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Musings on digital media, urbanization and politics from Seattle, Wash.

Nothing quite matches blogs’ ability to connect

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September 9, 2021

Blogging is having a big year. That is, if you’re willing to stretch the traditional definition of blogging to include platforms like Substack. As I’ve written elsewhere, you should, because Substack has succeeded precisely because it emulates old-school blogging.

I was reminded of that again by an intro post from yet another former mainstream reporter going out on their own via the paid newsletter site—that being James Fallows, whose writing previously primarily appeared in The Atlantic.

He wrote, on blogging’s waning—and resurgence:

For many reasons, the sprawling, messy, but informative realm of the personal blog became a less and less natural fit to the structure and responsibilities of major publications, which of course have never been more crucial to our democracy. But I believe that the kind of communication and connection blogs made possible—between writer and reader, between writer and theme, among writers and readers who eventually formed a community—may also be even more important than before. […]

I know, in the era of social-media sewers, the appeal of “virtual community” can sound hopelessly naive. But my experience through many years of the blogging era is that, with attention and care, an online community can be informative, and even inspiring, in unique ways.

I feel as though this era—and all the messiness it has produced—is starting to drive people back to more authentic connections.

Everything is an algorithm. As platforms aim and attempt to learn what we want to see, we have less and less control over what’s being put in front of us, what we’re consuming. There’s too much noise, too much engagement-gaming—just, too much everything.

Sometimes, simpler is better. Control is better.

I’m constantly fascinated by the ability of certain technological choices to subtly influence behavior in ways that may never have been intended.

Take blogging. Take Substack.

No fancy design, no SEO gaming, no engagement-driven content. Just words—for a specific audience. Emailed to you.

The modern-day inbox is an unholy hell filled mostly with spam that managed to slip through various filters, but you still have to navigate it. Because there’s important stuff in there.

When you subscribe to a blog by email—or RSS, for that matter—you’ve determined it’s one of those important things. You’ve made the choice. And it will be delivered to you. An algorithm can’t stop it.

And as we get back to these basics, as we get back to the simple beauty of the pairing between a writer and their audience, we’re going to see more meaningful connections.

We’re going to see more blogging.

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