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Suggestion to Major Blogs and Websites

If I can make a suggestion to American TV studios to move towards a miniseries system, why not more?

image I recently spent a couple of hours organizing and pruning the many feeds that I follow in Google Reader. It’s become something of a necessity as my interests and information needs (and the amount of time I have to pursue them) change. But, this time as I found myself trying to figure out which news sites to follow, I found it easier to drop websites which didn’t have sub-feeds.

Most major blogs and websites today use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to let subscribers know when the site’s been updated without having to check the site constantly. While this is extremely convenient, the enormous number of updates that major websites like the New York Times issue per day make subscribing to their RSS feed an exercise in drinking from the firehose.

So, what to do? Thankfully, some major websites (the New York Times included) figured this out and now provide sub-feeds which provide only a fraction of the total content so that a subscriber can not only avoid RSS information overload but get a focused feed on the information that matters to him/her. The New York Times, for instance, allows you to only get RSS updates from their tech column, the Bits Blog, or even just the Venture Capital section of the New York Times’ Dealbook coverage.

Sadly, not every website is as forward-looking as the New York Times. Many sites don’t offer any sort of sub-feed at all (much to my dismay). Many sites who do offer it, offer a very paltry selection with very limited options.

And, given the choice between an information deluge which I mostly don’t want vs an alternative information source which gives me only the information I do want, I think the answer is obvious. As a result, with the exception of two feeds, I dropped from Google Reader every blog which posted more than once a day which didn’t give me a targeted sub-feed option.

In a world where its getting harder and harder for publications to hold on to readers, you’d think these sites would learn to offer more flexibility (especially when such flexibility is practically free to support if you have even a half-decent web content management system) in how their content is pushed.

But, I guess those sites weren’t interested in keeping me as a reader…

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Suggestion to American TV studios

The past few weeks I’ve been eagerly watching a variety of Japanese television, and I noticed something very peculiar (for an American).

The few Japanese dramas I’ve seen actually end. They build to an end and then just stop. They don’t drag it out for season after season, allowing different seasons to suffer based on actor/actress-negotiations and writers having off-years. They don’t end on ridiculous season cliffhanger-after-season cliffhanger. They have  a well-defined endpoint and, by building to it, they keep the story fresh and force it to have a suitable length.

This isn’t to say that the Japanese dramas I’ve seen don’t go on for multiple seasons. But, I would assert that sequels (should) only happen when there is sufficient audience demand for one and when the storytellers think they have another story to tell.

Contrast that with American TV – the seasons are built not for any plot reason, but because a TV studio needs to have sufficient content to fill the months of September to May/June. Seasons are renewed, not because of a deep creative reason or even necessarily because of audience demand, but because of a misguided sense of momentum. This doesn’t always turn into a disaster (I believe House MD, despite its traditional  has maintained a reasonable level of quality each season through the quality of its casting and writing), but even series that I thoroughly enjoy like Smallville have had their fair share of “useless filler” episodes and bad seasons.

In my humble opinion, it’d be far better to adopt the miniseries format. It prevents writers from creating ridiculous plot devices to keep a story going way past its prime (and past when its actors begin leaving for greener pastures), and it maintains a quality of production which only a purpose-driven creative process can lead to.

Given the challenges of the TV business, I’d say its at least worth a shot for an American TV studio to try.

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