The New York Times has an interesting piece taking a look at the state of the blogosphere and how blogging is in apparent decline. It suggests that blogging is being killed off by the twin assault of kids looking instead to Twitter and Facebook and existing bloggers no longer having the time for long posts.
It is odd to come across this against the backdrop of big media attention being paid in recent weeks to blogs as we read about the Huffington Post being snapped up by AOL and various other blogs (The Daily Beast and Newsweek, Techcrunch et cetera) making headlines.
The piece quotes aspiring filmmaker and high school senior, Michael McDonald, who use to blog, but now instead posts to Facebook. He says all the people he needs to reach are there.
Maybe I’m looking at it in a different light and use Facebook in a different way, but that social network has always been about friends, extended social groups and family. The network doesn’t give me access to a wider community in the way that blogging does. And while Facebook is fine for links it doesn’t really cater for much longer than a couple of sentences.
The same is true of Twitter. Neither are the home of lengthy discussion. They are great springboards. Great for sharing links (although many of the links I click on do lead to blogs). And I have noticed many who used to blog now simply share links. That is all very useful and sometimes you don’t need more than a link.
This change has been taking place over the last few years. Statistics from the Internet and American Life Project say that between 2006 to 2009 blogging among kids ages 12 to 17 fell by half while among 18-to-33-year-olds blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.
There are examples of this change elsewhere. Google’s blogger has seen US traffic decline (up globally) while LiveJournal has moved to focus on communities. That is real decline (and who hasn’t abandoned a Blogger account or three?), but alongside this there is also significant growth that suggests we’re not exactly seeing a decline in real terms.
Look for instance at the rise of Tumblr. Isn’ that essentially the new Blogger? A free and easy way to publish online, but also potentially much more significant than Blogger and with wider appeal.
Tumblr’s appeal is not just to the amateur, but to the professionals as well. Over the last year we have seen this blogging platform catch fire with particular reference to fashion, media, its use in covering the uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world and now more and more brands.
We also in this same time frame see a rise of hyperlocal and media groups using blogging. BusinessWeek, Forbes and Reuters among many others have all given over a lot space to bloggers.
Looking in the UK for instance look at how The Guardian’s Comment is Free has grown. Or how blogs have grown at the Telegraph. This is a pattern that is being widely repeated elsewhere. Blogging is shifting. It is also starting to generate cash (in some instances at least).
This all suggests that decline in blogging is not so much a decline par se, but more a change in language and evolving style?
Blogs like Huffpo and the like started out as sites that offered opinion, a personal take on the news, but have developed into very news driven sites. They still have opinion, but as they have grown they have developed into sites that produce and break news as well as comment on it. They now rival traditional news sites, which have in part responded by adding more blog type comment.
In the case of Tumblr the change is that those using it don’t necessarily see it as traditional blogging, which is for some closely associated purely with words.
“The blurring of lines is readily apparent among users of Tumblr. Although Tumblr calls itself a blogging service, many of its users are unaware of the description and do not consider themselves bloggers — raising the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.
“Kim Hou, a high school senior in San Francisco, said she quit blogging months ago, but acknowledged that she continued to post fashion photos on Tumblr. ‘It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,’ she said. ‘With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.’ “
Tumblr is rapidly growing as is WordPress, which won the battle of the blogging platforms and has like Tumblr expanded into content, shows that what we are seeing is less about decline and more about fragmentation and evolution where blogging is taking place across multiple platforms and where services like Twitter and Facebook play a part in that.
For some Facebook and Twitter is the be all and end all of it, but for others they are only part of the story as is dabbling with lots of different ways to output our words and pictures.