Newspapers come out every day. You read today’s issue, even if you’re new to a town and you’ve never read that paper before. The editors assume that you’re reasonably informed and up to date on “the story so far” and they just pick up where they left off.
Books, on the other hand, come out every year or five or ten. An author assumes that you’re going to start reading on page one. If she’s written a sequel, she assumes you’ve read the book that comes before, but a good editor will often push the author to spend the first chapter catching new readers up to speed.
Weblogs were designed to be like newspapers. The idea was that people would stop by and read some more every day, and that each post would build on what had come before… and that frequent readers would have no trouble keeping up.
This is great in a world with a finite number of blogs and a static community of readers.
Today, though, there are two factors to keep in mind:
1. We’ve now got more than 3,000,000 blogs, and every two weeks (my guess) the number of people reading blogs for the first time increases by 10 or 20%. That means that most of the people who are reading your blog are doing so for the first or second time.
2. A lot of blogs are no longer about the original intent–to link to current posts on the web with small comments. Instead, corporate and personal blogs are much more focused on telling a story, a story that has a beginning and a middle, not just a current end.
This leads me to two thoughts:
a. a lot more blogs should be posted in chronological order, like books. If you’re trying to chronicle something, it makes a lot of sense to start at the beginning, as long as you provide regular readers an easy way to just read the current stuff (That’s what RSS is for, right?). No, this isn’t right for gizmodo. But it makes a lot of sense for someone, say, chronicling her experience in a 12 step program.
b. we need Movable Type or someone to create a simple way to create “greatest hits” pages. Not an archive, but a simple way for a new reader to read the ten posts we want them to start with, in the order we want them read, before they dive in.
I know it’s weird to read a chronological blog. It’s worse, imho, to leave a great blog just because the last two posts don’t make sense out of context.