Duncan Riley> I’m never one to mince words, so I’m getting straight to it: the geek bloggers are in decline and there is very little they can do about it. But before the flames start let me explain further because I’ve been tossing up the title of this post for about 24 hours, some of the other titles included: time for the geek bloggers to get a reality check, and 3G the new blogging generation. All 3 titles sum it up.
Geek blogging is in decline. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Feedster 500 or Technorati 100 today and compare it to the Technorati Top 100 over the last few years. Take a look back in time to the top 10 in the Techorati Top 100 on November 26, 2002 and you’ll see the generation of founding geek bloggers dominating the list: Doc Searls, Dave Winer…fast forward a year and things have started to change. Take a look at the list today…
The Three Generations
Blogging has essentially developed in waves or generations, each of which was notable for the backgrounds of the majority of people entering the blogosphere at each point.
1G: the geek generation (1998-2002)
The 1st generation in the blogosphere was the geek generation. The founding pioneers that staked their claims in cyberspace and coded and talked about tech, blogging and other geeky related stuff. Notable amongst their brethren was Dave Winer, Robert Scoble, Doc Searls….and a lot of the people attending “Foocamp” and “Basecamp” and other strange gatherings the weekend just gone. I’d dont agree with the BlogHer crowd on a lot but I will on this point: the geek bloggers tend to be insular and link to each other. Take a look at how many times Dave Winer has mentioned and linked to Robert Scoble in the last week for example. Where we do diverge however is that the BlogHer crowd think that the geek bloggers are the A-List, but they aren’t exclusively any more. Sure, they’re the older statesman on the blogosphere, but they no longer dominate the so-called A-List the way they once did.
2G: the extrovert generation (2002-2004)
Labels are always hard to apply but I can think of no other tag for the second generation of bloggers, because in 2002 its was a damn site harder to set up a blog than it is now, and only those determined to join the blogosphere because they wanted their voices to be heard did. 2G bloggers are extroverts. They may have marketing or management backgrounds (like me), strong political backgrounds or beliefs (2002-2004 really saw the explosion of the political blogosphere in particular), journalism or artistic backgrounds…dig deep enough into the vast majority of people who got into blogging during this time and you’re going to find some level of extroversion: a desire to speak out and be heard and a desire and need to be listened to (or more correctly read by). The champions of the 2G generation are difficult to pinpoint because unlike 1G there are sooooooo many more people influencing and leading at different levels. Although some may have been blogging prior to this period, they don’t represent the first generation because although some may occasionally display geek tendencies (I’m pointing at you Calacanis!) they write for a large audience. In politics Kos and Michelle Malkin, Denton and Calacanis, and for that matter any number of Weblogs Inc’s writers.
3G: the consumer bloggers (2005+)
You know I chuckle when I see articles discussing whether blogging has gone mainstream or not because its as though the people writing such nonsense must be so insular as to not see a thing that’s going on around them, because blogging has gone mainstream, and 3G bloggers are flooding into the blogosphere at the rate of millions per week. This generation of bloggers is different to the past two generation of bloggers because the geek companionship of the 1st generation and the extroversion that drove the 2nd generation has been replaced by a sense of normality. Most new bloggers blog because they can, because others are, and because to many people (perhaps more so amongst younger people, and in particular amongst teens) having a blog is now regarded as a normal behaviour, just like having an email address and mobile phone are normal as well. For me the dawning of the consumer generation was MSN Spaces, because (perhaps much to the delight, or even credit of Mike Torres) Spaces works, and despite the initial limitations on launch I’d noted at the time Microsoft once again displayed an amazing ability to get inside the head of the average person and deliver a product they would use.
The insularity problem
As I’ve mentioned earlier 1G bloggers are insular, and its their own insularity that has lead to their current decline, and will continue to do so. I suppose the whole issue of insularity struck me last week when I wrote in support of Microsoft’s stance on RSS. There wasn’t a lot of user feedback but what was left was generally in support on my argument. Perhaps of note outside of the Blog Herald fellow 2G blogger and search engine afficianado Nick W (yes Nick I know you’re going to hate the tag) over at Threadwatch agreed. So a Pom and an Aussie agreeing on something may be a rare occurrence some days, but there’s truth in this, because Nick sees it from the same way as I see it, and that’s without the geek glasses that are clouding the views of the 1G bloggers. And the biggest set of geek glasses is currently resting on the heads of Robert Scoble and Dave Winer. I suspect that Dave’s understanding of the real world outside of his little car trips and regular meetups with other geeks means that he has long since lost touch with the reality of ordinary people, but I expected better from Scoble. But unfortunately his masters apprentice is starting to show all the signs of being engulfed by the same blind, geek coloured view of the world that his former employer has. He might have recently taken some time off, but since his return its gotten worse. Geek dinners, camps…if you want to understand real people and real markets you’ve got to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds and in different realities, where as Scoble is immersing himself seemingly within the same safety zone of geek culture from which he originally emerged and gained his fame years ago when the blogosphere was but young.
I could talk about this all day, but when I eventually get around to organising a Blogging Conference here in Australia next year I still want Scoble as a guest speaker, so I’ll stop now, but you get my point. Although not everyone is a huge fan of Steve Rubel (I’d note that I am, although I can sympathise with some of the gripes at Threadwatch over the using of marketing speak) Steve’s a great representative of the 2nd generation of bloggers having become less insular because as somebody in PR and marketing it’s literally his job to understand the minds of other people, because he’s literally paid to sell to them, and selling involves understanding your market. Calacanis, despite his occasional geek indulgences, gets this to, because the majority of the Weblogs Inc., network, particularly after the first dozen or so blogs, have been primarily aimed at a more universal audience. Why is Engadget so popular? because it brings tech and gadgets to the masses and it doesn’t aim directly at geeks only (sure, geeks can and do like Engadget, but I’d argue the format and language delivers a more diverse audience then say even Slashdot).
Can the geek bloggers be saved?
Saving is probably not the right word, because there is always going to be a market place for the Dave Winer’s of this world, its just that their audience will continue to shrink in relation to market share in comparison to other existing, and yet to be written blogs. 3G bloggers aren’t going to be interested in Winer driving a car and finding free internet access, nor Scoble playing with alpha technologies with other geeks whilst seemingly camped out in someone’s office. They are going to be reading Weblogs Inc., sites and Gawker Media sites, and hopefully Weblog Empire sites as well. They will be looking at more general, non geek culture blogs, like Shai Coggins amazing array of topics on the About Weblogs Network, topics that couldn’t be further from geek culture if they tried. They are going to read Jay Brewer’s Blogpire Blogs, and Shiny Media’s blogs, and they are going to read millions of other blogs as well, blogs that talk in the same language as they do and aren’t obsessed with geek culture, geek terminology and a insular geek viewpoint of the world.
End note: Some people may think I’m bagging geek culture, but I’d like to note that I’m not. Geek culture never had a strong basis in popular culture here in Australia as it did in say the United States so perhaps I’m considering this from a different perspective, but I suspect if I’d grown up in the States I’d probably be a geek as well, I read Slashdot, I put together computers and play with Linux Distro’s for fun, and my wife keeps yelling at me because my home grown PVR wont play VCD’s from within Media Portal (and if none of this makes any sense then its point taken). From a marketing perspective though I understand that what I write about, particularly here at the Blog Herald, has got to aim to be as universal as possible. Sometimes I can tend to be a little insular, but I recognise it and I look to challenge this, the 100 blogs in 100 days is part of this process as well. It’s sensible advice. If you want to sell to as many people as possible you need to be able to empathize with them, and empathy is best learnt through interaction and experience.