Of blogs, tweets, and posts

The Island is nirvana for readers and info junkies.

Until recently, we supported two radio stations, two TV stations and two newspapers, We have two bookstores for a year-round population of 15,000. We have a spate of magazines, some new and quite literate, from general interest pubs to food and lifestyle specialties,.

But something’s going on in the way we gather information.

Plum TV, an ambitious lifestyle-oriented station, went dark in September 2011, though largely Comcast-funded MVTV, our cable access station station, trundles along. WMVY 92.7 FM, a cultural lightning rod here for nearly 30 years, hopes to convert to an online station, after its signal was acquired by NPR station WBUR, based in Boston. We’ll see whether an improved public radio signal here will threaten public radio station WCAI, a terrific, authentic local voice for the Cape and Islands.

Based on the Island media sample, we can conclude that people are reading more stuff but watching and listening less. The answer sounds a bit counter intuitive, but it says here that social media is stirring the pot.

Quick primer: social media includes several forms of electronic communication, headlined by Facebook and Twitter. We spend almost 16 hours a month on Facebook nationally, reading and posting opinions, thoughts, and chatter. Twitter communications are called tweets, which allow us to communicate our deepest thoughts to the world in 140 characters or less. So everyone’s an author, though to be honest, Twitter users, for example, concede that 45 per cent of what they read is nonsense.

But not all of it. Users in the Mideast use tweets and posts as a helpful way to overthrow their nasty governments. Americans seem generally more reserved, offering less riveting news, such as what they are planning for lunch.

The electronic media platforms also supports blogs, an essay form of a different nature. What’s the definition of “blog?” Hmm. Tough to know. Wags suggest it means “Better Listings on Google” or “Big Load of Gossip.”

Whatever the term means, blogs have a strong presence, particularly here on the Island, where information is hard currency, particularly in winter when we don’t have the summer crowd to distract and annoy us as we separate them from their vacation dollars.

Blog content can be a painful read, but we are blessed with people who live here, possess original thoughts and can express them. A personal favorite is “From the Seasonally Occupied Territories,” penned by editor and novelist (“The Mud of The Place”) Susanna Sturgis. Ms. Sturgis has a feisty soul and the self-discipline to update her blog regularly, at least twice a week on average. Note to blogger wannabees: stale blogs are death.

Ms. Sturgis’ subjects range from outing bureaucratic meanies who padlock tennis courts, to a whimsical annual list of visitors by state, according to license plates ( she counted 45 state license plates last year).Very local, very good stuff.

Other examples include Edgartown News, a blog providing quality photos and snippets from Sarah Piazza. If you missed the 4th of July parade or Christmas in Edgartown, here’s where you’ll find your neighbors who were there. Tompost Pile is a quick-hitter featuring accounts and photos of ramblings around the Island by someone who seems to be called Tom.

Some blogs are written simply for the love of it, although many incorporate a revenue craving intention. Commerce is an integral part of the blog scene today. Online marketing tools are so sophisticated that they can identify blogs that attract viewers and automatically place ads on tha site. Content is king, my son, an online ad guru, tells me ,Build enough views and they will come, followed by checks from the ad provider.

Business blobs tend to be online info-mercials that appeal to folks wanting to buy or sell the featured products and services.. Well done biz blogs provide good info and entertain.

The goal of advertising is to provide a call to action that results in a sale but many commercial blogs can show up as heavy-handed, The trick is to combine entertainment and information with commercial aspects – buy if you want.

One of the best Island-grown efforts in this genre include the blog and newsletter from Susan Branch in Vineyard Haven, best-selling author and whimsical SoCal transplant. Ms. Branch provides a newsletter named Willard, (read it for an explanation of the name) with- are you ready?- 42,000 subscribers. Both offer a colorful, audial and art-filled environment that informs, entertains and, well, makes you feel good. You may also feel the urge to trot over to Bunch of Grapes or Edgartown Books for a copy of one of her 14 books. Could happen, no pressure. Good blogs let us choose to act.

That’s because blogs tend to be uniquely personal interactions between authors and readers. For example,a benefit of finding a blogger who attracts you is that you’ll probably like blogs that attracted the author. Most bloggers provide a “blogroll,” a list of their favorite sites.

A confession: I have a Facebook account. I check it quarterly. That lack of responsiveness has led to some ‘unfriending.’ Unfortunate, but since I never go on my page, I don’t know who has kicked me to the curb and I’m spared details of my relational loss.

Blogs are a different matter. Good ones are involving and relational. Check ‘em out. Bet you’ll like it.

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