The “death” of blogging

The title is not meant literally, guys. It comes wrapped up in British irony. But I did write this piece in the current issue of The Economist about the topic.

I don’t usually use this book blog to point to my (day-job) articles. But I did get a few responses after the deadline from interesting people I tried to interview for this story. So, why not include their views here?

The tongue-in-cheek thesis of my little article is that

Blogging has entered the mainstream, which—as with every new medium in history—looks to its pioneers suspiciously like death …

Blogging, in fact, may “die” as PDAs have died–by becoming invisible and ubiquitous, as a feature in almost every mobile phone today.

Evan Williams

Evan Williams

Here, now, is what Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and now boss of Twitter, emailed me on the subject (excerpts). There is confusion, he says, between two things:

1) There’s also now a commercial blogging world. Commercial blogs do not get most of the traffic (in aggregate), but they’re what a lot of people think of when you say “blog.” But the commercial blogosphere and personal blogosphere are really different worlds. Obviously they overlap, but the motivations and activity of one does not reflect that of the other. Gawker’s cost cutting has nothing to do with Cheri Block Sabraw‘s desire to write things for teachers.

2) There are now more casual ways to scratch the same itch that blogging has done for many people. I.e., Facebook, Twitter, and a slew of other social software alternatives. This is definitely effecting the personal blogging world. It has effected my personal blogging — and that of many people I know. Twitter is now my go-to place to share a thought or a link. I still blog on occasion when I have something I can’t squeeze into 140 characters, but that’s rare, and for many people Twitter (or something else) will suffice nicely on its own. However, does that mean they’re not blogging? We’ve never labeled Twitter a “micro-blogging” service, but that’s certainly one of the primary use cases.

This gets to your point of being nowhere and everywhere, I suppose. There are tons of active blogs on MySpace and on Facebook (even though they call them “Notes”). Maybe these are just the new blogging platforms (among other things). I suppose it is PDA-like that blogs are being subsumed into social networks, like PDAs got subsumed into smartphones.

But PDAs went away as stand-alone devices, because there came a point where they held zero advantage over a smartphone. With stand-alone blogs, that may be true for the most casual users, but not for millions of otheres. There are still many advantages to a stand-alone blog: Your own brand, domain, design, etc. Creating a meaningful, independent voice on web, on which can be launched a movement, a brand, a career, or simply a good story, is best done with a stand-alone blog.


Charlene Li

Charlene Li

I also pinged Charlene Li, who is perhaps the best social-media analyst out there, formerly at Forrester, now at Altimeter Group.

If you think about blogging as a specific content publishing tool and formatting of content, then yes, it is being usurped by businesses and traditional media companies. In fact, traditional online content management systems and collaboration suites like Sharepoint are integrating blogging into their platforms.

But if you think of blogging as a “mindset”, then it’s not only healthy, but growing by leaps and bounds. In this way, I distinguish between a corporate blog that does nothing more than publish their press releases (but has not comments) and a blog written from a personal perspective but clearly associated and benefiting a company. Likewise, there are Twitter feeds from companies that are just RSS feeds, while @comcastcares is a genuine person at Comcast who is establishing a relationship with other Twitterers.

In the end, blogging grew because people used it as a way to connect with people and develop relationships. If it *evolves* into new formats, then it’s staying healthy, rather than stagnating.

Chris Alden

And I pinged Chris Alden, the CEO of Six Apart (WordPress’s biggest rival). Excerpts from his reply:

While the hypothesis that blogging is past its prime may be provocative,
it’s not supported by the facts. Our products continue to grow across
the board — we’ve seen more demand for blogging than ever before — and
I believe our competitors are growing too.

It may be that blog “hype” has passed its prime, as blogging has
followed the typical hype cycle and is now in the enlightenment phase
according to Gartner, but that is usually when the real growth actually

We are seeing an explosion of ways in which people and corporations are
using blogs, both for internal and external purposes, and individual
blogging, alive and well, is also evolving. Publishers, businesses, and
individuals now look to blog software and service to run much more of
their web site, in some cases using MT for their entire web CMS
platform, and integrate blogging and social media in a more profound

It is of course true that newer services like Twitter have captured the
time and attention of many bloggers, and some have slowed their
traditional blogging in favor of communicating with friends through
tweets, not blog posts. But we view these as complimentary, not
competing, trends. More often than not, Twitter works in conjunction
with blogs, and many bloggers use Twitter as a new form of RSS — a way
to alert friends that there is a new blogs post. Very often Tweets refer
to blog posts, and vice versa.

We believe that blogging will have as disruptive an impact on the
mainstream social networks as it had on mainstream media. When it comes
to media, blogs were once seen as an adversary, but are now indelibly
part of the media landscape. The same type of adversarial thinking seems
to be in vogue where folks are assuming that we are seeing replacement
technologies battling it out. It sort of reminds us of the bricks/click
debates of the late 1990s. Of course we learned then that the answer
wasn’t either one or the other, but both.

In fact, blogging and social networking actually started together.
LiveJournal had both blogging and friending features, and was created in
1999. It so happens that blogging services, such as Blogger, TypePad,
and WordPress, then emerged focused on the publishing side. Then another
branch grew from that tree when Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook
focused on the social networking aspect…

The story isn’t about the passing of one trend to another, but the
evolution of blogging, and in some ways a return to its roots, and the
integration of blogging with many other forms of social media. …


Thanks to all three of you, and sorry I didn’t have time to get you into the article. (Two of you are mentioned, however.) I actually think that the four of us agree almost entirely, and that you’ve colored in the subtleties.

I mean, how could blogging be “dead” if even … Malaysia’s Mahathir now blogs!!!!

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