lelangir: my thoughts are in blue
I recently joined Team Blue, a group of informal friends in real life and on the web. As many of the group members are united by anime (be it otaku levels or pretty nonchalant like me), some of them have an anime blog to their credit. Recently, they started a Round Robin where members would be
coerced invited to join in this exercise so that there will be cross-reading between blogs in Team Blue. Of course, you are more than welcome to chat in the #TeamBlue channel.
The topic for the inaugural Team Blue Round Robin is whether the anime blogging future belongs to team blogging. As part of a team blog that has been around for a while, I think that I can answer that accurately to a certain extent. This post can be broken down into two categories: the logical fallacies of team blogging, and how team blogging can or cannot succeed.
In short: Maybe, in some cases.
In long: Read on.
The logical fallacies of team blogging
First off, I don’t think “team blog” is a very operative term. To be brutally honest (no offense to the butthurt), here’s a basic list of blogs that I don’t really think are “team blogs”: THAT, Yukan, Drastic, RandomC, Seaslugs, Calamitous Intents, Scrumptious, Hey Say Anime.
And here’s a list of blogs I think are actually “team blogs”: Epicwin, OH. [I'm tempted to put superfani here just because of OVER 9000 meaningless words and the Superfani Voice Module, but those are the only two cases.]
THAT et al. aren’t team blogs because, while there is a generalized diversity in voice (me vis-a-vis RV), there isn’t nearly any collaborative effort at the level of content. Just because a blog HOSTS a “diversity of opinion” doesn’t in any way make it a “team” effort. THAT to me appears as simply a blog host with a shitload of readers rather than a place to collaborate with people. Don’t yell at me though, I’ve talked to Maipeisu about blogging Natsume SII in an Epicwin (literally) style. And I am even hesitant to call Cawalain appending his thoughts to the end of angry Crusader posts “teamwork”. I am even hesitant to call what I am doing now as “teamwork”, as I could just as easily copy the same exact content on another blog.
Superfani, Epicwin and OH are team blogs because their content is sometimes produced by multiple voices. Consider the blog post the consitituent, empirical unit of the blog. If the empirical unit is homogeneous (crafted by one voice), it will attract a certain readership. If the empirical unit is penned by several people, a readership prone to one author cannot sift out the other voices to find his favorite author because the post will then make very little or a lot less sense.
In short, where’s the teamwork in team blogs?
Team blogging has become increasingly popular. If you take a look at the blogs that are being created, you will definitely find that there is a growing significant number of blogs that are starting out as team blogs. Despite possibly lumping a lot of blogs into very generic stereotypes, the formation of a team blog often derives from certain specific motivations. These motivations include.
1. It’s an easy way to start anime blogging.
2. A site started up by friends who is using the blog as a social exchange of communication between themselves.
3. Clueless critter who are lazy and thinks team blogs mean someone will be pressurized to blog.
4. It’s a fast track to popularity.
5. Creating a diverse discussion of topics as an one-stop blogging platform by already established solo bloggers.
Some of these motivations do make a lot of sense at a quick glance. Let’s examine some of the underlying assumptions that are likely to be based on those motivations above. First of all, team blogs create this social responsibility within each member to write something to fill in the space. Correct, that’s not true, except for OH, which has deadlines. Second, with more people, it seems to make perfect logic that there will be a higher frequency of posts that generate activity. Third, team blogs are a good way to communicate not only between friends, but to a whole web of readers when the blog eventually becomes popular. And as I said previously, this is definitely a misconception. In addition, with others along with you, blogging becomes easier because you do not worry about having an identity. Lol. However, if anyone assumes that team blogs are the “Band-aid” to making a blog popular, you are solely mistaken. In fact, I will say that team blogs set up by the first four reasons are more likely to fail than single blogs. This needs a bit of clarification. The birth of a single-author blog is dependant on a few factors, all of which we cannot simply label as successful pre hoc just because it’s not a Team Blog. Take, for instance, ghostlightning’s We Remember Love, which was a huge success due to (1) the fact that he was a lurker; (2) he whored it around traffic-dense blogs (trackbacks to THAT); (3) he is a good writer with good content. Also, look at the formation of IKnight’s Animanachronism, another hugely successful blog due to his pre-nascent lurker-status (so I’ve heard, his MAL blog helps as well). Also, take gaguri’s new blog, which seems to be doing fine because bateszi linked to it on twitter. Simply starting a blog out of nowhere from scratch without lurking is not easy to develop to heights. I can attest to that. Do not mind me for my pessimism but the likelihood of a team blog that are set up for the first four reasons are lately to disappear after a few months. Try to figure out the major logical fallacies with the above assumptions.
Sad to say, many of these new team blogs recently were set up simply because of the first four reasons. Really, I can see difference only in scale between THAT et al. and dasaku.net or animeblogger.net. These dime-a-dozen blogs lack any direction in their blogging, and are merely a regurgitation of content where readers can get it from established blogs. I know this comment will hurt some egos out there, but it’s simply following the idea of preferential attachment in a scale-free network. For a dilettante, blogging might be fun for a few weeks before turning into a major chore. This is shown in a collective manner in team blogs. When the ship is floating, everyone stays around. Who stays below a ship that is sinking (when it does not look like the blog is getting popular or nowhere)? The possibility is high because few blogs succeed, and starting out as a team blog pulls you down based on two reasons: personality and more specifically in the current climate: the delusion that it allows the lack of innovation.
Team blogs are NOT the way to succeed if you are starting out totally from scratch, and your blog is even more likely than a solo blog to die off. I think we need to clarify between joining and creating a team blog. Obviously, I am not saying that popularity of a blog should be the means to the end. If you just want a team blog for the sake of friendship between a small circle of buddies, go ahead. This is referring more about those who feel that team blogging is the best way to go for popularity. Sadly, it isn’t.
How can team blogging work then?
How can team blogging work then? Realize that it doesn’t take a team blog to do team blogging. We’re so caught up in the farce of centralized content that we forget about the significance of the author which is not an inert entity. Itsubun’s round robin is one example of content and a macro level. It briefly established a content-oriented microsphere. CCY’s 12 days thing is also another case, as well as the flurry of posts on Salinger’s The Catcher in August.
Some of the major issues with team blogging are the exact things that will hinder the proliferation of big and long-staying team blogs. Of course, any blog can succeed with the right strategy in advertising and expanding through public relations, but that cannot save any blog without the right content. People who set up team blogs often assume that readers will come eventually because of the rapid number of posts. However, new blogs often find it hard to start off without any good strategy to advertise themselves.
To explain this, it is best to use an actual example by a blog that I deemed to have succeeded from scratch. Oi Hayaku would be my example here. The difference here, as Impz says, is that the blog did not start from scratch. That makes all the difference because the readership for its constituent authors already existed prior to the construction of the aesthetic container in which the BLOGGERS are housed. The key difference between an “abortion” blog (like my original lelangir.wordpress blog) and a “surrogate” blog (like OH) is that my readership did not exist. I had to forge my own, while OH comes replete with its made already. The unintended dorama and the stringent manner to get established writers in their team blog were key ways to generate publicity. These bloggers in Oi Hayaku are already established writers in their own blog genre, and are easily among a small circle of prominent communicators who would eventually spread the word out to others about this new team blog. This generates a vicious cycle of publicity (negative/positive) and perhaps one of the key ways to get popular, and fast. Needless to say, Oi Hayaku is one of the more up-and-coming team blogs out there. How many new team blogs have the fortune to have such a big advantage at the start?
A larger problem that hinder the possible growth of most team blogs is how they often start off on the wrong footing by recruiting anyone who is willing to come. COUGH, looks at Yukan, cough. That is the sure way to disaster because you create a mash of writers that lack any writing direction. Of course, you might run into luck by picking some great writer that will be awesome. What are the chances, I wonder, of him/her eventually flying solo or quitting on you after five posts due to his/her loss of interest?
In THAT for example, we have a policy where the writer must contribute significantly in a different way to current writers, and be a better writer than most of the existing writers before they are accepted. You can call it an elitist view of recruitment, but team blogging requires even stronger personalities than a solo blog. I think that Impz should instate a “trial period” much like Riex’s because I haven’t seen Mr. Prince/Jiff/Phuzy post in ages. In that same way I’d be pretty fucked for several of my other blogs… Writers of weak personalities easily get consumed within the team blog, and people get bored when the voices sound just like everyone else. What we need to realize is that THAT has not one readership, but several constituent author-centric readerships. Your EOY post confirmed this. Readers come for Crusader, not THAT. Compare this to a blog whose empirical content is diverse in and of itself – the readership must intrinsically come for all authors that collaborate on such heterogeneous content. Think about forming a unified readership. If you want your blog to work out, why have a team blog that repeats the same old thing (episodic summaries)? It’d be awesome if THAT had two front pages, one column for currently airing shows or summaries, another for everything else. No one will care enough for a team episodic blog because you already have Random Curiosity churning out summaries as much as McDonald’s 60 second promise. I will dare say that team blogs that generate a mix of content not including episodic summaries are likely to succeed, and below is why.
An important element that must exist in a successful team blog is the mix of forceful personalities in the blog. I am not sure if you read as vivaciously as me, but it is probably hard to read a team blog where there are no distinct personalities within a team blog. It’s even better when the authors have different personalites but are centered around one theme, like Superfani. Bunch of esoteric crap but we have very diverse opinions on theory. So our discussion is very localized and narrow, but diverse at the same time. That’s much different than simply having Crusader and Reverse Vampire hosted on the same blog…where’s the teamwork? Call it a mascot, a leader, a dictator or a chief, any team blog often requires someone with a strong personality or character to bring the blog around. In THAT, you will probably know the characteristics of the prominent bloggers here, be it the military/mecha man Crusader, fanservice loving Calawain or shoujo-loving Impz. People know that we have a very strong like or dislike, and hence have distinctive opinions about certain anime. That makes it easy for people to see that this is a team blog that have enough diversity that they need not go to another blog for information.
One major issue that is pertaining to the current climate of blogging is the lack of innovation in team blogs. They rest on their laurels that having a team will succeed, without understanding the underlying reasoning for a team blog to work. A team blog only works when the mix of personalities and views create a sphere of different content that caters to different reader groups out there. It’s useless if you have three writers writing on shounen, and have similar views. What for? Simple logic tells you that people like novelty, and the current new team blogs other than a select few are not giving them that.
On a personal level, I still see solo-blogging as the best means of communication. Hypothetically, insofar as THAT v4 had several front pages, that would constitute solo-blogging. The fact that readers quickly gaze over your content adjacent to someone else’s is incidental to your classification as a “team blog” – might as well call it aggregator. You are your own tyrant, and your personality flows through easily in the entry because it is uniform. If public relations and advertising is the way to create publicity for a new blog, the clear personality in your writing on the blog is the way to keep these readers there. A new team blog, without any time to create that personality, will often falter due to the mixed voice in their writing unless there are established writers that are willing to be the mainstay. Why dilute yourself and lose your own voice in a team blog when you can establish yourself with your unique ideas through your very own possessive blog?
I feel that team blogs are really popular because it has the perception that it is easy. I hope I dispel that image because it’s a whole can of worms when you start to open it up. I will advice any new writer to start out as a single blogger to see if blogging is for you. If you eventually think that goal number 5 is your primary goal to having a team blog, go ahead. Hopefully, with that experience your solo-blogging got you, it will bring you success. It’s often that you get success by planning ahead, and team blogging is a whole bunch of diplomacy.