Is Blogging Dead
post # 71 — May 9, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post
Andrew Lumsden communicated with me quoting from a piece written by Guy Rundle at www.crikey.com.au
It was 1977 and my friend Todd had saved for six months until he finally had what every 11-year-old wanted – a CB radio! For a year after he got it, we would tune in and roam the frequencies only to find…airy nothingness.
I was reminded of this recently while trawling the blogosphere which is increasingly taken up with blogs that appear to be dead, dying from neglect or stillborn, with one or two initial entries, now years old.
As with CBs, what thrilled people with blogs was “the ecstasy of communication”, the pure fact of being out there in the wide cyberworld – in other words, the form rather than the content.
What most realise is that blogging is the illusion of connection, publishing into a void and thus doubly isolating. Those blogs that survive will and are evolv(ing) into multi-person sites, some with collective and decentred ways of uploading, others with hierarchies essentially identical to paper editing.
This repeats the birth of newspapers out of the “pamphlet wars” of the 17th century – the latter a product of the creation of a cheap, single operator platen press. This may be the necessary stage of development required to create a media sphere which genuinely overturns the mass media model – one in which a range of well-edited moderate circulation outlets can charge and get subscriptions. Whether they could turn into full newsgathering organisations remains to be seen.
Andrew then asks: Is blogging already dead?
Andrew, I don’t think blogging is dead. What’s rapidly disappearing is the illusion that being successful with blogging is quick, cheap and easy. That all you have to do is “build it and they will come.” That’s never been true with any other business issue, and it’s not true here.
The simple fact is that creating an interesting blog that entices people to want to come back and enter into conversations with you is a slow, time-intensive and hard process. It’s no less hard work than writing a book, a series of well thought out articles, or (to switch analogies) building a network of close friends who want to have a committed relationship with you.
If you are looking for instant gratification (and many, many people are) then the fad of blogging is going to fade quickly.
The same is true for those who wish to participate in blogging mostly by reading, rather than creating their own blog. As we have all discovered, it’s not that easy to find the “soul-mate” blogs that make you want to come back again and again and continue discussions.
There are two reasons for this. First, and foremost it has always been true that you have to go out on a lot of first dates to meet someone you really want to have a relationship with. It’s hard work, isn’t it, to search for sites that consistently contain interesting commentary and match your interests.
To continue Guy Rundle’s analogy of the CB Radio, it turns out not to be that helpful if you have to scan the frequency every time you want to find something interesting. You and I want shortcuts, and that’s why we lapsed back into listening to broadcast radios with stations at pre-set locations and frequencies. The time cost of searching gets too big for the low-probability of a beneficial payback.
The second, related reason is that the technological tools to help us with our search for “simpatico, interesting” people (such as blogrolls, trackbacks, del.icio.us, carnivals) are still undergoing evolution. They reduce the search time, but do not really make it manageable.
Blogrolls are filled with indiscriminatory “friend of a friend” listings that are no guarantee that you’ll find the new blog (or person) interesting, and because someone made one interesting comment doesn’t mean you want to listen to everything that person has to say.
The lessons? Well, just like your parents told you, it is worth making new friends, and it involves a lot of false starts – you have to go to a lot of boring parties, hang out in places you don’t really like on the chance that you will meet someone, talk to a lot of strangers. It’s a pain, but if you want a social life, you’ve got to do it.
Unless, as Guy Rundle suggests, someone comes up with a way for each of us to decide where to go that maximizes the chance that we find like-minded people. That may be a “new” approach, or it may be, as he argues, just a modern equivalent of a preset radio station or print media magazine that targets a market segment and serves both the readers and the advertisers by establishing a clear market position.
(By the way, everybody, I suffer from this problem as much as anyone else. Let me ask all of you out there a question: based on what you tell of my interests by reading my blog, what other blogs should I be reading regularly? It’s like those reviews in music magazines – if you like this CD then you’ll probably like that one. Help me out here, folks!)
Finally, for those interesting in writing blogs, more parental advice you probably received – find something you are passionately interested in, stay true to your vision and keep at it! If you want people to seek you out for ongoing conversations, then you can’t just occasionally say something inetresting or fun. You have to try your best to make it worth people’s time to come back to you again and again. Even here in the blogosphere, this is about relationships, people, not a frenzied search for quick hits!