“Blogging is dead?” Are we still….? Really? Okay, okay, fine. Let’s do this.
I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall recently:
And I was so happy to see the comment thread grow like this:
Because according to some people, blogging is stone-cold dead.
For the last year or so, I’ve been helping people use basic principles of online storytelling to build up their blogs in audience-hooking ways – and next week I’m releasing a course on it, through the WeCreate platform. So you can probably work out how healthy I think blogging is, in a general sense.
But the question “is blogging dead?” is still worth asking – because the answer is complicated, and helps illustrate why the question is so ridiculous.
Here’s why blogging looks dead to some people, and why it absolutely isn’t.
1. It’s No Longer A Fad
When blogging really took off, somewhere around 2007, it went bananas. If you think the amount of blogging about blogging that goes on today is bad, you should have been around back then. But then blogs entered the mainstream – and everyone stopped asking what a blog was. This post at BlogTyrant illustrates this nicely, using Google Trends.
The fad is over. Now everyone’s just getting on with it, and turning the traditional format for a blog into many, many different things. (Eg. award-winning science writing for National Geographic? Check.)
2. It’s Not Special Any More
In the olden days (leans on walking stick, beetles eyebrows) it was enough to own a blog. Opening a blog was news. “People Come From Miles Around To See Man Open Blog!” Bloggers were special. Doors would be held open for you. People would fling themselves in puddles so you didn’t get your feet wet. Everyone wanted to sleep with you! Having a blog made you an online star, and let me tell you, back in those days, we had class, not like bloggers today with their low-slung jeans and their Nirvana LPs.
Now, tragically for us old-school attention whores, everyone has a blog. On WordPress.com alone, 56 million blog posts are published every month. According to this counter powered by Technorati, more than 5 million blog posts go up every day.
It’s just not a big deal to have a blog. Want yours to stand out? Do something remarkable with it.
3. “[x] Is Dead” Headlines Almost Always Mean “[x] Is Evolving”
The online media is obsessed with predicting the near digital future as a dire, miserable place, for obvious reasons (a chance to sound authoritative, existential terror manifesting as copy, the traffic that results when you scare the crap out of your readers, and so on).
These headlines are designed to get our attention. And they do, every time. Which is why they’ll keep being used – not because they’re accurate, but because they sound definitive and alarming.
Expect to see more of them.
4. Blogging Will Die When The Internet Dies
This depends on your definition of blogging (see below) but Jenny Lawson whacks the nail on the head with this quote:
Some of us write for a living. Some of us write for fun. Some of us write because we have no other choice because writers write always and if they aren’t blogging they’re writing a book or a journal or (if you’re anything like me) scrawling ideas of things you’re afraid you’ll forget on your arm until you can get home and jot it all down. That is what writing is about, and blogging is just one iteration of writing. Writing never dies.
If all blogs died overnight and the internet rumbled onwards, the whole cycle would start again because the human need to express itself with language is timeless. Same probably goes for animated cat GIFs, although that’s more of a surprise for sociologists. My point is, blogging is powered by the Web, by good writing and by great storytelling, and it looks like none of these are going away anytime soon, barring a really vigorous apocalypse.
5. Nowness Is Increasingly Overrated
Back when blogs were thin on the ground, you got attention simply by posting something that day. Now, as The Atlantic‘s Alexis Madrigal wailed in 2013:
It is too damn hard to keep up. And most of what’s out there is crap.
When the half-life of a post is half a day or less, how much time can media makers put into something? When the time a reader spends on a story is (on the high end) two minutes, how much time should media makers put into something?
The necessity of nowness plus the professionalization of content production for the stream means that there are thousands and thousands of people churning out more crap than can possibly be imagined.
Except, edit “thousands” to “millions”.
It’s not enough to be first. Arguably, it was never enough to be first, but now you can’t enjoy a boost from being at the front of the queue. Because there is no queue. There is a burst fire hydrant which instantly blasts everything into chaos. You have to find a better way to stand out.
6. Everything Must Change
If blogging is defined as “running a blog in 2007” then yes, blogging is dead and has been for years. Quoting Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram:
“…the spirit of blogging — the desire to share your thoughts or links or commentary with the world, in something approaching real time — lives on, and in fact is far more widespread and available than it ever was. And that’s undoubtedly a good thing (even if it has led to an alarming increase in noise)…”
(This is the same point that Jason Kottke was making with his post “The blog is dead, long live the blog.”)
What has changed is basically everything else. Because without change, the laws of diminishing returns kicks in, and everything good degrades into mulch. That means overhauling flagship storylines, changing methods of engagement, junking defunct business models, chasing new enthusiasms, following target audiences as they migrate around social media – and finding new peers. People move on to other things, or out of the game altogether. 95% of blogs still die because their owners never worked out what to do with them. But the ones that stuck around are still here because they doubled down on what worked for them, and kept throwing away the stuff that didn’t.
Like life itself, in fact.
7. “Blog” Is A Word Meaning “Anything New You Can Think Up”
Blogging is alive and well because lots of people are ignoring the rules.
For example, writing an entire book as a series of blog posts, for free? RIDICULOUS. Well, until it’s adapted into a bestseller, and then a Ridley Scott film starring Matt Damon. I guess that would work.
If you do something weird with a blog and it works – say, a 40-day dual-narrative dating experiment between friends – then you’ll be the next big thing in blogging. And there will always be a Next Big Thing In Blogging, awarded to the most imaginative rule-breakers.
I sincerely hope that’s you.