Blogging Drift

The New York Times has a pretty prominent article today called Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter. The title was probably written by an editor, not the author, because as soon as the article gets past the two token teenagers who tumble and Facebook instead of blogging, the stats show all the major blogging services growing — even Blogger whose global “unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million,” meaning it grew about 6 Foursquares last year alone. (In the same timeframe WordPress.com grew about 80 million uniques according to Quantcast.)

Blogging has legs — it’s been growing now for more than a decade, but it’s not a “new thing” anymore. Underneath the data in the article there’s an interesting super-trend that the Times misses: people of all ages are becoming more and more comfortable publishing online. If you’re reading this blog you probably know the thrill of posting and getting feedback is addictive, and once you have a taste of that it’s hard to go back. You rode a bike before you drove a car, and both opened up your horizons in a way you hadn’t imagined before. That’s why blogging just won’t quit no matter how many times it’s declared dead.

Blogging (with WordPress) is the natural evolution of the lighter publishing methods — at some point you’ll have more to say than fits in 140 characters, is too important to put in Facebook’s generic chrome, or you’ve matured to the point you want more flexibility and control around your words and ideas. (As The Daily What did in their recent switch from Tumblr to WordPress.) You don’t stop using the lighter method, you just complement it — different mediums afford different messages.

Read more: Scott Rosenberg on “Another misleading story”; Mark Evans “Why I Still Love Blogging.”

60 thoughts on “Blogging Drift

  1. I wish i could find the article now, but I saw an interesting statistic that stated something like ‘if you combine all the traffic from websites using WordPress it’s more than Google’… I think the article was on Mashable.

    Honestly though I’m glad that Twitter and other methods are gaining popularity, I think they are better use for ‘casual bloggers’ who basically want to rant about what they had for lunch.

  2. Matt, couldn’t agree with you more. As one who is living and working in a developing country I eagerly anticipate what will happen as more and more people get connected, make the discovery of publishing their voice online and begin to be heard.

    An exciting new day is still ahead for so many.
    At some point 140 characters becomes an arrow pointing you to the place where the real dialogue takes place.

    Nail on the head :-)

    1. Good point, about developing countries. I spent some time living in the Philippines, where most people are still using cell phone models from 15 years ago. When tech gets cheap enough that the majority of people in these third world countries can get online, some of them are going to have things to say, and Twitter won’t cut it. People in countries like that tend to have real problems that require real discussion.

      1. Blogging is getting more and more popular in the Philippines nowadays, and we’re also getting more and more acknowledged by companies and the government and as well as other netizens as their source of information.

    2. This is so true. I just got back from Egypt, where on Christmas Day a well-known blogger. Alaa, was freed from prison. The voices of the developing world, can enjoy being heard loud and clear through a blogging medium.

  3. The media in the US love to anoint Twitter with all kinds of magical powers that wither upon scrutiny. They called Iran The Twitter Revolution, and later people in Iran, including some of the organizers, said that the only people using Twitter were Westerners, especially the media. Another recent article said that most of the people who left Digg recently were now using Twitter to replace Digg, which is ridiculous, and ignores the incredible growth of reddit.com that perfectly coincides with Digg’s loss of traffic. I’ve also noticed that they downplay or ignore some of Twitter’s more troubling statistics, like the huge number of people who use Twitter a couple of times and forget it.

  4. I think this goes to something you mentioned at WordCamp Portland about how blogs and other forms of social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook) need to reach a more synchronous level of interoperability.

    Using the first “token teenager’s” argument about Facebook being more effective for broadcasting his video, it has to do with push versus pull marketing. With blogs (unless you’re on a network like WordPress.com), people need a reason to come to your content. With Facebook and Twitter, people are already there and can passively consume your stuff.

    I use Twitter daily, but most of what I have to say can’t be distilled to 140 characters … and a multi-part tweet is ineffective and annoying. I depend on my WP blog for communication, and it definitely augments the conversations I already have in the “lighter publishing methods.”

  5. “The title was probably written by an editor, not the author,”

    Thanks for giving the writer the benefit of the doubt on that one. As a former reporter who would often wake up looking at a misleading or unrelated headline splashed directly over my name, I can definitely see something similar being a possibility here.

    Maybe part of the confusion that the general public has is that social publishing has become so diverse that many people don’t really know what a ‘blog’ is anymore.

    For example, my TweetDeck just added deck.ly, ‘extending’ the max Tweet length to 600 characters. My blog’s sidebar shows my recent Tweets, and people can login to comment with Facebook or Google accounts. In other words, online publishing has become far less segmented than it used to be.

    We may in fact have fewer people who would identify themselves as ‘bloggers’ now than 5 years ago, but there are far more people publishing their ideas online now than before, because of the wide range of tools available, and because the lines between those tools are blurring.

      1. Something else that’s blurring is the grammar we use. I don’t like the term, “blogger,” preferring to call myself a writer. Brian Clark at Copyblogger.com opined two years ago that bloggers are content marketers. I like that term, too.

        Which begs the question: If you’re a blogger, writer, marketer, and publisher, how more confusing can you be who is none of the above? :)

  6. A lot of lightweight conversations on Facebook and Twitter evolve into a more serious “publish worthy” blog article at some point. Many of them don’t, but that’s quite fine as well.

  7. Absolutely agree – as mentioned by you, Twitter in fact complements blogging in many ways. Twitter is great to receive feedback or one off comments. But nothing can give the flexibility that a blog affords to free speech / freewheeling thoughts.

  8. Matt,

    I am one of those late comers to blogging. I never had time for Facebook and I don’t twit.

    I am totally blown away with the robust nature of WordPress and opportunities for people to share meaningful stuff with each other. I am a huges fan.

    I am also a social scientist with a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems. I have lived computers and computing apps in many forms from the 1960s on.

    As a matter of fact, I am so passionate about the subject, that I am doing research on the social damage that is occurring and the lack of lasting relationship building that occurs on Facebook, Twitter and the like. More later on that.

    What you all are doing at Automattic is awesome. Thank you for the continued innovation.

  9. Agreed.

    Uploading content with a personal twist just got easy.

    Twitter’s ever increasing amplification of influence is starting to reach different generations…

    Blogging never died. It’s just evolving.

  10. Totally agree.
    As products (or social websites) mature, the nature of their growth is different – it’s more comprehensive & accommodating.

    The times as well as some ‘social experts’ need to understand this evolution before writing off older services like blogging, email or even Google for that matter.

  11. Matt, what you did there is what used to be known as journalism. ;-)

    What the NYT did is actually more akin to what we used to know as blogging (spouting a bunch of superficially researched, opinionated nonsense).

    Someone research this trend, PLEASE!

  12. Is it me or am I noticing a trend that its mostly the media claiming the death of blogs?

    I think the NY Times, etc. are still upset how blogs displaced them as the gatekeepers of information.

    Years ago I would look to them for breaking news. Now a blog in Egypt provides more info of what’s going on (without trying to pretend to be unbiased).

    I think the only reason they are saying blogs are dead is because they wish this meme to be true.

    BTW I know many people who don’t blog, but use WordPress or Squarespace (which are great for blogging) as the software that powers their websites.

    I wouldn’t be surprised in the future if NY Times starts using blog software to power their site instead of custom made proprietary software.

    1. Exactly. I couldn’t agree more.

      Traditional news outlets are becoming more and more outdated and have a tendency to reproduce commentary that is often expired.

      I actually wrote a little piece on the BBC’s recent belated journalism a few days ago – http://bit.ly/igx6Pf

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the BBC, but I really do think the format of certain high profile news sources need to revise their structure to keep things current, immediate and up to date.

  13. I agree, I don’t see blogging going anywhere in a pine box soon. I also loved the comment “…meaning it grew about 6 Foursquares last year alone.”

  14. My biggest complaint about WordPress and why I think bloggin is not the “it” thing anymore is because it has not made any significant strides in becoming totally plug and play.

    The world of plug ins is extremely frustrating. I can spend hours sifting through available plugins not knowing one from another and very few are plug and play ready. They are all buggy and written by independent developers that have very little desire for support or customer service particularly as demand for their software increases and they are ill equiped to handle any significant volume of supoport. Even people with basic programming knowledge find it frustrating.

    For the life of me I do not understand why major industry players are not developing plug in programs for WordPress and get it the hell out of the shareware arena. I do not mind paying for products that actually work and are supported. And if for some reason its not possible to develop a plug and play plug in, I don’t even mind paying someone to configure it for me if it will still be around next year.

    The other problem with the usage of blogs by the end user is the fact that there are too many crap blogs out there. The bloggershere is littered with inactive, unfinished, or blogs that are simply depositories for SEO white hat link farms with absolutely no useful quality information.

    1. I agree that the plugin experience can be a lot better, it’s one of the main focus points for the core development team this year. As for splogs, there’s very little we can do there, but we do invest quite a bit in keeping spam off WordPress.com, which hopefully improves the perception of WordPress overall.

      1. Well Matt, look at Myspace for example and look at where that went. It reached its peak somewhere in the late 90s and now it’s starting to go extinct and replaced with Facebook and Twitter. Blogs do have their place and I believe blogs are replacing websites that were very popular in the 90’s. Now you have Facebook and Twitter who have become a subsection of blogging in a micro instant realm. Blogs right now are still relevant, but they are being aided by Facebook and Twitter. Blogs exist with the help of Facebook and Twitter. Without them, Blogs would slide in the same way as Myspace is in right now.

  15. Nice rebuttal to the The Times. Online publishing and communication is really a two-sided coin – 1) content publishing and 2) user engagement.

    A significant number of online publishers and businesses use blogs as “central command and control” systems for content publishing and then syndicate that content (posts) over to sites like social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

    In the meantime, User engagement on Social media sites including Facebook and Twitter have grown rapidly relative to the individual blogs themselves leading some to think of them as replacement for blogs.

    In summary, they both are here to stay!

  16. Perhaps the title of the NYT article has more to do with “newspaper reader drift” — more than ever, newspaper editors have to use sensational titles to attract readers.

    Traditional advertisers want to see reports of huge reader impressions on these newspaper web sites, where their ads are being placed.

    Editors are loath to write these “man bites dog” storylines, but what’s the alternative — put up a firewall and charge people admission to the true story behind the hype headline?

    I’m not making excuses for the editors, just stating the likely motivation for the disconnect between the story title and the apparent facts. It’s not a fun or rewarding time to work at any newspaper…

  17. Funny a news service would make the comment about blogging as most of them are in peril. Blogging may even be the news source for the future.

    Blogs tend to be crafted towards getting to the bottom of whatever the topic is, and news is one example of the possibilities of getting a more accurate story from someone not promoting a sponsor.

    Blogging has also taken a huge step in the continuing education of many people on the Internet. If you need to know something you can bet there are a top ten of relatively proficient tutorials to teach you how. I owe a huge debt of gratitude myself to the online tutorials that can provide everything from software information, to hardware repair.

    Blogging is the current vehicle behind most of what is good on the Internet, and propels free speech to levels.

    Viva la WordPress.

  18. What is also missing from all of this is the fact that a lot of people use Twitter and Facebook to link other articles and blog posts they have read somewhere else.

    In a small way, those tools assist in making articles and blogs more relevant.

  19. I find very interesting stuff on blogs. I am interested in different opinions and a very personal look. Regular articles seem very dry to me. I want feeling, passion, and a wealth of creativity. Newspapers and mainstream articles just don’t float my boat.

    I see a lot of comments about the plugins. While they could be better being a designer who has built websites from the ground up having to learn code, I think the current plugins are pretty amazing.

  20. Perhaps this is the NY Times’ way of trying to stay relevant to its readers. Predict the wane of competing content platforms and hope their readers will believe it. Not gonna work. Blogging will continue to evolve and provide a way for significant people to have one to any conversations with virtually anyone in the world. This is an enormously powerful concept and institutions like the NY Times are trying to stifle it because they are threatened. Facebook and Twitter have relatively narrow platforms for expressing yourself and does not generate high quality content. Blogs are quite the contrary and allow for unlimited creativity and worthy, high quality content to be developed and published.

  21. Really, Poor Richard’s Almanac seems to me to be the forefather of the blog. Blogging isn’t new. What is new is the format (technology) and access/ability. People have always wanted to be heard. Hello, diaries, journals, poems, and songs. It is just now we (the royal everyone with internet access)have the ability to say what we want to say and potentially be heard. Blogging isn’t going anywhere anytime soon other than to possible evolve into something potentially greater. Excellent points and post.

    1. The concept of blogging, I agree with you that this is not a new one. So many publications, including some of the ones written during the American Revolution. “Common Sense” and so much more were printed blogs that people reacted to and passed around.

      While the actual term (we people are so finicky on terminology…lol), the goal always the same.

      Agreed- blogging is not going anywhere. People have a lot to say still. :)

  22. I saw a very similar article today in The Times of India. They mentioned facebook and twitter as being easier to use for social networking and people don’t like to write a long post taking all that efforts! For the record, these days I research for 2 days before coming up with a single 1200 word article on my technical blog!

    I think bloggers these days have gotten more and more professional. They know the art of attracting organic search engine traffic, which is quite out of reach for the other mediums.

    While most people use blogs for social networking and expressing their opinions, blogging should evolve beyond that to emerge as the number one source for information. I think thats the future for blogs. And besides, at my place about 70% of the people still don’t know about blogs. Just Wait till they discover! :)

    Destination Infinity

  23. I know you don’t need another “me too” reply but I’ll leave one anyway.

    We all need to keep adapting to ride the waves of changing social media but if you have independent thoughts and remain in control then a blog on your own domain is the only way to go. Appreciate your efforts Matt.

  24. I really like twitter. Simple, effective and straight to the point.

    Sorry Matt but you are the most uninteresting person on twitter…..lol

  25. I love blogging with WordPress.org software, not because it’s easier, but because I don’t have to worry about being censored or moderated like I do on Twitter or Facebook. Since I have WiredTree as my webhost, and I pay them a bundle, they don’t care what I do as long as I don’t break the law or their servers. That’s about as close as you can get to pure freedom on the Internets. ;)

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