Is Blogging Still Viable?

No less a luminary than Steve Rubel, a veritable whitebeard in the study of blogging, seems somewhat pessimistic about the prospects of new bloggers to build a profitable blog. He’s not saying that established bloggers should hang up their keyboards but he does believe that readers are looking for more distributed, short-form content. Rubel is bullish on Twitter, Posterous, and lifestreaming.

If you’re interested in hearing what one of the most influential afficianados of the New Media has to say on this topic, watch Steve Rubel’s interview on BNN.ca.

I still believe in the power of the blog over other more disposable forms of content creation. How about you?

10 Comments

  1. October 1, 2009 at 7:26 AM | Permalink

    Whether blogging is viable as a community-building and communication tool and whether there’s a path to riches for new entries to the blogosphere are two different questions.

    On the first, I think blogs are still viable. There’s not yet a popularly accepted, mainstream, alternative yet.

    I have no basis for an informed opinion on the second. My uninformed opinion is that the death of blogs will be as overhyped as their emergence as a social phenomenon. On the other hand, I’ve never seen them as the path to riches, so I’m biased.

  2. October 1, 2009 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    I completely agree with Wren. Blogging and making money are not the same thing. I remember when blogs were first created and they were simply touted as an online journal or diary of sorts. Most people don’t try to make money off their diary. Now of course the format has evolved a lot and yes there are people making money off blogs but to say that blogging is dead because it is hard to make money is a joke.

    I also agree that blogs are not popularly accepted, ESPECIALLY in our genre. Technology blogs get far more traffic than nature blogs simply because the user base is comfy with the technology. Most people interested in nature would rather be outside than on a computer and many people who would be interested in our subject matter are downright hostile toward computers. I think that is slowly changing but I was just pondering last night how we can increase readership of nature based blogs.

    To break into the top ten on the toplist you only need to average a little over 1,300 readers per day. That’s a huge number for us but a tiny number for other genres of blogs. Why do our top blogs not garner more readers?

  3. October 1, 2009 at 8:42 AM | Permalink

    Regarding community, I’ve realized that the more social media I use to try to draw people closer to my blog the more diffuse the interactions seem to become. It has the opposite effect of what I intended. That is, it seems easier for people to tweet a reply than to go to my blog and leave a comment. Or DM me a message instead of using email. I still don’t know of a good way of capturing that interaction on my site.

    There is also an overhead in trying to use social media that rarely gets mentioned. No matter how much automation and plugins are used, there’s still a cost to interacting with Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc in addition to my own blog. It’s almost like a parasite load that has to be factored in for the fitness of my own site’s survival.

  4. October 1, 2009 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    That’s an interesting point Jason. I too wish there was a way to aggregate comments on my site. People comment on my posts on Facebook since I use the Networked Blogs application but then those comments don’t show up on the blog.

    Also with regard to the original point that things like twitter age getting more popular…well so what? They serve different purposes. Take this post I wrote for example, http://tcnaturalist.blogspot.com/2009/09/top-10-tips-for-new-birders.html

    How on earth would I do a long format advice post like that on Twitter? Blogging and tweeting are simply different. I do think though that especially in the nature based blogging community we need to do a better job of getting readers to our sites. There are clearly people out there who would like to read our work but I fear they don’t understand what blogs are. Sure, if you type in “nature blogs” in google the NBN is the first hit but I’m guessing that many people who don’t really understand blogs are not going to specifically search for them.

    How do we reach new audience members who are not currently blog readers?

  5. October 1, 2009 at 11:28 AM | Permalink

    Even though blogging and tweeting are different formats, they are both part of the larger phenomenon known as lifestreaming. I completely revamped my site back in February because of this. I realized that I was blogging less and less but still spending as much time online as ever, maybe even more. But just like my notional audience, my energy was diffused throughout various social media sites. So I cobbled together a template that would allow me to at least aggregate most of it onto the front page of my site. It’s not a perfect solution and there are still a lot of holes. But I expect in the future, as more nature loves add online connectivity to their outdoor experience, blogs per se will be less significant but lifestreaming will come naturally. Why doesn’t NBN have an iPhone app yet? ;o)

  6. October 1, 2009 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

    BTW, one of the holes that opened up with my site redesign was that I lost my ranking/affiliation with NBN. I have a widget on my site, but I guess I have not set it up right. The work never ends.

    http://natureblognetwork.com/index.php?a=stats&u=cephalopodcast

  7. October 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

    The work never ends, as Jason R. says, may be a large part of the problem.

    Most people, particularly those whose primary focus is not tech, don’t want to devote too much time to it, myself included even though I work in tech. Part of the appeal of nature is that I’m disconnected. I don’t want to be online all of the time. There are some fields where it’s almost antithetical to ones main interest, like nature.

    So I’m not really sure how ‘lifestreaming’, a new term to me but still a descriptive one, will become all that important for those who don’t want to spend that much time online, in whatever form.

    All of this doesn’t lessen the value of blogging. But it does make it much more likely that one can make money from it. For me I think that’s fine. If I made some money that would be great. But I think it’s a very unrealistic expectation and one that’s often in conflict with the blog itself. My guess is that nature blogging will remain as popular as ever, though I don’t use any other social media (primarily because of time) so I could be miscalculating any move of people with interest in nature from blogging to some other form. I suppose that could lessen the appeal somewhat.

    But it seems to me that the world of nature blogging continues to grow. It’s just that growing and making money are two different things……..

  8. October 1, 2009 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

    The video is interesting but this discussion is even more interesting. I appreciate the thought that the commenters (is that a word?) are putting into questions that all nature writers are facing now: Who do I want to reach? What am I trying to achieve? What’s the best platform to use to do this? What technologies can help me do this? And last but not least, how am I supposed to keep up with all this stuff while also being outside??? (Insert icon of person tearing hair out here.) I don’t have any answers, but I appreciate being allowed to read what other people are coming up with. I hope the conversation continues.

  9. October 1, 2009 at 8:23 PM | Permalink

    Wow, what a GREAT discussion going on here! I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch the video, and I had to Google “lifestreaming”, which lead to some other articles touching on the topic of the future of blogging.

    To answer your query to us Mike, yes, I DO believe in the power of the blog over the more disposable online formats. I think your keyword is “disposable.” This means you’re thinking of blogging as something “durable,” and I agree. Maybe once these social sites like Twitter, Friend Feed, etc. really pick up steam (as if they haven’t already), blogging will become a format where people will go for more serious, contemplative reading… perhaps blogging can became more of an educational space and less of a social playground. That’s how I view it right now anyway, at least when it comes to nature blogging. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the community aspects of blogging (how else would we be having this discussion?), but I don’t consider it to be as “social” as something like Facebook.

    In the comments section of a similar discussion (“The Future of Blogging Revealed”) over on ReadWriteWeb.com, someone mentions how readers are trending toward skimming, instead of in-depth reading. With all the texting that’s going on these days, I imagine the younger generation is only going to continue this trend. This presents a challenge to any of us who actually want to continue posting so-called “long form” content. IS there a way to pull people in who are so used to skimming and 10-second news bites? How do we hook them, and THEN how do we hold their interest?

    Also, Kirk I think you bring up a good point about people not really knowing what blogs are. I’m sure that sounds ludicrous to most of us, but 3 years ago I didn’t really know what a blog was. Your question is valid: how do we reach new audience members? Bloggers or not, I would venture to guess that many bloggers don’t even think about the possibility of nature blogs.

    Mike, thanks so much for bringing this up very thought-provoking subject. I look forward to more discussion!

  10. October 2, 2009 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    Excellent discussion, as I had hoped!

    Kirk, your observation about the level of traffic even the most popular sites in our network receive is well made. My sense, which I’m generalizing from my observation of the North American birding community, is that a significant percentage of self-identified birders still don’t know anything about blogs. I’m pleased to say I introduced our community to many of the attendees of the Midwest Birding Symposium but far more outreach to the uninitiated is needed.

    Jason, I agree with you completely about the cost of participating in any social media platform. Every one requires its own investment. Kudos on your efforts to harness your lifestream on your blog. Now when are you going to help us make an NBN app?

    Ken, you’re right that growing a blog and making money off it are two entirely different things. I really focused on the dichotomy between traditional blogging and the new micropublishing options because I agree with your conclusion. But I’m confident that opportunities to build profitable online brands still abound. Whether anyone ever will in the nature niche still remains to be seen!

    Heather, you caught my subtle distinction. I do indeed see blogging as durable. If you own your blog, you own your content and can build upon it in many ways over time. I can’t figure out how to do that with a Facebook update.