Tedium, Defined

A definition of the word Tedium, based on what we’ve learned from five years of building Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.

Over the past five years, Tedium has existed to answer a simple question: Can boring things be made interesting? Can we uncover the history of things that usually don’t have histories written about them? And can a voice be given to areas of life that generally aren’t thought about that much? It took us a while to get there, but the answer is yes. We think.

In late 2014 and early 2015, after ditching my old site ShortFormBlog, I started building out a newsletter concept that was unique at the time, and we started from a subject matter standpoint that went against the grain. To give you an idea—when I started with my newsletter idea, the original name was Snoreworthy, and involved finding texts that were especially long and dull and sending them to people.

I didn’t end up sending snoreworthy texts, but I did find something equally tedious. One thing I frequently hear about this website and newsletter is that it can be hard to describe. So, with that in mind, I wanted to help people understand the general idea behind Tedium:

If you like strange and unusual descriptions of common things, explained in extreme depth, the Tedium newsletter is a great place to look for those, because it’s what we specialize in. Rather than focusing on viral things, we instead write about things that would never go viral on their own, that need context and storytelling around them to highlight their importance. Sometimes, the best stories haven’t been properly contexualized. There’s room for someone to do that, and that’s where we come in.

We make a point of using obtuse headlines on Tedium and intentionally using “mystery meat” navigation on the front page, because we like the idea of people starting an article without fully knowing what they’re getting into. Because then, we know it’s more likely they’ll take a chance on that oddball piece. It goes against everything Jakob Nielsen taught us about usability, but in a way, it’s liberating—much like the internet first felt in the ’90s.

We sweat the small stuff, so you don’t have to. But if you want to, you can sweat the small stuff along with us. And plenty have. We have more than 10,000 newsletter subscribers, and some of our stories have ended up in places as diverse as Vice, Atlas Obscura, Popular Mechanics, Neatorama, and numerous other outlets.

With this newsletter and website, we surface stories that maybe fell through the cracks of time, that offer a shade of the internet’s wormhole that maybe hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time. Keeping an eye on what’s current is way too limiting when there’s so much interesting stuff out there. The long tail goes back thousands of miles. Let’s see what’s at the end of it.

So that’s what we’re about. Have any thoughts or concerns? Shoot us an email. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter. Thanks.

— Ernie @ Tedium