Blogging is dead and no-one cares?

My riot policing piece yesterday attracted 600 unique visitors in 24 hours. That isn’t exactly Perez Hilton, but is about six times my current normal run rate (I think the biggest this blog has ever been is about 1000 daily visitors, for some of the global financial crisis articles).

The fact that the piece had quite a few visitors isn’t too surprising, I suppose – it was a take on a newsworthy and important topic that dissented somewhat from the conventional wisdom, based on hours and hours of discussion with people who were on the scene across different English cities and/or who really understand counterinsurgency strategy. And it was pleasing to see strategy/COIN experts talking about it favourably.

The odd thing, though, is that whenever I’ve written a piece in the past that has gained masses of attention, it’s been through links from bigger blogs, news sources, or occasionally forums. This time, as far as I can see from my logs, there haven’t been *any* blog links to the piece. All the traffic is coming from retweets and reshares on Twitter and Facebook.

I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say that blogs are dead as a medium: the existence of a self-publishing platform with a fairly powerful off-the-shelf CMS, and that isn’t restricted to a particular social network, remains useful.

But it’s looking like the sense in which we’ve traditionally understand blogs – roughly, a community of people who link to each other’s posts, comment on them, and write pieces that track back to them – no longer really applies. Facebook and Twitter have killed it, in favour of something flatter and much less based on the blogger’s personal brand.

7 thoughts on “Blogging is dead and no-one cares?”

  1. Partially, yes. I wrote a post on the riots Sunday am that got over 2K views, my normal for a day I post is about 60-80. But I promoted it almost exclusively through Twitter and Facebook (I wanted it to be read).

    80% of the traffic came from Google (a lot looking for Wood Lane news instead of overall riot news, fewer people were covering Wood Lane).

    Blogging as a cultural niche as it was when, well, I started taking it seriously and reading you and others, has gone. Some top bloggers even complain if they get linked to and not told, they don't even know how to track incoming links and similar. My post got very few links and I gave up even looking, there was no point.

    I get as many comments on Facebook and Twitter for a normal post as I do on the post itself, and that's despite me being on a platform that encourages comments from users–my riots post got more comments I think as a) a lot of my friends lived in the area and b) Google users had no other way of commenting (and the vid I got linked as an anonymous comment still disgusts me now).

    Blogging was a niche that evolved to suit a need. For all the fuss about Google+ being a Facebook killer, I think it's more than that. It's the first platform I've seen that may actually kill social blogging dead, people that used to post to their Livejournal blogs daily stopped, but they're very active on G+.

    Blogging evolves. WordPress is a damn fine CMS that allows reader interaction and archiving of news and articles, who cares it started as a blog platform?

    So, um, yeah, you're right. But is that actually a problem?

  2. I read it without ever visiting the site, via google reader on my phone. Perhaps such consumption patterns are increasingly common?

  3. Yes, they're dead, in the same way as putting your own site up using HTML and FTP was knocked off its feet by blogging platforms, then finally stomped to death by Wikipedia.

    It's a pity, really, but The Web used to be this mad unpredictable thing, complete with black backgrounds and illegible fluorescent text. Recently the big business seems to be to in re-create all this in a more formalised (and boring) fashion under your own namespace. Which is pretty much how AOL and the original MSN were, now I think about it.

  4. My experience partly corroborates this. For a long time, I've found that links from other blogs generally bring me very little traffic (Guido being the only exception). Instead, it's increasingly the case that spikes in my vistors come from Twitter – though not Facebook.
    However, I find that big visitor numbers often come when I blog about anything highly topical (regardless of Twitter links). This is a little surprising, as "news fatigue" plus the possibility that I have little to add to what everyone else is saying would predict the opposite.
    Also, I suspect that – on average – my overall traffic is about as high as it's ever been. This is consistent with blogging going ex-growth, but not with it dying. But then, one difference between you and me is that I usually blog more often than you do.

  5. I do not now, nor have I ever, given a flying fig how many people read my blog which, I suppose, is just as well given that not many do! In so far as I understand 'tweeting', it represents the literary equivalent of a quick belch and with about the same intelligence quotient!

  6. David, then I humbly suggest you don't understand tweeting at all. I use it almost exclusively for sharing links (i.e. pointing people towards articles / longer pieces of prose). For which purpose it is admirably suited.

    Yes, the occasional attempt to discuss an issue over twitter inevitably leads to simplification and frustration, given the inherent limitations of the medium. But that's really not what twitter is about. Criticising a system for being bad at something it's not really designed to do – even if lots of people insist on trying to use it that way – misses the point somewhat.

  7. Jim, greetings, long time no speak – or argue! However, let's re-unite with aggreement – you are absolutely right, I do not understand Tweeter!

    And "Criticising a system for being bad at something it’s not really designed to do – even if lots of people insist on trying to use it that way" is precisely what I do when socialists try to run an economy!

    I hope you and yours are keeping well.

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