Chris Aldrich has a long and throught-provoking piece asking How to follow the complete output of journalists and other writers?. It drew an interesting comment from Alexandra Samuel, putting the case that publishers who have paid for a piece have no interest in an author building her own audience. They would much prefer any link to come to their website, rather than the author’s. She makes many good points too, about the different lenses through which writers, readers and publishers might view an author’s website; I want to pick on just one of them.
To say that publishers of all kinds may be a bit short-sighted about how to make use of online distribution is to say nothing new. Authors do, of course, retain an interest in the words themselves, if not, necessarily, in their form, so I think what really needs to happen is for more first-tier authors to take upon themselves, or their hired help, the business of maintaining an online presence.
With that in mind, I was delighted to see that Dr Samuel gave a plug to Rebecca Solnit as someone whose website “does a nice job” of speaking “to readers while also serving the specific needs of editors”. I admire Rebecca Solnit’s work enormously, and she is precisely one of the writers I wish I could follow in the way Chris outlines. She has a page that collects her essays and another one for interviews and reviews, and each of them offers a link to read at the publisher’s site. Just the job. But despite the site being built with WordPress, neither of those pages offers a feed of any kind. Nor does her homepage.
Why is that? Could it be that Rebecca Solnit has heard about “the sad demise of RSS,” also plugged (often) by Dr Samuel?
RSS is very definitely not dead.1 And it is not difficult to implement. Heck, I’d consider it an honour if anyone with a WordPress site asked me to do it for them, even without any of the other IndieWeb goodness. But every time a grownup says ‘I don’t believe in RSS’ there is a feed somewhere that falls down dead.
At this point, obvs, I’d quote Mark Twain, but a little research suggests that wouldn’t be simple. ↩