Why blogging keeps being not dead

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Say EverythingLast year I reviewed Scott Rosenberg's book Say Everything, which is a (very good) history of blogging. It's now coming out in paperback, and has a new postscript, which you can read in full at the book's website.

It's a sign of the Internet's speed of change that this book, less than a year after first publication, needs an update like that. But I think it's wise of Scott to write it, because he fits the latest "blogging is dead" topics in with older ones. The new supposed blog-killers are Twitter, Facebook, the Apple App Store, and so-called "content farms," where online articles are written specifically to generate search revenue, without any concern for whether anyone would want to read them.

He makes a reasonable argument that while these new platforms all affect blogging, none of them replace it. I've certainly noticed that in my own writing online. Short links and comments I might previously have posted on this blog tend to appear in my Twitter stream instead (though I'll occasionally collect some of the better ones here for posterity). I interact with a lot of people on Facebook, where we might previously have commented on one another's blogs or emailed each other.

Yet neither of those have stopped me from writing here almost every day. Often things I find out on Twitter and Facebook are what inspire a new blog entry, in fact.

The App Store? At first I had trouble imagining what it had to do with blogging at all. But then I realized that there are people in old-school publishing who like iPhone and iPad apps that once again charge discrete prices for written material—or, as Scott puts it, "a genie-bottling move that might allow them, once more, to package and sell media products the old way."

That has no impact on me whatsoever, and whatever effect it might have on blogs would be, perhaps, on those published by major media outlets that might turn their efforts to the App Store instead. I guess. Whatever.

As for content farms like the not-very-useful eHow, they're essentially another form of Internet pollution, like email and comment spam, splogs, and so on. We'll learn to work around them in time. Scott's take:

...there is little evidence that the material produced by the content farms holds any value outside of Google. These articles are good at generating click-throughs from search results. But, having clicked on the story's headline, is anyone ever happy to read the body?

It took me a long time to think of penmachine.com as a blog. I preferred to consider it a website, and blog software as an easy way to update it and maintain an archive. Indeed, that's what I highlighted about it in my very first post close to ten years ago. Whether blogging survives in the long run as something we call by that name is irrelevant. I'm more interesting in preserving interesting, useful writing online—and making whatever small contribution to it that I can.

From my perspective, good writing online doesn't seem to be going anywhere. There's more of it than ever.

5 Comments

It's funny you should blog about blogs, because I've been thinking about this phenomenon a lot lately too. I started my first blog back in 2005 and people thought it was freaky. Now when I tell people I have a blog they say "I should start a blog too." Everyone wants in and somehow over the years I have felt less special about blogging. And don't even get me started about all of the craft and fashion blogs out there (the ones where girls take a picture of their daily outfit and then begin to consider themselves an internet celebrity - ugh).

But I've noticed that a lot of bloggers still haven't figured out how to interact with their readers. They will just blog about their days (I've been guilty of this lately) or something cool they saw and there is only so much people can comment on or be interested in. One of my last posts was really random and off the top of my head and it got 10 comments in one day! I call that a success even though it probably didn't contribute much to the internet.

I think that all of this access to blogging/twitter etc. will mean that people will have to take their writing and creativity to another level to stand out above the rest. I like that challenge.

Before I get to what I WANTED to comment about...

Is it just me or is the supposed fellow-blogger-recognition-capabilities of blogging software totally inscrutable? I tried to sign in, as opposed to being anonymous and Movable Type says WordPress doesn't know me. Sheesh.

ANYWAY, I find that good writing on the Web is getting harder to find. Guy Kawasaki, e.g. (although I would never call him a good writer) has completely removed all value from his blog by Tweeting every 15 seconds. I finally un-followed him.

And folks like Malcolm Gladwell and Lawrence Lessig and for that matter Bill Arab seem to have dwindled to near-never updates.

If it weren't for XKCD and Basic Instructions and penmachine, I'd have nothing to do with my non-working surf time.

I, like you, blog for myself. It's a place to store memories and ideas, to rant about things that piss me off, to (as my tagline suggest) amuse myself. The lion's share of my readers are my friends, so I don't much care where I am in a Google search (other than for my own ego) - if I'm lost in a sea of splogs (awesome word by the way! I hadn't heard that one before!), my friends still know where to find me.

TrackBack - Blogging Isn't Dead Yet: "...A great post from Penmachine... Exactly. The blog will not be replaced in the same way that a computer replaced the typewriter. In true Canadian fashion, blogs are not simply the medium of communication, but also the message..."

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