'You can write more than that if you want,' he shrugged. 'If you want to waste your time. But people won't read it.'
I admit that I was pretty passive in this discussion. Most of my comebacks consisted of skeptical looks and a lack of enthusiasm in my agreement to write blog reports of a paragraph or so for him. This was partly because I'm an anonymous blogger and thus couldn't argue using my own experience; partly because this guy does online communication for a living, so I couldn't help wondering if he was right and I was wrong. (And yes, I admit that I have a tendency to go on for too long in my posts, one that nobody calls me on because I am - dangerously - my own editor.)
But still ... I couldn't help thinking about the Meanjin blog, Spike, the ever-prolific Angela Meyer's Literary Minded, James Bradley's fantastic blog, City of Tongues, and Mark Sarvas's The Elegant Variation. All of these blogs combine short posts with longer, in-depth thought pieces or examinations of writers, writing or other topics - and they're all highly successful blogs. And writers like Penni Russon and Rachel Power use their blogs to explore thoughts and issues or to share snippets of their lives, in a very readable and engaging way. I feel lucky and privileged to be able to follow sites like these free of charge, often accessing writing I'd be happy to discover in the print media.
And writer/bloggers Krissy Kneen and Christopher Currie, both from fabulous independent bookshop Avid Reader in Brisbane, have both recently won publishing contracts from Text for books that began life as stories on their blogs.
I don't know if I agree that form necessarily dictates content. It's true that it's nicer and easier to read long pieces in print; but one of the huge benefits of new technology is that it provides a forum for intelligent discussion and exploration of all kinds of topics, without the writer needing funding to create a platform for communication, or to place their story with the right editor at the right time, with the right angle and style for the chosen publication. I think there's a place for snappy news blogs and websites - like Genevieve Tucker's Reeling and Writhing, Jessa Crispin's Bookslut and Canada's Bookninja. But there's also a place for longer writing that takes advantage of the free and easy platform the internet provides.
That's what I wish I'd said to my Gen Y friend today, instead of just looking unhappy.
But I'm really, really curious to hear what other people think. Is shorter better online? For certain kinds of online writing, or certain audiences? Or does it depend on the writer and the topic and the day?
I've just come across this argument for my side from the denizen of litblogging, Jessa Crispin of Bookslut, interviewed by Hackpacker:
"For a while, the only writing about literature you could find online was short, highly opinionated blogs. I remember being told that people don't want to read things of length online, you can never publish quality original content online. I thought, bullshit. I went ahead with publishing 5,000 word interviews with authors, 15-minute videos, etc. I've been proven right, because more lengthy content gets posted online all the time: podcasts, videos, long form essays. Even from the same people who said no one would care."
Still, please do tell me if you have another opinion. I'm genuinely curious to see what people think on this.