State of the Blog Union
last updated: July 30, 2017
I’d argue that the world of blogging has shifted more in the past two years than in the previous ten. With every attempt to keep my own personality and persuasion out of the equation, I’ll do my best here to explain my take on it.
Out of the gate: blogging is not dead.
It just looks different. Blogging is one form of many of publishing content online, and its reign as mothership has waned.
Here are a few ways it looks different now.
1. Interacting is done elsewhere
When blogging became a thing, it was a new, groundbreaking way for people to connect. Never before was someone in Idaho able to publish their thoughts, and a few minutes later, someone in Japan could reply with their own two cents. It was amazing.
There’s faster and easier ways to do this now, mostly through social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have replaced many blog’s comment sections.
I used to bemoan this. I do still wish comments about a post I wrote would “stick” with the post in the comments underneath instead of one-off Facebook posts. But that ship has effectively sailed, and I’m done mourning that. It is what it is. People read on blogs, but they mostly comment and interact on social media. And that’s okay.
2. Publishing has taken on many forms
Publishing digital television (videos) and radio (podcasts) are almost as old as digital magazines and newspapers (blogging), but they’ve taken off like wildfire the past few years.
They haven’t replaced blogging. They’ve just asked for more room at the table, and consumers have responded in droves.
I’ve been podcasting since 2011, but back then, it was super niche. It’s much more mainstream now, and now I only have to vaguely explain it to older relatives for them to understand what it is.
3. It’s super hard to monetize it on its own
In 2013, the biggest slice of revenue in my pie was blog advertising, either via banner ads or sponsored posts. That slice turned into a sliver in 2014.
Ask any full-time blogger about the shift in their spreadsheets between those two years, and they’ll likely tell you the same thing. This was industry-wide, and it was reflected in how people consumed the internet.
Ad blindness became real. As readers, we could see sponsored content from twenty feet away. They lost their efficacy.
If online publishing is/was your primary bread and butter, you had to shift your focus from plain ol’ blogging if you wanted to stay afloat. Blogging has shifted from being a monetizable entity on its own, to a vehicle for spreading news about products (books, courses, services, subscriptions, physical stuff) that generated an income.
(Thankfully, it’s still a primary way publishers find new fresh voices, so in my opinion, blogging remains the best way to cultivate a solid writing portfolio to “get your name out there” as a writer.)
4. Saturation and short attention spans are the enemy
Okay, not an enemy, per se. But they’re widespread and rampant in our culture—frankly, there’s too much to read for any one person, and thanks to the short, flashing buzz of social media, our brains are actually re-wiring their ability to focus.
People simply aren’t reading longform blog posts like they used to because, according to simple statistics of how people spend their time online, they’d rather scroll Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Is this is a good thing? No, of course not. But it is a thing.
What this means
Does this mean we should all quit blogging? Absolutely not. I still read a few favorites. I still love what we publish here. We need citadels on the internet, cities on a hill that ask its citizens to read longer, contemplate things that matter, and sit on ideas before spewing feedback.
The four things I listed above were already true several years ago. I’m actually grateful it took me till 2014 to really feel the seismic shifts that happened for some people in 2013 or even 2012. Nothing shifted in these past few months—but all these things I mentioned feel more and more true with every month.
There are also exceptions to every one of these rules. I still read a blog that gets hundreds of comments daily. I still can’t get into binging on YouTube. Sponsored posts can still be worth a company’s investment, when it’s done with the right blogger in the right space.
To me, all this means, more than anything, is that to stay fresh on the internet, to keep it a thing you both enjoy doing and is something people enjoy consuming, you have to do two things:
- Stay true to who you are. And,
- Be willing to constantly change.
I’m me, and I create the best stuff when I stay me. I love Jamie Golden, Joanna Goddard, Tracy Benjamin, Marie Forleo, and Alia Hagenbach, as well as countless other brilliant people, and we all benefit when they stay themselves, too.
Now, more than ever, do creatives need to stay true to their inner compass and voice. There’s room for everyone, and yet you’ve gotta be yourself because everyone else is taken.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from a decade of internet publishing, it’s that things change fast. And when I’m faced with the fact that to stay in business, in the literal sense, I either need to hang up the closed sign or change my strategy, both choices are just fine.
Right now, I’m choosing to change. And it feels risky but really good, because I both like change and I care about authenticity more than anything else.
As for me, this looks like less blog posting, and more podcasting and book writing. Less Facebooking and more Instagramming (only because I enjoy the latter more than the former). Less analytics-analyzing and more people connecting.
Publishing online can still be both both and profitable, if you’re willing to both be yourself, and change game plans when the rules change. I’m willing to do both these things. So I am.
How about you?