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Out of Style Online

I wrote an entry a while ago that perhaps certain ads weren't meant to be online - they weren't contextual to the online world, regardless of the domain or the page. I'm starting to think the same may go for content as well.

Case i point: Rick Reilly. From his bio:

Voted National Sportswriter of the Year 11 times, Reilly had been a senior writer for SI since 1985. Reilly has won numerous awards in his 27-year writing career, including the prestigious New York Newspaper Guild's Page One Award for Best Magazine Story.

In other words, the dude can write. When he was writing for Sports Illustrated, I used to buy the magazine just for his columns. The rest of it lost its relevance to me since its late 70s/early 80's hey day.

So what happens? Reilly signs a deal with ESPN, and becomes a feature writer for espn.com. His infamous pun-filled and tearjerker columns are now available there every week. Seems like a smart move - same audience profile of male sports fanatics, but just lots more of them. Unfortunately, at least for me, it was a terrible move.

For whatever reason, I now find his work to be unreadable. Weird. Same writer using the same style in a different medium leads me to a completely different reaction to his work. On the back page of Sports Illustrated his column to be clever, witty, etc. - like I said it's why I bought the magazine. Online though his work comes across as the opposite: pompous, not funny, and trying way to hard.

Why is this? I thinks its because the web has its own voice and its different than other mediums. There's a tone to it. Yes, it's all still words on the page, but its completely different. There's an edginess the web requires. Because of the commenting capabilities, there's a humbleness required. Humor is a big part of it, but not concocted humor - rather timely, relevant humor. Fine, snarky, if you will.

In many ways writing online is more like talking with someone than to them. As a user, if a voice doesn't conform to the expected tone, it comes across as out of place and out of style and just doesn't work. ESPN.com's other columnist, Bill Simmons, is a master of this. In fact, he's probably one of the people who created this tone back in his Digital Cities days.

I guess this isn't really surprising - every medium has its own voice. Books speak differently to us than magazines, which speak differently than newspapers. And they all speak differently than the web. Laurua Ries astutely advises that "different mediums require different brands." She's 100% correct. They also require a different voice.

I sure hope Rick Reilly figures this out. I miss enjoying his columns.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 4, 2008 2:09 PM.

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