Marco Arment brings it to a point:
Nobody’s really talking about it, but I suspect this is a wider trend: blogs aren’t dying, but they are significantly declining. 2015 might be a rough year.
The popularity of the personal blog reached a fever pitch when the Google search engine introduced a new way of ranking search results. This allowed the little guy to compete with any big organizations on the ‘front page of the internet’, the first results page on any search term on Google and to a lesser extend on other search engines.
One marketers figured this out, Google had to do something about the increase in ‘gaming the system’. In order to kill the ‘black hat’ and ‘white hat’ SEO guys it in turn killed the native search result.
Google seemingly decided that it was easier to take over the first 10 results of a search term by ads and internal promoted links than to try to constantly fight the ‘marketing experts’ that ran amok over the last few years by constantly tweaking their search algorithm.
Then social media came along and changed the game entirely on how people find content. Google.com is not the front page of the internet anymore. Alternate ways of searching through Siri and other input tools increasingly are eating away at the prominence of the monopolistic, yet still loved approach of ‘doing the internet thing’ from a few years ago.
Buzzfeed’s ‘listicles’ are a response to people consuming content on social media sites. Have you ever found a Buzzfeed article ranked on the first page in a search result? This approach ccompletely ignore their ranking in search engines. Listicles are the new SEO-type gaming. They are just gaming social media sites. So it should be called Social Media Optimization SMO, I suppose?
It’s weird to think of this new phase of the internet where we approach a more television-like scenarios where channels rule and one person’s interaction and consumption with content is entirely different to the next.
This is the law of the land, Marco concludes:
If we want it to get better, we need to start pushing back against the trend, modernizing blogs, and building what we want to come next.
I agree, and I haven’t even talked about mobile devices yet and their impact on our lives and how differently we consume content today.
Personal blogs flourished 15 years ago Back then the ‘blogger’ was the rockstar. A person who had access to a computer with internet. He/she was able to curate the best content for it’s readers. We envied the Kottke’s and Gruber’s of the world for having the time to dissect and find articles, and gems all over the world and present them to us in an engaging manner. Bloggers like them were the tour guides of the vast and unchartered territories of the world wide web.
Blogging was the most productive way of interacting with the flood of content a person encountered on the web. A blogger actually created something. A response, an article commenting on whatever happened today.
But as we are consuming content on the go, we are in a complete different spot to respond. On mobile the copy/paste/link to an article is cumbersome, still. Typing a 500 word article in response to something is not an option on mobile devices. (I’m writing this article on my Mac, but ready Marco’s initial article on my iPad.) We might read the article in the bathroom, on the bus, while walking the dog. We’re not in a place to respond. And if we can’t respond succinctly aside from ‘liking or having’ then the moment has past and the immediate stirring is gone.
In ‘Is blogging dying in the age of Mobile‘ I argue:
None of the star writers, the role models for the blogging community have cracked mobile. The indie magazine startups all have failed. Some of the must-read websites have added ‘responsive designed’ code to their blogs to make them more user friendly to read, but none have figured out a sustainable model for their business. No great apps have surfaced. No app engines like WordPress or TypePad for mobile app development, publishing and distribution. The indie heroes of the app generation all have created a game. TinyWings, Letterpress, Monument Valley lit up the internet for a few month and are soon after ‘played out’ and people move on. There’s no staying power for indies in the app market place.
This at the core is what’s challenging creators from keeping up their blogs.
So, what will be next? What’t the next creation and consumption tool/app/platform that will allow indie makers to engage directly with their audience again and create a living for themselves?
Essentially, Facebook has determined that algorithms alone are not enough to determine the makeup of one’s News Feed. The mix is so important — not just to individuals but to collateral players such as the news business, the apps industry, and the Internet meme machine — that the ultimate tech company must acquaint itself with the Antediluvian art of asking people directly what they want.
Happens on all social channels. Computers can’t guess our mood. Perhaps there lies the future of journalism somewhere.
Michael Sippey on Medium:
A theory of email newsletters, in three points. Email newsletters are enjoying a bit of a renaissance, and I’ve been thinking about why this is the case:
1. They work because we live in our inbox. Newsletters work because they’re delivered to the app that is on our phones, our tablets, our laptops: email. This delivers an interesting side benefit of dayparting: because we’re always in our inbox, newsletters like The Skimm can build an audience in the morning, and Dave Pell can own the afternoon. (By contrast, blogs I feel are suffering because they’re currently lacking a natural distribution channel: Reader’s dead, Twitter is overwhelming, Facebook algorithms ‘em to /dev/null.)
2. They work because the mental model is simple. Sign up, get things sent to you. Don’t want it anymore? Unsubscribe. And in the meantime, you are in control: want to get alerted as soon as it hits your inbox? Fine. Want to filter it and read it later? Want to forward it to a friend? Fine. Want to reply and deliver vitriol to the sender? Fine.
3. They work because publishers have just a few simple metrics that they can optimize for: subscriber growth/churn, open rate, clickthrough rate. Problem: most reporting tools are still too “campaign” focused (as opposed to longitudinal relationship focused), but given enough time your audience will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
We’ve all been reading more, consuming more, and enjoying more content in more places. And yet the bloggers (individual content creators with their own platform) have not found a way to solve the puzzle of how their content should be delivered on mobile devices. Successful bloggers from the time way before the iPhone might still be riding on their successes but most are not increasing their audience or creating anything new or noteworthy.
Currently podcasts are all the rage and everyone’s been talking about gear, production tools, and the feasibility of building a dedicated software. But that’s a different discussion.
Audio and video has its place. Video is cool if you want dedicated attention from your audience and your content better be good, otherwise people will tune out. Audio is great for passive listening, while working out or during your commute.
Blogs are the perfect way to consume content for most other times. You can focus on text just with your eyes while ‘doing something else’. Sitting on the couch watching the ‘second screen’ called television for example. Reading also allows you to consume content much much faster than listening or watching.
There’s a huge upside to written content. Yet, bloggers like Kottke, or Gruber, or even Zeldman have not taken advantage of the new screen sizes and helped us rethink and redefine how written content should be delivered on mobile screens.
So far the discussion on content creation on mobile screens often is limited to the input. The keyboard, or the lack thereof.
• When most online content was consumed on desktop PCs it felt natural to take what inspired us and immediately jump into action, reply and craft our response. Now we might read that awesome article on the loo or on the bus. We can bookmark it, but certainly aren’t in a position to immediately blog about it ourselves.
• How many “Kottkes” do you have in your Facebook feed? Mainstream media’s popular social sharing sites like Facebook and Tumblr have opened quick emotional-driven sharing a mass-phenomena. It becomes harder to cut through the everyday crap. It gets boring to share when everyone is sharing cat pictures and Buzzfeed lists all day long.
• Many nerds who write have focused so far on the keyboard input as the main barrier to blogging on iPads, but I disagree with that. They glass keyboard might be something to get used to but I enjoy it, it can work. What I am missing is the quick copy/pasting which makes modern link blogs so powerful. Copying the link, selecting a snippet of text for a quick a blockquote is really really hard to do on the one-window iOS’s devices. The constant back and forth between apps is a huge drag and just not fun.
• Commenting below the articles were short lived on the web, and for good reasons. But for many small bloggers the comments helped create not just traffic, but a community. It was the instant feedback, not on a third party site, but right below the words you write on the website you created. This gave you validation and made you keep at it. Yes, this is probably the weakest argument on my list. The commenting is still happening, and perhaps even more so, but we as content creators aren’t connected to it anymore. We don’t see where our articles are posted. As the web is becoming more silo-ed and fragmented Google Analytics, for years the standard in traffic evaluation is becoming more and more useless. You have to check and maintain several analytics tools which puts too much focus on the numbers.
• Google killed it’s Reader. This one was coming with announcement. But many bloggers I know lived and died by having created their curated feed of blogs and news sites, which they checked daily for inspiration. This has been replaced by Twitter and Tumblr for most parts. But the retweet allows only a few characters, hardly enough to consider yourself a blogger.
• None of the star writers, the role models for the blogging community have cracked mobile. The indie magazine startups all have failed. Some of the must-read websites have added ‘responsive designed’ code to their blogs to make them more user friendly to read, but none have figured out a sustainable model for their business. No great apps have surfaced. No app engines like WordPress or TypePad for mobile app development, publishing and distribution. The indie heroes of the app generation all have created a game. TinyWings, Letterpress, Monument Valley lit up the internet for a few month and are soon after ‘played out’ and people move on. There’s no staying power for indies in the app market place.
When the screen went smaller and we put it into our pockets we rewrote our CSS and focused on responsiveness. Well designed websites you can read on any screen. This was a great first step. Next came the native app. Everyone threw HTML and CSS into the wind and painstakingly created native apps to fully take advantage of the look and feel of mobile interfaces. But this is a non-starter for bloggers. Objective-C, Xcode and the app store are just too big of a hurdle to overcome. By the time a inexperienced part time developer has successfully created and deployed an app the next iteration of iOS is shipping and you can start all over. To give individual bloggers their own app you need something like the ‘famous 5 minute’ install WordPress offers. This needs to include the release into the app store. And then you have an app just in one app store. It pains me to say, but there are other mobile operation systems out there.
The next challenge to overcome is to get notifications on mobile right. Only over the last year developers recognized how important notifications on mobile devices are. And iOS8 is offering app developers more options around this. One example is the notifications in Safari. Websites have offered this for while now, but it never occurred to me to allow this ever. And I have never read that anyone has done this in a way that it would feel right, and be successful. So, what perhaps might’ve been a good idea is currently not taking off.
In the meantime we play more, watch more videos and listen to more podcasts. People still write, but it increasingly gets lost in all the other shiny mobile goodness we are touching, tabbing and sliding around on our screens.
(Part II: ‘An inspiration from an unlikely Source’ will be published soon. Follow me on Twitter if you want to be notified!)
By now we’ve gotten used to the endless stream of screenshots capturing typos on TV news programs.
What I am wondering about is, if TV stations don’t care anymore and the ‘everything was better in the past’ motto holds true here, or if the typos have always been there and only now, that we are all watching with our ‘second screen’ in hand and that one with a camera attached no less, we are able to capture those mishaps and post them on Twitter for all of us to chuckle and the poke fun at the medium.
Fascinating time to be a blogger, still.
My once favorite RSS reader had to be completely rebuild after the closure of Google Reader. Back then I love the app on Mac and iOS. It is still gorgeous designed, feels great to use and is a pleasure to read articles from multiple blogs on.
When Google killed their RSS service I moved all my blogs to DIGG and used their app and website for awhile. It worked alright at first but it certainly was no Reeder.
Since then time has moved on and RSS has increasingly become irrelevant for me. I recently revived the still very clunky-to-use Lists on Twitter and added every blog-only feed to that list I care about. It actually works surprisingly well. My ‘RSS’ List allows me to browse those links straight from the platform I use most often to discover and read articles. It certainly is not as comprehensive as my old RSS list, but starting fresh actually feels pretty good as I get a change to rebuild my feed from the ground up.
And for those blog feeds that don’t offer dedicated Twitter streams? Well, they should get on it right away, right? But, in the meantime, I will let those links come bubbling up to me on my daily tweet stream.
Happy reader, but without Reeder.
Kottke launches Kickstarter Boost sponsorships. Smart idea. And a bold move:
If your Boost runs on the site and your project does not reach its goal, I will refund your deposit and you will not be charged the full amount.
Podcasting’s blogger moment hasn’t arrived yet.
And will it ever?
Unfortunately in the last couple years we have seen our Google ranking fall precipitously for unexplained reasons, and the corresponding drop in ad revenue means that the future of the site has come into question.
We’ve reached peak Google ad, we’ve reached peak organic Facebook page reach for our posts. Reaching your audience with the organic web is disappearing. If you don’t create a community and a direct revenue stream with it you are in trouble. I wonder how The Deck Network is doing. And I wonder how Metafilter would be doing today if it would’ve created its own ad network way back in the days?
And there I go, hoping that bringing The Talk Show over to Daring Fireball would make John Gruber inspire to redesign his site.
But no, it’s 2014, over 50% of his traffic coming from mobile and still only no responsive site.
I’m not complaining. I just would love to see his interpretation of what a site, which hasn’t been redesigned in many years, would look like in today’s standards. And not from a visual perspective or from an eye-candy one. This is not about fashion. It’s about understanding the current devices, and screen sizes and interpreting ‘design’ to deliver the content.
John, if you’re listening, would love to hear your thoughts. Well, I suppose I could just listen to the latest podcast to find out, right?
Mathew Ingram for GigaOm:
If the launches of various new-media entities over the past year — from Beacon’s crowdfunding efforts and Syria Deeply’s topic-focused site to Ezra Klein’s Vox project and Jessica Lessin’s The Information — it’s that there is no end of experimentation going on when it comes to business models. But can a not very well-known blogger with no team behind them turn their writing into a successful freemium business?
Love those experiments. Curious to see if they can be successful.
From turning into Buzzfeed.
Not bad FiveThrityEight. For being less than 6 month old, you surely know where the page views lie.
Anthony Bourdain is back. And I can’t wait.
Bourdain explains his team’s strategy with typical coarseness: “We are constantly asking ourselves, first and foremost, what is the most (messed) up thing we can do next week?”
NYT’s Krugman doesn’t like Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight blog.
And I agree with him. So far everything I’ve seen is highly underwhelming.
Why is it, and pardon me if I repeat myself, that all those professional journalist leave reputable publications and start something new with the desire to redefine their genre and essentially create a standard blog, in the same fashion we’ve seen already for a decade now.
Where are the designers that help them elevate their writing to the next level?
Yes, so far the cool genre-bending designs have failed because they were too far out there and tried to marry several different mediums, writing, video and lots of slide shows.
But one would think that a site, focused on writing and cool graphs would consider that more and build a design exactly for that.
It’s on WordPress after all, to build a theme can’t be that hard. Come on people.
Tech news is reporting on fashion news reporting on tech news.
Tech news used to be reporting on a small fringe genre of news. Then the tech world made serious money and it’s products became lifestyle. Now everyone is reporting on the tech scene and tech news is resorting to reporting about other news’ reporting on the tech scene.
Did you get all that?
Huffington Post takes on the world. Announced partnership with the Berggruen Institute on Governance.
There are certain issues that we believe are central in reshaping our world, which The WorldPost will relentlessly cover: the occupations and jobs of the future, including youth unemployment; personal and planetary sustainability; political governance; the future of China; philosophical and spiritual inquiries; global health and well-being; new approaches to fighting the drug war; and the ways that stress and burnout are impacting people’s lives, companies’ bottom lines and health care costs.
Already includes shitty ads. Congrats on that discerning venture.
All those tech journalists who always know how an app or a device should work and none can come up with a better idea on how to fund a journalistic venture. Fascinating.
There’s a nihilistic streak in tech journalism that I just don’t see in other fields. Sports, movies, cars, wristwatches, cameras, food — writers who cover these fields tend to celebrate, to relish, the best their fields have to offer. Technology, on the other hand, seems to attract enthusiasts with no actual enthusiasm.
Love this summary. SF Tech writers have become gold diggers. Chasing the money, not the story.
Didn’t think Glen would pull it off. Congrats, he raised quite a bit more than he needed on his Kickstarter campaign. The The-Magazine-Book is a go.