The Future of Blogging

32 Comments

A recent Pew survey revealed that the popularity of blogging among teens and young adults has declined dramatically from 28 percent to 14 percent from 2006 to 2009. While this wasn’t an exhaustive scientific study, it does reveal a trend that clearly shows that blogging is losing its luster with today’s younger generation. There are many factors that could have contributed to this drastic decline, such as the plethora of real-time communication platforms like social networks, the explosion of gaming platforms (Wii, Playstation, Xbox) and 24/7 access to instant entertainment such as Netflix and Hulu. Regardless of the reasons, the bottom line is that young people are getting bored of traditional blogging.

What’s the Problem?

I think part of the problem with blogs is that they are too static and dull. We need to infuse new life into blogs and make them more dynamic. Just as Flash (s adbe) added a freshness to web sites when it first appeared on the scene, we need to do something that will change the game for blogging.

The other part of the problem involves the incredible shrinking attention span of readers/viewers. Hollywood learned long ago that motion pictures need to reach out and grab the audience right away within the first 10 minutes or else its opening weekend will be its last. That’s why most movies look and feel like music videos these days. Quick cut editing and special effects reign supreme. Even the publishing industry has taken its queue from the movie industry and insist that its authors write tighter and more exciting stories.

What’s the Answer?

I believe the answer could be the same one that’s being touted as the potential savior of newspapers and magazines: The Apple iPad (s aapl) and similar devices, plus the new digital newsstand that it will usher in. Yes, I am suggesting that we look at blogs the same way we look at newspapers and magazines. It’s not a coincidence that many blogs have experienced increased subscriptions after changing to a more magazine-styled theme. Imagine providing your content in a more dynamic and exciting manner, like Wired’s demo iPad app:

Kiss Your RSS Goodbye?

Some pundits predict that subscribing to RSS feeds will become obsolete, thanks to technology such as PuSH (PubSubhubbub) and the proliferation of mobile applications. This could be why many blogging professionals have already started making their blogs available as iPhone apps. Their reasoning is that they want their work to be accessible and available to as many people as possible, and if it means porting it to a new platform, then so be it. The good news is that these same iPhone apps will also work on the iPad. Another factor in the increase of “blogs as apps” is the continuing decline in the cost of having an application developed. Pretty soon, releasing your own app will become as common as launching a blog.

Content is Still King

I’m not suggesting that glitz and glamor are better than substance and message. On the contrary, I firmly believe content will always remain the most important aspect of any blog, newspaper or magazine. I’m just saying that we cannot ignore the obvious truth of today’s readers and viewers. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and hope that the quality of our content alone will win the day. We need to deliver our best work (be it blog post, article, movie, book, etc.) in the best packaging available if we want to give it a chance to be consumed/digested and, ultimately, appreciated.

The new generation of mobile devices such as the iPad and other tablet computers will become ubiquitous and will help us deliver our message in exciting new ways. We should not lament this changing of the guard; instead we should embrace it and adapt to it, and take our blogging to new heights.

What do you think? Could iPads and similar devices usher in a new age of blogging?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.):

Web Tablet Survey: Apple’s iPad Hits Right Notes

32 Comments

Tim

Most people “blog” to friends, thus the popularity of social networks. Also, Mark Zuckerberg: “iPad’s Not Mobile”

Marc LeVine

Hi Paisano:

You make some excellent points and predictions in your post.

Adding to what you have written, the collective Web is largely responsible for our information overload. It is the primary reason we have shortened attention spans in 2010. We should not buy in to this trend though. I am currently reading Ken Follett’s wonderful Bestseller, “Pillars of the Earth” on my B&N nook. The actual book has over 900 pages. On a nook, however, it seems like 1500 pages. Is is still not worth reading? Of course, it is. It is a wonderful book, read in any format.

A well written Blog post should be as long as it needs to be to effectively deal with the subject matter. Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania is absolutely right in calling America, “a nation of wusses.” I am sure he would generalize his statement to our “growing” short attention spans, too. We must reverse bad trends and not embrace them.

The problem with Blogs is that there are darn too many people writing lots of words and saying very little, at all. Like everything else, there will be a shakeout in Blogging, as more and more readers vote with their feet.

Frankly, we don’t need less from more…we need MORE FROM LESS! Give us Brogan-quality material and we’ll read it! Consider: we buy the SM Guru’s books, because we want to hear more, not less from them.

Marc LeVine
Director of Social Media
RiaEnjolie, Inc.
http://www.RiaEnjolie.com
Follow on Twitter @RiaEnjolie

DragonSearch

The Ipad is a game changer, and it will transform blogs into something else all together, otherwise I think blogs will go the way of the dinosaur.

Ross

“Their reasoning is that they want their work to be accessible and available to as many people as possible”

This type of statement is my biggest concern with the explosion of the iPhone (and iPad). Apple loves it because it keeps people in their ecosystem, however it’s terribly shortsighted. The key is putting it out there so it’s available for the largest number of folks to consume. Building a custom app for the iPhone is not the answer. There are exponentially more users on other platforms than the iPhone. Build a website that’s optimized for mobile, and have folks use that on their iPhone. Don’t build a platform specific application.

Conrad Walton

Are you kidding? That’s like saying that paper books are boring so no one reads them any more. Radio has no place in a world with TV. TV will kill movies in theaters.

Everything changes and new technology always comes along, but nothing ever goes away. It might morph into a new form or have new content, but blogs will never go away.

Yes, Facebook status updates have replaced blog posts for a lot of people, but people are READING (good) blogs more than ever today.

Brett Schaefer

Good point. The tech toys that are around today and those that are coming have their own set of bells and whistles that attract the consumer. It’s important to frame the content of what we’re offering in a way that will be informative and valuable so that the potential customer keeps coming back.

Tom | Build That List

I don’t really put that much value on my RSS subscribers because while the do provide a small percentage of my daily traffic I find that the majority of people still have no idea what RSS actually is.

Doriano "Paisano" Carta

@Dan
Thanks for your excellent input….very good point about the cost involved with running a blog, whether it’s a personal or professional blog, it requires a cost…not just financially (web hosting account, domain name registration, etc) but more importantly you time investment which as we all know…time is money.
I’m glad you mentioned facebook because it has become the new standard for many people, artists, small firms…replacing MySpace for music artists and celebrities especially. Personally, I don’t like it but I understand why people are doing this. It’s very easy to do and it’s quick to setup and update.
I’m hoping the new platforms on the iPad and mobile apps for blogs, magazines and newspapers will make the process easier and less expensive (time wise and money wise) so that more people will get into blogging again..either to create content or merely consume more of it.

Doriano

Dan

Ah, but don’t forget the convenience factor… Maintaining a blog is work.

First, you need to teach yourself HTML & some basic PHP if you want to do it right.

Then you need to manage widgets. Deal with spam. Upgrade your software (unless you’re on a hosted platform) as new versions come out & deal with any conflicts with your existing widgets.

And then you need to consider things like SEO, the length of your posts, etc.

Then there’s the cost factor…
You WILL have overhead costs, like the need to register a domain & renew it every year, monthly hosting fees, etc.

You might recoup these costs via advertising revenue…or if you sell something directly (and then there’s the whole list of needs for selling something through your website, like what ecommerce software or widgets you’ll use, how you’ll integrate them into your existing site, what payment platform you’ll use, how you’ll market it, etc.).

Unless you’re pursuing blogging seriously & as at least a part time job, you’ll NEVER even break even.

Enter Facebook (where most of the future’s bloggers have gone) which on the other hand, is free. Totally free, as in no overhead at all & no work required to manage widgets, apps, etc. And you can STILL make some $ with it if that means anything for the given person, via widgets from Zazzle.com and others.

People are turning their Facebook acounts into Etsy-like shops now & if you’re a band, you might have your own site, or you simply rely on MySpace to fill that & avoid all those overhead & inconvenience issues mentioned above, while distributing your music on iTunes & keeping in touch with your fans on your MS profile. Done deal & very little work involved.

You’re also able to connect with all of your friends, which are the only ones who’d read anything you’d post if you weren’t going to pursue blogging as at least a part time profession as mentioned above.

This can be good news though, for the remaining bloggers. There will be far less noise in the blogosphere in the future & the issue of being “found” will be somewhat less of a problem in the future as there will be fewer and fewer blogs competing for space on Google, etc.

Those who remain will likely be rewarded.

TonyCurtis

There’s a difference between a professional blog and a personal blog, and I think that personal blogging has gone down much more dramatically. As a former livejournal junkie, I know I abandonned it during my “myspace” era and now see no reason to blog on a personal level with facebook. I’ve also tightened up my personal info online… while considering how to START a professional blog.

Bobby Rettew

Howdy, great post and great thoughts. People want stories, like you said “Content is King” and I agree. People are not searching for fluff but rich content. The future of blogging comes down to focused content, simply evaluating on a daily basis if your posts that you are writing are purposeful and meet the rhetorical purpose of the blog. Just like print media, the content will have to continually focus based on purpose, and ultimately on the audience. Thanks for stretching my mind!
Bobby

lajoy77

I’m 22, so I was in high school when all the young kids were blogging. And studies leave out a crucial fact: the vast majority of those blog posts looked more like long Facebook status updates.
It’s not like the vast majority were writing some wonderful content driven blog, more like they were just airing out their day-to-day events and reactions.
Facebook and Twitter are much better for this sort of use.
And the type of high schoolers who were actually blogging content, are more than likely still blogging content today, whether it’s the cool thing to do or not.

paisano

Good points. I wasn’t basing all of my thoughts on the future of blogging on this one particular study, but on several different factors that give strong indications that the younger generation either doesn’t have the time or the interest to go to the trouble to learn how to setup their own blog. Even the dead simple blog-in-a-box type like WordPress.com which doesn’t require nearly as much effort as it does for self-hosting your own blog.
I didn’t mention this but will now, I think part of the success of services like posterous is because of its extreme simplicity. Many are ditching traditional blogging platforms for this blogging-via-email type of solution. Of course, they’ve made it easier to write posts right from your posterous account now.

As for live blogging, that’s a horse of a different color. I do think it will continue to grow and become more popular because of the demand for real-time information. Twitter and facebook have scratched this itch for a while now but it’s not enough though. Look for many new platforms such as Google Buzz which will only get better with time.

Thanks for the great feedback. Please keep it coming. These are just thoughts… nothing carved in stone. It’s an exciting time and I’m thrilled to see what happens next.

Doriano

Troy Peterson

I think you’re article is arguing the wrong point.

The Pew Survey is about people who are producing content through blogs, not how people are consuming it.

I think the answer to that is pretty simple…
More and more people are expressing themselves through social media and other communication sites like Facebook, Twitter, and other pre-made / short-form mediums.

These platforms have gained immense popularity in the past few years and has a “built-in” audience (so to speak).

Blogs can be difficult to setup and maintain – especially if you’re hosting and managing your own.

In addition, Blogging tends to be viewed as more “long-form” communication, meaning they’re articles and not just quips about your day or activities. So, it’s essentially easier to create a Facebook update or a Tweet than it is to write a whole blog post.

I bet if that drop in people producing content through blogs is mirrored to a rise in people producing content through other channels in the same demographic.

Drew

Hi Doriano,

What are your thoughts on live blogging? I know of a few companies out there that are getting into the space of providing up to the minute blogging, but I really don’t think they are going to have much of an impact on the majority of the web and its users, just for businesses like Reuters, etc. that could use to the minute coverage of news.

And can one device, like the clunky iPad be enough to attract more users. I think the kiddies will just spend more time on facebook with something like that, rather than read blogs.

James King

I can understand that a blog for younger generation is losing its flare. Blogging is not easy and with lots of distractions from video gaming and multimedia.

I was in a social media training session earlier this week and many outlined that Twitter is boring, and some many the same can be applied to blogging. However, if you use Youtube videos to back up your points and add another level of learning the blog, this can make your blog more interesting.

People learn in different ways.

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