Is This The Twilight of Blogging?
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.
Tony Hung is the editor of the BlogHerald. He is also a physician finishing his last year of residency in General Internal Medicine, and blogs at Deep Jive Interests , where he rants, occasionally, on new media topics.
Too. much. navel. gazing.
You make some interesting counter-intuitive points, Tony.
great article. i tend to be in agreement. everytime a friend asks if they should start a blog, i say sure…but only if they’re actually willing to put in the effort. if they’re not, or wishy washy, i say don’t bother. you’ll burn out in a month.
Having been doing this for a very long time, I’ve seen an evolution, not revolution, in how this works. From static, informational websites, to a growing increase in interactivity which rose with online journaling, to blogs which specialize in interactivity, and now social networks. All in just over 10 years.
That’s baby steps.
Blogging, as a serious medium, is really about three or four years old. It has a long way to go now that it has prove itself to not be a fad. This is not the twilight but we are witness the birth of blogging possibilities.
We have all heard the saying that “content is king” but I think we are moving more towards a situation where “context is king” and blogs will be the source to apply this context. People will always need a trusted source to put things into context or to filter through the information overload of this Web 2.0 world and help them decide what might interest them.
Social networking sites will allow these bloggers to reach out to an increasing amount of people and build up this trust factor, something that is very rare to find in mainstream media.
Blogging is just beginning to stake its claim. If anything, this more of a dawn for blogging than a twilight.
I totally agree with the post, and I should (not going to push my site here..hint)!
I get to read stacks of new blogs every day. Each has its own twist or take on a subject. Sure there are loads of bad blogs and yes, an “A-list” but if someone has taken time to create good content, the reward is in the comments and interaction with other like minded people.
First of all, my quote that started this whole bruhaha was taken out of context. I was NOT talking about A-list bloggers. I’m friends with hundreds of bloggers, most of whom are NOT on the A-list.
Most of my A-list blogger friends, myself included, are seeing INCREASES in traffic.
But most of my other blogging friends are seeing decreases. Even my wife’s blog is going down.
Why? Because the A list has turned professional and focuses on news that gets tons of links and mentions.
Everyone else was blogging for their friends to tell them what kind of lunch they were eating or their experiences with some car dealer or something else.
Well, guess what, Facebook, Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, and tumblr are ALL better places to share that kind of information with your social networks.
That’s why the traffic is going down for most bloggers, but not the A list.
Oh, and I’d count this blog as the A list. Anyone who I read in Google Reader and/or gets on TechMeme is defacto A list now.
Excellent insights Tony. I’m also bullish on blogging’s prospects. The *psychological* barriers to entry are also coming down, leading to a new crop of good writers in many niches.
But will people *actually read* the good stuff or will we do what we do with legacy media – follow the prurient nonsense which fuels the profits and saturates the system with garbage?
That’s an interesting observation from Scoble:
“Most of my A-list blogger friends, myself included, are seeing INCREASES in traffic.
But most of my other blogging friends are seeing decreases. Even my wife’s blog is going down.”
It seems like blogging is going mainstream, the big players are only getting bigger, but the small ones are getting shut out. People are starting to realize that small blogs aren’t worth the effort anymore. Turns out they’re not a good way to make money and building traffic is hard. It makes more sense to use the social network apps.
To Robert Scoble —
Hi, are you saying here what I think you are saying?
“Why? Because the A list has turned professional and focuses on news that gets tons of links and mentions.”
Only the people who blog about the news are A-listers? What about all those people who share incredible content and teach others about business? There aren’t only two camps, you know?
What Tony says here is significant:
“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.”
This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title is The Twilight of Blogging? : The Blog Herald. Thanks for informative article