End of the Personal Blogger

27 Comments

In last six months, something strange has happened in the blogsphere – the increased marginalization of the individual blogger. There was a time, when having a blog with your domain name, or even a blog-spot or TypePad account was the way to go. Your readers would find out through word of mouth, through blogrolls or perhaps through RSS. But that was then… today we are in the era of where big get bigger.

Let me explain. Yahoo garnered a lot of good will when it started including weblogs into their My Yahoo content reservoir. Great stuff, because it was the next wave of traffic boost, for my blogger friends. Or so I thought. I have looked high and low but I don’t find many individual blows represented on Yahoo. Instead dominating the list are more “pro” blogs like Engadget, Gizmodo and scores of others from say the Weblogs Inc, stable. (They added Buzzmachine.com to the list of lifestyle blogs, but I wonder if JeffJarvis.com would have made the cut, all things remaining equal.)

Here is a list of Tech Weblogs on Yahoo. No mention of Scobleizer or Russell Beattie’s or for sake of argument my own weblog. Google News will willingly bring in news from known blogs, like the ones mentioned before, but not from individual blogs, even if they are breaking news stories, and have more content than some of the aggregator-blogs. Google News rejected my big to get included in their Google News program, even though they include other blogs with more “pro” names.

Advertising networks like Tribal Fusion decline ads on individual blogs, like mine for instance, but are happy to put their ad-network to work for EHomeUpgrade, which is actually a blog, and often uses my content. But what got to me today was the 2004weblogawards.com – absolutely bogus list if there was any. Here is their best media/journalist blog. Oh really! How come WSJ.com’s best of the web, which is more email than blog is included in this list? I did not see Mark Evans’ name, or JD Lasica’s blog, or Doc Searls. For heaven’s sake, he wrote the blogging manual for journalists. Media Bistro??? And no Doc Searls?

I think what you are seeing is the marginalization of the citizen blogger in favor of more corporate brand names. Pity, it has to be this way

John and Jeremy are having interesting conversations about this very same topic.

27 Comments

K

There sure was a lot of currency placed in the myth of the “democratization” of the blog, and the notion that Old Media didn’t control information any more, because any Joe Schmoe can start a blog. And yeah, that worked in the early days, perhaps, for Matt Drudge and Rob Malda and a few others. But New Media is now just behaving like Old Media, and the power of the individual is nil next to the gangs of cool kids getting all the attention.

But I was whining about this years ago.

Rick Brown

Has anyone considered that it’s still rather early to conclude that the final game plan has been decided by the big players? Just because Google isn’t leveraging many personal blogs now, it doesn’t mean they won’t develop a model to do so later. Google didn’t offer archived Usenet newsgroup content when they first added Google groups either, and the extensive archive material attained later from acquiring DejaNews wasn’t incorporated for months, but it’s all there now. Have patience and you may yet see what you are lamenting is now absent.

infomaven

My blog encompasses a fairly broad area — “How information technologies are changing your world” — but I’ve discovered that the titles of my posts really make a difference. If the titles are accurate and specific, I get traffic from Google searches, sometimes long after the original post appeared.

That’s where the idea of focus comes in, I think. It’s not necessary to restrict yourself to a narrow topic. Just make it easy for the search engines to find you.

Lois Ambash (aka infomaven)
http://www.metaforix.info

Om

Jason, like everyone else you are missing the point. its not about weblogs inc or nick’s company. it is about how the big traffic drivers like yahoo and google are choosing to do business (aka links) with formal pro-blog entities and not include folks like me and doc. i think that’s just plain wrong. my two cents on this whole thing. i don’t care if people make money – actually its a good thing for money is the real motivator in this whole thing and if that means better writing, so be it. anyway have gone on too long

Jason

Well, we may have 65 or so blogs but they are all still personal… they are all written by unfiltered bloggers. Sure, they get a lot of benifits from being the Weblogs, Inc Network (traffic and ad sales being the two biggest), but they are still indie bloggers. There isn’t much difference between you blogging all day long, Doc, or Peter Rojas at Engadget is there?

I think people are making a choice if they want to keep their personal blogs–well–personal, or make them generate revenue.

Also, our blogs link to other personal bloggers all day long… so we might have a fancy logo on Engadget or Gadling or BloggingBaby, but those sites need to have individual bloggers to link to. The bloggers benifit from us becoming bigger and getting more traffic to… I mean, a lot of folks are talking about the “Engadget effect” these days. If you get a link off engadget you might get 20-100,000 people in a day–that could represent $40 to $200 bucks in Google Adsense if you’re getting the average $2 eCPM of a tech site.

Things are changing… blogs are getting bigger, people are making money, and the press is giving props–but in my mind it is all for the better. Bloggers being able to pay the rent from their blogs means they can spend more time creating great content.

Then again, I miss the days on the Internet… back in 94 and 95, when you could basically spend 10-30 minutes surfing and see EVERY single new webpage that day!

David Burn

For those blogegrs that do seek traffic, focus is key. The web allows for niche reporting like never before. A print edition must recoup paper costs and the like, therefore its content must appeal to a wide enough audience to make that a viable proposition.

I’ve been keeping a personal journal style blog that my friends read for over a year. Then in October, to prove my point about the need for focus (and for a few other reasons), I started an ad industry blog. The traffic on my “pro blog” blew past my personal blog right out of the shoot.

Finally, all writers court an audience. If they honestly do not care about readers, they’re merely keeping a diary (and there are nice dead tree versions available for that very purpose).

Daryl

Om – I got your point that it was about professional sounding names, that’s why I said it was paradoxical that so many big news organisations have their founders names.

Overall, I don’t think it’s about the best “winning”. Blogs are interested in traffic and hits, but I’d tend to agree with the Wired article on the ‘Long Tail’ – there’s plenty of room for blogs of all levels of popularity to succeed, and the goal isn’t necessarily to be top dog…

On a tangent, some personal bloggers, myself included, are probably more interested in getting the “right” hits – i.e. hits from people with similar interests. Kind of like how the New Yorker’s circulation manager probably doesn’t aspire to the numbers of People magazine.

umair

Great post – something I have been thinking about a lot.

I think blogonomics explains this – response at the link above – enjoy!

Shareen

I think that blogging has finally become more mainstream. It has emerged from the underground and just like Starbucks versus the really-nice-coffee-around-the-corner, bloggers with contacts and other resources will emerge as the fittest to survive.
The fact that Sitemeter is instaled on most sites, linkexchanges, increased Google-savvy, Sex and the City-like blogs by women, show that individual bloggers are as eager for hits as their larger counterparts. So it isn’t accurate to romanticize the death of the little blogger.
May the best win, but my guess is that those will probably be the bigger fish.

Dean Landsman

The answer is in the clicks. (Hmm, that sounds like an early 60’s Phil Spector song, but I digress, you know, like I do on the blog . . .)

Google (the general one) spiders and finds just about everything. On DeanLand I get a few hundred hits per week from Google, Yahoo, MS and other search engine queries. I write a personal blog, commenting on Pop Culture, New Tech, Communications and anything else that pops into my mind and comes out of my fingers onto the keyboard then up to the blog.

There are a few Deanland links out there on blogrolls, permanently poised to be sending the occasional curious clicker. And the referrer logs show considerable traffic accumulating from these sources. Most of the blogroll clickthroughs come from Doc Searls, RageBoy, Frank Paynter, Jeneane Sessum, and a few others.

The fact that Google News and other services have ass-backward old paradigm or other such block-the-growth maladies that prevent them from being as inclusive as possible (they just love rules, and rules tend to manifest themselves as exclusionary principles) is just a peculiar aspect of the rules getting in the way of the game.

But the answer, as above, is in the clicks. Here I sit, your basic B-List blogger. But the clicks keep coming, people keep reading, and I keep writing. Am I a star, a household name, or, gasp!, a wannabe A-Lister? No, but none of those are reasons [for me, anyway] to be blogging.

I simply write out of an urge to do so, and have somehow managed to cultivate some semblance of regular readership, plus a good many unique/one-shot clickthroughs, and some people who visit on a happenstance or irregular basis.

Over at DeanLand I have been and remain a personal blogger. Am I listed in various directories or texpert (not a typo) listing? For the most part, no.

That I have been at it for a good few years and remained a (semi)regular poster of new entries explains how some places do, indeed, list me. Most of the aggregators have something about DeanLand, and a good many of the blogging tools that list blogs have mine in there.

We are in the day of the expanding the ever-exponential growth medium, this distribution method known as blogging. Add to this pages that are not necessarily blogs, but are updated and parts of sites where there is personal comment (much like blogs, but not bloggish, per se) — and there it is: items that will show up in the clicks.

RSS and ATOM add velocity and identification, particularly in the page- or topic- (even paragraph-) specific URLs created in the process. So there is a speedier chance of clickthrough on items with a permalink or RSS identification.

Again, to repeat it for the last time (but we all know that repetition is crucial for getting the point across — shall I say that a few more times?): the answer is in the clicks.

Personal blogging and bloggers are not gone. They may appear to be a lesser pecentage as more topic or professional area blogs emerge. But let’s not call the personal blog a dinosaur — or a chia pet– just yet.

After all, if the practice is fading away, would that make DeanLand chopped liver? Perish the thought!

Ian

If you think that’s bad, you ought to be a UK-based weblog owner.

Kanoodle, for example, refuses to consider my website for inclusion simply because I’m based in the UK even though the vast majority of visitors to it come from the USA.

Charlie O'Donnell

Most of the content we see on the web will eventually get streamed in some capacity, and the big guys will definately be able to show big numbers, but that doesn’t mean the individuals will be less important. Volume isn’t the only name of the game–relevance and proximity are important, too. Blogs are key tools for networking and the sharing of individual wisdom… in the same way that when you go to a tech conference, somtimes the most useful information you get is from the guy sitting next to you in the audience, not necessarily the CTO of a big tech company. You can’t replace the value of shared wisdom among practicioners in a particular industry, especially industries and niches where scale won’t justify a dominent entry into the space from the content perspective.

Erik Lane

I’m a personal blogger and I’m not real interested in being found in a google search or what have you and I probably have 2-3 readers at most…so what? I do it for me and it’s pretty neat to have a place to write about things that interest me.

Most blogs I read are of the personal nature. There are a few “pro” blogs I read like Scoble (how I got here).

Om

Dylan and Daryl, thanks for your insightful comments. I think you make valid arguments, but since I can speak from my perspective, here is what I think. So for news aggregators to get link some and leave others doesn’t make sense. either they make a standard policy around it – blogs okay, blogs not okay – and stick to it. but the issue and perhaps i was not clear is that blog with a pro-sounding name but of inferior quality is all right, and other with an am-sounding name with better content is not good enough. that pisses me off.

Daryl

Perhaps it could be the fact that the number of personal bloggers has exploded so much that somehow people have stopped trusting them as sources – and so the news sites in response have stopped indexing them? I know that it’s just a veneer, there’s no real difference, but for some of those people looking at the ‘source’ of the info, it matters.

Or maybe it’s just that these news aggregators assume that corporate-run blogs are filtered through an editor, and are wary of hearsay? Again, an assumption that may not be true, but that may still underlie the preferences.

What’s weird to me is that many media corporate brand names are actually just personal names: Bloomberg, Reuters, the Associated Press (okay, kidding on one of them).

Dylan

Sorry, but I have to ask the obligatory, “So?”

Who cares if your blog shows up in Yahoo or not? Or Google News? I’d be probably safe in saying that a very, very high percentage of bloggers could care less where their blog shows up in whatever directories are out there.

You say it’s the “End of the Personal Blogger”, but what do you really mean? Do you mean, “It’s the End of the Personal Blogger Who’s Goal is to be A-List”? Or, “It’s the End of the Personal Blogger Who’s Trying to Make a Living off Blogging”? If so, your take on why people blog is pretty skewed. I don’t have the definitive answer on why people blog, and nobody else does either, but I can guarantee that it’s not to get themselves listed on Yahoo or Google News.

Why does there have to be a “standard” for what kinds of blogs get indexed by news sources. Blogs got where they are by people doing whatever they want and specifically not conforming to a standard. Trends exist, yes, but they are fluid just like so many other aspects of blogs.

Lay down a standard for what gets indexed by news sources and all you get is another fixed media construct. People will break away from it and “do their own thing” exactly the same way bloggers have broken away from the long-standing corporate media constructs.

Alexander Grundner

Om,

What would be your solution? It seems that trying to decide who fits into what category is very subjective, especially due to the many variations blogs have taken.

I also agree that award sites like 2004weblogawards.com and the Webby Awards are crap. If they really wanted to do a good job in selecting blogs for a particular category, they should:

1.Let readers submit their favorite sites

2.Let users rank the final list and narrow it down to the top 10

3.Poll the users to decide who the winner is (’ÄúReader Choice Award’Äù) and have an in-house panel pick their winner from the top 10 list (’ÄúCritics Choice Award’Äù).

FYI – the Webby Awards charge Web Publisher $195 to have a single site considered ($150 for additional sites – http://www.web
byawards.com/entries/new.php).

Om

Jon you clearly miss the point. its just that if a blog has a professional sounding name, it is okay to be indexed by news sites, while its not okay for a personal blogger site. I mean there has to be a similar standard. I could not care less if they list me or not – i have my own audiencce, thank you very much and I have acquired them the hard way: writing stuff that matters. I think what I am trying to bring up is a legitimate issue that faces the blogsphere, as it grows up.

Jonathan Schalliol

Waaah! Whaah! Whaah!! Poor baby. Suprise, no one wants to read your personal stuff. Perhaps the plague will finally end. Sure, if you’re Stephen Hawking or some other famous person people care about, you’ll get readers in quantity, but why would someone expect that the whole world would be interested in “some guy.”

Alexander Grundner

Interesting take on the state of personal blogging. I agree with you that the sites who are getting the most publicity are the ’Äúpro’Äù or ’Äúcollaborative’Äù style blogs. The only explanation I can give you for this underrepresentation is that personal blogs tend to cover a wide variety of topics, dashed with personal biases and emotions, which may not be as attractive to the corporate types. On the other hand, blogs by analysts and industry folks should be recognized as quality information outlets and be regarded as alternative news sources. The only trick is for these types of sites to come across as legitimate Web properties, like GigaOm ;)

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