Monday, April 2, 2012

Livin' It Up...on the Long Tail

A few weeks ago, George Anthes teased me a bit about blogging. He told me, "Look, Greg. I don't read your blog, and I'm not going to. No offense meant, but it's just not where I'm going to go in order to find out about things I care about."

I told him, "none taken" at the time, and did the same the next time I saw him, when the subject came up again at the St. Patrick's Day Breakfast. I get it. There are a very small number of blogs that offer up some Inside Baseball that drives the debate of the chattering classes in Lowell (Gerry Nutter, LiL) and one in particular that leads the way - unrivaled - as far as understanding the city's current events and its history (Richard Howe). Then there are about a dozen or more others on the long tail -- this one certainly included. All the blogs in this second category have their own individual strengths -- but, as marketers know, too much choice often leads the would-be consumer to just say "No, thanks," and move on.

One thing I mentioned to George at the time was that I enjoy writing in and of itself, but blogging (as opposed to just writing in a private journal stored on a hard drive) is a surprisingly great way to stay in touch with friends. Of the half-dozen or so friends I keep in some form of touch with from high school, and the other half-dozen or so from college, we barely call or e-mail each other these days. With jobs, families, homes, and lots of other commitments, that's not much of a surprise -- but I'm always pleasantly surprised that when we do, we don't have to waste much time as I recount what I've been up to...they already know. Even the buddy of mine who teaches at a b-school a couple hundred miles away, and who isn't great about returning e-mails or voicemails, checks in here every few when we do catch up, it's that much easier. I might do a couple entries here a week, but the beauty in this is that any given friend doesn't even have to check in weekly, or even monthly, to do a quick scroll from time to time and get the basic update that would otherwise take lots of effort inspired by one-to-one, back-and-forth e-mails...and just like a back-and-forth rally at a ping-pong table, in which one side is required to lob one back to keep things going, any such e-mail or phone exchange is doomed to die if it requires tit-for-tat play.

But there's another, much much more important point I should've made to George. It gives a better reason as to why ANYONE should consider blogging if he or she wishes to tell the story through his/her own eyes for posterity. When you throw something out there onto the Interwebs, you're writing part of the story for anyone who wants it to find. Thanks to the power of Google, that matters not just the day you write it, but pretty much anytime thereafter.

Here's a powerful case-in-point: look at Corey Sciuto's recent post on City Hall, rich with history, photos, and interesting details about one of the city's most prominent, and beautiful, landmarks. Who cares whether it generates a lot of self-important blather on WCAP or City Life -- ANYONE who looks up "Lowell City Hall" and pokes around a bit with the results that come back from Google, at ANY point in the future, could discover this gem. It could inspire similar projects in other cities, it could promote the city of Lowell, or it might just get ripped off by a student working on a civics project for school. Either way, it's a tremendous gift that Corey has provided for someone who probably doesn't know it yet.

This principle still applies for things that are less interesting and creative. I realized this when I did a search today to read more about the former Platoon Leader I deployed with in 2006-07 who is now running for a State Senate seat in North Yarmouth, Maine. Sure enough, right on that critical first page of Google returns came my own little encomium from a couple days ago. That's not because of any special skill or talent on my part -- it's simply because I wrote publicly about someone, using his proper name. Now, when people in North Yarmouth, or Portland, or wherever his district boundaries are, wonder about him, they can read a first-person essay written by someone who served with him in Iraq.

The power of the 'virtual pen' goes far beyond the immediate impact of the written word. Even if you wrote a blog that just focused on your little street, or your little building, or your little family, that would someday be the primary source of someone who wanted to know about it -- regardless of who did, or didn't, read it at the moment you clicked, "Publish." In fact, the more hyper-local your subject is, the more likely it is to be someone's Google-enabled gem down the road...(think about it, if I try to write about a Mitt Romney speech, I'm drowned out against thousands...but if I can capture something Patrick Murphy says at the Aiken Street residence dedication, I would actually have tremendous power to *shape* that story).

Any blogger has that power.

No comments: