The Blog Is Dead, Long Live the Blog

Paul Boutin tells readers of his Wired article, "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004" (October 2008) that blogging is dead. Keep in mind that Boutin works for a blog,, which is an industry gossip blog.

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug. Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

On the other side is my friend Karine Joly saying that "Blogs aren’t dead… even in this Twitter age" on HER blog So some are announcing the death of blogs, and some are declaring blogs to be healthy - and they are bloggers, and are doing their announcing via blogs.

The supposed blog killers are newer media applications like Twitter. Twitter limits each its text-only posts to 140 characters. This is known as microblogging. (Add Tumblr, Jaiku, and Pownce to that list) The analogy is made that Twitter is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004.

In defining microblogging, says:

The appeal of microblogging is both its immediacy and portability. Because posts are so brief (typically 140 – 200 characters), a microblogger can update his microblog often enough to keep readers informed as events, whether large or small, unfold. Anyone with a cell phone can send and receive updates any time, anywhere. Users can send messages as text, video or audio. Several social networking Web sites, including Twitter, are promoting microblogging as a convergence of several types of presence technology. Here's Twitter's self-description: "A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?"

Boutin points to Technorati's list of the top 100 blogs and the dominance of professional blogs with staffs of writers posting a few dozen times a day. These kinds of blog sites - Huffington Post, Engadget, TechCrunch - are new media machines. How can individual bloggers compete?

Some big name bloggers of "the past" - Scoble & Calacanis for example - have passed on blogging to take up Twitter. Why? I suspect that short attention spans and a lack of willingness to sit down and compose an intelligent post plays a part, but also because Twitter is faster than the blogosphere. For example, Twitter posts can be searched instantly without waiting for Google to index them.

Boutin is in on the fix:

As a writer, though, I'm onto the system's real appeal: brevity. Bloggers today are expected to write clever, insightful, witty prose to compete with Huffington and The New York Times. Twitter's character limit puts everyone back on equal footing. It lets amateurs quit agonizing over their writing and cut to the chase.

@WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won't find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?

Don't give up your blog. Twitterish apps will not replace the blog any more than television replaced the movies or USA Today replaced The New York Times. Blogs serve different purposes.

I agree that attention spans have been decreasing - for about the last 100 years. People don't read as much as they used to "a long time ago."  Writing letters on paper is mostly a thing of the past. Still, I can't think of any worthwhile post I have ever put on this blog that would have ANY value as a 140 character "tweet."

As more and more writers from the print world begin to blog, I see posts becoming longer and more thoughtful - not the other direction.

I find it satisfying that when Twitter decided to explain more clearly their network status (because of having so many down times), they use a competitor in the microblogging field, Tumblr, to do it. Why? Tumblr, though micro, allows longer posts, photos, links etc.  140 characters just doesn't make it.

What need is microblogging apps like Twitter fulfilling? I think it is the current perceived need for presence technology. Presence technology is a type of application that makes it possible to locate and identify a computing device (and therefore its user) wherever it might be, as soon as the user connects to the network. Instant messaging is a more common example. I log into my Gmail or Facebook account and you can see that I'm online. (OK, on Gmail I can actually click a link and become invisible so I don't get bothered.) I'm not going to write more here about why I don't use Twitter ( I did that already.), and it does seem to serve some purpose to some people. My argument is that it doesn't even come close to serving the same purposes of a blog.

Does Serendipity35 have to compete with Techcrunch or Engadget? No. We have a different (educational) niche in the tech world. Actually, do we even have to compete with other educational technology bloggers like Hargadon, Richardson, or Nussbaum-Beach? I don't think so, especially if I'm not interested in selling books, or putting myself out there as a speaker or workshop leader.

Technorati has an interest series of pages on The State of Blogging 2008. They catalog and track blogs and there have been a number of attempts to quantify the size of the Blogosphere. How many blogs are there? How many are active? How many people read them? The answers vary, but there is general agreement that blogs are a global phenomenon that is now mainstream and they aren't going away. 

One study, from Universal McCann (March 2008), determined that there are 184 million blogs worldwide and 26.4 million are in the United States. Blog readers total 346 million worldwide with 60.3 million being Americans. Most impressive is that 77% of active Internet users report that they read blogs.

Wikipedia defines blogs (a contraction of the term "Web log") as "a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order."  The blogosphere is the collective community of all blogs. Since all blogs are on the Internet by definition, they may be seen as interconnected and socially networked.

More from Technorati:

But as the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs. (see The Bivings Group)

Despite the fact that Serendipity35 gets a million hits a month, we only have an "authority" of 23 currently on Technorati. Very respectable, but not in that elite 50+ league. Those blogs are getting millions of hits - and many are making a good profit doing it too.

The majority of bloggers we surveyed currently have advertising on their blogs. Among those with advertising, the mean annual investment in their blog is $1,800, but it’s paying off. The mean annual revenue is $6,000 with $75K+ in revenue for those with 100,000 or more unique visitors per month. Note: median investment and revenue (which is listed below) is significantly lower. They are also earning CPMs on par with large publishers. Here at Serendipity35, we don't care much about CPMs. (By the way, CPM is used in advertising to represent cost per thousand - where M is the Roman numeral for 1000 - and in online advertising it relates to the cost per thousand page impressions. The more hits you get, the more the ad costs.) We think about what is going on in technology and how it might impact education and learning.

The blog is not dead. The theater is not dead. The novel is not dead. Mediums of communication change. Get used to it. Some will be replaced. The phone killed the telegraph. The cell phone killed pagers. Smart phones killed PDAs. Sites like Craig's List killed newspaper classified ads. Others will evolve or be replaced. Newspapers are moving online more and more. Some magazines are killing the print edition for online, or just shutting down the print version altogether. Television networks finally realized that they needed to offer online video instead of trying to take down all the content people were posting "illegally." Record companies, after years of getting hurt by downloads legal & illegal, still haven't fully gotten the message about the death of the CD. But they will. And blogs will continue to launch and continue to change. Maybe even I, anti-cell phone advocate, will some day post to this blog using a Google Phone - but don't count on it happening soon.


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