Has blogging become sooooo 2004? Some days I wonder. There were a lot of stories around this time last year about a surprising drop in blog traffic, considering how the 2008 election was at hand, and the authors threw out a lot of theories -- but they all missed what I thought the obvious answer was: People were spending too much time with their friends on Facebook to check out blogs as much. The number of Internet diversions keeps increasing, but last time I checked the number of hours in the day stayed fixed at 24.
And this was before Twitter -- now Facebook can seem soooo 2007 at times. I had my doubts about Twitter -- a network where you exchange pithy observations with friends and other followers, and by pithy I mean they can't be more than 140 characters. So today on an Eagles Sunday I'm reading lots of "tweets" (I know, I know, but that's what they call them) along the lines of "Westbook, yes!"
Insightful? I had my huge doubts about the Twitter phenominon and resisted joining, but now that I finally did a month ago I am learning its usefulness as well: A passenger in the Denver plane crash was twittering even before he fled the burning plane, I read about an environmental disaster in Tennessee on Twitter before reading it in the mainstream media, and I've been introduced to the writing of a student journalist named Suzanne Yada who should be offered a job upon graduation somewhere withi Philadelphia Media Holdings -- if only we did that sort of thing (i.e., hire people) anymore.
So now I am a tiny cog in the Twitter revolution (although only when I'm on the big clunky PC, since the next email or even text message that I send from a cell phone will be my first). Any remaining Attytood fans :-) can follow me on Twitter by going here.
The funny thing is that when it came to promoting my upcoming book on Ronald Reagan -- "Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future" -- I would have guessed not long ago that having a blog would be a valuable tool for getting the word out. I still think that's true, but I'm already seeing evidence that social networking, via Facebook especially, may be a more valuable tool for spreading the word -- virally, starting with my online friends (and I'm always looking for more of these) and then with their friends. On New Year's Day, while Penn State was getting routed, I launched a Facebook group for Tear Down This Myth, which now already has more than 400 members (!) and continues to grow. If you're interested in news about the book (i.e., in-person or media appearances, or where to, ahem, buy it) I hope that you'll join as well.
The rise of social media is an exciting thing -- if you haven't tried it, it's a great way to reconnect with old friends from high school, college, etc., while possibly making some new ones, but I think this development is also one more clue that points to why newspapers and other local news organizations are in trouble. I've come to see over the last couple of years that most people are the most obsessed with news from two areas. One is what I would call "media world" -- TV. movies, music, pro and big-college sports, and politics as practiced on a national level over shoutfests and yukfests from Rush Limbaugh to Keith Olbermann to "The Daily Show." The second wave is what I would call "friend world." Just a couple of years ago, the idea of marketing "news" about your circle of friends and family would have seemed patently absurd but now, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and the like, it is this type of "news" that many people seek out first.
Newspapers fall into a dangerously grey area here. While we overlap, obviously, with "media world," (and almost not at all with "friend world"), the real goal of most local media is to peddle news of "your hometown world" -- a world that especially on the metro-area scale is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the TV/computer age (with one huge exception, hometown pro sports teams, which have literally kept us in business). Some have suggested newspapers move more into social media and to some degree they have (you can follow Philly.com on Twiiter here, for example), but a newspaper isn't going to invent Facebook or Twitter.
Because else somebody already did.