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Rotogravure printing is so consistent that color variations are rare, ink does not smear, and pages can be handled (and bundled for shipping) immediately.

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Indie sites known for cultivating first-person writing—the Toast, the Awl, the Hairpin—have shut down or changed direction.

Thought Catalog chugs along, but it seems to have lost its ability to rile up outside readers.

Of course, published a first-person cover story by Alex Tizon, with the provocative headline “My Family’s Slave.” But there’s a specific sort of ultra-confessional essay, written by a person you’ve never heard of and published online, that flourished until recently and now hardly registers.

The change has happened quietly, but it’s a big one: a genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared. To answer that, it helps to consider what gave rise to the personal essay’s ubiquity in the first place. In preceding years, private blogs and social platforms—Live Journal, Blogspot, Facebook—trained people to write about their personal lives at length and in public.

Karl Klic (Klitsch or Klietsch) modified Talbot's process in 1879 by using copper cylinders (instead of plates) for rotary printing and rotogravure was born.

Newspapers offered an efficient way to use rotogravure printing because of the industry's economies of scale.

Gravure printing originated in the early nineteenth century.

The process did not become widespread until the early twentieth century, however, when newspapers embraced this new technology.

One could “take a safari” through various personal-essay habitats—Gawker, Jezebel, xo Jane, Salon, Buzz Feed Ideas—and conclude that they were more or less the same, she argued.

While she granted that not all first-person writing on the Internet was undignified, there were far too many “solo acts of sensational disclosure” that read like “reverse-engineered headlines.”The market, in Bennett’s view, had overinflated.


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