It is commonly said that blogging is dead. The refrain has increased in frequency over the past year or so, as Twitter extends its influence further and further.
I have been blogging since 2002, when I was just 16. Over the years, it has been my favourite means of communicating online — more than Facebook or Twitter. More than IM and perhaps even email.
But increasingly I find myself becoming tired of it. Partly, this is due to that pesky “real life” nonsense taking over. As I make the transition from school pupil to student bum to full time worker, I have less and less spare time to dedicate to blogging.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that I am trying to run three blogs at once (the others being Scottish Roundup and vee8). In addition, I have started to write for other websites and have begun to dabble with podcasting.
Blogging is not what it once was
There have been many changes in the nature of blogging since 2002 as well. The emergence of other tools like social networks, microblogs and tumblelogs has encroached on territory that blogging used to inhabit.
In 2002, blogs were the best (or only) way to interact with friends online. It was pre-MySpace, never mind Facebook. Back then, blogs were a good way to publish snippets of transient, inconsequential thoughts — to get stuff off your chest. Now, Twitter is ideal for that. For those who feel too constrained by the 140 character limit, you can always set up a tumblelog.
But now that these new tools exist, blogging has been forced to become a medium where you publish more in-depth thoughts. Without a doubt, I update this blog much less often than I used to. In 2004, I published 880 posts. This year I might just about get above 100. But five years ago many of my posts were extremely short. Now, to justify even touching my blog, I feel like I have to produce an essay.
There is also the fact that I posted a lot of nonsense when I was younger, whereas now I have to be more responsible with the way I update my blog. I need to come across well, which means I have to quite carefully consider everything I publish.
In short, blogging is now hard work, whereas beforehand it was just good fun. None of this is news. But today, a couple of things have again focused my attention on blogging.
Where are the new readers?
Firstly, Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting wrote a post announcing “the death of blogging“. He senses a general malaise in the blogosphere. According to him, there are few new readers. Moreover, some big Scottish blogging names have hung up their keyboards in the past few months.
In response to Jeff, I would say that I don’t think a year has gone by when a big name hasn’t given up blogging. But blogging life goes on. While I am not happy to have seen the likes of Scottish Unionist and Malc in the Burgh close down their blogs, and others dramatically decrease the frequency of their updates, blogging is not about who the big names are. It is about the conversation between bloggers.
Jeff may well be right that there are fewer new readers though. In terms of statistics, the best days of this blog are certainly long gone. Visitor numbers peaked in 2006 and 2007, and have steadily declined since. This is in stark contrast to the early years, when readership grew seemingly exponentially, as though it were viral. In fairness, you should expect this if you publish much less, as I do. I doubt the same applies to Jeff though.
Twitter increases in authority
Perhaps more ominous in terms of the value of this blog is not the fact that readers appear to be losing interest, but the revelation that Google appears to view my Twitter account as more authoritative.
It hadn’t occurred to me before to check what the PageRank of my Twitter account might be. I assumed it would be low. But having read, via Andrew Hayes, an article about PageRank and Twitter, I decided to check.
I was astonished to find that my Twitter account apparently has a PageRank of 5. In comparison, this blog today has a PageRank of 3 (a shadow of what it used to be).
Of course, it is probably wise not to focus much on the importance of PageRank. Google itself increasingly plays down the role of PageRank. Of course, that hasn’t stopped them from using PageRank as a means of publicly “bitch-slapping” websites that it views as
threatening its advertising revenues gaming its search engine.
PageRank is the one small window provided to webmasters who want to see what Google really thinks about their websites. For my Twitter account to be clearly rated higher in this way than my blog has come as a surprise. I am not even the most prolific of Twitter users.
So is the blogging era over? I couldn’t have articulated this in 140 characters or less. But if few people are going to read it anyway, and if even Google doesn’t care so much, it makes me wonder what the point is any more.
An hour or so of my evening has been poured into writing this post. Soon I will have even fewer spare hours to spend on blogging. I persevere with blogging because I think it is, in a way, important. But if Twitter is easier (which it undoubtedly is) and has more impact (which apparently now it does), is there much point in continuing?