but I don’t know…. What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Shifting plates

  1. It was truly delightful to meet you yesterday!
    I agree that blogs are a powerful phenomenon. I started one for no particular reason, and it changed my life. Now that I’m involved with Fidelia’s, I’m just blown away by the sheer power of getting young women’s words out without a lot of editing (Fidelia’s is a blog that’s not a blog but is a blog–we do edit) and posturing, and questioning market and all that good stuff.
    Again, a blessing to meet you!

  2. Speaking of the power of blogs, my friend Heather Zempel has a blog (not anonymous, obviously) and I hope you’ll check it out soon. Like you, she comes from a conservative brand of Christianity, but unlike you, she is not entirely comfortable being in leadership. She’s blogging about the issue now. I met Heather because she was on the pilgrimage to Israel, the documentary-making trip. She is based in downtown DC, I really hope you two can meet sometime.
    http://www.discipleshipgroups.blogspot.com

  3. Susan,

    Likewise! I was wishing that I could stay for a full meal. I hope it was good and that you got back to the Cathedral safely. I didn’t get a chance to tell you that Fidelia’s is looking great. You must be proud.

    Ruth,

    I checked out Heather’s blog. Interesting…

    How did the documentary turn out? I hadn’t heard. Will it be available to the general public?

  4. I wonder about these things too. Don’t like ads on blogs but wonder how writers will pay the rent.

    Newspapers seems to be freaking out a little too. They have their blogs – some on spiritual things (e.g. On Faith at Washington Post) but that particular one makes me tired. It’s often used like Hyde’s Corner where everyone seems to be shouting but nobody is listening much. Thoughtful e-conversations won’t ever be money-makers, maybe.

    Your point on collaboration (Out of Ur and Theoblog) is a good one. I’m all about the collaboration that’s happening. Somebody should write a book on that. 🙂

  5. I agree. I like On Faith’s posts, but the comments are unbearable.

    The collaboration book…definitely needs to be written.

    Ruth,

    Are you still reading this? I went to see the Leibovitz exhibit, and she has a couple of amazing photos of Jordan that I thought you would love.

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