Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Blogging is dead, but have we fixed anything?

Google Reader is shutting down, but most people moved on long ago.

Blogging is dead. To the extent that it lives, it is dominated by professional journalists, writers backed by major organizations, or has transformed into microblogging. The original objective of an amateur form of journalism -- long articles written and published without an organization or editor -- has become archaic.

I have been writing on this blog since 2004. At its peak, this blog had about 10k regular readers. Over a decade, I have watched blogging rise and fall.

Nowadays, my posts here on this blog often get less attention that my tweets on Twitter. 140 characters that take two minutes to spew out sometimes get more attention than an article that takes four hours of thoughtful analysis, careful reading, and tight writing.

There is nothing wrong with people moving on. Professional journalists now use blogs to air early research or analysis that will later make it into a full print article. Companies use blogs to announce changes or new features. Many use microblogging as a useful means of quick communication. That is good.

But there was something charming about so many people trying to be amateur journalists. Journalistic writing is a skill; it emphasizes clear, tight, concise writing. That so many were attempting it and practicing it had a lot of value, both in the the skills bloggers gained and sometimes candid and insightful articles produced.

I find my blogging here to be too useful to me to stop doing it. I have also embraced microblogging in its many forms. Yet I am left wondering if there is something we are all missing, something shorter than blogging and longer than tweets and different than both, that would encourage thoughtful, useful, relevant mass communication.

We are still far from ideal. A few years ago, it used to be that millions of blog and press articles flew past, some of which might pile up in an RSS reader, a few of which might get read. Now, millions of tweets, thousands of Facebook posts, and millions of articles fly past, some of which might be seen in an app, a few of which might get read. Attention is random; being seen is luck of the draw. We are far from ideal.

Attention should flow to relevant and useful writing. I should see writings that are personally relevant and useful to me. When a friend does something I want to know about, when a colleague reads an article I should read too, when a company announces a useful change to a product I use, when a well-written article important for my work is published from a reputable source, when a major event occurs in the world, those should be brought to my attention.

Blogging wasn't that, but neither is microblogging. We need to build something that focuses our attention, improves our communication, and finally solves the problems blogging and microblogging failed to solve.

7 comments:

Barry Kelly said...

Writing is important. Essays have a bigger impact in the longer term, in shaping ideas, that any number of tweets.

Tweets are more for drawing attention to shiny things; marketing that works best when directed towards things that have cheap payoffs, like funny pictures.

I agree that blogging is dead, in so far as anything that is not growing is dead. My internet is much quieter than it used to be, I'm less engaged. But I'm also older and more economical with my time.

But essays aren't dead. Whether they live on in forum posts, Q&A sites, blogs, social networks, wherever; consistent, quality writing remains influential.

Joe Rotheray said...

Blogging is important in that it satisfy the desire to communicate and possibly get something off our chests. The only problem is that many blogs may not be read or gain any followers. What we are doing is simply tipping stuff into cyberspace and hoping for the best. I am one of those.
If what you write is interesting enough, you'll be read.

Roberto Liffredo said...

Personally, I was (and still am!) very interested in your blog.
However, over time, most of the content moved to Google+; and then, yes, this blog died.


I am still convinced the only reason Google closed Reader was to shut down a competitor to Google+. It was against the general strategy for pushing content inside their walled garden, and therefore it had to be shut down.

Markus Cadonau said...

I would say that individual blog posts (and their format) are still valuable to many interested readers. However, discovery and—at least for the average user—subscription management are problems.
I wish there was something that automatically selects what I'm interested in and what is personally relevant to me. Unfortunately, I believe this is pretty much impossible; I sometimes find random topics to be interesting on occasion and regularly read sources uninteresting.
But I could at least make my main interests known to a service; they fall into two categories: topics or sources/people. I could tell such a service I liked topic X and source A and person B. Or—better—topic Y only in combination with topic Z, topic Z by itself only by source C. I would then get personalized subscriptions to “blog posts”.

Bjorn Larsen said...

"Attention is random; being seen is luck of the draw. We are far from ideal."

Well said.

Kevin HQ said...

and so the conclusion is, if I'm right, we need a totally new platform between blog and mircoblogging one like Twitter ?

ReaderThinker said...

I think what is missing is publishers. As Markus mentions, discovery is a real problem. Most of the blogs I still read are two or three people banding together to blog (e.g. http://econlog.econlib.org/ ) It seems to me that great meta-blogs could (and probably do) exist. I've found infrequent blogs with a fraction of good content, but don't have the desire or ability to filter them appropriately. Automatic systems were supposed to help with this but don't seem to be filling the job (although perhaps they should be tools for journalists, who can serve the publisher role?)