Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I lost a friend: when a beloved blog jumps the shark.

I lost a friend and boy am I glad.


See, I never really met this friend. She was (is) a blogger. And I was addicted to her. I would check out her blog, oh, say, 257 times a day. She was smart, funny, fearless--everything I love in a friend.

In the beginning, I would step in and join the party with my witty, insightful comments.

But I stopped that pretty quickly, as I realized that while I liked my friend, I didn't like the folks she hung out with. Oh, they were nice enough at first. But soon, they became sycophants (definition of sycophants: toadies, suck-ups, yes-women...). If my friend didn't like a book, they flamed the book in the comments. Even if they hadn't read it. If my friend said, "the sky is green," well, then, that sky was green. They started all using the same phrases as her. It started getting, well, icky. Uncomfortable. It started getting very high-school.

But my friend was still funny and smart, so I hung around, quietly wondering if anyone else noticed that while the blog used to be pure, now it was getting awfully, well, commercial.

Is that the definition of a blog jumping the shark--when they sell ads? Can an honest reviewer sell ads or is that a conflict of interest? Are there any ethical, moral limits in book-reviewing blog-land?

Then, my friend joined forces with another group of bloggers, and these folks I just couldn't stand. It was like the cheerleaders joining with the, er, what other group is popular in high school? Gosh it's been a while...

...anyway, you know what I mean.

I just didn't get it. Did my friend really like these "new" girls? Did she really want to associate with them? Did I? How could this be about anything but power? (And by power, of course, I mean web-hits, and by web-hits, of course I mean ad sales.)

No way.

I was done. Out.

Like all those who find themselves suddenly friendless, I had lots of free time. I'd find myself staring at the computer screen, not knowing where to go.

So I'd write. Work on my manuscript. You know, get stuff done.

Sure, I felt lonely. How pathetic is that? But then I realized that like losing all friends who aren't really friends, losing these folks was a blessing. I realized how poisoned the environment had become on those blogs, yet how badly I still yearned to be part of it, even if I knew it was out of control and not good anymore.

Ever lose a "friend" like this? Was it good in the end? Bad? What's the definition of a blog "jumping the shark" for you? Do blogs jump the shark, or is there a better phrase for when good blogs go bad? Wanna be my new friend....?


Lexie said...

::raises hand to be blog friend:: of course I'm not that interesting XD

There's a couple journals I follow that during the latest presidential race just...they suddenly went from being fun exciting places to discuss similiar interests to Political Vehicles. Slow progression. The daily post would start out as normal with maybe a mention of their fav candidate, a few weeks later more about that favored candidate over the fandom things...then Wow! 2 page rant about what their favored candidate did (or didn't do) and one throw away line about some book they read (that was recc'ed by the Candidate).

That's kind of when I realized I should get going (not being politically minded at all). Its really amusing to see this happen in a group dedicated to anime/manga :D

Diana Holquist said...

Hi Lexie.

Yeah, when blogs go political or religious, I'm outta there, too.

I did follow some dedicated political blogs during the election, but I don't go to them anymore. We had so little in common...I didn't really belong there. It was like an affair gone bad...

And I'd love to be your blog friend! Hooray! Don't knock yourself; I bet you're plenty interesting. Just let's not talk politics ;- )


Michelle Rowen said...

I'll be your blog friend, Diana.

I have a feeling I know what blog you're talking about. :)

Diana Holquist said...

Y'know, you're the third person who's said that. The first two e-mailed me, but their guess (they both guessed the same blog) was wrong. I gotta go check out that blog now to see what's pissing everyone off over there...who knew...?

And, no, I'm not telling who it is. I'm just not that kind of girl :- )

Annie Solomon said...

Okay, I confess. I'm not enough of a bloggerista to know when a blog jumps anything. I just don't read them. I dont' know why exactly. Makes me feel old and out of it to admit it. Kind of like when the telephone came in and great grandmother refused to use it. I don't refuse, exactly, but the spare time I have, I guess I'd rather...well, feed (or starve) my brain rot in other ways.

BUT...and here's the thing. What's so bad about "going commercial." I'd love to make money off MY website. Doesn't seem right for me though, but if it did, why not? Especially if someone is putting enough time and energy into their blog that it's like a job (which, sad to say, I'm not...). Maybe I haven't got the reasoning down yet, but I don't see why it's so bad.

Diana Holquist said...

I don't think selling ads or making money on a blog is bad. But I do think that it fundamentally changes the nature of a blog.

And that's where I lose interest.

It's not about right or wrong, it's about whether I trust the bloggers to be out for my interests (posting good reviews) or out for their own interests (posting what will further their commercial endeavor).

It's kinda like public radio for me. I trust them. The network news...not so much. Since I work in advertising, I see the linkage between content and ads, and it's deeper than most people suspect. Even if it's unconscious on a blog, it still makes me squeamish. I lose trust and I lose interest.

I guess that's why I'm couching this in terms of friendship: hey, I used to think we were all just hanging out here, having fun. But now I see you're making $$ off me and my presence. Ick.

Also, when the comments on the blog become less comments and more a way for people to make their own names known, to spread the word about themselves, and make their own $$, I get really disinterested. I think that kills a blog, too. And that was what was happening (I think) on these blogs I used to love. I don't think people are there anymore because they love the blog, but because they want to further their own interests.

Look, I'm not pretending that I'm not HERE to further my commercial interests. But it makes no difference to me how many hits we get. I still get paid because I'm paid to sell books--not to blog. If you run a blog and piss people off, they'll stop buying ads and you'll lose your income. That's why I stopped trusting these blogs and that's why I"m leaving these blogs behind...

Annie Solomon said...

I get it. Kind of a conflict of interest thing. Funny, I just heard a story about a similar thing re: print journalism. They talked about public radio, too. Well, it will be interesting to see whether more people feel the way you do and if so, whether these blogs will die a natural death because of it.

I didn't know you work in advertising. That's what I used to do. Are you on the creative or account side?

Diana Holquist said...

Creative--copywriting. I freelance for European branding agencies these days, but holy cow is the work drying up. Global drought all around. It's getting scary out there.

Michelle Rowen said...

I updated everyone's cover art in the sidebar. Do you think this will guilt anyone into posting more often? :-) Probably not.

Annie Solomon said...

I was in creative, too. Head copywriter. I also produced radio and TV. Did that for 12 years. Finally had to leave. It was driving me nuts...

andrea pickens said...

Hey all,

A very interesting conversation. Diana, I totally get where you are coming from. But I have to admit, I am more like Annie. I just don't have time to spend poring over blogs. I zip through a few occasionally, but just can't get that into it.

What with writing, everyday responsibilities and trying to keep my own website and internet "visibility" up there, I'm surprised my head doesn't explode.

And Michelle, thanks for keeping things current! Yes, we need to shake a stick at people to post more.

Diana Holquist said...

Annie--Yeah. I was thrilled to leave full-time advertising and also miss it. (At least the pay checks...) We'll have to chat sometime about the good old days.

Oh, Andrea. I wish I had your self-control. I keep finding more and more things to waste time on.

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