Blogging and Self-Branding : Open Thread
(I've been told they'll project each of our blogs during the talk...hence the shout out)
There have been some terrific panel discussions about arts blogging in the past, and when I was first invited to participate in this one I wasn't sure what more could be shared on the topic, but the truth of the matter is there seems to be a very subtle sea-change in the field and the more I think about it, the more I feel that indeed this is a good time to stop, take stock, and share ideas about how self-publishing on the arts is changing.
Before I delve into one of the things I feel is shifting in the field, I should note that I consider most art bloggers to fall into one of two categories. Those for whom writing is a profession (even if it's something they do professionally in addition to other things) and those who don't actually get paid for their writing, like myself...the "passionate amateurs" (note that that's not a comment on level of quality...only a lack of payment for their efforts). This distinction is necessary to discuss some of the more interesting developments in blogging in general.
Via a post by Andrew Sullivan titled "Rise of the Underbloggers", I read a blog post by Ben Casnocha yesterday that confirmed something I've felt for quite some time: we're entering an era in which writers' personal brands have become more important than media brands:
Even though big media companies -- and the one-size-fits-all information bundle they deliver -- are dying, I'm not sad. I see a future that's increasingly made up of customized information blends which in turn will be made up of content and reporting and analysis delivered by individuals I respect and follow.Sully is the perfect example of this. Yes, his main topic is politics, but his human interest stories are his most popular. More to the point, though, many people who read blogs know that Sullivan is a blogger, but quickly...who did he blog for before he joined The Atlantic??? I can't recall without looking. And it doesn't matter. I'd read Sullivan whomever he wrote for (well, unless he'd sellout and write for a Fox affiliate, but I can't see that happening...no, wait...who owns the Times of London??? Sully!!!!).
In other words: think about information bundles driven by people not topic. A magazine not about "sports" or "business" but rather one featuring commentary by five individuals of my choosing (and I can rotate the five individuals as I wish).
In the arts realm, though, many of the best blogs are not self-branded...not yet anyway. Art Fag City's Paddy Johnson (who is on the panel with us tonight) is increasingly introduced with both identifiers in the press: her name and her blog's name. Tyler Green's blog is not called "Tyler Green," but more and more when he is cited in the press, the source doesn't even mention his blog's name...they mention only "Tyler Green."
The indefatigable Cathy Behrend recently invited me and another person to talk with her class at FIT on the topic of arts writing. I was very intimidated because the other person was someone I feel is at the top of the game in terms of smartly charting the bleeding edge of arts journalism. She's also extremely generous and sweet, but each time someone asks me what the future of arts journalism looks like I immediately say: Lindsay Pollock.
Now Lindsay will say she's just doing what it is she does and piecing things together as best she can, but her instincts are dead on in my opinion. She writes for several media outlets, but she also recently launched a blog smartly titled Lindsay Pollock Art Market Views (but its domain name is eponymous) and has balanced out her shout outs on Facebook and Twitter such that with her blog everything works seamlessly and entirely un-obnoxiously in conjunction to direct you upward toward her paid writing pieces. This flow is important (and perhaps THE key to future success for any writer) and, again, Lindsay seems to do it instinctively.
When I recently asked her about self-branding, Lindsay insisted her blog name was the only thing available that made sense. But it's also smart because the truth of the matter is, as with Sullivan, I would read Pollock no matter who she writes for or what she writes on because I like her writing. She's in the five or so writers I'd assemble into my own "information bundle."
Of course, re-branding comes with disadvantages. I found when we renamed the gallery that it took some folks ages to stop calling it by its old moniker (we still get mail addressed to Plus Ultra, and more than one online listing service can't seem to update their databases, but...), so I'm not suggesting you change your blog's name if it's well known. I might suggest, especially if you're new to blogging, that you keep your name prominently displayed on the masthead. Mind you, this is for professional writers who look forward to a long career of being paid for what they write, more so than for the passionate amateurs who toil at their keyboards for other reasons. (We passionate amateurs post our names real big on our mastheads entirely out of megalomaniac reasons. ;-)
There are other subtle changes in the field as well, but I'm just now realizing I should save something to talk about this evening. Consider this an open thread on self-branding in the professional arts writing realm.