Before Blogs Die, A Few More Words About Their Non-Demise
It looks, thankfully, that reports that the blog is dead are greatly exaggerated.
You probably saw the headlines over the last few days that blogging has declined, a phenomenon attributed to the fact that blogging is not as popular an activity as it once was, especially among young people, those aged 12 to 17. The research that led to some of the premature obituaries comes from the estimable Pew Internet and American Life Project; the research also pointed out that, others of us, like those positively elderly who are 34 and up, are actually becoming more likely to blog. Among 34- to 45-year-olds, the report said blogging is up, on a per person basis, by 6%; among those 46 to 55 it increased by 5% , and among 65- to 73-year-olds, it increased by 2%.
Those stats seem to speak more to the continued power of blogging than the reverse. The main thrust of the "blogging is dead" research (OK, I'm putting words in Pew's mouth) is that people have, to some extent, shifted their channels of self-expression to less labor-intensive platforms like Facebook and Twitter. True.
But some of those same platforms are showing their biggest percentage growth among somewhat older demos. So, in other words, the older you get, one could argue, the more you have to say, and the more need you have for multiple platforms on which to say it. Some online commentary calls for a full-on blog post. Some just calls for a quick tweet to share a link, and other moments call for posting a slideshow of pictures on Facebook. Well, duh.
The truth is that, for the umpteenth time, we're simply looking at the splintering of media channels, a phenomenon that is as old as media itself. When a new route to content distribution comes along, existing media is forced to recalibrate around the new entrant. So, just as radio slowly stopped being the medium for drama in the 1950s with the advent of TV, blogging is no longer the principal route to connection and self-reflection, but one that is now being used for its special properties: its ability to be a true publishing medium for the masses. Tweets and status updates are publishing, too, but if you really want to ruminate, rant or recollect, blogging is probably your medium.
While so far in this column, I've only focused on the Pew research, I've actually seen the last few weeks full of reminders that blogging is still very much with us.
The first signal actually came from Gawker, when it decided to drop the traditional blogging interface for something that instead featured the most noteworthy news -- a throwback to old media in and of itself. While some saw this as a step toward abandoning the blog concept, it's more a sign of its evolution, especially if your little blog has turned into a real media property. (The blog killers were out in force for the Gawker redesign story too; the headline about it from The New York Observer said, ominously, "The End of Blogging.") But my guess is that for the most part, the back-end for Gawker bloggers is just about the same; it's only the interface that's different. The immediacy, linking and comments that make blogging blogging are all still there.
Then, after I settled on this as a column topic this week, I got an email from SAY Media (the new name for the merger of Video Egg with Six Apart), giving me the heads up on the SAY 100 , a list of top voices in ten topics (irrespective of what blogging software they use). The list was curated by leading voices in each topic, such as Clay Shirky, Seth Godin and Jane Pratt -- like many of us, SAY is down on algorithms.
Granted, there's a strong business motive behind SAY's list, since the company's aim is to help influencers like these -- and itself -- make money. Still, it reminded me that some of the best things I read online are blogs, from AndrewSullivan.com to Mashable. It's hard to get the same amount of influence as the people in the SAY 100 without blogging; for them, Facebook and Twitter probably serve more as facilitators for growing their influence.
Then, this morning, I did my usual a.m. troll through nytimes.com to discover that the cover story of this Sunday's magazine is on the "Queen of the Mommy Bloggers" -- the founder of Dooce.com -- who seems to be making in the healthy seven-figures from what started out early in the '00s as a site that got roughly 60 visits a day. Dooce may represent the dream that many of us failed to realize with our blogging: the chance to turn ourselves into media stars who could leave the corporate world behind and make millions from uploading our thoughts. But, does the fact that there are only a handful of Dooces mean that blogging is effectively dead? Um, not on your life!
Of course, I write all this as someone who is toying with reviving her personal advertising blog, Adverganza. Maybe those dreams still persist, and my subconscious aim is to get you all to read this blog.
But the larger point I'm trying to make here is that media seldom die. So when you read a headline, like the one in The New York Times, which many people misinterpreted as the death of the blog, it's important to remember not to believe everything you read. Especially, (she said jokingly) when it's on a mere blog.