Has blogging peaked?
The demands of blogging have pushed many to abandon the form for faster, simpler word bursts on Twitter or Facebook.
Today, there is increasing evidence that the art of blog writing is losing ground to even faster forms of communication, from 140-character Twitter blasts to one-sentence status updates on Facebook and MySpace. Nielsen Media Research estimates that of the 126 million blogs counted by its crawlers, the vast majority are rarely – if ever – updated.Skip to next paragraph
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According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, blogging activity has dropped drastically among young adults in the United States, a demographic that traditionally helps define the tenor of the online conversation. In December 2007, for instance, 28 percent of all 18-to-29-year-olds with an Internet connection kept some sort of blog. By the same time last year, that number hovered around 15 percent. Meanwhile, the number of teens who say they blog regularly continues to shrink, as the Web’s youngest users ditch the blogosphere for the frantic pace of the social-media world.
“Sites like Twitter are offering this other way to maintain a similar social connection, but without the concerted effort of a detailed, four-paragraph blog post,” says Amanda Lenhart, a senior research analyst at the Pew Research Center.
Of course, the plain old blog – a term that can encapsulate content as diverse as a collection of short-form Tumblr posts or embedded YouTube videos – isn’t going to vanish anytime soon. Companies around the world continue to launch blogs as a way of reaching out to consumers, as do major media outlets.
BlogPulse, an analytics company operated by Nielsen, shows hundreds of new blogs launched every week. In fact, as the Pew study indicates, blogging has actually climbed slightly in popularity among American adults over the age of 30, from 7 percent in 2007 to 11 percent last year.
But many longtime bloggers say that the blog is entering a period of important transition – from one-size-fits-all soapbox to just one more tool in the cluttered Internet toolbox.
Facebook and Twitter, and not the blog, are now “the glue that holds online communities together,” says Dylan Wilbanks, a Web producer in Seattle. Gone are the days when Mr. Wilbanks would take to his blog to describe quotidian events or record passing fancies. “Sharing small pieces of data like links over blogs was like owning a heavy-duty pickup that you only used to pick up bread and milk at the grocery store,” he says. “Blogs are meant for people for whom being a writer, being a creator, is a passion, or perhaps a requirement of life. They’re meant for people for whom Facebook’s ‘What’s on your mind?’ question can’t always be answered in 500 characters or less.” As Wilbanks is quick to point out, not everyone has that passion, which is why blogging is losing its luster.
In June 2008, Wilbanks published a post to his personal blog, The Client and Server. The 985-word post was a humorous take on the hyperscrutinized nature of the presidential race, which was then in full swing; Wilbanks titled his work, “It ain’t over til it’s over... or is it?” It ended up being the final post on The Client and Server. Wilbanks says he meant to fold the blog into his personal site, DylanWilbanks.com, but work and home life got the better of him and the integration remains unfinished. “Meanwhile,” Wilbanks says, “I just haven’t sat down and written anything.” He continues to update his Twitter and Facebook feeds. Those sites, he says, allow him to trade “small thoughts with my community, and right now all I can manage is small thoughts.”