On the State of Blogging

I’ve been thinking recently about blogging.

Not my blogging, but blogging in general.

I’ve noticed, from completely unscientific personal observations, that blogging is on the decline. Eight years ago, when I started up this website, it seemed like the rage. A journal… online! There was no reason I couldn’t have done that before; software (namely Greymatter) automated the process.

I’m not alone in my feeling that blogging has changed in the past year or two. The Economist mused on the decline of blogs last week, and their article confirmed some of what I’m thinking — but they didn’t quite explain why.

I should qualify what I’ve said, though. It’s not blogs in general that are in decline, because there’s always a need for niche and focused commentary on topics like politics, religion, writing, that sort of thing; it’s the personal blog that is disappearing. I’ve noticed that friends who would blog extensively about their lives have all but given it up.

The reason I think the personal blog is vanishing? Microblogging.

The person who would write on a blog about the ham sandwich they had for lunch — and have that post seen by maybe a dozen people — can instead post a Facebook status update or a push a tweet on Twitter, and have it read by perhaps hundreds or thousands of people. The investment of time in writing and reading is far less; yes, the message is more superficial, but it’s also quicker. And the advantage that a microblogging has over running a WordPress blog or using another hosted service is that the person doesn’t have to manage software; that headache is taken care of by someone else somewhere else. Hacks, comment spam, all that rot, is no longer a headache.

Microblogging isn’t a bad thing, and services like Twitter and Facebook have their definite advantages, like Facebook’s photo management. I do think it loses depth, however; blogs are searchable, status updates are not. (Or if they are, I’ve never found a way. But I know I barely scratch the surface of what Facebook is capable of.)

And going to back to my completely unscientific perception about the decline of personal blogs, some of the personal blogs that I’ve liked to read have become archives of Tweets. I do this myself, though I’m still puzzling out the utility of doing this; I have the Twitter archives posts suppressed so that they don’t ordinarily show up to the reader, which begs the question of why they even exist.

I tend to think that the personal blog may become a rarer thing, and trends are certainly pointing in that direction. It can be a difficult to write; I’ve gone through periods where I made myself write something, I’ve gone through periods where I’ve allowed myself the freedom not to write something. The great mystery of the personal blog is that it is personal, and an audience can be difficult to build — and even more difficult to sustain. But there is something unique about a personal blog — the heft and weight of time and words — that microblogging services lack and may never find.

There was, honestly, a point to this three hundred words ago when I began rambling this morning, but I’ve since lost the plot. 🙂

3 thoughts on “On the State of Blogging

  1. Mea culpa. I purposefully signed up at Twitter to use it as a LiveJournal client. For what it’s worth, it’s boosted the wordcount of my LiveJournal and made my twits tag- and search- able.

  2. Paul, please don’t think I wasn’t chastising anyone for archiving their Tweets on LJ or in their blog, promise. 🙂 Heck, I do it myself though, as I said, I do make it difficult for anyone to get to the Tweet archives. (The easiest way is through the RSS feed; I’d have to edit WordPress’ core files directly to remove them.) Rather, I had the idea rattling around my head for several days, and I just needed to put it down on paper. Err… pixels.

    And one thing I’ve noticed — and I’d actually take this as a positive thing — some people who archive their Tweets as LJ posts now post more consistently than before, perhaps because it’s an automated process. Writing is hard, writing at length is even harder, but the brevity of a tweet is something that is much easier to do, the barriers that inhibit writing are lessened. (I’ve written about the tricks I use to get around writing barriers in the past; it would be nice if I could just sit down and write sometimes, but there are things that get in the way, mental barriers to navigate. Writing isn’t natural.)

  3. I think you’re dead-on. I’ve pretty much all but given up on conventional blogging; I’ll do random music, pics, and minutia that I find interesting on my site, but for thoughts and what not, Twitter and Facebook have been it for me. I think I got to the point where I don’t think many people really read what I blog, so what’s the point? Or I just needed a vacation. I have to admit, I’ve been giving this topic a lot of thought lately and have thought about getting back on the horse…

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