If you read my New Year's Eve thoughts (two posts back, "Even in the down times, we can make this a bright new year") you'll know I've been down about the failure of Grumpy Old Journo to attract readers. If you read the comments to that post, you'll see that two experienced internet posters responded with generous and helpful advice.
I've also talked it over with a friend who is an experienced webmaster and blogger. She also was generous with sound advice – not all of which I'll take. I'm reading up on relevant topics. At present, my thinking is running on these lines:
1. The times they are a'changing
Move on. As my previous post (about the Quadrant hoax) acknowledged, Australians are now bored with tired old arguments from tired old men. But as we shift away from the conservative Right (as well as the One Nation crowd), we must guard against going over to the rent-a-crowd Left.
We're not talking just politics. We're talking about the nature of Australian society. About the Australia we hand on to our offspring. Is our future with a social democratic Left or with a resurgent, centrist wing of a Liberal Party which has rediscovered compassion? Or some hybrid yet to emerge?
Will a move to the centre make us more civil, tolerant and rational? Can we see a better future for most Australians?
Another question. Today, should a man say, "Respect me – I'm seventy years old" ? Or does he have to earn that respect in his dialogue and his dealings with people of all ages and backgrounds – people who may not share his ideas and values? Do we listen when younger writers have their say?
Some reading: In the Weekend Oz, writer Larry Buttrose expores the paths the Left could take. On Monday, letter writer Chris Curtis spells out his hopes for a Left ascendancy in Australia. Liberal Party "wet" Christopher Pyne says his party must move to the centre or die (or read his full article by downloading The Sydney Institute Quarterly).
In this post about Katherine Wilson's hoax, Crikey media commentator Margaret Simons makes it clear she believes Wilson's activism is bad journalism – yet Simons had been Wilson's supervisor for an honours thesis on – wait for it – Advocacy and Journalism.
To show how we ignore young writers, Simons posted this link to a Melbourne Age article of May 27, 2007, which included :
Behind the scenes of Australian cultural life there's a revolution going on, but editors of mainstream publications just don't seem to know it. As the first edition of Gangland argued, the issue at the heart of this revolution isn't simply to do with age.
It's to do with the way Australian culture remains stuck in the 1970s, reliant on backwards-looking aesthetics and modes of understanding, unwilling to add new voices and ideas to mainstream discussion. It's to do with the enormous amount of pent-up energy and will for change and renewal, for new solutions to old problems, that have remained unheard for too long.
2. Is there still a place for a conversational blog?
Both Woy Woy Steve and my friend urge me to specialise on a topic. My friend says Grumpy Old Journo spends too much time on what she calls chat over the back fence. Yet I still like the idea of blogging as a conversation between intelligent people with varied interests. Many of the blogs I enjoy lighten up at times with domestic trivia. I'll think some more about this.
3. Keep up with technology
The old style blogs, such as this one, are easy to post – which allows the blogger to concentrate on content. But with high-powered and heavily promoted newspaper blogs muscling in, amateur bloggers may need to keep up with new technology to promote their offerings. That may mean RSS feeds, posts to Twitter and perhaps Facebook, videos on YouTube, and a better understanding of how search engines work.
Twitter describes itself on this page. People post messages of 140 characters or less, beginning with one simple question: What are you doing? It sounds childish, but look at this dramatic coverage of Bangkok riots. Learn about Stilgherrion, then explore his blog.
And check this out in the American Journalism Review: "Can Facebook and Twitter save the beleaguered mainstream media? Maybe not by themselves. But news organisations increasingly are turning to social networking tools in their efforts to compete in a challenging and fast-changing media landscape."
4. Develop networks with like-minded bloggers
Co-operation between bloggers is already common with the exchange of links, but it's possible like-minded bloggers could do much more for mutual benefit. I hope to expand on this idea after chatting to other bloggers.
5. How much time, and how much ability?
Blogging can become obsessive. Is that the way you want to go? Keep time to have a life. You'll be a more interesting blogger if you do. Have fun. If it's not fun, why are you doing it?
6. Write for your readers
Keep your readers in mind. Don't talk down to them, try to understand their interests and how your writing should engage them. That's basic journalism, but let's face it – blogging does make it too easy to preach.
7. Keep to a posting schedule
Woy Woy Steve emphasised this. Even if I can post only once a month, make it a regular, scheduled day. If I fail, post a note to explain what's happening.
As I said, these are preliminary thoughts. Please come back and see how they develop.