Last weekend, I wrote about my email exchange with Talking Points Memo. The Editor of that site and I ended up having a longer email exchange that got more polite and constructive. But now there’s this.
My favorite blog of all is Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish. For more than a decade it has been exactly what I needed in a blog. Simple interface. No clutter. A fascinating mix of topics — politics, science, current events, snark, beautiful pictures, controversy. Just a great roller-coaster of topics on a daily basis. While Sullivan takes occasional vacations when he doesn’t blog at all, he is basically the backbone of this endeavor that operates 365 days a year, year after year, at a phenomenal level.
I’ve wondered for years how he does it and earlier this week he posted a note to his readers that he was taking a break, that he could do it no more. That he may or may not be back to blogging at some unknown time in the future. Yes, of course, he would keep writing, but he would likely no longer keep up the daily grind of his blog.
His blog was quiet for exactly one day before he started posting all of the reactions to his announcement that he was quitting. All of the other bloggers and commentators, then the tweets, then the emails from his readers. And, bam, only two days later, he announced on his blog that “As of tomorrow, we’re going back to regular blogging.” Today is that tomorrow, and they are indeed back.
Why does this disappoint me? That my favorite blog isn’t actually going away? Because it reeks of manipulation and a massive ego trip for Sullivan. He needed to get some validation for what he is doing and he did it by threatening to take away the blog so he could see how much people still loved him and once he got that confirmation … just kidding. It wasn’t enough that he has tens of thousands of readers and millions of page views each month. He needed something more to keep the candle burning.
He went to a pay version of his blog two years ago. The paid subscribers and revenue for the second year increased only slightly over the first year. February is when it is time fororiginal subscribers renew their subscriptions — there’s a minimum charge for the subscription, but a lot of readers pay more than the minimum. The really cynical part of me anticipates that in a couple of months he’ll announce that his readers have re-upped for the next year and the year-over-year growth of revenue is significant. He won’t admit it, of course, but the connection will be there — readers will have paid more in response to his threatened departure.
If I believe in signs, I would say that what happened with Talking Points Memo and The Daily Dish this week is a sign for me to continue my pull back from the digital world (which oddly enough was one of Sullivan’s main reasons for wanting to take a break). I spend far too much time reading things on the internet. Blogs like those two are part of the cycle of repetitive behaviors I engage in that distract me from my own writing. So, maybe I’ll take this sign and believe in it.