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Blogs vs. articles

Farhad Manjoo's piece on the collapsing distinction between blog posts and Web articles (or even normal articles) hasn't attracted as much bloggy navel-gazing as it deserves, so let me try to add some.

I write both blog posts and articles. More confusingly, I repost my articles on my blog, as blog posts, and I work out many of the ideas for my articles on the blog. So as far as technology and topic go, in other words, there's no difference. An article can be on a blog. Its subject matter can be on a blog. The reporting that goes into it will be blogged. You can blog anything these days.

The difference, for me, is in the writing. If there's explanation to be done, it's done in a link. (You'll notice, for instance, that I described Manjoo's argument in only the barest of terms. I'd have had to spend more time on it if I couldn't have sent you to the source). If there are multiple points to be made, they're usually (though not always) broken into different blog posts. If there are interviews associated with the post, I'm likelier to put them up as a full transcript rather than simply excerpt them in the text. The fact that my readers are mostly regulars, that I can use links and that I have no space limits drives both the writing and the organization of the content. A blog post is a part of a discussion, and that means you don't start from the beginning and you don't have to get everything out in your first comment.

An article is more like a lecture. You start from the beginning. You include links, if possible, but you don't really expect readers to use them. You try to say everything you need readers to hear, as they're not likely to be around for a follow-up. You condense interviews into quotations to save on space. The writing and organization, in other words, are driven by the knowledge that your readers aren't regulars, you may not be able to speak with them again and you're operating under tight space limits.

Of these two, blogging is the more derided medium, but it's unquestionably superior for conveying information. You can give a reader much more on a blog than in an article. But for all that, I'm fiercely committed to articles, because they make sure I'm writing in a way that's accessible to people who don't read the blog -- which is, let's face it, the vast, vast majority of the world. So though the technology underlying blogs and articles is beginning to converge, I don't think the forms are going to become one anytime soon. It will always be the case that your regular readers are a small fraction of your pool of potential readers, and the likely outcome here is that more and more organizations end up running two kinds of content: one aimed at regulars and the other written for drop-ins.

By Ezra Klein  | October 21, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why we should stop talking about the minimum wage -- or maybe why we shouldn't
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A comment is still just a comment, right ?


Posted by: LeafofLife | October 21, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Do articles also get revised more than blog posts do? I'm guessing they get some attention from an editor, who might have some helpful suggestions.

Posted by: Liz_B | October 21, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Please just invent a new word, or re-use a different term for "blog posts". It makes no sense that you can blog articles that aren't blog posts. There's no reason why we have to convolute a technical term with a clear meaning, with a writing style commonly used on the technology.

This doesn't get any attention because it's a ridiculously journalism terminology conceit no one in the ordinary world particularly cares about or makes. Journalism is a soft subject, so for god's sake please just invent a new piece of overly specific jargon if you need to have these kind of internal discussions about it. Or re-use any of the perfectly fine existing words making distinction between opinion, feature, journal entry, serials, correspondence, whatever...

Posted by: sullivanmatthewr | October 21, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

There's also the weird middle ground inhabited by things like many corporate blogs and institutional blogs. For instance the Commonwealth Fund, which has 'blog' posts like this:

IMHO, any blog post that has a link to a formatted PDF with references is not a blog post. It's an article or white paper.

There's also a noticable lack of commenting on those posts, although they may be crossposted or referred to by real blogs.

Posted by: AronB | October 21, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

What I've noticed is that comments to your articles are much less civilized, downright hostile even, than comments to your blog. What's up with that, do you suppose?

Posted by: ctnickel | October 21, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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