It’s official, Blogging is the New Black. I know this to be true because I just read it on Huffington Post, the first site to, in Ariana Huffington’s own words “give legitimacy to the medium” when it began its rise back in 2005. HuffPost has over the years hosted blog posts from a mix of voices such as Larry David, Norman Mailer, Deepak Chopra, through to James Franco, Michelle Obama and more recently Kate Middleton.
The upside of the epic rise of the humble blog is the emergence of an empowering platform where anyone can explore their personal voice, tell a story, express an opinion, and find an audience. Diverse voices previously marginalised and excluded from mainstream media channels now have an outlet. With the rise of the blog has come a democratization of the news creation process, where passive consumer becomes news producer, and with this comes an incredible shift of power.
The downside is that anyone, it seems (including Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West) will use that voice and express that opinion. And they might not have anything to say other than “You really should wear a thin black choker”.
Blogger Mark Schaeffer writes, in this new landscape of overwhelming content density, of how we are fast approaching the limit of content that we can consume. With every Kim, Katy and Kanye blogging, how can a well-intentioned blog such as this be heard above the noise? In this landscape of content density how can meaningful content have any impact?
I began this blog because I believe that we need to make the notion of sustainability accessible, relevant and meaningful for everyone, and that telling stories of sustainability leadership is important and empowering. And I do believe that story telling is a vitally important vehicle for social change. But as I begin this blog I sit in an uncomfortable space of not knowing if or how it is possible to influence the mainstream by telling stories. I may or may not find an audience but even if I do what difference will one more voice make?
Guillame Decugis writes that “media the old-fashioned way by producing everything internally (or even owning our own printing press – ie self-hosted wordpress blogs)” will struggle to find its audience, but rather how “in a world drowning in content, the value shifts from creation to curation”. The way forward, according to Decugis, is through interest-based content curation publishing (with new technology being the leading player).
And with the model that was introduced by the Huffington Post 15 years ago, and that has exploded in the intervening years into a new form of online media, where the focus moves from original content creation to content curation, it becomes the role of the curator, who handpicks and delivers quality meaningful content to an interested audience where leadership is essential. Marking its tenth anniversary last year, HuffPost announced a reinvention, showing fantastic leadership with its What’s Working focus, “Voices” section and Next Ten project.
Leadership is needed from our curators. What of our homegrown online news aggregator- stuff.co.nz? Joining the global Climate Publishers Network pre-Paris climate change summit last year showed a commitment to globally meaningful content, however since December there has been no indication that this will be continued. “Environment” is not even a topic on its homepage. Stuff.co.nz is our largest news curator- where is the leadership which is much needed in the New Zealand media landscape?
With Element gone from the Herald there is no space dedicated to sustainability in our mainstream media. James Russell writes in “Enviro-journalism: a snapshot” about the importance of finding this content in our mainstream news: “Yet the truly sad thing about the demise of Element is that it was one of the only publishing platforms bringing this type of content to people who weren’t necessarily looking for it. We were able to appeal to the ‘outdoorsy-but-not-greenie’ readers to take better care of this planet and its people. That’s a thing about a newspaper – if you’re reading it you can’t get into a concentrated content ‘silo’ – reading about only what interests you.” He writes of the excellent sustainability reporting going on outside of the mainstream, but laments the absence of this within it. Leadership is also desperately needed within our mainstream news sources.
And what of the humble blogger in all of this? Well, blogging is news now. Bloggers and curators now supply content, and aggregators, algorithms and social media deliver personalised newsfeed. We need leadership in our online curators, more than ever in our mainstream editors, but what is also desperately needed is diverse, quality content. I guess I’ll still write that blog.