What is network literacy? Well according to Adrian Miles “network literacy is, in a nutshell, being able to participate as a peer within the emerging knowledge networks that are now the product of the Internet” (Miles 2007).
Ok, so it has to do with the Internet, connecting with peers, knowledge of networks and basically everything else working in the media industry entails. When I started my course here at RMIT, I wasn’t entirely sure about where I would end up. Career wise, I mean. Even in high school I was told that the media and journalistic industry was a fickle one that involved a lot of competition and uncertain career opportunities. With the constant evolution of the Internet and development of online journalism, where would I end up? I remember in one of my first ever lectures, where the lecturer told us the jobs we were being prepared for most likely haven’t been invented yet. That was comforting. Not.
Almost two years on, I have grown to understand that maybe this uncertainty is not entirely a negative thing. It could even be exciting that potential career opportunities available today “may change, and appear differently in six months” (Miles 2007). I have always been interested in journalism (although I refused to commit to one career path in high school until the very last second). I knew that although I was the most indecisive person on the planet, that one day I would like to write for some form of publication.
Before starting university I never saw blogging as a legitimate career choice. I read blogs daily but never considered the fact that these ‘bloggers’ were actually being paid to write about things they were passionate about. How exciting is that! My reaction was not too dissimilar to that of my dad’s last week whilst watching the new Australian TV show ‘Fashion Bloggers’. “People all around the world are reading these girl’s blogs?” he asked me, very confused “ahh I don’t get it”.
So what is a blog? In simple terms it is “a web based publication [that] traditionally consists of entries of varying length” (Miles 2006). Blogs are public platforms where people can write with the assumption that others may be reading what they have to say. Blogging in this aspect is very different to other more traditional forms of writing. The ability to post freely online allows people to write in a more personal, informal and self-controlled way. Every single blog post “can be easily interlinked between blogs and allow writing with a diverse range of voices (Miles 2006).
This very personal nature of blogging is sometimes seen to be “unbridled narcissism” (Landow 2006) but this is not entirely the case. Although blogging is a very personal form of writing, blogs are ultimately public and rely entirely on connecting with others to succeed. For this very reason, the scale of a blog’s audience really depends on how well readers resonate with what a blogger has to say. “Readers can choose what areas they want to investigate in greater depth” (Landow 2006).
What I find most interesting about blogging is how it can be used as a platform to develop your own online identity. As blogging is so personal (well, personal-public) readers become interested in knowing more about the people behind the words. This shift “blurs the distinction between online and offline lives” (Landow 2006). Often when reading articles in a magazine, readers don’t spend too much time thinking about the author, who is often quite removed from the piece. Reading a blog post allows the reader to pry in on certain aspect of the writer’s life and personality. This is a kind of writing “that is a social, collaborative process rather than an act of individual in solitary”.
The ability to write and post freely online has proven to be incredibly desirable. According to Ignitespot, who in 2013 compiled a large list of blogging statistics, 6.7 million people are blogging online, 77% of Internet users read blogs and 46 million people a month (in America alone) view blogs hosted by the site ‘blogger’.
Although these statistics are largely impressive, there was one that proved most shocking. Only 14% of bloggers earn a salary through the use of their blogs (ignitespot 2013). Half of bloggers, who earn money per post, earn no more than $1000 per year (ignitespot 2013). Admittedly these statistics includes all blogs on the Internet (which may include blogs set up for fun or blog set up that are never actually used).
So in the oversaturated world that is blogging, what does it take to be heard?
A writer/ blogger who has always inspired me is Leandra Medine, the 26-year-old founder of manrepeller.com. The blog described as “a humorous site for serious fashion” has evolved since its 2010 inception from a personal style blog into a hugely popular site with a staff of writers, who post about anything from current affairs to Paris fashion week. In 2012 Man Repeller was receiving just fewer than three million views each month (Forbes 2012). In 2012 Leandra was listed in Forbes ‘Top 30 under 30’ as one of the year’s most influential people and in 2013 she was listed in the ‘100 most creative people in business’ by FastCompany.
Man Repeller’s intelligent yet humorous style of writing has proven to be a testament to its authenticity and how well their voice resonates with an online audience. In a recent interview Leandra said, “when I launched Man Repeller I ultimately wanted the site to function as a portfolio that would help me get a job” (Virginatlantic 2014). It was during her time studying Journalism at university that she began the blog that evolved into a widely recognized business and created her name in the industry.
So what made Leandra Medine’s blog so successful in a market so saturated? According to Leandra, Man Repeller’s “voice is really authentic and we really don’t compromise that for anything” (Virginatlantic 2014).
As blogging is still a very new and unpredictable platform for writing, there is a lot of (legitimate) concern to be had. How does one make money from writing a blog post online amongst millions of other hopefuls? Today “followers are a currency in their own respect” (Virginatlantic 2014). Whereas not too long ago “success was measured in dollars, not in a dense social media following” (virginatlanatic 2014).
If you are lucky enough to gain an audience who appreciate and relate to what you have to say, what credibility does that give you as a writer? In 2013 Leandra Medine published her first book. Some of her readers saw this as an unusual step backwards, with the online movement we are living through. In a recent interview Leandra described how difficult it is to gain respect within the media and journalistic industry if you are known for running a blog. “They’re like what, you write a blog? You’re not a writer” (Mercedes-Benz 2014). Despite founding a successful blog and building a name for herself in the fashion industry, Medine still believed being a published author afforded her “more credibility when I tell people I’m a writer” (Mercedes-Benz 2014).
Perhaps people are still reluctant to accept that online authorship and blogging is a legitimate form of writing? Maybe there is just too many blogs out there, for any possible chance to get noticed?
So what happens now?
“It’s impossible to deny that the world is changing. Traditional jobs are far and few between, but the hunger and supply for editorship hasn’t dwindled in spite of more unfortunate circumstances for the demand” (Medine 2013).
In tune with the Man Repeller case study, a post that resonated with me was one entitled ‘Blog is a Dirty Word’. In her post, Leandra addressed the negative connotations associated with blogging. What particularly interested me however, was not her reaction to a scathing article calling bloggers “black sheep”, but instead her undeniable enthusiasm for blogging as a platform, and the evolving future for media professionals. Often the uncertain future of the media industry is a scary topic but as Medine put it “the consequences of living in 2013 are vastly different than they were in the 80s or 90s and even early aughts because of the hyper-speed at which we consume information“ (Medine 2013).
It’s clear to me now that the lecturer back in my first semester of university was not trying to scare us, he was just telling us the truth. As Adrian Miles said “The internet is a paradigm shift in communicative technologies, a shift that has [both] positive and negative aspects” (Miles 2006). The future of my career in journalism is completely uncertain, which is both entirely intimidating and exciting.
“Sure, the training isn’t traditional but my generation is brilliant; we are over-educated and often over-qualified for the jobs that we do take. Tradition and innovation have little to do with one another and in the battle of success and relevance between the former and latter, the latter has proven itself quite victorious” (Medine 2013).
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