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.

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4 comments about "Before Blogs Die, A Few More Words About Their Non-Demise ".
  1. Tom Francoeur from Communispace , February 23, 2011 at 4:31 p.m.

    Catherine - I agree with your analysis of all of the "blogging is dead" media hype. The best way to read the Pew study is proof that we’re all living in a multi-media and multi-channel marketing world. To reach your audience, you need to use a mix of social networking, blogs, email, etc. Some channels may be on the rise and some may be waning, but I don’t see any funerals coming soon.

    Here are links to additional opinion/analysis on this topic you can check out:

    http://bit.ly/hsLbuQ

    http://bit.ly/epVxAX

  2. Leonard Sipes , February 23, 2011 at 9:24 p.m.

    Are Blogs Dying? Nope, But they Can be Pain

    There is a new discussion as to whether or not blogs are dying from Media Post's "Social Media Insider" written by Catharine P. Taylor. The address for the article is http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=145558.

    In essence, Catherine states that blogs are not dying so much as they are changing demographics; younger people are blogging less, older people more. She also observes that, "...people have, to some extent, shifted their channels of self-expression to less labor-intensive platforms like Facebook and Twitter."

    My take on this is that blogs are a gigantic pain "but" they can create a meaningful relationship between you are your core community.

    I assist governments, associations and nonprofits and my work involves nothing more than telephone conversations helping others create social media platforms. I help them cut through the clutter and confusion and get them on the right path. I wishe that someone was there for me when I started our government social media site four years ago.

    For those that stick with it, their sites produce approximately 30,000 page views a month after 18 months and 50,000 page views with two years of effort. That's a lot of people exposed to your message

    What is clear, however, is that the blogging world is filled with endless negatives that drives many to reconsider their initiatives; this connects to Catherine's observation that people have shifted to less labor-intensive platforms.

    The people I assist are subject level experts who create hand-crafted articles with links to trusted sites but they are often beaten in Google searches by clearly lesser sites who know how to play the linking game.

    Responsible writers understand that good articles create good links but the wild swings in traffic indicate that Google can't figure out if they are a good or bad witchs.

    They understand that these things take time and also require some creative marketing, but they go to social sites like Reddit and Yahoo Bookmarks and they are accused as being spammers because they include links to trustworthy sites.

    During my interactions with social media site administrators they encourage bloggers to get to know the people on their sites and to spend time interacting with their communities. The bottom line is that penis jokes and sophomoric observations are fine but links to great sites are not. The message and emphasis is not on quality but time spent on their sites regardless of the content.

    For professionals trying to do good, inadequate page rank and traffic and accusations of being spammers these are discouraging events that cause them to lose interest in blogging. They have limited time and they don't want to waste it by interacting with the "less than kind" crowd in some social media sites. All they want to do is create good content and responsibly interact with readers.

    So Google and social media sites need to figure out the responsible stewards of the social media world. I would suggest, for example, that a link to a dot.gov site immediately gets a pass as to anyone's definition of spam. Others believe we need to return to hand-picked sites where it's obvious that responsible and original content reigns.

    If we want professionals to enter and continue to blog, the web world needs to treat them with more respect. Some social media sites like StumbleUpon ( http://www.stumbleupon.com/home/) are wonderful and provide a meaningful place to put articles. Many others need to come to grips with the fact that social media thrives only when responsible participants are rewarded for their work.

  3. Juli Schatz from Image Grille , February 23, 2011 at 10:02 p.m.

    Huh? Blogs are dead? I just told someone last week that blogs were replacing websites!

  4. Steve Schildwachter from rVue , February 24, 2011 at 9:41 p.m.

    Thanks, Catherine, for the article. The N.Y. Times is just the latest to pile on -- like they don't have readership problems of their own.

    To say blogs are dead, will be replaced by microblogging or will replace web sites, all miss the point.

    The larger point is that Content rules. If you have great content, people will read it regardless of how it is specifically delivered.

    This is like the people 5 years ago who declared the death of TV. Sure, the eyeballs moved to cable, and increasingly to online delivery. But it's still TV.

    Some thoughts of mine the last time this came up:
    http://admajoremblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/blogs-are-maturing-as-marketing-channel.html