It’s become predictable: every year or so there is a flurry of commentary about the decline or end of blogging.
One occasion was the announcement by the redoubtable blogging pioneer, Andrew Sullivan, that he’d discontinued his 24-7 blogging venture.
If you’re active in social media, should you be reevaluating or retooling your approach to blogging?
If you’re not blogging, should you consider it?
Or is blogging a passing phenomenon?
Blogging is Dead
Sullivan offers several reasons for his decision. Perhaps the most compelling goes to the root of the matter, the place of blogging among various media alternatives:
I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
The best bloggers are skilled writers. Sullivan is a prime exemplar. His rationale—at least in respect of himself—is understandable.
Nonetheless it begs a question: Must blogging be viewed as an alternative to—or even inimical to—other forms of writing?
Sullivan’s blogging has been interesting in large part because he’s able to respond rapidly to onrushing events. He brings an interesting perspective, reflecting his academic rigor and erudition.
That said, it’s not obvious that blogging must be at odds with more reflective writing.
Sullivan’s “Dish” required constant feeding to meet the expectations he set with his subscribers. That approach is exceptionally demanding. It’s a 24-7 commitment. It’s akin to the 24-7 news cycle of cable news. It may simply ask too much of full-time participants. No one, no matter how intelligent or insightful or inspired, can reasonably be expected to create high-value product on an endless loop.
The grind of such an approach may deplete bloggers’ stores of information and analysis. Like politicians holding office, they may increasingly rely on notions developed in prior years. Eventually, this may hinder adaptability and evolution. It may end in intellectual burnout.
There’s no reason, in theory, that Sullivan could not blog in other ways. His current business model may have precluded that. That’s personal to him, not inherent in the medium.
Long Live Blogging
Among the factors that may enter your evaluation of your own blogging approach:
—Who Are You Serving? For blogging, as with all pursuits, a fundamental question can be clarifying: Who are you serving?
Some blogs are, frankly, self-advertisements. They are attempts to reach audiences with an eye toward becoming better known, drumming up business.
A self-serving approach is unlikely to add sustainable value in social media. It’s called social for a reason: it’s about creating and sustaining relationships. If one is simply building up instrumental metrics such as raw numbers of Twitter “followers,” it may mean little.
If there’s no monetization from the work, it’s volunteer work. To be sure, that can have value. But it needs to be seen for what it is.
It may sound hokey, but it’s true: if one produces work that serves others, by their active evaluation, the money will follow. If not….
On the other hand, solid work can create value in various ways. Whether one seeks a dedicated subscriber base, or indirect benefit for other services, the foundation is effectively serving others.
—How Do You Add Value? Some blogs attempt to add value by commenting on breaking news. This was Andrew Sullivan’s approach.
Circumstances are evolving rapidly, though. When Sullivan pioneered an independent blogging site fifteen years ago, traditional media sources were not nearly as invested in blogging as they are today. Now one can get live-blogging or rapid responses from established voices on various platforms. The bar has been raised considerably for individual voices.
One suspects that the value of “newsjacking,”as David Meerman Scott terms it, is linked ever more tightly to a writer’s possessing recognized, relevant expertise and a suitable platform. The increasing sophistication of Google search algorithms is a contributing factor. The days of low-quality content earning high search position are coming to a close.
Some outstanding bloggers publish on longer schedules. Some are weekly, monthly, or when the muse strikes and the audience is judged ready.
—First Drafts. Sometimes blog posts can add value as first drafts of ongoing thinking. Perhaps one has an idea that is not quite ready—but can benefit from the discipline of writing for an audience.
Perhaps one wants input and reaction in the preliminary phases of developing a notion or its expression.
Blogging can be a useful medium for such works in progress. Naturally, one must take appropriate steps to protect the intellectual property.
—Blog Posts as a Standing Resource. Blog posts can be topical or evergreen, or lie somewhere in between. Evergreen efforts are those that are not time-bound. They might well be as valuable in year or two as they are today.
The Serve to Lead site has steadily moved in this direction. The posts are drafted to add value along with other resources available to visitors.
One can readily ascertain the right balance for one’s audience by tracking and analyzing the popularity of various posts. Such metrics are available from WordPress, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, and other sources.
The technology of blog posts is conducive to creating posts that serve as ongoing resources. One can edit, reorient, and repurpose posts for changing circumstances. Conspicuous exemplars of this approach include James Altucher of the eponymous blog, and Maria Popova of the invariably interesting Brain Pickings site.
—Blogging Experiments. There are few conventions that need limit one’s conception of blogging. If something works for your intended audience, then it works.
One can experiment in various ways, including:
–Format. The use of images, videos, and graphic design can be creative in a blog context. You’re likely to get a sense of reactions rather rapidly.
–Subject. Just as silos are breaking down in sustainable organizations, individuals need not be limited by unjustified limits of specialization. As often as not, such limits are entirely artificial, based on custom, expectation, and unexamined, limiting presuppositions.
—Social Media Hub. Some years ago, comments on blog posts were a vital area of engagement. That has changed considerably. Sophisticated spambots have become a time-sucking, parasitic presence. More importantly, blogs are now part of a social media ecosystem. Comments on a blog post may be undertaken on Facebook pages. Twitter may become a key distribution point. Blog posts that have value can establish your site as a hub for such kinetic sharing. “Shares” from such social media may drive more traffic to your site than search engines.
—Transitions, Additions. What if you’re making a transition? Your business may be moving in directions unanticipated by your customers. You may be moving toward additional services or changed offerings based on new understandings.
Blogs can offer an excellent pathway to making such major turns by degrees. One can serve others while preparing oneself.
Today, one can apply blogging as a tool in crafting a hyphen-career, to use a term popularized by author Marci Alboher.
There’s no reason one can’t be an accountant or lawyer by day—and also an expert on the historiography of the Beatles, such as author Bruce Spizer.
What About You?
What is your current approach to blogging?
Who are you serving?
How do you learn from the blogging of others?
How do you evaluate your production?
Can you increase the sustainable value of your blog as a resource for others?
How has your contribution increased from a year ago?
What do you intend to put into action now, to increase your value in the coming year?
Blogging is Dead | Long Live Blogging