Is the blogging era over?

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?


  1. I think, as you say above, the role of blogs is changing in that many of the half-hearted posts we used to be able to fill them with now have new homes on Twitter or Posterous. But over? Call me sentimental, but I don’t really think so.

    I wonder how much of Twitter’s Google power relates to its status (haha!) as the media’s new darling. Lest we forget, this is a site that took three years to make any headway into the public consciousness. Yes, it’s easy and its impact instantaneous (BECAUSE it’s so easy) – both things that make it incredibly attractive. But the blogging format has seen off “competition” from other services before. There will always be a place for the sort of carefully crafted, thoroughly researched content that only blogs can provide.

    Twitter and Posterous might be forcing blogs to become more like that, and attracting the sort of people who only ever used them as places to share links and YouTube clips – but I’d argue that’s a good thing.

  2. I agree Last Year’s Girl. Some things, most things, cannot be expressed in short outbursts, but if you view Twitter just as a way of helping to organise and follow other people’s blogs and opinions then that is all to the good isn’t it? The medium is not the message but it is the messenger.

  3. I rarely actually visit this site, I always read it from the confines of google reader. But google reader stats inform me this blog has 73 subscribers in google reader which is pretty good going.

    By comparison, SNP Tactical Voting has 2.

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    I agree that the increased separation of blogging from other online forms of communication may be a good thing. But I think that blogging is now harder work.

    BC — Muhahahah I AM THE WINNER!

    In all seriousness, I think the figure of 2 is not realistic. Perhaps it is something to do with his recent change of URL?

  5. Interesting and I think true. I think blogging has just settled down. There are so many different types of blogs now and people are not so obsessed with stats.

    My twitter Page Rank is 5 and my blog is 4.

  6. Twitter is the Strictly Come Dancing of expression; it is the XFactor, the I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here of conversation.

    It is for those with neither the skill nor the desire to write with passion, fervour or skill. In short, Twitter is popular because it is easy and neither audience nor author have to concentrate for more than ten seconds.

    Blogging—good blogging—will never be replaced by such microblogging formats. All that has happened is that those who have no interest in good writing, in-depth journalism or passionate advocacy have moved away from the blogging medium.

    That is, alas, the majority of people, but never mind: Horizon and Despatches carry on because they worry less about the numbers of their audience than they do about the quality.


  7. Thanks for the comment DK. When you put it like that, you are absolutely right. We would be much poorer if we were left to rely on Twitter alone. I guess I just have to realise that to get the benefits that come out, it is worth putting a bit of effort in.

  8. Well, I would say that, of course, since I find blogging far more satisfying than Twittering.

    Plus, of course, I write extremely fast: whilst the above post took you an hour, it would probably take me less than 15 minutes.

    But the main point for me is that I tend to write off-the-cuff: as such, I will be half way through writing something and realise that it connects with something else that I have been thinking about and… hey presto! you have a very long and involved post.

    Having said that, my real world life is impinging much more on my blogging—but that’s because I love my job too…


  9. The short answer is no – it’s not over and is still going strong over our way. What will happen is that certain blogs will keep going and others will give it away.

  10. Fine post Duncan and interesting that you compare and contrast blogging and Twitter. I agree with DK that blogging is superior and many people only really use Twitter to direct more people to their website in a ‘I blog therefore I tweet’ kind of way.

    And it’s less the mounting retirals that I think spells the end of blogging and more the increasing dominance of newspaper journos and established politicians. Put it this way, could a blog start up today and be tomorrow’s Huffington Post? I very much doubt it, but the dynamic could yet change drastically either for or against my suggestion yet. There is an organic, unpredictable beauty to blogging as a whole.

    For the record, you could quarter my stats and I’d still be just as hooked on the hobby. My own numbers had little to do with my theory. (I would have said you could also quarter my Google Reader numbers but it seems that wouldn’t even result in an integer!)