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Is Blogging Obsolete?

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About a month ago, Jon Tevlin, a reporter from the Minneapolis-St. Paul based Star Tribune, e-mailed me about a piece I’d done last February on my blog entitled “My Blogger Burnout.” Seems he was doing an article based on a prediction that the blogging craze has peaked and is heading downhill.

In my burnout piece I wrote about how blogging had overtaken my life. Even though it meant that I hardly left the house anymore, I was hopelessly addicted. My burnout post was written in an attempt to come to terms with this, and to realize my “vow” to get out more and not let the seasons go by with barely a glance up from my computer.

As luck would have it, I’d just started blogging again after my depression-fueled near-hiatus of several months when Jon contacted me. I was able to honestly tell him that, though I hadn’t given up the blog, I was trying to balance it a bit more with my “real” (?) life.

My boyfriend BG, whose constant refrain when I’m at his place is to “turn off that stupid toy,” has long maintained that blogging is strictly for youngsters. He saw a report on TV awhile back that claimed the vast majority of bloggers are teens and pre-teens. Being a proud Luddite — and since he loves to tease, gloat, and otherwise torment me whenever possible — he takes great delight in informing me on a daily basis that my pursuit of the blogosphere is a childish waste of time.

I still find it hard to come to terms with the fact that there are so many folks, including those in the mainstream media (MSM), who dismiss and/or trivialize outright the overall impact of blogging. Doubtless some feel threatened by there being blogs out there that cover the political scene and current events more doggedly than the MSM, and report on details and phenomena they choose not to cover – or at least not with the depth and often obsessive ferocity that can be seen in the blogosphere.

Blogging also gets a bad rep due to such sites as MySpace, which seems to be a fave of child stalkers everywhere. And of course, it’s undoubtedly true that for many ex-bloggers, the novelty of the medium quickly wore off – especially if they really had nothing much to say.

In any case, I e-mailed Jon back and forth and asked him to let me know when the article came out. He didn’t, though, so I did a search and found it on the Star Trib’s website. It was a short write-up, but I’m happy to say that I got a fair amount of “ink,” so to speak. I can’t help but wonder if Jon was just too busy to notify me that the piece was out, or considered me such a loser that I wasn’t worth the e-mail.

The gist of the article can be found in this:

“The technology firm Gartner Inc. has announced that 2007 may be the year the blog world loses steam. Perhaps hot air is a better term.”

According to Gartner, as of last October there were more than 56 million active blogs (per Technorati), but on average most last three months or less. With more than 200 million ex-bloggers, it is predicted that the first half of this year will find a peak number of only around 100 million active ones. MySpace and Facebook are losing a significant number of users as well. Gartner’s prediction points to a likely leveling-off to at least 30 million active bloggers and 30 million “frequent community contributors” (whatever that means) worldwide when all the blog hoopla dies down.

Says Tevlin, “That’s still a lot of yapping, but consider that Google recently estimated that the average blog is read by one person. In other words, for most bloggers, that means your mom’s not even reading you anymore. The reason, according to Gartner, is that people have gotten bored with their blogs, or just found the responsibility — not to mention the strain — of saying something profound or even interesting every day just isn’t worth it.”

Although the piece — entitled “Bloggone!” — didn’t exactly make the typical blogger look too good, that didn’t bug me much. What did perturb me was that there were no hyperlinks in the piece — except for one to MSNBC — so no one could even click on my blog for a look-see. How internet-unfriendly can you get? Besides, my blog stats are so pathetic that getting a few extra hits from the article would have been appreciated.

In any case, I hope some of you will check out the article, as I’d be interested to know what folks here think about the supposed decline of the blogosphere.

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About Elvira Black

  • Only the true and strong will survive. The report is stating the obvious. A purge was inevitable and we’ve seen this in all sorts of industries in history. People spoke of the telephone and automobile the same way. Remember how many car manufacturers there were once upon a time? Lots. They could not all survive. If history is any indication, blogging is here to stay. Nor did I ever believe it was going to challenge the mainstream media. But it will help to change it – for the better. The real writers; the ones with a burning desire to create and write will make it through. Personally, I keep a blog not for my personal life but to keep my ideas and writing sharp. Freelancing is tough if not discouraging. Editors and timing stand in your way to a career. At least blogging gives you an avenue to house your thoughts. It’s far, far from childish. That sort of talk discourages artistic growth. A Blog can be a place to park your stuff until your break comes. That’s just one aspect of it. Nice piece. Somewhat depressing but I fully understand your position. Been there.

  • I’d say it had to reach a saturation point. Eventually everyone who would be interested in blogging would get a blog. But yeah, blogging everyday is tough and lots of folks will burn out. Then life will get in the way for others and they simply won’t be able to do it for other commitments.

    But I would think it is a very long way from being gone completely. Blogs have become very much a part of our lives.

  • And you what else? The mainstream media is paying attention. I know for a fact some local journalists peruse blog sites to get some additional info. they may overlook in an effort to get an edge. Some bloggers are pretty inquisitive. One local sports journalist clearly gets his info. from a soccer blog I read. Do you think blogs help to push the mainstream media? It seems to me in some cases they are complacent. I get the feeling my local paper has no incentive to truly enlighten its readers. They are too comfortable. And it shows.

  • Allesandro and Mat:

    Many thanks for your comments.

    I agree with you–the blogosphere can represent a kind of “survival of the fittest”–hence the TTLB “ecosystem.” Like a traditional journalist, the serious blogger/writer must produce quality content on a regular basis and (you should excuse the expression) “stay the course” in order to gain readership and credibility. And it is, as you say, “a place to park your stuff until your break comes.” In fact, the pieces you publish are in effect your online resume. For serious writers, this can only be a good thing.

    I think a tradtional media outlet that has grown “complacent” and exhibits “no incentive” will suffer in the long run. In order to continue to compete effectively, journalists cannot afford to ignore the internet altogether, even if they see it as a threat. But to witness mainstream writers highjacking from bloggers with no accreditation given is rather infuriating.

    I think that many folks will continue to use blogging recreationally, and I agree that it will continue to be a huge force to be reckoned with. Not everyone is trying to become a “professional blogger,” and as such there is no onus on the typical blogger to sacrifice their day to day life in the interest of maintaining their blogs on a daily basis. In any case, blogging is here to stay, IMO–there’s no way to turn the tide back now.

    Here’s some additional thoughts:

    Thirty million is still a helluva lot of blogs.

    It was inevitable that since blogging was something anyone could set up and do in about five minutes that lots of folks would try it out as a novelty. I’m sure most of us have seen many a blog come and go.

    When I freelanced for the MSM, it was before blogging had become a phenomenon. The hurdle then was to convince an editor that you had what it takes before you were allowed to share your ideas and viewpoints with others. You also had constraints and controls on your writing (deadlines, length, style, subject matter) that you don’t in blogging.

    Bloggers don’t face this initial hurdle. What they do face is “competition” of a different sort–namely, trying to have their voice be heard above the “noise” of millions of fellow bloggers.

    In both cases, “quality” counts; perserverance counts; and attention to the “marketplace” counts. As with most creative endeavors, there are many people who find the concept attractive, but not all will be able to pull it off successfully. Others simply enjoy blogging for its own sake, and the incredible opportunity it presents to interact with others.

    But the MSM has had to keep up with the digital world to some extent–if not, I probably would have had a very hard time finding this article. Since it was also online, I’d have to say that Jon Tevlin has become an online presence as well. This is where the two worlds begin to meet.

    When I worked in publications, I saw firsthand how the digital revolution radically affected the printing and typography business. In order to stay solvent, traditional industries had to adapt or perish. The same is now true of almost any industry, including the MSM. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t many papers experiencing a drop in offline readership? Any media outlet without an online presence is hopelessly anachronistic.

    I think the article’s slant was rather disingenuous, and I get the feeling that Jon Tevlin, like many others, stereotypes all bloggers as falling into the “Let’s see; not much to post today. Got up, went to the bathroom, ran out of toilet paper” variety. Like most stereotypes, there is some element of truth mixed in with the inevitable misconceptions.

    In any case, I think that BlogCritics is a dream come true for writers looking for a larger audience.

    Thanks again for the great comments.

  • Here’s another problem, if I may, is that whenever I see all these bloggers that ‘win awards” it’s rarely based on content. Striclty on who drives the most traffic. It’s a popularity game. I always see some cute teenager with nothing to say with thousands of hits based on nothing but fluff. So guys like Tevlin probably do a superficial search (because it’s impossible to get to know the good bloggers) and fall upon the popular sites which aren’t necessarily all that good. I’m not saying this is what he does maybe he did a wider search. As usual, the gems are hidden a way. Will the cream rise? I hope so. Blogcritics is a dream true. I pitched a similar idea (at the tme I did not know BC existed) to a contest. Only I had a different vision. But that’s another story altogether. I didn’t win. They went for the flashy tech guy with an incomprehensible idea that will probably not work. I digress. Conclusion? have seen several bloggers who write better (without the benefit of editors) and offer more insights than a great deal of mainstream journalists.

  • Alessandro:

    Yes, high quality content does not necessarily coorelate with popularity or hits–but isn’t the same true to some extent in the publishing world in general? Most writers–esp. novelists–have to endure countless rejections and roadblocks along the way, even if they are terrific. The publishing industry has become more and more about what will sell rather than what is the “best” artistically. There was a recent trend when publishers were signing on popular bloggers for book deals, but I think this has died off somewhat.

    Same goes for the music business, IMO–many bands that are much better than those who gain airplay may at best gather a cult following. The movies with the biggest box office numbers are not necessarily the best either. It’s all about the Benjamins, after all….

    The thing I love most about blogging is the opportunity for real interaction. If you write a newspaper article, for example, you may get a letter to the editor once in a blue moon, but papers don’t have the space to publish much of that. In the blogosphere, however, you can get immediate feedback.

    To me, the concept of linking alone is a revolutionary development in communications. Supply links of any kind, and you open up a whole other “world” to the reader at the click of a mouse.

    Linking and blogrolls make it possible for others to help each other out in terms of readership and attribution. In general, I find blogging to be much more of a community friendly medium, and that is something I don’t know if Jon Tevlin understands.

    I really found it a little perturbing that he didn’t link my blog, though he could have. To me that’s just basic internet etiquette, and to not do so seemed like a dismissal to me.

    I also think that the blogs he chose were selected because of their short shelf-life. The “slant” of the article was to prove the point that so many blogs fizzle out, rather than making a case for any quality blogs that endure. Again, the fact that he eschewed hyperlinks leads me to believe that he is not familiar with the ins and outs of the blogosphere.

    Jon did ask me for some links to other blogs that had been on hiatus, and I did provide them, but he used the other ones instead–I think that most of them were local to his area. I’d have to look back at my e-mails to him, but I’m almost positive I provided a link to BC and did mention that I’d writtten for NYC papers before blogging. But he didn’t mention that either.

    I recently ran across Pia Savage of Courting Destiny–a very popular NYC blogger with a very high ranking–when she wrote a piece for BC and I commented. We’ve been e-mailing back and forth, and she’s related how much effort was involved in staying in a high ranking position. Part of the formula is that you have to post very regularly, and she wound up blogging her vacations away as a result. Her blog is riveting, but now she wants to take things to the next level and is working on a book but not abandoning her blog. There are some truly terrific writers out there who just happen to be bloggers–and sometimes it can be a stepping stone to other opportunities.

    One of the other things that is usually necessary in order to gain rank is to comment to and link up with other blogs. Blogging is really not meant to be a solitary pursuit–though some don’t really care about all that.

    I tried a number of “tricks” to try to get my hits up. I’ve never been able to get a very high ranking, but what I am proud of is that I get a fair amount of return visits and comments. To me that’s more important, since some blogs with large rankings don’t get a lot of comments. The one exception was when a post I did recently got linked up by Gawker, and I got about 2000 hits within several days’ time. Still peanuts to many, but awesome to me.

    Anyway, I guess the point of all this rambling is that I think that those who persist and are good eventually get some recognition, but it can take some time. I really believe in BC because it’s a chance to write for a great online magazine that also gets a load of traffic. The irony is that there are quite a number of excellent writers out there–so many that it can be hard to ferret them out. But BC is a great way for serious writers to be seen and to build up an impressive number of “clips”–which is an absolute prerequisite for entry into the publishing arena.

  • sr

    Another great blog Elvira. Alessandro, your first comment was right on the money.

  • sr:

    Thank you as always, my friend. Now how do I win BG over?

  • sr

    Elvira. How to win BG over. If you love and respect each other that,s a great start. If all else fails wire Paladin “Have gun will travel or call Dr. Laura. Im the village idiot. What the heck do I know. BG, I tell my wife ever day I love her cause I mean it. She does the same. What a foolish women. Ruvy help me out. ELVIRA AND BG HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND. sr

  • sr:

    Wise words from a wise man! I’m half-kidding about BG. I know he thinks I’m a good writer but he’s a tad jealous of my computer (aka Herman the Mac). But we do love each other and tell each other so on a regular basis, so it’s all good. Hope you and your wife have a wonderful weekend too!

  • sr

    Thank you LADY OF SONG.

  • Thanks for this, Elvira. I wish I could copy and save this. 2000 hits -even for a few days – in the blogging world is superb. I wish I had that. What I find strange about my blog is that I have posted extremely interesting posts that do not get any comments. For some reason, they stray away from it. As a defense mechanism, I pretend it’s not important. Yet, on BC I get my fair share.

  • Alessandro:

    Getting those megahits was a surreal experience, but very fleeting. It’s not like all those people kept coming back again for more. And your blog ranking is leaps and bounds ahead of mine!

    I do love comments, though some people claim they don’t really care about them. Generally I’ve found that it’s easier to garner comments if I visit and comment to other blogs and respond to and visit anyone who comments to mine. But when I’m not up to it, that can get exhausting. And, like you said, BC is very comment-friendly–especially if one writes on hot button, controversial topics like politics or religion.

  • Alessandro:

    PS: I wasn’t sure what you meant when you said “I wish I could copy and save this,” so I figured I’d use it as a ready excuse to trot out a link to my post, “Touched by the Hand of Gawker!” that provides a link to the Gawker link (which in turn has a link to the post I wrote that generated the Gawker link.) Am I being confusing here? Thought so.

    In any case, the whole phenom makes me believe even more strongly in a concept that I gather Jon Tevlin does not subscribe to: namely, that links rule.