Sunday, 20 March 2016

Dan's Media Digest is 10 Years Old

Sunday, 20 March 2016
DMD - circa 2007

Insane. Dan's Media Digest turns 10 years old today. One-zero. A decade has passed. Astonishing. Oh, and a little frightening. You don't start writing a blog with the serious belief you'll still be writing it all those years later. It's just shy of a quarter of my life! I genuinely thought I'd probably get bored of blogging after a year, maybe three, but instead I keep hitting these big anniversaries. I thought five years was something to celebrate, but TEN? It's just crazy.

I don't like avoiding eye-contact with elephants in rooms, so let's cut to the chase: I'm sure everyone knows that DMD isn't as productive as it once was. It hasn't been for awhile now. Time constraints began to impose themselves on my blogging routine about four years ago, and if I'm honest my passion for writing about film and TV has dimmed just lately. Maybe "passion" is the wrong word, and I should say "eagerness". They're not quite the same thing... for me, anyway.

When I started blogging, on 20 March 2006, the Internet was a slightly more naive place. YouTube wasn't even a year old. Twitter didn't exist. Were we still using MySpace? Even the word "blog" was new and sounded alien, as neologisms often do. It felt like I was stepping into a brave new world when I signed up to, half-convinced this endeavour going to result in a dull mix of a "online diary" and an outlet for writing the odd film review. Indeed, it was mainly inspired by reading UK screenwriting self-help blogs for much of 2004.

DMD—which originally stood for Dan's Movie Digest, fact fans!—was supposed to be a mix of film reviews and a way to keep track and inspire myself through the writing of an ambitious spec script called Spiral. It was soon rechristened Dan's Media Digest to allow me a broader range of things to write about—although radio, theatre, music, book, and video game reviews never really became a significant part of my output. I've always been drawn to film and television, primarily. Dan's Film & TV Digest doesn't scan as well. The emphasis on TV mainly happened because it suddenly dawn on me that I don't go to the cinema often enough to compete with rival blogs, of which they were and are a great many, but at the time US TV drama was just starting to hit its 'Golden Age' stride.

(Oh yeah, my Spiral spec script died and my ambitions in that whole area sort of melted away. A translation for a French cop show got to use the cool title, anyway.)

I won't bore you with a year-by-year précis of DMD's highs and lows, but suffice to say this blog started to draw sizeable attention around 2008/09 and probably hit its peak of popularity around 2011/12. Back then, somehow, I was managing to review a dozen television episodes every... single... damn... week. (I can't vouch for the quality of what I wrote back then, but it ensured there was a very good reason to check back with DMD every 24-hours).

Let's take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we? It's like an embarrassing family album, but for blogging.

The first major change to DMD (evolving away from its first Blogger-standard template, which you can see in the main image at the top of this article) happened in 2008. It all became a bit cleaner and neater, a little more personalised, it lost the blue colour scheme, and it had wide page headers that changed every week. (I always loved doing those, but they were a LOT of effort for something that went uncommented on.)

A few years later, in 2011, DMD once again changed its face: back came the original template's bluer look, and the still-used-to-this-day idea of a TV logo sitting next to the name of the blog. Social media was also a very new and interesting thing in my online life, which is why each post on the main page also had visible Twitter counters.

Some tinkering and improvement in 2012, but not much substantially changed. Hey, remember those little rectangular images for the shows I was reviewing weekly in the right-hand sidebar?

In 2013, bigger changes came along with a three-column design. The whole site got a lot broader as a result.

By late-2014, DMD is looking more familiar to how it appears today, with the move to a more efficient approach to a three-column design, and snazzy things like a featured post slider, update ticker, and a slick navigation menu.

If you're a super-fan, you can visit Wayback and peruse even more captures of the site!


These days, DMD is a relatively quiet corner of the ever-expanding Internet, where there are now so many different ways to write, review and interact with TV and film. I tend to only review old favourites and the premieres/pilots that most intrigue me, or occasional random things that force me to write about them out of sheer joy or anger. But hey, Monday's TV Picks for the coming week have never gone away, so I deserve some kind of medal for managing to compile those every seven days, right?

It seems a little sad to be celebrating a big 10-year anniversary with a blog that's undoubtedly a shadow of its former self. In a parallel universe, perhaps DMD continued to blossom into a Really Big Deal—although it would now be called something less personalised, and wouldn't be hosted on Blogger with my stupid name in the URL. I really wish I could go back in time and change the blog's title and address, but has served me well.

While DMD perhaps flirted with "greatness" for 5 years or so, it was always a simple blog rooted in my own thoughts, opinions, and tastes. Its success or failure depended on my own time and effort, and like most one-man operations you risk burnout. I'm not sad the blog once published around 25 posts every week, but that would now be considering a very good month's output.

It is what it is.

I don't have the ability to maintain the output I managed in my late-twenties, even if I do miss the resulting page-hits and abundance of comments that came as a result. I'm very grateful to the loyal hardcore of visitors who still stop by and sometimes still leave a comment. I'd seriously have archived DMD a few years ago, if I had the feeling nobody was interested now. The stats may have halved since 2011, but for the sake of my sanity that's a trade-off I can live with.

Anyway, there's an elephant in the room. I now run a new website called Frame Rated, which is letting me do a more sensible thing with my spare time. Over there, I can write to a pace that suits me, but having a team of writers to manage means there's less of a burden on my own shoulders. I'm finding the managerial challenge involved more exciting, too—although that also comes with its downsides. Doesn't everything? It's still not easy to run anything to an acceptable standard on the internet; especially in 2016, where there are so many competing sites and podcasts and vloggers are becoming the norm.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: I don't intend to delete DMD from the Internet.

That would seem like a horrendous thing to do, given the hours of time this blog has soaked up from me over the past decade. (A frightening number to crunch, I'm sure, so I daren't!) And anyway, what would be the point of downloading the blog as a ginormous file? I'd never be able to read it offline, and couldn't easily transfer it somewhere else. No, it's just easier to keep DMD exactly where it is, until Blogger close for business.

Will it become a mausoleum eventually?

I don't know. Nothing lasts forever. Maybe there will come a time when Frame Rated's a far bigger success than DMD ever was, or will be, and even all you loyal DMDers begin to slowly forget about the blog once I stop updating it for weeks or months at a time. I've seen it happen to other sites I once enjoyed and made part of my own daily routine.

It's not a BAD thing; it's just change. If and when that happens, DMD will be mirrored on a hard-drive for posterity and will linger on Blogger for however long is possible.

Oh God, I'm about to end this post on a downer?

Sorry. I've always had a slightly morose attitude.

No... let's CELEBRATE!

There aren't many blogs that have lasted 10 long years, and I don't intend to stop using DMD as a place to leave a quickie review, opinion, or silly rant that doesn't seem to fit anywhere else. I am likely to change the template (yes, again) to reflect how DMD doesn't update as often now, because a lot of outdated content is now lingering on the front page for too long.

And while the site won't rejuvenate to how it once was in its prime, there's life in the old dog yet. DMD was how I got to interview Russell T. Davies and Matt Smith from Doctor Who fame! It's how almost every PR company and publicist got my email and invites me to things, or sends me the odd goodie bag! It's where I've been exercising my writing muscle almost every day for over 3,650 days, which has been invaluable. It's where my appreciation or film and TV continued to grow into new areas of interest, and where I met some very nice people from the online community (not forgetting Twitter-which is actually where most of my online interactions happen nowadays).

DMD hasn't made me a small fortune, and it never will, but over the years it's been instrumental as a foundation to justify paid work elsewhere.

I'd be all the poorer for not having DMD around as a place that's "100% me" online, that's for sure. I just hope you've enjoyed reading most of the 7,000 posts I've written since March 2006, and you don't feel too bad about how things have gone, or where they might be headed.