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March 22, 2012

Twitter doesn't crowd out conversation or good writing, it aids it

Yes, you can't share a complex thought or a novel over twitter, but you can share a link. Sasha Frere-Jones: Good Things About Twitter : The New Yorker
But Thomas Jones at the London Review of Books points out that Franzen makes a “category error” by pitching Twitter users against serious readers/writers. The two co�xist, happily. Maud Newton and Sarah Weinman are some of the closest readers I know, and using Twitter has not hampered their ability to create arguments or to be serious. Authors are on Twitter: Shelia Heti, Lynne Tillman, Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, and Neil Gaiman come to mind most quickly, though they are hardly alone. One of the most felicitous uses of Twitter is to promote long-form nonfiction by circulating a blurb leading to the full text. Since the practice started, people have shared current long magazine and newspaper pieces and dusted off archival ones. Now organizations like @longform and @longreads and @TheByliner work specifically to find and share excellent pieces that stretch up to three thousand words and beyond. Before Twitter, I was reading half as much extended nonfiction and fiction as I do now on the iPhone or iPad, using apps like Readability and Instapaper. Two pernicious fallacies embedded in criticism of Twitter—and, by extension, blogs, tumblrs, and GIFs of catbots who kill with laser eyes—are that non-traditional forms of expression can wipe out existing ones, and that these forms are somehow impoverished. The variables unique to the Internet—hyperlinks, GIFs, chat, comments—have enabled new writing voices with their own distinct syntaxes. But we are not dealing with fungible goods—the new forms will never push out older ones because they’re insufficiently similar. You might overdose on unicorn GIFs and go to bed too tired to read “Freedom,” but unicorn GIFs will never replace “Freedom.”

On Gawker Media's new "traffic-whoring" strategy

Basically every day one writer is assigned to write lowest common denominator eyeball-grabbing stuff about babies or cats or stupid sci-fi pictures of corn or whatever. The writers rotate. They have fun? In any case, the strategy is working for Gawker. And is the opposite of what other sites, like Salon, are doing which is doubling-down on quality. With the Huff Post and the Awl and Yahoo News (and dozens of other sites) churning out barely-rewritten AP copy, there's just no percentage in doing the same. You either need to do a better job at reporting like Salon or focus more on gratifying your audiences weird-ass urges, like Gawker. I can’t stop reading this analysis of Gawker’s editorial strategy -- Nieman Journalism Lab
In January, newly minted Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio announced an experiment: Each day for two weeks, a single staff writer would be assigned “traffic-whoring duty.” [Language alert.] A different staff writer will be forced to break their usual routine and offer up posts they feel would garner the most traffic. While that writer struggles to find dancing cat videos and Burger King bathroom fights or any other post they feel will add those precious, precious new eyeballs, the rest of the staff will spend time on more substantive stories they may have neglected due to the rigors of scouring the internet each day to hit some imaginary quota. It’s the New Gawker, the Gawker that values original content more than over-aggregated “gutter journalism,” or as Daulerio called it, “snappy snarky snarking snark-snark shit.” Snarky snark pays the bills, though.