Friday, January 15, 2010

Blogging and Self-Branding : Open Thread

As noted earlier, there's a panel discussion on arts blogging this evening at the X-Initiative hosted by ArtTable and moderated by Robin White. My understanding is it's full up and no more reservations are being accepted, but I've heard that a few folks are planning to photograph and write about it, so hopefully, if you can't make it, we'll be able to discuss it virtually later.

HELLO, ART TABLE BLOGGING PANEL AUDIENCE !!!

(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.

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).

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 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.

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14 Comments:

Blogger kalm james said...

I tried to RSVP with the hyperlink from your earlier post with no luck. If they throw me out because they've run out of seating, they'd better make it good an dramatic for the camera (billy clubs and tear gas please).

1/15/2010 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

noooo they better make an exception and let you stay! we need to see it!!!

1/15/2010 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Is there any evidence that blogging or bloggers have influenced sales at any gallery?

Not that this is the point of blogging, but I'm just wondering about the impact of all this online writing.

1/15/2010 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These bloggers have expanded the geographic reach of the galleries. I never Google a gallery name, but I do Google artists mentioned in blogs which usually leads me to a gallery.

Unfortunately for those of us who are timid, the galleries usually don't give a price and tell you to 'contact the gallery' for that information. This is true even with unestablished artists who I think I might possibly afford, in a small way encourage while enjoying a work I consider interesting and worthy of my small clerk savings. I rarely contact the gallery as my life lesson has been that if they don't list the price I can't afford it anyway.

Still, as someone who has worked in the backroom of businesses, I find this way of doing business odd. It must work as the galleries are open and thriving, still...so this blog reader at least has tried to take the next step and has found the gallery no price practice a hinderance.

1/16/2010 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous David Palmer said...

EW, this is a fascinating topic, and you are, in fact, a perfect example of someone who's created a personal brand.

Despite the fact that you consider yourself a "passionate amateur", I'm sure your personal brand hasn't hurt your gallery's name recognition, or the fact that you're invited to speak on panels such as this. I probably wouldn't have ever heard of your gallery if it weren't for your blog. (BTW, I don't think you really can call yourself an amateur anymore, EW. Didn't Amazon pay you for that book I bought?)

Artists have been into personal branding for ages. It used to be called developing a "signature style". But the way it works has changed dramatically now that we're all on the web.

1/16/2010 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Stefano Pasquini said...

Dear Anonymous of 1/16/2010 10:55:00 AM, the ways of art are weird and tortuous, as this very blog teaches you, and if you're new at collecting you'll need to read a lot more of this and other cited blogs in order to get an idea on how things work. I understand your point of view though. In the small provincial and freaky Italian market there is one blog that lists the "coefficient" price of a lot of artists (meaning what they are worth in square centimeters) which is very useful for newcomers to get an idea about market prices. Possibly there is something like this for the US somewhere online? Anyone?

1/16/2010 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Winkler said...

Interesting discussion--the potential use, purpose, and catagorization of blogs is a fascinating subject. I'd like to make a comment which greatly extends the scope of your discussion--as some food for thought. I recently developed a blog around the idea of the logical presentation of a visual/conceptual topic which will eventually render the blog linguistically unreadable (a conceptual experiment). I don't know of any other artists who are experimenting with the temporal/informational design of blogs but it is proving to be an interesting project because within the global informational mechanism of the Internet, every snippet of text is treated as readable content. The internet doesn't recognize unreadability--it processes the non-readable word as a specialized language or foreign language and catagorizes or links it, based on any readable/decipherable connection to meaningful content in any informational source to which it has access (often treats it as a misspelled word. An attempt to create a non-sense word will most often result in a meaningful association which was not intended (such as a connection to the initials or logo of company or organization, a word in a foreign language, a specialized word or string of data entries, etc).

1/17/2010 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous David Palmer said...

Michael, I'm afraid I'm way ahead of you on that. I already find many blogs to be unreadable.

1/18/2010 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Massimo Cristaldi said...

Here some considerations on the topics from photographers perspective.

Massimo

1/18/2010 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Yeah, many blogs are unreadable and lack indices or ways to navigate the information in a useful way. What do tags tell you about context?

How many times do you want to read Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam?

Blogs have many functions - and you can even use a generator to create fake blogs with word salad more avant guard than Naked Lunch or dada poetry before that.

Some people have a high tolerance for non sequiturs as in the lyrics of nineties bands like the Pixies. Others prefer more literal stuff like Phil Collins, who is not without a certain ambiguity - drink him in with a glass of chardonnay and a picture book about redundancy.

It could happen to you.

No one ever created image sequences of people having sex. No one ever folded up a picture and put it in the middle of a magazine like a poster. No one ever made a magazine that was also a poster. No one ever printed a book on a plate, newsprint or the moon.

What is it about being first that is so hay-seed ridiculously American? I was the first person in my age group and general geographical location to eat all the brown m and m's.

Did anyone go to the blogger show? Who was the first person to speak? Who was the first person to cough restlessly? Who was the first person to leave? Did anyone shit in their hand in protest?

Art conversations have a circularity to them - like radio playlists - and yet there is a sense of movement - like prog rock stations, ideas can be cued and remixed.

But if you are talking about creating greek text - that's a good idea - people get distracted when you include content. Much better to concentrate on the design.

1/18/2010 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger david brickman said...

As one of your passionate amateurs, I enjoyed this post and its implications. Despite my sadness at the apparently unavoidable demise of traditional journalism (a trade I used to ply as a pro), it seems the writers now are in control of their own destiny, and the readers, too, via the "bundling" you described. Still, editors help (that's what I did mostly as a pro) - without them, you get the "readability" problem so amusingly brought up by the David Palmer.

Historically speaking, amateurs have always made significant contributions to fields that also have professionals (science comes immediately to mind). So, why not journalism? Getting paid is overrated!

1/18/2010 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin White said...

David, editors are going to be called "curators" in this new territory. And they'll be more important than ever. Expecting writers to be experts on many topics is too much to ask, I think.

1/18/2010 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

A tip to Zip on this -

Talk of 'branding' makes me think of cattle. It appeals to the herd instinct in ranchers and rustlers alike. The popularity of tattoos strikes me as part of the same mindset. Tattoos remind me of occult branding, including the Nazis, who were a brand of evil, known for their dress-sense and ruthless project management.

Branding used to be called just advertising or reputation, but then it got old so they called it marketing, which just means selling or buying. The idea is supposed to be that we trade on loyalties to reputation, above say, price or advantage.

Do you buy that?

It discourages independence, in other words, the small trader playing by the rules, taking them on trust.

How free is that market, exactly?

I never met a brand I couldn't re-brand. Never trusted a reputation built on the say-so of others.

Brand me trouble.

1/19/2010 01:59:00 AM  
Anonymous david brickman said...

Robin, editors did/do/will do a lot more than curate (I hope) - they also try to make the writing more readable, which is the point I was trying to address. Call me a dinosaur if you want, but I like the stuff I read (wherever it's published) to be clean and well-crafted, as well as reasonably accurate.

1/19/2010 12:12:00 PM  

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