7 Quick Resurgo Takes

– 1 –

A couple weeks ago now, there was a discussion about the demise of the blogs, how it happened and why it happened and whether it was in any way reversible.

In short, blogs died because people tried to monetize them. And that fundamentally changed the original dynamic, from one where people read or thought or did and wrote about these things, to one where people wrote as a branded product to be consumed. And when that relationship has been monetized, you can’t have that easy flow of conversational communion which made the original blogs so compelling.

This isn’t a shot at people getting paid for their writing, and shouldn’t be taken as such. Talented writers ought to be paid for what they produce, as it is valued and valuable, just like any other man-made good. It’s just the observation that there is also room, really need, for writing that isn’t a salable commodity.

– 2 –

And into this void came Facebook. Easy to use. Easy to control who sees what. At a time when bloggers were focusing more on branding and less on being, it got less comfortable to write a blog that was just about being. And that made it easier to shift the being part over to Facebook, and leave branding to the blogs. And if you couldn’t wrap your head around the concept of branding and audience targeting and ramping up page views, you just gradually stopped writing and your blog withered.

Writing on the blog anyway. Lots and lots of words were being spilled on Facebook, where it was reasonably safe to just be.

– 3 –

Ironically, this entire discussion about how blogs died took place on Facebook. And the role Facebook played in the death of blogs can’t really be denied. I have had many valuable conversations there, and made many beloved friends. It’s just so easy to share and comment and discuss and connect there.

– 4 –

At least it was. These days, most of us struggle with the algorithm, desperately trying to convince it that yes we really are interested in these kinds of posts, and not at all interested in that MLM scam. It was bad enough last year when some women couldn’t convince Facebook to show them their own husband’s posts, yet their friends were constantly notified about every move friend’s husband made on the internet. You could be halfway through writing a comment on something fascinating and suddenly your phone would refresh and the post you were commenting on would be lost to the midst of time. It was maddening.

But now… The most recent changes to the algorithm have achieved nothing less than deliberately concealing those topics we are most interested in for days and days. When it finally deigns to show us the fascinating conversation that was going on behind Facebook’s malfunctioning ‘somebody else’s problem’ field, it’s almost in a spirit of spitefulness.

– 5 –

By this point, lots of us were pretty fed up with Facebook. Monetizing Facebook doesn’t work the same as monetizing blogs, its less about creating content on Facebook and more about acquiring the largest audience that can be sold to the highest bidder. But the net effect of all this noise on conversation is much the same. You can’t have a human conversation with a product, and you can’t hear a conversation if its so noisy you can’t even tell what’s happening.

This is the same reason why I hate most bars. In theory, bars seem great. Places that serve alcohol and you can sit and drink and talk to people. In practice, there is so much noise from the live band or the sportsing event on the TV or the radio that really you might as well be drinking alone.

– 6 –

Therefore, the idea is to resurrect blogging this Lent. This takes more than people writing about the things that interested them and the events that happen to them. It also takes people reading, and taking the trouble to comment about what they think in return. There’s no easy out of hitting ‘like’ and moving on.

Kate called it an oblates of blogging, and, well, she’s not wrong. I’m really interested in exploring that idea further, but I do still have the flu so it will probably need to wait for another day.

– 7 –

There’s no strict rule of how much to post and how much to comment. We will all write the posts and comments as they come to us, and as the demands of life permits. The chief rule is to put as much of the conversation onto the blogs themselves, instead of being in the Facebook comments of the shared blog posts. Lets move the conversations to a place where they will stay in one place and we can find them again when we have new thoughts to add.

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11 Responses to 7 Quick Resurgo Takes

  1. I think you’ve done the best job flushing this out so far!

    I’m also finding that blog-reading, writing, and commenting eats up a lot less time than FB, since I have to be intentional about it.

    (Of course, I’m still ALSO using FB. Because… people are there!)

    I wonder if this is all of a piece of that “you don’t have to open an Etsy store” conversation a few weeks ago. Some people want to monetize and are good at it and can support their families on it, and that’s great, but there’s still also also room for people who just want to make things to entertain family and friends.

    • GeekLady says:

      I think that’s an important part of it. I toy occasionally with opening an Etsy shop and wow does that drain the joy out of whatever I’m making

    • GeekLady says:

      Ironically, huge quantities of the likes and follows this post got look like they’re from the kind of branded writing that killed blogging in the first place

  2. I dissent from the narrative that the primary killer of blogs was monetization. I agree that it was one factor, but I never monetized my blog and rejected offers to join up with Patheos to monetize. And yet I started blogging less and Facebooking more.

    I think the primary blog-killer was Facebook and the ease of commenting there, the ability to get a quick hit of positive reinforcement because when you post on Facebook you get comments immediately whereas blogs are slower and give less immediate feedback. To comment on a blog you need to log in, enter your name and email address. And you have to do it for very comment. On Facebook you’re always logged in. When you write a blog post you have to wait for readers to wander by and hope they might comment. On Facebook even people too lazy to comment will at least let you know they are reading by hitting the “like” button. On my blog, I get crickets. And the monetizing killed blogs narrative doesn’t account for that dynamic.

    But Facebook fits my experience. Facebook’s rise and the demise of Google Reader, which meant that the list of blogs I followed wasn’t all in one place anymore. Though even before that I found Google reader frustrating because I could never bring myself to unfollow blogs I didn’t actually ant to read anymore. Facebook takes care of that kind of pruning for you with the algorithm that stops showing you content from people you don’t interact with. I’m still finding that a barrier today with the blogging revival. If I want to see whether all my favorite bloggers have updated, I don’t have one stop shopping.

    Whereas Facebook has the bloggers and everyone else who doesn’t blog. Blogs can never replace Facebook for me because all my aunts and uncles and cousins and long lost friends from college aren’t going to follow the exodus and start blogging or start commenting on blogs. It’s like the demise of the small town square because people can get everything cheaper and in one place at the Super Walmart. Facebook and Twitter are Super Walmart and blogs are the niche boutique stores. The blogs that survived, that is. They’re the corner bookstore on main street that is struggling to survive because people don’t buy books at bookstores anymore, they go to Amazon.

    It’s about convenience for both readers and writers, ease in communication, more than about bloggers getting mercenary.

    • GeekLady says:

      I don’t think all bloggers got mercenary. I don’t even think monetizing a blog is necessarily mercenaries. But the tone in lots of blogs I followed got very marketing driven, and I know that had a quelling effect on my own writing.

      Come to think of it, the recession probably also played a role here.

    • Kate says:

      Monetizing wasn’t only about blog content changing. It was also about blog platforms changing. I don’t know about you, but the primary way I found blogs used to be other blogs–and there were a few large blogs that in a lot of ways served as junctions where the smaller sub-communities interacted with one another. Those blogs were the first to monetize, and then the first to be lured onto larger topic-based blog platforms, where their ability to customize their own space was curtailed and where blogrolls were controlled or eliminated to keep readers engaging on the platform rather than clicking on outbound links. Then Google Reader was killed off, and Facebook became the next front in the drive to monetize blog writers, and getting traffic became less and less about cultivating a community of readers and more about creating clickbait that would “go viral”… and the chance of attracting new readers–or any readers–to a small blog became almost nil. The shift in tone–brought by monetization–made it very hard to hear or shift pace enough to really enter into quieter, more thoughtful or personally reflective writing, even on Facebook.

      So I actually agree Facebook was the nail in the coffin, but I think Melanie is right in identifying monetization as the pressure that shaped Facebook into what it became–that has shaped much of what the web hs become since we all first ventured into it.

  3. Alice says:

    Smart phones were a big part of it, too. Google reader disappeared and I got a smart phone and suddenly… blogs were less interesting. This also all happened around the time my first was born, so there were plenty of changes in my own life to make it all a blur.

  4. Finicky Cat says:

    Interesting analysis. I’ve never been on Facebook, and I never blogged publicly myself, though I read a great many back in the day. Why do I follow fewer now? Less time for it, now that I’m homeschooling twice as many children as I was back then. Also I think the novelty of the personal blog wore off a bit, and certainly the changes in tone that came with monetization killed my interest in many. Each Lent, I drastically and deliberately pruned my reading list, shortening and shortening until I now read only four. I’d like to see a general return of the ‘amateur’ blog, though — so here’s my little contribution to the conversation!

  5. MrsDarwin says:

    I agree with everybody! Monetization made for a shift in content and tone — even if the author didn’t intend the change, it was there. And the barrier to entry on FB is just so low if you’re always logged in — click over, type your status, get instant reax and chat in real time.

    Another factor is that in that “golden age of blogging”, everything was new. It’s easy to write a blog if you’re just starting out; you’re bursting with Your Unique Contribution to the Conversation. After a few years, most people had had their say. It’s hard to keep on writing publicly, year in and year out, once the attention has died down and the conversations have moved elsewhere. You have to be able to write without encouragement. My favorite blogs are written by the people who have been faithful, who have simply continued to write and to curate what’s interesting to them, regardless of whether they’re in the public eye. They are honest and unaffected and unswayed by the winds of fashion (in opinion or in content).

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