diamond geezer

 Tuesday, September 08, 2009

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Blogging is dying
Not immediately, not even imminently, but slowly, inexorably, inevitably. It's a damned shame, but that's the way it is.
I've now been writing this blog for seven years. I wonder how much longer it's got.

Blogging has had its day
Ten years ago, blogging was a little-known activity undertaken by the very few. Even when I started, back in 2002, blogging was still very much an inconspicuous overlooked activity. That changed, didn't it? Once people realised that they could publish stuff, and maybe get themselves listened to, they started taking far more of an interest. And now if you say the word 'blog' in public people generally know what you mean. But they don't get excited any more.
When this blog started out, it was read by almost nobody. And then it got noticed, and the numbers crept up slowly, oh so slowly, for a number of years. There were a few blips, both up and down, but always a generally upward trend. Until just over a year ago, that is, when this gradual rise stalled, stopped and levelled out. If there are new visitors today, they're balanced out by readers drifting away.

Blogging has peaked
People used to make time to read blogs. They bookmarked them, they visited and revisited them, and they arrived in numbers. Bloggers had created their own online destinations, a showcase for their outpourings, a carefully planned environment. But then there were too many blogs to read daily, there was too much quality out there, and so people switched to reading just the content instead. Why bother reading a blog when it's much easier to consume via an RSS reader? Now the audience sits passively elsewhere, watching a stream of other people's posts feeding through, and maybe reading the ones that interest them if they have time. There's not enough time to be anything other than ruthlessly selective.
RSS crept above the event horizon about four years ago. I let you nab this blog's feed in 2006, and by 2007 I had as many subscribers as actual visitors. Today RSS is victorious by a factor of about three to one, which means that you're probably reading this somewhere else, stripped of twiddly formatting, because it's easier that way. Which is perfectly fine, if a little bland, but it's not really blogging any more.

Blogging is in decline
It's comments that make a blog. A blogger can churn out as much interesting content as they like, but it's only the interactive feedback of the comments box that makes it come alive. There used to be a greater number of comments, generated by a network of interested collegiate commenters, each with something to say or add or mention or criticise. But now people read too many blogs to have time to comment on them all, even occasionally, notwithstanding that in an RSS feed the comments tend to be completely invisible anyway. Too much effort to notice, too little time to bother.
I used to get more comments. I know I still get quite a lot, relatively speaking, but I know I used to get more. Half as many in 2008 as in 2006, for example, and on course this year for even fewer. I like to think that current comments aren't as good as past comments either, but this turns out to be an ill-advised rose-tinted view of the past. Proportions of great comments, moaning comments and bloody inane comments are no different to before, just more thinned out.

Blogging is on the wane
Blogging started out as an insular little club, with everyone supporting and linking to each other. As this club expanded it also fractured - webgeeks over there, political commentators over here, hilarious manipulated photos of kittens somewhere else. But people still linked to things that other bloggers had written, and to more professional content elsewhere, until that professional content became the more interesting thing to take notice of. What the media had to say about important stuff was much more appealing than what some online diarist had to say about her weekend. Without the oxygen of attention, newbie bloggers abandoned their writings unnoticed and disillusioned. Blogging won't make you famous, not any more.
According to Technorati, the blog search engine, diamond geezer used to be one of the 2000 most influential blogs in the world. They calculated this by counting the number of blogs that linked here, which was relatively high, which was nice. But today I'm only in the top 120000, because far fewer fresh bloggers link here any more, because they're all too busy linking to real news and content instead. I get brief links via Twitter, thanks very much, but these fade fast and leave no permanent trace. I'm glad I started out blogging early, otherwise you might never have noticed me.

Blogging has been superseded
The conversation's not on blogs any more, because blogs take too much effort to write. These days it's easier to post your thoughts in little bite-sized chunks, more like a hundred characters than a thousand words. Why spend ages writing something long and meaty when you could disseminate a personal mini-update in seconds. Twitter messages and Facebook statuses take no effort, and yet gain immediate feedback. Hell, why bother with text at all? A photo is worth 1000 words, and also hugely quicker to process. Audio-based posts are increasingly popular, even if the recipient has to spend far longer listening to them than they would reading. And the future's YouTube anyway, as the nation sits down to laugh at some videoed mishap rather than actually making the effort to read something. Action beats text, and blogging's gradually following suit.
I write about stuff. I often write about stuff in dense text at considerable length. I thank you for turning up and reading it, but the majority of online consumers will never ever be interested. I'm consumed daily by the equivalent of 0.01% of the population of London. I'm insignificant.

But blogging is still a heck of a lot of fun
While it lasts.
Oh yes, I'll be carrying on, because what else would I do?


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