Monday, November 16, 2009

How Blogging Has Changed

This post was written in July, but it's still quite relevant. Laura McKenna has been blogging for six years and reflects on what changes she's seen in the medium during that time. In various updates to the post, many big-name bloggers leave their thoughts on the subject.

McKenna notes the decline of linking and blogrolling. I think that this is because of the staggering size of blogosphere. It's no longer a community in any sense, and only very specific niches can maintain a sense of community, where people know each other beyond blog name in the header.

four years ago, when I taught classes on blogging, I said "Blogging is a communitarian activity. Don't just write stuff and expect people to link to you unless you link to them. Don't expect people to read you unless you read them. Don't expect people to blogroll you unless you blogroll them."

To an extent, this is true. And it's especially true for new bloggers who have yet to develop an audience. But eventually, the monkeysphere grows too large and interesting content matters more than relationships.

I state this with some hesitation, however, because the blogosphere is so large that it's impossible to get a grasp of it from the tiny inkling of what I can encounter (example: until I found this post, I had never heard of Laura McKenna, even though several big-name bloggers refer to her as an important voice).

Which is why I make this further hypothesis with even more hesitation: blogging has become more of a commercial enterprise. Not everyone can blog effectively, even fairly talented print freelance writers. When newspapers and magazines began giving their print journalists blogs, they couldn't compete with independent bloggers because the print journalists weren't able to write effectively in the new medium. When they began hiring people who could blog to blog -- and began making money off the effort through ad revenues -- established media companies began to thrive in the medium.

Which is why, I suspect, there has been a decline in hat tipping. At least, that is my assessment from a very limited perspective. In a more niche communitarian model (such as the Methoblogosphere), not hat tipping will hurt a blogger's reputation. In a commercial model, hat tipping hurts your bottom line by suggesting that readers visit your competitors.

But, as I've said in caveats, it's hard to know with any certainty because the medium has become ubiquitous. The plural of anecdote is not data, and there's a need for comprehensive quantitative research to make any solid assertions about blogospheric evolution.

In your time reading blogs or actively blogging, what changes have you noticed?

HT: Grow A Brain


TN Rambler said...

My blogging experience has only been within the niche of the Methoblogosphere. In the 5 years that I have been blogging, my enthusiasm for the medium has waned. I enjoyed the early days when Jonathon, Dean and others would challenge me and make me think. Now, with the loss of their voice to the medium, and a shift to shriller voices that aren't happy unless they're bitching about something, I don't really have the inspiration that I used to have. My own efforts have become sporadic and I've toyed with giving up completely because I don't really have the time any more. Yet, for some reason, I still hang in there.

The blogs that I enjoy reading are marked in my RSS feed and I look forward to new posts.


Jeff the Baptist said...

The downfall of blogrolling is almost completely technological. It is far efficient to keep track of your usual sites through an RSS reader than through a blogroll. I still keep a blogroll and maintain it, but once you get past 20-30 sites it stops being useful.

Not hat tipping. Eh, most of the sites I see still do it. I'm more bothered by the death of comments and trackbacks. Managing the former is a huge burden on the major blogs. The latter aren't popular because they're seen as a way for other sites to steal pageviews. On the other hand, I like the idea that trackbacks can provide instantaneous feedback and corrections from other bloggers.

bob said...

I know this is just perception but it seems to me that blogs are less permanent than I thought when I first started reading them.

Many of the blogs that got me hooked are no more.

James R. Rummel said...

It seems that I'm of two minds on this one.

I first started to blog because I wanted to help my students. A regular website cost too much, and blogging was a cheap way to provide an online resource for crime victims to ask questions, and find advice.

This means that the social aspect of blogging never really interested me all that much. Oh, sure, I have regular readers. And it is always a thrill when someone leaves a comment on a post. But most of my communication is through Emails sent by people who need specific advice, and don't want to leave any online evidence of vulnerabilities in their home security.

This means that I'll give hat tips and links to other sites because I'm trying to be polite, and because I think the authors of those other posts might have something to say which will help my students.

But I don't really care if anyone links back to me. If they do, great. I'll try to find something on their blog to link to just as a Thank You. If they don't link to me, I doubt I'd even notice.

I have noticed that, at least to me, it seems that the blogs have become increasingly political, partisan, and shrill. Not all of them, of course, but enough.

I think this is because political discussion really brings in the traffic, as does snarky and insulting rhetoric. Partisanship is just pandering to the readers in order to get them more emotionally invested in the blog.

Just the perceptions of someone who might be an established blogger, but who makes no bones about filling an extremely narrow niche.

Jeremy Barker said...

I've been wondering about my blogroll for some time - as far as I can tell, very few people click through it.

My RSS reader has grown far more than my blogroll and they are almost two different lists now as I don't keep the blogroll updated as often.

As for hat tipping, I do it as much as possible and an amount of it has moved to Twitter

Olive Morgan said...

I began blogging as a means of contacting young people and I had a large following who, because of my age, would ask my advice, which I gave from a Christian point of view. My most memorable contact was a 25 year old who had escaped the 9/11 bombings and was still traumatised. When the server Modblog failed, this whole network collapsed and blogging has never been the same.

Since then my blogging is almost entirely within the Methoblogosphere and the content is quite different. Although I enjoy this in a different way, even this blogging is changing as several of those on my blogroll post much less frequently now.