Monday, April 24, 2006

Set pieces versus spontaneity

It's Monday (at least where I am it is) and a story from the New York Times is at the top of Memeorandum. This is a common occurence, not just because the Times reports a lot on GEMAYA, but because it seems to save up a lot of its exclusives for Mondays. A similar thing happens in the Australian tech press on Tuesdays, when most of them have a dedicated section or three. (I have not seen a print copy of the Times lately, so I don't know if they have an IT section on Mondays... it would make sense.)

These "set pieces" are useful for the MSM because readers look forward to getting that edition of their publication because they know that a week's worth of content has been concentrated into one day. The front page of an IT section is an event in itself. Placement of stories on the page tells the reader about what stories are important to the paper and thus (in theory) to the reader. The system is longstanding, readers know about how it operates and are comfortable with it. It works.

For blogs, their advantages of timeliness and freedom from newsholes or structured publishing schedules are offset to some degree, so far, by the lack of set pieces. Are there blogs out there which commit to a single day of the week where they publish a particular type of entry, or make an effort to stick to a regular publication date for a longer article or thought piece? The only ones I can think of are digest entries, used by such prolific posters as Richard McManus with Read/Write Filter and Nick Denton at Valleywag with his Recap and Remainders. Note that both Rich and Nick are in professional blog networks, some of which use this technique excessively to cross-promote. Nick is is a network which requires 12 posts a day, which leads one to inevitably conclude that digests are being done for less than wholly positive reasons. I'd be fascinated to hear Darren Rowse's thoughts on this subject, being as he is the mack daddy of probloggers. In any case I don't think digests count as set pieces, since I doubt any reader would get up in the morning looking forward to loading up a bunch of random links or reading what they read yesterday.

There should be no reason why blogs can't have their cake and eat it too on this issue. The only thing that might be lost is the sense by the reader that none of what appears in a blog's RSS feed is forced upon the writer by rules, something which can be quite valuable for some bloggers who are subscribers to the amateur philosophy. Some readers might resent what they could see as the encroachment of journalistic professionalism, by effectively making those regular blog posts into a standalone "brand". But then, some other readers might enjoy that more.

I will be testing out some concepts along these lines in my new blog next month. I will be fascinated with what readers' reactions will be.


Anonymous sidereal said...

Late on this one, but has Science Fridays. And there's always Friday Cat Blogging.

6:31 am, May 23, 2006  

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