Monday, September 24, 2007

thoughts on media and circulation

Some of you have probably heard me talk ad nauseum about my recent publicity surrounding my quotation marks blog. The whole business of that blog’s growing popularity and it’s coverage in other media has led me to think some things about circulation, new media, and how content does and doesn’t cross to a new medium. I decided to use my (less popular) blog to think through some of these issues. Sorry so rambly.

So the first thing that is interesting about my blog experience is the nature of circulation – the way website visits spike when popular blogs or websites link to it, for example. Interestingly, when Yahoo picks linked to my blog as the pick of the day my spike in visits was only average – about the same as any blog with a large readership. However, promotion in a more mainstream internet source (that is, yahoo picks gets more mainstream attention than I Blame the Patriarchy, to give one example of a website that led to a similar spike) gets the attention of a different audience. I do not believe that it is coincidental that my promotion by Yahoo was followed a few days later by contact from an Associated Press reporter.

At this point, it is interesting to discuss the way media translate. While I don’t view my website as peevology, others certainly have included it as such. The AP article, and other subsequent coverage, tended to emphasize the tone as “annoyed” even “blasting”. Many of my interviews focused on what was annoying about certain uses of language. What seemed to be lost in translation between my approach and the reception of these members of the media was my sense of playfulness. It’s my suspicion that a playful snark is the primary mode for many writers in the internet medium. Traditional journalism employs that tone less often, perhaps because of the broader audience who might misunderstand. It’s also true that by seeing this perception mediated over and over and over, it became more salient to me, and my rejection of it became more important to me.

Another distinction between old and new media came through in the types of emails I received on friday when the story was mostly on web sources and saturday when it hit print. My saturday emails seemed far less aware of the conventions of the internet. On Saturday I got far more emails that didn't seem to require a response, and were not incredibly interesting (I got some interesting ones too) several of which were paranoid that I would repost their message with their email address (for the record, I never post other people's email addresses on the internet). I was left to wonder what made them go to the trouble to email me at all. Internet people, on the other hand, were more likely to be hostile. For example, on Friday someone emailed me whose entire text was "much ado about nothing" and someone else started an entire blog to talk about how I annoyed him called "people with to much time on there hands" (I'm not even kidding, with that spelling). I assign all this to jealousy.

Being the subject of this kind of coverage also leads me to think seriously about the ways individuals are mediated in one-dimensional ways. For obvious reasons, nobody cares about the parts of my life that are unrelated to quotation marks; that is to say, most of it. This is obviously also the case with other people in the news media. I find my name invoked in comparison (positive comparison, fortunately for me) to other people named only for single events in their lives.

Not that any of this is really news, but it strikes one differently when it happens on an individual level, when you know what is being selected and what isn’t.


Mary Ward-Bucher said...

Well, in the interest of delurking myself and perhaps encouraging you, I must admit that I've been reading your blog for almost a year. I didn't need Yahoo or the AP; somehow, I found you through a Google search and sadly, I can't even remember how!

In any case, I've kept reading because you seem to have a lot of interesting things say. Too bad you're not in Philly to have a cup of coffee!

Katherine said...

Wow, Bethany! I've peeked in at your "other" blog a couple times, and had no idea how much it had taken off. By all accounts, web fame has its ups and downs. The fact that you're so clear that quotation marks (and by extension, your blog about quotation marks) are such a small part of your life will give you a perspective that less-grounded people don't have.

Anyway, congratulations for the success and the grace with which you are navigating it.

Rachel said...

Looks like you've gotten some interesting insights from your fifteen "minutes" of fame. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

That last article was one blog makes you a "hero for the greater good?" The next thing you know there will be a Nobel Prize for bloggers.

It is a shame that they missed the playful snark angle's so much more enjoyable that way.

But I'm glad that your creativity got so much acknowledgment...that's one thing they definitely got right.

Kathy Frederick said...

Bethany -- In every mainstream article I've read about you and your blog, you're always playful about it. You mention how fun it's supposed to be. I can't understand why people don't get that. Five minutes on the blog would confirm that. Maybe the critics aren't even visiting?

At any rate, it's terrific what you've done and kudos on your success and press.

And thanks for putting up my "unique" sandwiches photo today. I feel famous by extension!

Grace said...

I work in the media, and I tend to forget that most people don't know how stuff gets picked to be put up on a pedestal. It's very likely the AP reporter who wrote about you either saw the link on Yahoo or was sent it by a friend. Mainstream journalists don't have divining rods directing them toward their next subjects—we bounce from blog to blog like everybody else.