Writing in the Digital Age: A New Twist Every Time You Turn Around

I debated whether to begin this series of Digital Age columns at the beginning of my journey and move forward chronologically, from getting the rights back to my out of print books, learning how to get them into digital format, where to upload, how to market. But then I got distracted by something new and shiny: Kindle blog syndication.

Amazon now offers the opportunity for bloggers to syndicate their feeds and push them directly to the (paying) Kindle consumer (only Kindle, though, not the Kindle app — yet). Even better, from my perspective, it allows bloggers to syndicate just one category to Kindle. I’m doing wedding promo to help pay for my daughter’s upcoming late summer wedding. There are probably some family members who’d like to follow the wedding planning saga as it unfolds, without any of the other writing, publishing and life discussions I enter into. So I decided that the big digital experiment I’ve volunteered to participate in would benefit if I experimented with syndicating a blog. I’m not expecting much from About a Wedding. After all, I’m already on FaceBooks Networked blogs, feed directly on my Amazon Author’s Central page, and run a feed on GoodReads.

I thought this newest twist in the digital world is timely to share, however. Many of the readers of this blog have their own blogs. You don’t have to be a writer to blog (and you don’t have to blog if you’re a writer). You can blog about food, family, hobbies. The big question isn’t even whether you can blog if no one reads your feed (you can). No, the big question is does the world really need another way to follow a blog?

Many social media experts claim that blogs are dead and Tweets are the new black. I love Twitter, but most of what I love about it is the rapid way we can share links to interesting blogs, articles and breaking news. I follow over 1,000 blogs through Google Reader. Sounds like a lot, but since I read them primarily through FlipBoard on my iPad, it takes me no more time to keep up with my blogs than it does for me to read the newspaper. [Correction: than it used to take me to read the newspaper back when it was not as thin as a model just before Fashion Week.] In that quick flip through blog news, I get updated on what agents are looking for, who just sold what book, the newest software updates, tech news, publishing news, and what markets are open or closed to buying. If FlipBoard died tomorrow, I would not look forward to going back to a plain vanilla RSS reader.

I don’t think blogs are dead at all. But I’m on the fence about whether syndicating a blog through Kindle will turn out to be a practical opportunity for bloggers, or something interesting that just didn’t appeal. I can see why it appeals to bloggers. Kindle makes it easy to sign up. It took my techie son no more than 10 minutes to get the info about which category to syndicate, upload the screenshot to use as an icon, and enter in the banking info.

I’m not as sure why it appeals to readers (if it does — feel free to weigh in in the comments). Kindle blogs have a free 14 day trial for subscribers, which is helpful, I’m sure. But then it costs anywhere from $0.99 and up per month to subscribe to read something that you can read for free through FlipBoard, an RSS Feeder or just surfing the web. There are very few blogs that I feel I must read immediately. GalleyCat springs to mind. BoingBoing maybe, if I’m not insanely busy (but I’m always insanely busy). So I wonder who these Kindle blog subscribers are. People who don’t like wading through net clutter? People who have adopted the Kindle reading paradigm so completely that they don’t want to read on any other device? Whoever they are, I salute them for being willing to directly value a blogger’s writing. A quick look of top Kindle blogs suggests that these Kindle subscribers value free (there are a lot of blogs that compile lists of free books), are looking for humor (joke of the day is in the top), and inspiration (everything from Bible quotes to the Happiness project). And they appear willing to pay for it. Good for them!

We’ll see how it ends up working out for bloggers. While it is true that many bloggers try to monetize their blogs with ads and sponsored posts, many of us don’t. I keep my blog for readers, fans, friends, fellow writers, and family (I think of it as The Kelly Enquirer, a wholly factual, semi-gossipy tabloid with all the news that’s not fit to print). I’m always surprised to find that someone has read it. When I first heard about Kindle syndication, my first thought was: “Why would anyone pay to read a blog?”

I guess now that I’ve actively joined the experiment, I’m going to find out. I’d love to hear real life discussion from people who blog, who have subscribed to a blog on the Kindle, and from writers who are trying out this new shiny digital age toy just like I am.

What would it take for you to pay to subscribe to a blog through Kindle (or through other methods if they were available?)



Writing in the Digital Age: A New Twist Every Time You Turn Around — 16 Comments

  1. There is so much going on — and new things coming up over the horizon continually — that it’s a constant task to keep up. And things go away, too. Remember when MySpace was hot? And I bet there are some old GEnie denizens here…

  2. Hmm. I need to check this out (in multiple ways).

    Is FlipBoard only an iPad app? I’d love to find something similar for my Transformer tablet. Hmm, time to go on an app hunt.

  3. Too true, Brenda — Genie, and AOL Chatrooms, and….

    I haven’t checked my MySpace page in ages. And it seems like some of these things get hot quickly and then disappear. I think Twitter will linger a while. FaceBook keeps ignoring all the predictions of its looming demise, though. Maybe the secret is to be smart phone capable?

  4. This is an interesting post. I thought of doing this too–mainly for the exposure. Reader benefit is always going to be key. I can’t think of what would make me pay for a blog that I could read for free online, but perhaps it’s a special giveaway for those that subscribe.

    Hope you’ll let us know how this experiement turns out.

  5. Joyce,

    As far as I know, Flipboard is only for iPad. But there are other choices. I think there’s a program called Pulse that works on the Android platform. There must be others out there.

  6. RSS Feeds killed me. I subscribed to too many and then if I was busy for a couple of days, the sheer weight of them oppressed me. But recently I’ve been subscribing to blogs via email. I like getting them in email where it’s easy to scan/skip/savour.

    FlipBoard is new to me. But then I don’t have an iPad which is probably why.

    Good luck with the wedding and the blog!

  7. Pooks, I’m afraid to subscribe through email, because I’m so behind on regular email, and I belong to too many email lists as it is 🙂

    I think there are a lot of people who subscribe to feeds and then get overwhelmed (raising my hand and waving it frantically). But I’ve winnowed my rss list more than once and I’m a [blushing in shame] blog hoarder. Every time I go to winnow, I cut one and add five.

  8. I really admire people who can do what you’re doing though, I really do!

    I subscribe to only three feeds: two for Civil War history blogs, and a blog for historical fiction. This is managable. Since these three do not publish every day or even every week, this way I get notice when a new column is available. I don’t like missing these because they are intelligent, thoughtful, point me to new works in the fields, well written, with intelligent, thoughtful discussion in the comments by other interested professonals.

    I wouldn’t have any room for more than that though.

    I’m so overwhelmed by all the new apps for EVERYTHING that appear everyday, I’ve just stopped with it all. It’s a full time job to keep up with it all, and keeping up with finding and performing the work I do as a freelancer takes my focused attention — not to mention real life friends and gatherings in real life.

    I’d prefer to have a regular full-time JOB-JOB with benefits, but am lucky enough to be able to keep cobbling other things together to just about keep afloat. But it’s exhausting, so exhausting that one needs to be very picky.

    Love, C.

  9. Foxessa, I hear you. I have never in my life wanted a regular full-time Job-Job. But that results in an exhausting jig of activity. It suits me, but I can see why it wouldn’t suit most people.

    BTW — can you give me the links for the Civil War blogs? I love the Civil War history (family who fought on both sides).

  10. Great post, Kelly! I’ve got to get my how to syndicate your blog to the Kindle Store article out and published, thanks for the reminder! This is really really neat. I have Pump Up Your Book up there, not saying anyone is going to buy but if you put book promotions or book publicity I forget which in their search, the blog comes up and don’t know whether that does any good or not but it’s neat seeing it up there with all the books on the same subject.

  11. I have a Job-Job, and those of us who do have one will report that it is a Mixed Blessing. Paycheck and bennies, good! But the devouring of time and energy, less pleasant. Ever behind me I seem to hear Time’s winged chariot, hurrying near — I have books to write before I die.

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  13. Dorothy, that’s a great point about the searchability on Amazon.

    Brenda — I remember the Mixed-Blessing days. That’s how I know I’m not cut out for them. A regular deposit from Amazon has been an amazing side effect of indie publishing my backlist, though. That was definitely on the top of the Good in the Mixed-Blessing.