Interesting moment from the mid-atlantic Young Clergy Women’s meet up:
YCW: [Major editor of Christian magazine] doesn’t read blogs.
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?