As I sat on the train home last night, my ear was drawn to the chap sitting next to me. The moment he sat down, he pulled out his mobile phone and called a friend. He didn’t stop talking for the whole of the 20 minute ride to Lewisham. You know what? I can’t remember a single thing of significance he said. He just sat there and exchanged inanities with a friend over a pretty damn expensive and complicated piece of technological apparatus.
It sometimes seems that we invent ever increasing numbers of ways of communicating without really finding anything new to say. Over a million people are registered with Blogger, the tool I’m using to pull this together. How many of them are actively posting, I wonder, and how many of those are read by more than two or three people? Now, readership in itself is not something that I’m over concerned with. This blog is for me, not for you gentle reader. It’s a way of giving myself a focused outlet for my thoughts. If people choose to read it, that’s great. If not, well, that doesn’t detract from my pleasure in shaping my own thoughts into coherent phrases.
Too many individual blogs are essentially newspaper columns without the editorial control that mass market media offers. They are points of ego, where the single writer’s opinion is more important than anything else. The very reason for the blog existing is to express the blog writer’s ideas to an audience. While the distribution medium is new, the content is not that far removed from a book or a newspaper column.
The more interesting question, to my mind, is “how many of these people actually have something to say?” How many of them have given thought to their audience and the type of things they’d like to hear on a regular basis? The friend of the guy on the train was clearly interested in what he had to say because he stayed on the line for over 20 minutes. That seems to have been a conversation for one, though, just as this blog is conceived as an audience of one: myself. Collaborative, themed blogs like Rock Scissors and Kingdom Come are far more interesting to me right now, allowing for both the posting of opinion and news and interaction between the writers and the audience. They become a mix of a magazine and an on-going conversation.
That, I think, is a genuinely new genre.