Since the Spring of 2007, when Twitter hit the techstream, blogs, blogging, and reading blogs became the markings of late adopters. With early adopters, "Follower" count became more important than "Subscribers." The serendipity of stuff you found in the "stream" was sexier than the expected stuff you found in your Reader. And best of all, instead of counting words and paragraphs and trackbacks, we started counting characters and RTs.
RT: @everyone: OMG I cant believe u fit all that awsm in just 140 chars. LOL!
But suddenly, over the past 6 months, I've started reading blogs again.
I've dusted off the Google Reader, installed some apps on my iPhone and iPad, and read -- like it was 2006 or something -- every post of the blogs I subscribe to, every day.
So this is what a flashback feels like.
My move back to reading blogs has come for several reason, and also has brought with it a new set of rules for which content to subscribe to and why it's important. Mostly, it's born from a recent revelation:
Content on Twitter is low-cost to product/low-cost to consume. For most of us, making there content is meaningless, and the fact that you're consuming it means even less.
How can I provide value to a "follower," or be a value-adding follower, when on the consuption end a) we only have to put up with each other 140 characters at a time, and b) we have a pretty great excuse for missing a vast majority of things we say to each other?
That's not what a good relationship looks like!
Meanwhile, as I started looking at my blog reader again, I had a second revelation: Great content/articles for blogs are really, really hard to produce. And, when you read quality people -- like my favorite of late, Andrew Parker, and my previous favorite, before he went "pro", Sam Lessin -- then following those people are real work too. With a blog there's serious investment. People think before they speak. When someone I subscribe to writes something, I know they really cared about what they just did, and it makes me care in return.
On the other side, when someone subscribes to your blog, and reads it regularly, you value that person dearly. That someone takes the time to slog through your thoughts, and that that person does it regularly -- not just because they were "retweeted" a link and happend upon it -- forms a very special bond and sense of respect.
One needs to look no further than Fred Wilson as a great example of this. No one in this space that I know personally has invested more into his blog and his readers than Fred. When you go through the archives it's hard not to admire the dedication, thought, and substance.
But what's really cool is considering what loyal readers of his blog have gotten out of their "subscriber" status. A number of months ago I was telling Fred about some of the cool GWAP (games with a purpose) ideas we were playing around with at AnyClip and right away he thought of a "regular commenter" (Shana Carp) who I should connect with. Looking through the archives of Fred's posts, I know it's not the first time he's done a favor, publicly or privately, for a loyal reader of his. I just have to imagine it comes from an appreciation for what "loyal reader" really means.
So this is why I'm reading blogs again: to get back to an environment where the content I'm reading took serious work from someone, and to force myself to take my role as a subscriber seriously and read content that takes real work to follow.
In fact, I've now gone so far as to unsubscribed from a lot of blogs I liked, just so it fits this model. For instance, professionally produced content means less to me now, solely because it was someone's job to create it, rather than 100% pure passion. (I did keep Caroline McCarthy in my reader though, since 1) she was friend #2 of mine in the NY tech scene 4 years back and 2) because she's a damn good writer). As for Tumblr, I'm now feeding anything I care about into my reader, and anyone who reblogs heavily (that's how I use Tumblr) I've turned off.
While all this may seem a bit uninteresting, strange, or pointless to some people, I'm actually incredibly excited. I've gone from dreading my reader to cherishing every bit of content that gets pushed through there. And while the big win for me is getting smarter via the hard work of people I respect, the cherry on top is that reading great content in inspiring me to get back into the great habit I had in 2007/2008 of writing (what I now look back on and believe was) pretty interesting content.
So here's to late 2010 being the revival of the blog reader, led by a public reinvestment in producing and consuming ultra high quality content by and for those we know, like, and admire.