Saturday, May 15, 2010

On prolificacy. This morning I was reading an article in The Walkley magazine which was extracted from a blog post by Rob Curley, who is the editor of the new media division of the Las Vegas Sun. It was an interesting read for me as we currently want to redesign The Enthusiast to maximise the amount of content that a first-time reader would realise we have, and also to prevent people from calling the site a "blog", an error that angers me.

But anyway. The thing I found most striking about Curley's explanation of's homepage design evolution is his revelation that at first, they designed each day's homepage uniquely, much as you'd design a hard-copy front page, because it "had a fairly low daily story count (think around 10 stories a day)". Ten frickin' stories. Wow.

For me it's a rule of thumb that things are done on a much more massive scale in the States than in Australia: cars; supermarkets; movies; and, of course, the media. I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I compare The Enthusiast's output with the American pop-culture websites I admire; I know we can produce great content, but they just seem to be able to produce much more of it, and with much greater resources.

Even Australian independent sites such as Mumbrella and Crikey have mountains of content every day. I constantly beat myself up about how far we lag behind, and I feel I'm on a terrible treadmill of trying to generate enough content to keep readers coming to our site every day – and that's not even my full-time job. I am also trying to generate enough freelance stories to keep electricity coming to my house every day.

But Curley's article has given me pause. Here's a publication that, in his words, is "similar to a very well done, regional version of Slate" – which was also an inspiration for The Enthusiast – and yet they weren't worried about being prolific.

I think I have to acknowledge that I am actually intellectually prolific, and I do get a lot done every day. The thing is that I spread it across a wide terrain.

Emailing: I have four active email accounts and I spend a huge amount of each day tending to them. Some of it is for The Enthusiast: arranging meetings, chasing review material, corresponding with contributors, dealing with admin. Some of it is freelancin': emailing editors, researching stories, sending invoices. My most time-consuming emailing is to do with my review work at the Thousands: planning upcoming film coverage with the five state editors, RSVPing to screenings, chasing giveaways.

Blogging: I blog here, I blog at Footpath Zeitgeist, and I've just ventured back to The Dawn Chorus after being chased off with pink pitchforks following last year's post How Can Feminist Mums Avoid Being Humourless Childhood-Ruiners? (After that episode I transferred my feminist writing to Crikey, New Matilda and The Enthusiast.)

Online sociality: Because I work from home, I get my workplace sociality by interacting with people on Facebook and my four Twitter accounts, and from personal email exchanges. Some people might call this activity trivial, but it helps me feel I'm not alone. Importantly, online sociality is also a major source of story ideas, and of professional collegiality and guidance from my intellectual peers.

The Enthusiast: Writing and researching stories for the site; updating its Facebook and Twitter. A couple of weeks ago we instituted a "New News" regime which was meant to ensure that it was easier to produce more content each day, but I've found myself unable to stop investigating stories further.

Reading: I feel constantly guilty about it, but it's the fuel for my work. I also read for pleasure, and even my idea of lazy days off involves reading the weekend papers. If I'm in a cafe on a Monday I diligently leaf through The Australian's media section; I follow any Facebook and Twitter links that look interesting; I maintain Twitter 'lists' in The Enthusiast's eight topic categories so that I can seek out more information; I still use Bloglines for RSS, but the other day I cut my feeds down to 150 – mainly by eliminating old, abandoned blogs.

So there you go. For once, rather than feeling anxious and depressed about how little I seem to achieve, perhaps I should give myself a thumbs-up.

And on a total tangent, I wonder if Roger Ebert ever ponders the irony that, years ago, he invented the "thumbs-up, thumbs-down" review system that is now incredibly helpful considering that he can't talk any more but can still make thumb-related gestures. Is that even ironic? Post-Alanis Morissette, I'm never certain.

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