broadsideblog

Is Blogging A Dying Art?

In behavior, Media on June 27, 2010 at 9:45 am
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Image via CrunchBase

An interesting piece from The Economist:

Signs are multiplying that the rate of growth of blogs has slowed in many parts of the world. In some countries growth has even stalled.

Blogs are a confection of several things that do not necessarily have to go together: easy-to-use publishing tools, reverse-chronological ordering, a breezy writing style and the ability to comment. But for maintaining an online journal or sharing links and photos with friends, services such as Facebook and Twitter (which broadcasts short messages) are quicker and simpler.

Charting the impact of these newcomers is difficult. Solid data about the blogosphere are hard to come by. Such signs as there are, however, all point in the same direction. Earlier in the decade, rates of growth for both the numbers of blogs and those visiting them approached the vertical. Now traffic to two of the most popular blog-hosting sites, Blogger and WordPress, is stagnating, according to Nielsen, a media-research firm. By contrast, Facebook’s traffic grew by 66% last year and Twitter’s by 47%. Growth in advertisements is slowing, too. Blogads, which sells them, says media buyers’ inquiries increased nearly tenfold between 2004 and 2008, but have grown by only 17% since then. Search engines show declining interest, too.

People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs’ monopoly.

I am about to start a new blog, for an Australian website, on women and work (only twice a month, luckily) and have been sadly neglecting/ignoring the blog I began at theopencase.com, which covers crime.

How much can anyone have to say?

Blogging, for me, has a number of challenges:

1) I need to be paid for my work and most blogs don’t pay; 2) I need what I say to be intelligent, amusing, helpful. I don’t feel that everything I think is worth posting. That slows my production. 3) There is an insatiable quality to blogging, the feeling that you have to be on top of your issues all the time which (see point 1) is lovely if you’re independently wealthy and can take lots of unpaid time to opine on-line or you are OK shooting your mouth off and knowing it’s out there for all sorts of people to see; 4) people whose opinions can make a difference to my career are reading this stuff. Which is good. It’s very flattering indeed to see some of the links to major websites that analyze journalism, but it reminds me that I need to be thoughtful — not just fast or first.

This blog began July 1, 2009 and this is my 844th post. Crazy. I’m pooped!

I don’t think I’m that fascinating, so the frequency isn’t a reflection of my ego, and need to be heard (which it may well look like!) but my desire to hit the numbers I needed — 5,000 or 10,000 unique visitors per month — to reach my T/S bonuses. My best month was May, with more than 15,000. That was pocket change to people like Matt Taibbi, but a lot for me.

Today, more people are tweeting or using Facebook to communicate their own thoughts and personal data, while blogs are becoming niche or micro-niche areas of specialty, like the one referenced in that story from Sweden on how to paint your house.

Now I’m becoming even more of a dinosaur…if I used to be Stegosaurus (being a generalist in a hyper-specialized medium) I’m starting to feel like a trilobite…primordial ooze, even.

I still read very few blogs, but I do read Facebook several times a day, and have found many items I use here — like this one — from others’ posts there. I have FB friends in Bhutan, Paris, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and many of them are fellow journos or photographers, people traveling or noticing fun stuff. A few (sigh) are endless, tedious self-promoters.

I’ll soon start tweeting (saying what exactly?!) as instructed by the publicist for my book publisher. I need to (further) build a set of readers eager, one hopes, to reach for my retail book when it appears next spring. I wouldn’t tweet unless ordered to do so. But this is the new world. Many writers now spend as much time, sometimes more, publicizing their work than actually producing it.

Do you spend more time now on Facebook and Twitter than reading or writing blogs? Why?

  1. Still no Facebook or Twitter account. Kingdom Eukaryote, reporting for duty.

  2. Doug, you do realize I had to look this one up? How do you pronounce it?!

    Why have you chosen to avoid Facebook? I finally succumbed about six months ago, at the sweetie’s urging, as I had been devoting (why?) all my online time to (zzzzzzzz) LinkedIn, surely the most boring place on the planet. He has a ton of friends (all professional) and I have 203, and have turned down many invites — and have also linked there to two commenters here.

    Much of the time, I enjoy FB. Twitter gives me the shivers.

  3. Remember anyone who speaks out is danger to dictators like obama, pelosi, reid….in the long run it doesn’t matter what side you are on to them….if you speak out, you are a potential threat to a dictator………they prefer a country of the timid and pacified….while they do their dirty work

  4. “You carry oat,” I had a facebook account with highest possible privacy setting for 1 day in which virtual strangers invited me to friend them. It gave me the willies. Twitter doesn’t frighten me, I just haven’t figured out why I would want it. I mean, I’ve been told why I would want it but I think that must have been in Greek or Amhara.

  5. Hmm. It’s interesting the article you cite doesn’t make a distinction between “professional” blogging–i.e. people like you who publish blogs like a newspaper would publish a column or businesses that use blogs to either publish press items or comment on their own industry or trends affecting their industry–vs. the average joe who just wants to share their personal adventures, with or without pictures. I think it’s true the latter is waning because Facebook does all that without the time investment, but I don’t think professional blogs are waning at all. In fact, most businesses these days are using a combination of all three techniques–blogs, Facebook, and Twitter–to promote their businesses or content. Social networking is evolving so quickly, it will never be an either/or scenario, but rather a combination of many techniques. Keep in mind your goal shouldn’t just be unique users, but having those users share your contents on other platforms.

  6. doug, that’s really interesting. You must be so much more attractive than I!

    I’ve been asked to friend a number of people I don’t know personally (we know people in common) and sometimes I agree. But I have no personal info on my profile. I don’t get why anyone would, actually share that. Your friends know you….and everyone else doesn’t.

    Twitter scares me only because it demands more of my time and attention and it’s public. Unless you feel compelled to use it to build your audience/business, why would you?

  7. imho, I know you’re right…my goal should be spreading my seed intellectually in this fashion. I know some people spend a lot of time and energy so doing. For a variety of reasons (time, energy, modesty) I don’t. If people want to link, cool. I feel strongly this needs to be organic.

    I also agree that blogging isn’t binary. I am hoping some day to “ghost blog” for a few well-paid corporate, etc. clients — anyone? — and write their blogs for them.

    • I agree with imho. For people who want to connect personally, the new options make more sense and might even relieve the stress that might come with the idea that my dumb ass, Andrew Sullivan and Caitlin Kelly are all nominally doing the same thing.

      Since I don’t know Twitter, I don’t know how much time it takes to maintain but with a 140 character limit, it shouldn’t be too demanding. Or do I have that wrong?

  8. Blogging is too much like writing (and reading) for many cruisers of cyberspace. So, it’s good that we have moronic, two-word forums for such challenged types. This way, they can non-communicate and non-create all they want, leaving more room for those of us blessed with the ability to create and convey. Blogs are way too advanced a medium for most people, but, so long as they were the latest thing, everyone was trying his or her no-talent hand at them. Thank God we have a place for simple minds to make lists of things they “like,” and to leave comments like “Ha!” and “(-:”, and share their favorite whatever, and start clubs for people who “like” the same things they “like,” etc. With the children in another room, maybe we adult bloggers can get some things done.

    Good riddance. No, great riddance.

  9. savio, thanks…so for you this is a natural, and desired, evolution? I am still a print person, consuming 80%+ of my news and information in print or broadcast, maybe because I have so much writing to do at a screen. It is also, I admit, from the paucity of truly compelling material I’ve (yet) found on-line.

    I am OK with FB posts (hate these things you’re supposed to “like” en masse, though) as they are so brief they take very little bandwidth to enjoy or process.

    Doug, I was amazed to see how many blogs you write…Where do you find the time?

    • “so for you this is a natural, and desired, evolution?”

      Absolutely. Regarding my harsh tone toward those who blog (or visit blogs) without much regard for the medium–this comes from years of fielding complaints from people who expect my music blog to be a faceless (and, of course, free) music link and nothing more or less, with my very presence as a blogger almost unwelcome, save to the extent that I’m to be on hand at all times to honor requests and/or (this is the worst) tell people where they can find such and such an album or track. You see, not only am I required, sans pay, to keep five years’ worth of my own mp3 posts current WHILE honoring requests, I’m required to do the Googling work of others. If you haven’t experienced this aspect of blogging, rest assured I am not exaggerating.

      Meanwhile, I’m not allowed to have opinions. People threaten to go elsewhere when things get too literary at my weblog (too loggy?). In effect, if I annoy them too much by being me, they’ll just take their mooching someplace else, thank you.

      I thought I’d experienced chutzpah in my time on Earth, but I hadn’t blogged.

      I’ve definitely noticed the tone changing in the blogosphere in this post-peak period. For the better, that is. I assume this is because those leavers of Caveman comments (“link broke fix”) and such are happier in an environment of far fewer words and even less punctuation, where they can find instant gratification in terms of images and sounds. It’s a world ideally fitted to their limited ambitions.

      I imagine my attitude will get nicer the more I don’t have to deal with people criticizing my blog for being a blog….

  10. Anyone who could write this delightful metaphor — “Now I’m becoming even more of a dinosaur…if I used to be Stegosaurus (being a generalist in a hyper-specialized medium) I’m starting to feel like a trilobite…primordial ooze, even.” — has proved that she is in absolutely no danger of obsolescence or extinction. Kudos!!!

  11. Thanks! Time to meet up for a little post-book celebration soon.

  12. doug, I can certainly see how much time one can save by using FB and Twitter to tell your peeps what you’re up to…But using a blog for that would be stupid and silly, in my view.

    I don’t fear 140 characters. I fear saying stupid shit. I shook like a leaf July 1, 2009 when I posted my first post here. I was scared to death. I’m no fan of public humiliation….you know the saying…better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt?

    • Oh, a lot of people use blogs to keep people up to date and an RSS feed probably makes that no sillier than doing so on Facebook (although clunkier.) I expect it’s the bright line between social networking and writing that makes the difference.

      But I’d say you passed the fool test on your blog, by not being proven one with your digital mouth wide open. So why fear Twitter? I’d say the evidence of folly would be pretty skimpy there. On a blog, it could be substantial and even conclusive.

  13. I am not on FB or Twitter. I don’t feel the world has a right to know what I’ve been up to every day.

    However, I do participate in many forums. I post all sorts of stuff all over the place. It gets me professional recognition, just as I get recognition for giving presentations at conferences.

    My goal? One never knows when the rug may get pulled from under you at work. I want to make sure that I will be able to land on my feet. I also want work to appreciate what I do. This is an indirect sales job that I can point to.

    Blogging is not old. It is the technological successor to the editorial. Most editorials are either concerning obscure or technical things, or they are very broad based pablum. The occasional smart, incisive commentary is worth far more than all the “what she said” bloggery that passes for commentary.

    I am aiming for quality, and specificity, not quantity.

  14. doug, thanks. I am only going to tweet because I have to for my book. But I just find that medium weird and…weird. I don’t think in 140 characters. Nor do I feel like enough of an expert on anything.

    jake, I see your point But I don’t feel that Facebook or Twitter are a compulsion, that I have to share…I find it fun and social, not the sort of carefully composed fabulousness I *do* feel compelled to post on LinkedIn, for example. I have a mix of personal and professional contacts on Facebook but I don’t post anything I would be embarrassed to have a professional contact know about me.

    I think it’s wise indeed to maintain a public professional presence.

  15. Caitlin, I’ve been recommended tweeting for building an audience also. The entire process makes me want to vomit. Without a backer pushing our work we become salespeople rather than writers. And I HATE sales….

  16. Welcome to 2010…No sooner has an author finished their manuscript, ready for a well-earned rest, than it’s time to SELL that sucker all over again. And you have to be all over it as publishers are not.

    I registered the domain name for both of my books long before finishing the book itself. There is no escaping the need to sell and sell hard.

  17. Twitter creeps me out. Maybe it’s the whole idea of being followed (stalked!?) by people who sit and wait for you to say something. I have a hard enough time updating my facebook page. Occasionally I have something witty to say, but most of the time it’s just something bland, like what beer I sampled this past weekend (bacon, don’t try it). But for my friends and family, who are in my friends list, that’s the sort of thing they care about. The Twitterverse just seems like something for celebrities, who’s stalkers, er, followers? hang on their every word and action.

    I can see where it has its applications and uses for businesses and those trying to get themselves out there, but for me, the average Joe, it’s just too much. I do read blogs, to get back to the original point, but again, I don’t write them, for many of the same reasons. I just don’t have that much to say on a regular basis that I think people would really give a horses behind to read. My rants tend to rave on, and I tend to have the same ones over and over ;)

  18. Exactly! I find the notion of people hanging on your every word nutty. NO ONE is that interesting — just because there is technolgy that now enables us all to blablablablabla all the time isn’t a good thing.

  19. As has been noted above, Twitter is for dummies, salespeople and children. When I was looking for work I took the advice of the android geekazoids at WebPro-whatever and got myself on LinkedIn, Twitter, and FB. FB has helped me with a pickup sports league I run but for the most part it’s “Hi! We haven’t spoken in many years (for good reason), but, you know, how IZ you, fo shizzle?” I friggin hate it.

    Twitter’s doomed, IYAM. The 120-char limit’s in place so that pointless dweebs can read their pointless garbage on their cells while they’re driving to their pointless destinations. I mean, other than that, it’s just essential to civilization, you know?

  20. I spend about equal time reading news from both blogs and social media sites. I’m 19-years-old, going on 20, and I like to keep abreast on news while away at school. Keep in mind, “news” is the operative word; it depends on the context (friends or global).

    I write for my local Patch blog (patch.com) and get paid per entry. It’s a great way to freelance and make some cash to pay my monthly BlackBerry bill and gym membership.

    I think blog creation reached a plateau, since many users create but never return to what they start. There’s horrendous retention, to the point of blogging sites sending out deletion requests to those who haven’t logged in months. There’s simply no “pull” without incentive.

    Finally, average users are finding out that perhaps not everyone wants to read about everyday ramblings and brain droppings. You have to be a credible, creative, and contagious source. Without a stickiness factor, there’s no reason to continue blogging for no one sans fame.

  21. esaeger, did you find work? Did social media help?

    mp817, I would never have blogged had I not been asked to do it here — for pay. The problem is now that T/S is ending and I have (not a problem, but sort of a problem) built an audience….now I get to work for free. I am not famous on-line nor was that ever my goal. I am much more interested in selling lots of copies of my books, and blogging as well when I can find time…and when I am not paid for writing, I don’t find much time.

    Unlike a lot of bloggers who love hitting that publish button, I write for money, not fame.

    • esaeger, did you find work? Did social media help?

      Nope, not at all. Actually, like anyone cares, I was and still am at my long-held current job and was just testing the waters for larfs.

      If anything it hindered my search: Social media futzing is the worst procrastination trap around. Just this weekend I was actually getting ahead on my business’s workload, and I decided to do a good deed and “Friend” the son of an old ex-GF on MySpace. So the kid has his fonts and everything set to either “black” or “almost black,” right, so I couldn’t find the stupid “Add As Friend”-whatever link. There went another half hour out of my life, gone forever, which could have been spent finding the cure for cancer or finding a nice wholesome Japanese swinger-wife on Craigslist. It is really just such a hideous waste of time, all that shit. I really only get angry nowadays when someone like my sister uses FB to tell me about a bbq or something rather than just emailing me.

  22. Interesting.

    If I clocked how much time I waste now on FB….oy. My only excuse, true, is that I work alone at home so my only socializing on any given day is an exercise class — or on-line. It now feels easier to communicate asynchronously (and it’s more efficient) than playing phone tag or interrupting someone’s work day.

    I live in the boring ‘burbs without pets or kids…so if I am not meeting someone face to face, social media has to substitute.

    What I do find really bizarre is learning someone’s activities on FB, or vice versa. I got stood up (unprecedented) by someone who was chatting away happily on FB before and after we were supposed to be meeting. Huh?

  23. Wow. Two themes show up loudly in this thread: 1) blogging is worth doing if it pays, and only if, and 2) amateur blogs are rambling, mundane affairs, for the most part.

    A very materialistic view of things, no? The blogosphere is a great place for scholarship, or can be. Free scholarship, yes, but scholarship. Those of us who value scholarship are willing to deal with the little-to-no-pay aspect of it. Clearly, in a fast-track context, we’re losers with a capital L, but some of us are able to make love of self second to love of art and scholarship and documentation. I think I was 10 when I figured out that doing important things and getting an important paycheck rarely go together. Nor have I ever associated fame with doing something meaningful. That is, you don’t achieve one with the other. So… that’s my take.

    • 1) blogging is worth doing if it pays, and only if,

      Yeah, I don’t particularly like that view myself.

      2) amateur blogs are rambling, mundane affairs, for the most part

      They are, sorry. For example, yesterday I did a screen-cap of a satellite map of the oil spill and overlaid some text with arrows that indicated precisely where Pensacola is, where the disaster happened, where Tampa is, what shiny parts were actually oil, stuff like that. If someone Twits something interesting, a necessity/mother of invention thing like that — which I did for my own entertainment before emailing it to a few friends and family — I’m all for it. But usually it’s all, “duh, gee, did you know that some PELICANS got OIL on em? I’m so mad blah de blah no punctuation.” Fuck that. It’s friggin stupid.

  24. savio, time to cool things down and clarify!

    I didn’t say amateur blogs were lousy — if they were, no one would read them. I am personally unable to carve out any more hours from my day as it is to find the great ones. I have no doubt they are there. I read a few by people I admire, and some of these are people who are professional writers. I won’t apologize for that, though.

    The issue of whether only blogging for money is valid is *strictly* limited to people like me who write for a living. It’s what we do. I have no appetite to write endlessly unpaid when every hour I spend writing free is an hour I am not writing for income — or seeking paid writing work — or enjoying the rest of my life. I just finished a 75,000 word book (paid), in addition to 844 posts here. I’m tired.

    It’s very clear to me that many (most?) bloggers do it out of sheer joy and passion and pleasure – either for the love of writing or finding an audience or finding and creating and sustaining a like-minded community. All of which is great. Do it! Enjoy it! Celebrate those who do it!

    But…people who earn their living writing are rarely eager to “give it away” after they have amassed enough experience and credibility to write for money. When I want to write without pay (never), I will do it for my book proposals, which are still a careful gamble on an idea that I and my agent feel strongly will produce income when the book is sold.

    Let’s be very clear here. I am not disrespecting people who blog without pay. I’ve done it. But it’s not my goal and I have other avenues to get my ideas out there, albeit going through gatekeepers and writing on issues they approve.

    • “I didn’t say amateur blogs were lousy — if they were, no one would read them.”

      Well, yes you did, really. You wrote:

      “But…people who earn their living writing are rarely eager to ‘give it away’ after they have amassed enough experience and credibility to write for money.”

      Compensated writing–real. Blogging–not real.

      You’re entitled to that view. There’s probably a lot of validity to it, depending on the blog(s) in question. What I do know is that blogging seems suited to my DNA, if not programmed into it, and I know a select few other bloggers who live in the medium just as naturally. We are able to excel at something that most professional writers simply cannot do worth a damn, and perhaps in part because they fail to recognize blogging as its own medium. If one sees blogging as surrogate newspaper work, or as a great place to put a book blurb, or as something that needs to stay current in order to have any meaning–then you don’t get the medium. By “you,” I mean anyone.

      Blogging is a new form of popular expression. As such, it will NEVER be respected in or by the world of professional journalism, where contempt for the everyday seems to be the tribal code that bonds. Because of that, I’m looking forward to a mass exodus of real writers back to real writing. And, given the sheer modern influence of cyberspace, that can only happen in, on, and around the Net. So, naturally, I’m hoping that the Internet evolves to the point of usefully and honestly replacing real-life print. With the real-writing branch of the Internet separate from the blogging sphere. That’s all.

  25. I’m going to bow out of this one.

    I am NOT saying that only paid writing has validity; this is a fight you’re choosing to pick and one I am not willing to participate in — because it’s not my position. Work unpaid as long as it pleases you to do so. People like me made a decision in college to work as writers for pay. I don’t need to defend that decision any more than a professional drummer who is being attacked or questioned by a basement garage band for his or her decision to work for money, not bang the skins only for amusement and pleasure.

    In all fields of endeavour, there are amateurs and there are professionals; amateurs do it for lve (the derivation of the word) and pro’s for coin. It’s up to blog and print readers to decide which they prefer; many enjoy both.

    “As such, it will NEVER be respected in or by the world of professional journalism, where contempt for the everyday seems to be the tribal code that bonds. Because of that, I’m looking forward to a mass exodus of real writers back to real writing.”

    savio, give it up. There is no “tribal code that bonds” just as here is no one world of “professional journalism.” Whatever contempt professional writers hold for bloggers is not journalism vs. bloggers, per se, but our wish to see more accurate, intelligent work in any medium. If bloggers are producing that, which they clearly are, terrfic. What’s the beef here?

  26. The problem with “deciding to write for pay” is that you have to write what will sell. Scholarship does not sell. If an intellectual with good writing skills cannot get an academic job, there is little for her/him on either the Internet or in publishing unless he/she is very lucky or (usually) very well connected. There are many blogs out there which allow such folks to communicate with one another and share their ideas and knowledge with others. They may not have decided to write for pay, but they are willing to share their expertise with others, earning their living in other ways. The job market for PhD’s in the humanities is miserable.

    Just saying.

  27. “Do you spend more time now on Facebook and Twitter than reading or writing blogs? Why?”: I have seen my time on my blog slashed, with my time reading other people’s blogs the same, and my time tweeting and facebook updating rapidly increasing. As to why, I was blogging on energy policy, and in a fairly conservative and carefully crafted fashion-as if I’m going to get hired by a utility company. I then realized I was really burning a lot of time writing & I just don’t like most utilities & I am doubting I’ll be hired by a utility! The blog is a tool to sell me. I’ll be picking it up again when I know exactly what the new sales pitch for me is! I adore blogs and I have a set of good to great blogs in my RSS reader where they compete for my attention with a couple of them being written by people I know personally. My tweet/facebook time is up because I got involved volunteering for a local non-profit and I rather enjoy the challenge of increasing fans. I am now into a 2nd facebook page that has exploded since it has several involved admins. and we have a very local and civic-minded focus. To note: Somebody is scoping me out for a job due to my facebooking, now. On twitter: this is an entirely different animal which I do not love. But 80% of the twitterers are in PR. If you are an author with a new book, you should be on the radar of the PR types. I have flexed to meet the new print models but I also completely understand your frustrations. Thanks for the post, and I’ll be looking out for the title of your book.

  28. keuka, the internet is what anyone wants it to be, in which lies its utility.

    Professional writers do have to write what people want — but I’ve managed to write much of what I do want to cover. Writing and getting paid doesn’t, per se, meaning cranking out commercial crap.

    carol, thanks for weighing in. “To note: Somebody is scoping me out for a job due to my facebooking, now.” That’s pretty cool!

  29. [...] »Is Blogging A Dying Art?« — 28/06/2010 — Stirbt das Bloggen aus? Dieser Frage geht Caitlin Kelly auf True/Slant nach. [...]

  30. [...] Is Blogging A Dying Art? – True/Slant [...]

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