The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Blogs give the big guns something to shoot for

There I was, staring down an entire auditorium full of folks wearing “Winchester,” “Weatherby” and “Remington” gimme caps who knew well how to shoot those guns. They were steely; I was nervous.
So I shot them with a blog.Clyde Bentley on the skeet range

Last week I spoke to the Professional Outdoor Media Association convention in Sioux Falls, S.D. It’s a group of outdoor magazine publishers, the freelance writers who fill their pages and the gun or fishing equipment manufacturers who support them. POMA Executive Director Laurie Lee Dovey asked me to answer a deceptively simple question: “Is print dead?”

I think it may be easier to drop a charging water buffalo with a slingshot than to give the definitive answer. Mine was “yes, no and depends on how you define ‘print’.”

My slide for the “yes” explanation earned a few chuckles: Me in my hunting gear (albeit armed with a laptop) smiling over the pile of dead magazines on my truck’s fender. “Yes – and I bagged it.” And I told them how technology is pushing the print world hard to go digital.

But the “no” (me reading in my library) is very much still out there. People are reading books and other publications by the droves. And of course, Baby Boomers will remain the primary American market for more than a decade. (Boomers grew up with print. Even if they use computers, they compare all media with the print with which they are familiar). Perhaps more critically, the Web has yet to reproduce the comfort level of a magazine or book (who cuddles up with a good laptop?).

But it is the “depends” that really counts – and where I winged a few gun writers.
Print journalism is the transfer of information using those little squiggles we call letters. When Gutenberg built his press, it didn’t mean the words that monks inscribed on parchment went away. Print survives even if the technology it uses changes. So even if we use e-ink or PDF, the call is still for a good story.

They liked that. They liked less my advice that they all launch blogs whether they like the medium or not.
Why blog if your expertise is crafting beautiful tales of an autumn duck hunt? Or if you are in your 60s, can’t figure out the TV remote but can trick any bass in the lake into taking your hook?

I passed on to them the advice of my friend and fellow cyber soul, Steve Yelvington:
“Clyde, if you don’t have a blog in our business, you don’t exist.”

Blogging is not the be-all to end-all. And as fellow cyberbrain Hans Meyer pointed out, it is an uncomfortable task for most professional writers. We spend our whole day turning thoughts into written words, so a blog is just another nagging chore.

But for critics, tech experts and writers – especially freelance writers – a blog is a type of advertising once reserved for Yellow Pages. It gives you presence.

In the scheme of things, blogs are poorly read. But they are specifically read by people who have an interest in the bloggers specialty. More importantly, blogs posts each have individual URLs. That means the fact that a blog read by only a handful of people does not keep it from having substantial power. A single post can be passed on blog-to-blog until it lands at the top of national agenda (witness Rathergate).

Several of the writers in the audience were visibly shaken by my admonition. Then I showed them how easy it is to use Blogger. The clincher was when an old fellow with a country-boy drawl told the, “Well, I’ve been blogging for quite a while. It’s not so hard.”

I’m curious to see what type of blogging community develops within POMA. One of my early editors told me that the three topics that could always generate an argument were politics, religion and game management. Given the level of expertise among its members and the fact hunting and fishing IS their religion, it should a lively corner of the blogosphere.

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August 6, 2008 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

3 Comments »

  1. Well put, good sir, but you forgot to mention how well you shot at Field Day.

    Comment by Drew Niehaus | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. Clyde — you can be sure that POMA and POMA members heard your message and already, just a few days after your presentation, are setting up their blogs. We don’t wish to become extinct.

    Comment by Laurie Lee Dovey | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  3. Clyde — it was my pleasure to sit in on your POMA conference session. I learned a log that gives me hope I can still finish out my dream career in outdoor writing — it just may have to be through different media than I figured. Thanks for a great presentation.

    Comment by Bill Miller | August 7, 2008 | Reply


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