Niche Media and Making a Difference
Things have been pretty quiet here on the blog. This is mostly because I’ve been musing about topics that are both personal and somewhat depressing. I often use writing as a way to understand my own feelings and work through difficult thoughts and emotions. The final product of these exercises is wonderfully cathartic but ultimately useless for general consumption. They illuminate and improve my own life, but they are unlikely to do so for others who lack my own personal context. I’ve tried to come up with a topic suitable for general consumption but I’ve been drawing a blank. I blame my last post for this: it was about abortion, and part of me felt that following it up with musings about writing or games or anything unserious would be indecorous. Unfortunately I have found that forcing myself to write about serious and important subjects when I don’t want to is a recipe for disaster. There will be a follow up post about abortion at some point: but it will have to wait until I can give the subject the time and attention it deserves.
Still, I began to wonder why I didn’t feel like writing more about abortion: or about apologetics or God or the poor or any other serious subject that is near and dear to my heart. This led to the logical next question: why do I want to write about these things in the first place?
Well, because I want to share important thoughts and ideas with the world.
Why do you want to do that?
To make the world a better place, I suppose. To contribute.
Are you though? Does writing on you blog really make the world a better place?
I don’t know.
This problem vexed me. Do I write for myself, or for others? What good is my writing anyway? Only a few people read my posts, and many of them already agree with me. Those that don’t agree with me are unlikely to have their minds changed by my writing, and the vast majority of those who disagree with me will never even see my blog.
I tried to pick myself up a bit. After all, what about C.S. Lewis? He was just an obscure Oxford don when he started writing, yet his words have touched and changed the lives of millions.
True: but remember how he got his start. He was asked to do radio broadcasts of apologetics talks during WWII. Since those talks were popular he put them into a book, and publishers picked it up and promoted it. From there any subsequent books he wrote would be newsworthy.
So what? Everyone starts somewhere. He started with radio, I’ll start with my blog.
But your blog isn’t radio. Lewis’s voice was heard all over England in those broadcasts, tens of thousands of people listening in (many of them listening because they didn’t have anything better to do). That was the old age of communication. The era of mass media is over. Even if you got on a radio station today you wouldn’t have a percentage of the audience he had. And TV is following the same route. Now everyone’s media is personalized: there are tens of thousands of blogs, vlogs, and independent artists floating through the web finding tiny niche audiences of people who already think exactly like they do. That’s the way it is now. There is no “general” audience anymore. Your blog is just floating through the internet, picking up the occasional follower who already believes what you’re trying to convince them of.
I have followers who disagree with me.
One or two at the most. And you must admit that controversy is practically a hobby of theirs: they don’t follow you because you’re convincing them of anything, they follow you so they’ll have material for their own blogs and someone to argue with on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps you’re right. But it is better to do something than nothing, even if it all amounts to the same thing in the end.
That’s where that line of thought always stops. It is better to do something then nothing, but that’s not the best attitude to write with. Not if you want to get anything done anyway.
The internet really has changed things. Mass media is getting smaller and smaller, while niche media is growing larger and larger. It’s both beautiful and terrible. Not many people would be asked to speak on the radio in Lewis’s day, but when they did speak they spoke to a wide audience: rich and poor, atheist, and theist, liberal and conservative. Today almost anyone can start a podcast but their audience will be far more narrow. Religious podcasts will gather a religious audience, skeptic podcasts will gather a skeptic audience, liberals will talk to liberals, and conservatives to conservatives and all over the internet one hundred thousand preachers will deliver their sermons to one hundred thousand choirs.
On the other hand, sometimes the choir needs a good preaching to. And sometimes a stranger passes through, usually while trying to Google an unrelated but similar sounding topic.
Something is better than nothing, and the era of niche media may have a few tricks up its sleeves yet. Time to get back to work.