3 Years Of Change: Why Blogging Is Not The Same
There used to be an interesting monthly publication put together by the guys behind Technorati called “The State of the Blogosphere“. This statistical piece used to give facts and figures on how many new blogs were emerging onto the scene, and the rate of change within a relatively new industry. I remember Darren Rowse always used to have a write-up on what the changes meant for us (us being active bloggers at the time). This was when I was in charge of Blogtrepreneur and when I was writing on a consistent basis.
The report lives on as a yearly supplement, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that things have changed since 2006; when WordPress was still a niched solution to centrally-hosted “Blogger” blogs, and microblogging was still a twinkle in Evan Williams’ eye.
After 2 years out of the game, and 3 years since I was “livin’ it large” in the blogosphere, I thought I would look back to see what’s gone wrong and what’s gone right, and to try and figure out the trends that have surfaced.
Chapter 1: The Rise of Blogging
The earliest stat detailing the state of the ‘sphere I can find is from October 2004, where the number of weblogs being tracked was at a paltry 3 million. Current figures from the top of 2010 suggest the numbers are now at around 130 million. The percentage increase is staggering.
So why has this happened? For starters, formal media like newspapers and magazines have declined in popularity thanks to large overhead costs, “old” content and lack of interactivity. The issue of speed and proximity to users is a large one – by the time The Evening Standard has written up content from the previous 24 hours, a new story may have broken on the internet thus rendering the newspaper out of date. Furthermore, as websites have gained popularity, the cost of setting up a space in the cloud has fallen to such a marginal level, that any Tom, Dick or Harry can become a citizen journalist without the need to own a printing press.
Try telling that to Rupert Murdoch (who incidentally thinks that Google is the devil in disguise).
But as websites continue to be seemingly complex, weblogs have dominated and have even outgrown their traditional meaning. The earliest blog dates back to 1994 and was intended as an online diary, a log of all things an individual did but online instead of in a diary. A web log if you will. This chronological posting of articles is perfectly suited to address the issue of “latest news” which old-fashioned media cannot address in the offline world. Thus blogs took off in popularity and the rise of easy-to-build platforms such as Blogger and TypePad made the transition even easier. Alongside software such as WordPress which can be locally hosted, this hands over control to ordinary users and has truly given way to the rise of blogging.
Chapter 2: Tweet, Tweet, Tweet
Back in 2006 when I launched Blogtrepreneur on a .blogspot.com domain, the verb “to tweet” would still have been frowned upon in social circles. But, the service has gained prevalence and celebrity backing, and now boasts over 100 million users.
How has this effected traditional blogging? Well for one, tweets can only contain 140 characters. This has given way to the concept of microblogging. In effect, long articles have now been replaced by short tweets which require less effort from the user’s behalf and which can reach just as large an audience.
Let’s not forget the battle for real-time search too. Google, Facebook and Twitter are locking horns over the race to the top spot. The advantage with microblogging services is that as soon as something happens, someone will tweet it. And you only need to search on Twitter about any local incident to find other news and reactions and information.
Has Twitter destroyed traditional blogging in that case?
I don’t think so.
There will always be those who revel in the thought of writing a 2000 word essay (*cough cough*) and sometimes a tweet on Twitter just doesn’t go far enough. However, expect a lot more noise from those wanting to voice their opinions over the world wide web and expect more services aimed at those too lazy to write full paragraphs.
Chapter 3: The Demise of the Linkerati
I’m probably going to sound like an old fart talking about the happy times 3 years ago. The truth is though, that people were a lot more social back then. Links were given out a-plenty, MSN conversations were the norm and the notion of “helping out a fellow blogger” was the community way.
Maybe I just follow the wrong crowd of people, but it seems that blogging has become more insular over the years. I rarely see posts linking out to great content and in general, bloggers are trying to self-promote more and are focused on giving back to others less.
Again, don’t quote me here and correct me if I’m wrong, but the demise of the Linkerati is in full swing. If you’re reading this, blogger of the past, give back to the young ‘uns around you and show a little “link love”.
And if you are a new website owner, don’t be afraid to build relationships with other bloggers, link to them, add value, and ask for link backs in exchange. Hopefully we can turn the trend on its head and become social creatures once again.
Chapter 4: Speed and Cost
There’s not much to say on this topic, other than the fact that this is a positive step in the right direction. Whilst the cost of domain registration and hosting is still rock-bottom for lower end websites, you can easily get more bang for your buck for $100 per month for high traffic blogs. As bandwidth usages have skyrocketed thanks to YouTube and rich media, the cost for bandwidth is become marginalised thanks to improved hardware and efficiencies in production. Thankyou techies!
Also, with due praise given to services like WordPress, the speed it takes to get setup online has rapidly decreased. 1-click installs are now the norm and you no longer have to get your hands messy with FTP, SSH and DNS issues. Nothing to complain about here whatsoever.
Chapter 5: Vlogging
Back in 2006 (yes, I know) vlogging was a very obscure word used only to describe those with a penchant for video’ing themselves. Other called them self-obsessed weirdos. However, the number of people making a living from YouTube is scary. Scary amazing. Comedians, musicians, parody kings – they’re all flocking to rich media and carving out niches and names for themselves. iJustine is a fine example of a video blogger who now earns 7 figures a year through vlogging.
It would be particularly interesting to hear from the “old-timers” – what’s changed for you in the past few years and where do you see the blogosphere headed? Is it all doom and gloom or should we embrace change?