How To Create A Compelling Blog

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about the launch of Bill Simmons' new site Grantland (a reference I presume to Grantland Rice, but I may be wrong.) It is a pretentious name for Simmmons, whose stuff I really really like, to adopt. And it justifies Rosenberg's observation:

The challenge Grantland faces, I think, is to convince readers that even though they might not be familiar with the subject of the piece, and even though it might take a serious chunk of time to read, itís consistently worth the investment. Very, very few publications have that kind of pull: the New Yorker for one kind of audience, the New York Review of Books for another. If Grantland can become the first web-native publication to pull that feat off, itíll be impressive.

As I wrote before, I really really like Simmons' work, but he's not going to produce that type of material, imo. His strengths, as I see them, are apparent in his column at espn.com and in his podcasts. Funny, quick and well paced. I do not think "30 for 30" is all that Simmons thinks it is. And it seems he might be going for a "30 for 30" vibe. In any event, Rosenberg does raise an interesting question - can longer form writing be successful commercially and creatively on the Web? Let's think about that on the flip.

Rosenberg's mention of The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books seems off base to me. Neither succeeds as a web publication, I don't think. Sure an occasional big story will break there, but they are not big web sites are they?

I think the blog format is different. I was a front page writer at daily kos from December 2004 to June 2006, and it was always my view that no matter what you put up, you needed to put up something new every hour. No matter what.

Sometimes we would write long form essays. Sometimes quick hits. Sometimes stuff in the middle. But always something new.

The New Yorker does not, and can not, do that. I'm not at all sure Simmons is capable of doing it either. He has a lot of his friends (and some of them are good) writing for the site. But none of them strike me as people who will be filling the page either.

Simmons has an amazing amount of Twitter followers, something like 1.5 million, and he tweets a lot. When something new pops on Grantland, Simmons will be sure to tweet it out as everyone seemingly does. But will that keep folks coming back? Mebbe for a while. But is it a viable long term strategy? I don't think so. At some point, the site will have to stand on its own.

Blogs that update at a slower pace are not going to be huge, no matter how big the marketing advantages. In my view, that is not the nature of the form.

I think Grantland is not likely to succeed. But I wish Simmons the best of luck.

Speaking for me only

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    Respectfully, NO! (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 04:38:34 PM EST
    can longer form writing be successful commercially and creatively on the Web? Let's think about that on the flip.

    Respectfully, no.

    I've read some long stuff you've written (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 08:30:44 PM EST
    Though you haven't done that so much lately.  If I care about the topic or think the author is a good source I will read long writings.  Not about sports though :)

    Longform writing, period, is vanishing (4.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 04:49:08 PM EST
    Smaller electronic gadgets largely initiated and accelerate the loss.  Everything is reduced: the medium and the message.

    I don't know.... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 08:58:52 AM EST
    most people I know still read and love long-form...some stories or points can't be wrapped up in a few paragraphs.

    Blogs and quick-hitting is for downtime at work...a 3 day weekend ya dive into some longform.

    I read a theory somewheres that magazines and newspapers are hurting because they tried to copy TV and the blogs with shorter articles and quick-hits...the opposite was the play.  Go more in depth, go longer, fill the void of depth in the marketplace.


    Yep (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 04:57:07 PM EST
    I think books are dying, and I say that with all respect your efforts.



    Really? My 9 y/o is at page, like, 550, (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 12:05:44 PM EST
    in book eleventy zillion of the Harry Potter series. My 12 y/o does like his Nook though...

    My daughter is coming over this afternoon (none / 0) (#29)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 12:48:00 PM EST
    to raid my stacks.  I just got Anne Fortier's Juliet.  I bet she talks me out of it.

    Book sales are up (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Towanda on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 12:33:57 PM EST
    for years now.  So I read.  But sure, I guess, who reads?

    Friends of LJ library donated a (none / 0) (#30)
    by oculus on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 01:13:34 PM EST
    beautiful leatherbound copy of Paul Theroux's latest non-fiction, "The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Life on the Road."  Gold print on cover.  Thin paper and beautiful maps inside each cover.  Plus an elastic band book mark.  Delightful.  Inside:  pure Theroux.  Many quotes from his earlier travel writings.  But also lots of pithy snippets from D.H. Lawrence, Poe, and the like.  

    Perhaps, perhaps not (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:06:32 PM EST
    One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I express myself in written form much more than I would have had there been no Internet.

    But this reminds me that there's another new Alan Furst novel out that I haven't had the time to read. . .


    A new Alan Furst novel? (none / 0) (#11)
    by caseyOR on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:38:43 PM EST
    Do you know the title? I can't find anything on a new book from Furst. Are you perhaps thinking of last year's Spies of the Balkans? That book comes out in paperback next week.

    Yes, that's the one (none / 0) (#13)
    by andgarden on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:52:33 PM EST
    Show how far behind I am!

    (Sorry (none / 0) (#22)
    by Nemi on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 06:47:54 AM EST
    about the rec, Dadler. Don't know how my "agreeing with you" 5 turned into a 4!?)

    Difficult for me to judge (none / 0) (#2)
    by lilburro on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 04:44:57 PM EST
    as I'm not really into sportswriting, generally speaking, and a peek over there made me go "oh this looks boring as hell."  

    I think the design is terrible.  Successful blogs hit you with a lot of content in their design...Gawker properties (including Deadspin, which I assume Grantland is competing with) have about 12 stories available to immediately click on when you go to their sites, as do Wonkette, the Awl, Eater, SeriousEats, etc.  Obviously ThinkProgress has recently redesigned with that approach as well.  Maybe Simmons thinks this is going to go over big on the iPad.  Dave Eggers' involvement is obvious, "LET'S JUST MAKE EVERYTHING AS PLAIN AS POSSIBLE.  WHITE SPACE!"  

    Political blogging is interesting and a bit exceptional to me because there is so much cross-promotion.  Not many people getting rich off of it though.  I assume Simmons would like to make a buck or two from this venture.

    I disagree... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 09:03:03 AM EST
    I am overwhelmed by main pages on some sites with too much going on...I prefer a simple design.  Not to mention overloaded main pages cause havoc for old browsers and old machines.

    Talkleft's design is nice...latest post right there, easy scroll down to other recent posts, and the convenient linkage and user features to the side, not overwheleming the main page or the recent posts.


    Regarding the name. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Tony on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 04:54:55 PM EST
    There was a NY Times profile on Simmons last week.  He doesn't like the name either:

    Ultimately, though, it's owned by ESPN, and the parent company has already made its presence known, choosing the site's name, which Simmons is less than enthusiastic about. He worries that it sounds pretentious, he told me, but the higher-ups at ESPN "loved it, and they've been so supportive of the site. You've got to pick your battles."

    Ahhh (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 04:57:45 PM EST
    It is a terrible name. Good to see Simmons recognizes that.

    When I wizzed by ESPN the other (none / 0) (#15)
    by me only on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 07:40:05 PM EST
    day I misread it as Graceland...

    Doubtful that (none / 0) (#8)
    by brodie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:20:22 PM EST
    Simmons will have what it takes to attract my regular readership -- he hit me right off with a name, Jimmy Kimmel, and a topic, late night tv talk shows, neither of which I find in the least interesting, and so I ended up quickly skimming that very long first entry.  Blah and double blah.

    As for The New Yorker and the NYRevBks, I think you're right -- neither is much of an online presence, at least in the circles where I hang out.  The former is a much changed and diluted cultural product from the days -- 20 yrs ago and more -- when it was a unique literary and cultural force in the land.  The latter I occasionally come across by accident on google, resulting in a look-see at an archived piece.  Even then, I don't have the patience to slog through some of their 10,000 word long think pieces that I once could manage in the print form.  Online I probably feel half as patient and twice as rushed -- so I just don't bother with many long form articles these days.

    I might visit Simmons again and give him another chance if he gets linked favorably elsewhere where I normally read and it's about something a little more compelling and fresh than late night teevee.

    My iPad2-owning acquaintances (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:32:56 PM EST
    cite how that device displays "The New Yorker" as one of its finest features.  

    It is nice (none / 0) (#17)
    by ruffian on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 08:22:45 PM EST
    I've bought a couple of issues. Close to the look of a paper magazine, with interactivity where it makes sense.

    I'm sorry. Not a legit blog. No links (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:37:12 PM EST
    to links to links.  What fun is that?

    P.S.  Dadler:  it reads like a longform (very longj) S.D. Reader piece.  

    Ah yeah (none / 0) (#12)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:49:53 PM EST
    Original authoring.  Bunch of bunk, I say...

    Does anyone read Posnaski? (none / 0) (#14)
    by me only on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 07:37:26 PM EST
    Even if he blogs only once a week, I make sure to check daily.  Not sure if that qualifies as long form, but it is rarely short.

    The obvious difference is that it is not a commercial endeavor.

    I would read... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Tony on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 10:15:40 PM EST
    Joe Posnanski write about anything.  I don't care if it was the construction of igloos.  He is my favorite writer on the planet, sportswriters and all others combined.

    Heck, he turned Harry Potter World into a column I read and loved.


    Thank you (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 01:20:00 AM EST
    That's an absolutely wonderful piece.

    He's great (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 08:17:50 PM EST
    But I generally read him when Scott Lemieux points me to him.

    I took a look at that blog... (none / 0) (#19)
    by desertswine on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 09:23:13 PM EST
    and that part about Jimmy Kimmel was zzzzzzzzzzzz

    Odd choice... (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 09:04:51 AM EST
    for a first feature...my favs from Simmons are Mailbags and Vegas Trip Reports...funny sh*t.

    I read LeBrondown on ESPN (none / 0) (#26)
    by Madeline on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 10:37:01 AM EST
    since he  loves, loves, loves LeBron, i am tuned off all ready.