One of the things that I’ve thought a lot about over the past few years are link posts. I’ve tried numerous different platforms and ways of sharing and commenting on links. And something that I’ve always appreciated are blogs that combine different forms of content (including link posts) along with something else to give them some unique perspective on the content of interest to their authors.
Gabe Weatherhead has recently written that:
It’s far too easy to grab a story headline streaming by and create a link post.
The reason I’ve walled off Macdrifter link articles behind Hobo Signs was because I wanted to clearly show that they weren’t my work. They are source materials. There is no guarantee I’ve reviewed them or even thought much about them. Sometimes I provide commentary but often they are just links.
I like link articles as much as the next person. But I felt disingenuous mixing those on a site that also provided commentary and opinion. It blurred lines I didn’t want to blur at a time when regurgitation looks like the successor to original content on the web. I don’t wonder why indie blogs are dying any more. Link posts are killing them.
I don’t think that link posts are necessarily killing indie blogs. I think that the problem is that indie blogs are often so replete with them that there isn’t a clear voice, narrative, or expertise associated with the comments on the links.
But link posts also raise the question about who blogging is for, and what we mean to do when blogging. Twitter and Facebook are fluid publication spaces: it can be impossible to see what you wrote on those platforms, about different topics, whereas its comparatively easy to retroactively see what you’ve written about on (most) structured blogging platforms. You can build a body of work that includes a shifting, or development, of thoughts and ideas over time. At the very least, you can turn Google search onto a blog and dredge up the various posts related to your search query to try to divine how your thoughts have changed over time. That’s next to impossible on more transient social media.
While commercial (or commercially-motivated) indie blogs might suffer from link posts I’m not convinced that such posts are kryptonite to personal blogs. And even for those which are commercially-oriented it’s not self-evident that link posts are bad: for the big indie blogs, the authors operate as tastemakers and news curators. They can quickly indicate their pleasure or displeasure where a fully review is unnecessary, or surface news of interest to them and their readers without requiring a detailed analysis of the issue at hand. Admittedly breaking news or entirely novel products may be ill served by such hot takes, but fast and short posts are routinely useful to their readership. The trick is to have a sufficiently interesting and authoritative voice that someone wants to read the author’s work in the first place. And that’s a space where most authors routinely struggle, indie writers or not.