There’s a new (or old) meme that’s brewing about the nature of popularity, A-lists, and blogging that’s a brewing over in the technology side of the blogosphere. I had some strong words about it, but it bears analyzing from a bit of a different point of view as well, because it raises a fundamental question that should interest bloggers everywhere:
Does the rise of social networking sites mean that this is the twilight of blogging?
My feeling is an unbridled “No” — because it may in fact represent the best opportunity to *start* blogging.
This is what I mean.
I love blogging. Its a fantastic online publishing medium that has an almost-zero barrier to entry. That is to say you can be up and blogging, literally, within 5 minutes. There are pre-fab blogging platforms today that are robust and give you many tools that even a few years ago, required some paying for, and even then, weren’t free. Not so today.
Today, the beauty is that anyone can be a publisher.
The downside? Its that anyone can become a publisher.
Including people who are writing for personal reasons, reasons of vanity, and others, such as people who just don’t have the perseverence, or the willingness to do what it takes, to create something worthwhile.
I strongly believe that sub-mediums like social networks and continuous partial attention services such as Twitter or Pownce will never supplant blogging. Oh, they might offer blogging-like abilities, and you might even be able to post *to* your blog *from* these services. But the former case is really a closed garden phenomenon no matter how large it gets, and more to the point, isn’t a publishing platform that you can personally and pragmatically have unvarnished control over.
And the latter is really about fomenting and distributing very terse thoughts, observations, experiences of the moment. I mean, how much can you meaningfully say in 140 characters? Things like Twitter are simply not about creating and developing well thought out opinions, nor publishing them in any meaningful way.
The fact is that with the rise of these services I am rejoicing.
Because, with respect to blogging, all of these services and applications are essentially creating a niche for the same people in whom blogging is not a good fit. As easy as it is to blog, it is even *easier* to join a social network that is robust, and where all of your friends and contacts *already* belong. And I think these kinds of places are a *better* fit for people who are looking to write and publish things of a personal nature, things that are purely for their own benefit, or people who just want to “try” out writing and publishing their own thoughts.
This will allow blogging to mature into the medium it was always destined to be, allowing blogs that remain to be voices that continue to be exceptionally passionate and opinionated, if not immediate, funny, intelligent, thought-provoking, or entertaining — because they will be written for people who learned, or who are dedicated to learning about blogging.
In a sentence, the signal-to-noise ratio will start *rising*. There will be more blogs that will appear to be worth reading, watching, or listening to if, for no other reason, than all the other “try-me-out” blogs will start disappearing.
And this is a very good thing.
Which leads me to think that there is no better time to start blogging than right now. Why? Because as the overall quality of blogs necessarily increase, the volume of competition will be less. It will actually be easier to be heard.
But the stakes will be higher. Expectations will be rise commensurate to the quality of the blogs left in your niche.
Its hard to know the magnitude of this shift. I think it will be higher in certain categories than in others. However, I think over the next 12-18 months we will see a real transition in this fashion as applications such as Facebook continue to grow and cross-over into the mainstream in their own right.
The bloggers who are left *now*, or who the bloggers who were at the start of the transition will be able to reap the benefits. They will know some real truths about blogging. Namely that while the technological cost is almost zero, there are other costs to be paid in learning about the craft, and these are not inconsequential in either number or in time.
But I think the benefit can be huge. Because blogging as a medium is coming to its own and is being recognized for all its potential, and if you want examples, look to some trail blazing niches such as technology and entertainment. Mainstream media *looks to* blogs in these areas for bleeding edge information and commentary. And I expect, over time, many categories of news and information will do its same.
Blogging at its heart, is nothing more than a means to publish a reverse chronology of events. But it has incredible potential because its also a platform to get your own voice heard to the web — and therefore, the world — at large, in a way that no longer requires any technical sophistication.
And in this way, we all have the potential to be publishers of one, with the audience being the world.
Social Networks don’t take away from that. They actually help it along by allowing would-be bloggers find a better fit for their tastes, or even a safe ground to explore how they’re able to write and communicate amongst friends.
So, is this the Twilight of blogging? Not a chance.
In fact, its a time of great opportunity. And if you’re willing to create something worthwhile by putting the time and energy into it, then blogging, like any other endeavor in life, will repay you back in spades.