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.
| October 21, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
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