Two years ago, when I wrote about the death of blogging, I contrasted the decline of old-fashioned reverse-chronological blogs with the huge success of Twitter and, especially, Tumblr. Since then, of course, Tumblr has been sold to Yahoo for more than $1 billion, while Twitter is reportedly valued at some 10 times that amount. Clearly there’s a lot of value in becoming a successful publishing platform.
One big reason for the success of Twitter and Tumblr is that they have a very clear idea of what their product is, and they focus on making that product great rather than on being all things to all people. Blogging was historically thought of as a one-stop shop: the place where people would post a series of things, and where those things would appear in reverse chronological order. Every so often, a blogger would write something elsewhere, usually for money, and then link to that piece from their blog. But when Twitter came along, something changed: Bloggers would write some things on their blogs, and other things on Twitter.
After I realized that Twitter had powers that no individual blog could ever have, I started thinking increasingly about the best platform for any given thing that I wanted to do. Photos of my friends and family of course are easy: they go on Facebook. Less personal photos go on Instagram. And if something could be distilled into 140 characters or less, there’s a good chance that it belonged on Twitter. But Tumblr was great too, for certain things: I’ve now posted to my Tumblr 1,159 times, and have 36,475 followers there. I haven’t spent much time making it pretty or coherent, but shortform content, especially if it’s visual and doesn’t work on Twitter, is often perfect for Tumblr.
There are lots of other platforms too: I’ve seen people like Jerry Saltz get really good at Facebook, although I’ve largely shunned it as a publishing tool. Bloomberg’s Tom Keene is very active on LinkedIn. I had a YouTube channel for a while; that was a lot of fun, and allowed me to do things which don’t necessarily work in print very well. For conversations, podcasts can be wonderful, as can live events. And if I need it, there’s always my own personal blog. Basically, different types of communication require different platforms, and it’s silly to expect everything to fit into one template.
This morning, I posted some thoughts about CitiBike on Medium — which is also the place I chose to publish my big piece on bitcoin. I like how clean Medium is, and it’s quite well suited to content which is longer than a Tumblr post but also maybe not the kind of thing which I’ve started to concentrate on here at my Reuters blog. Don’t ask me to define exactly what I put where: A lot of these decisions are spur-of-the-moment things, and sometimes I change my mind at the last minute. (This post, for instance, was drafted in Medium before I decided to move it over to Reuters.) But I really do love the ability to create and present the stuff I create in the format which puts it in the best possible light.
The new Reuters site is based around the concept of streams, and the Felix Salmon stream on the site, which will appear at some point in the coming months, is by its nature going to be a different animal, on a different platform, than the current Felix Salmon blog on Reuters.com. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work — there will be a lot of trial and error involved, for sure — but right now the way I’m thinking about it is as a place where the various things I do on various platforms can be brought together in a single place. If I write something on Medium, or if I write an article for Wired, or if I post something on Tumblr, or if I create a video on YouTube, that thing can live in its own natural habitat while still being aggregated on my own Reuters platform. And of course I’ll always be writing a lot of original content right here — content which in turn will end up being linked to from Twitter, or syndicated on Seeking Alpha, or otherwise shared around the social Web.