The Blog Is Dead, Long Live the Blog



Paul Boutin tells readers of his Wired article, "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004" (October 2008) that blogging is dead. Keep in mind that Boutin works for a blog, Valleywag.com, which is an industry gossip blog.

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug. Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

On the other side is my friend Karine Joly saying that "Blogs aren’t dead… even in this Twitter age" on HER blog collegewebeditor.com. So some are announcing the death of blogs, and some are declaring blogs to be healthy - and they are bloggers, and are doing their announcing via blogs.

The supposed blog killers are newer media applications like Twitter. Twitter limits each its text-only posts to 140 characters. This is known as microblogging. (Add Tumblr, Jaiku, and Pownce to that list) The analogy is made that Twitter is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004.

In defining microblogging, SearchMobileComputing.com says:

The appeal of microblogging is both its immediacy and portability. Because posts are so brief (typically 140 – 200 characters), a microblogger can update his microblog often enough to keep readers informed as events, whether large or small, unfold. Anyone with a cell phone can send and receive updates any time, anywhere. Users can send messages as text, video or audio. Several social networking Web sites, including Twitter, are promoting microblogging as a convergence of several types of presence technology. Here's Twitter's self-description: "A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?"

Boutin points to Technorati's list of the top 100 blogs and the dominance of professional blogs with staffs of writers posting a few dozen times a day. These kinds of blog sites - Huffington Post, Engadget, TechCrunch - are new media machines. How can individual bloggers compete?

Some big name bloggers of "the past" - Scoble & Calacanis for example - have passed on blogging to take up Twitter. Why? I suspect that short attention spans and a lack of willingness to sit down and compose an intelligent post plays a part, but also because Twitter is faster than the blogosphere. For example, Twitter posts can be searched instantly without waiting for Google to index them.


Boutin is in on the fix:

As a writer, though, I'm onto the system's real appeal: brevity. Bloggers today are expected to write clever, insightful, witty prose to compete with Huffington and The New York Times. Twitter's character limit puts everyone back on equal footing. It lets amateurs quit agonizing over their writing and cut to the chase.

@WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won't find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?

Don't give up your blog. Twitterish apps will not replace the blog any more than television replaced the movies or USA Today replaced The New York Times. Blogs serve different purposes.

I agree that attention spans have been decreasing - for about the last 100 years. People don't read as much as they used to "a long time ago."  Writing letters on paper is mostly a thing of the past. Still, I can't think of any worthwhile post I have ever put on this blog that would have ANY value as a 140 character "tweet."

As more and more writers from the print world begin to blog, I see posts becoming longer and more thoughtful - not the other direction.

I find it satisfying that when Twitter decided to explain more clearly their network status (because of having so many down times), they use a competitor in the microblogging field, Tumblr, to do it. Why? Tumblr, though micro, allows longer posts, photos, links etc.  140 characters just doesn't make it.

What need is microblogging apps like Twitter fulfilling? I think it is the current perceived need for presence technology. Presence technology is a type of application that makes it possible to locate and identify a computing device (and therefore its user) wherever it might be, as soon as the user connects to the network. Instant messaging is a more common example. I log into my Gmail or Facebook account and you can see that I'm online. (OK, on Gmail I can actually click a link and become invisible so I don't get bothered.) I'm not going to write more here about why I don't use Twitter ( I did that already.), and it does seem to serve some purpose to some people. My argument is that it doesn't even come close to serving the same purposes of a blog.


Does Serendipity35 have to compete with Techcrunch or Engadget? No. We have a different (educational) niche in the tech world. Actually, do we even have to compete with other educational technology bloggers like Hargadon, Richardson, or Nussbaum-Beach? I don't think so, especially if I'm not interested in selling books, or putting myself out there as a speaker or workshop leader.


Technorati has an interest series of pages on The State of Blogging 2008. They catalog and track blogs and there have been a number of attempts to quantify the size of the Blogosphere. How many blogs are there? How many are active? How many people read them? The answers vary, but there is general agreement that blogs are a global phenomenon that is now mainstream and they aren't going away. 


One study, from Universal McCann (March 2008), determined that there are 184 million blogs worldwide and 26.4 million are in the United States. Blog readers total 346 million worldwide with 60.3 million being Americans. Most impressive is that 77% of active Internet users report that they read blogs.


Wikipedia defines blogs (a contraction of the term "Web log") as "a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order."  The blogosphere is the collective community of all blogs. Since all blogs are on the Internet by definition, they may be seen as interconnected and socially networked.


More from Technorati:

But as the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs. (see The Bivings Group)

Despite the fact that Serendipity35 gets a million hits a month, we only have an "authority" of 23 currently on Technorati. Very respectable, but not in that elite 50+ league. Those blogs are getting millions of hits - and many are making a good profit doing it too.

The majority of bloggers we surveyed currently have advertising on their blogs. Among those with advertising, the mean annual investment in their blog is $1,800, but it’s paying off. The mean annual revenue is $6,000 with $75K+ in revenue for those with 100,000 or more unique visitors per month. Note: median investment and revenue (which is listed below) is significantly lower. They are also earning CPMs on par with large publishers. Here at Serendipity35, we don't care much about CPMs. (By the way, CPM is used in advertising to represent cost per thousand - where M is the Roman numeral for 1000 - and in online advertising it relates to the cost per thousand page impressions. The more hits you get, the more the ad costs.) We think about what is going on in technology and how it might impact education and learning.


The blog is not dead. The theater is not dead. The novel is not dead. Mediums of communication change. Get used to it. Some will be replaced. The phone killed the telegraph. The cell phone killed pagers. Smart phones killed PDAs. Sites like Craig's List killed newspaper classified ads. Others will evolve or be replaced. Newspapers are moving online more and more. Some magazines are killing the print edition for online, or just shutting down the print version altogether. Television networks finally realized that they needed to offer online video instead of trying to take down all the content people were posting "illegally." Record companies, after years of getting hurt by downloads legal & illegal, still haven't fully gotten the message about the death of the CD. But they will. And blogs will continue to launch and continue to change. Maybe even I, anti-cell phone advocate, will some day post to this blog using a Google Phone - but don't count on it happening soon.


Out of the Cloud

 




Miller Airpark

A few Saturdays back, I was at Miller Air Park fueling the Piper Archer airplane I had rented for a flight down to Cape May County airport.  It was a busy morning for the airport and several planes were in  pre-flight, being taxied to the northeast end of the runway, or were already cocked into the wind --holding-short of runway 24 doing their pre-takeoff run-up.  Each pilot in turn completed the safety checklist, pivoted onto the runway, firewalled the throttle and lifted the aircraft into the smooth gray sky. In the 30 minutes or so that I had spent pre-flighting and fueling my own plane there were 7 departures but, except for a pre-solo student and instructor locked into the never ending left turns of take-off and landing pattern practice, no other aircraft arrived at MJX.

 


Ken and I are sometimes like the FBO staff at Miller Air Park.  We send post after post off into the internet clouds and, every once in a while, we receive an arrival. A returned comment here and there lets us know that the posts we roll off our internet tarmac aren't falling off the edge of our flat earth. Ken builds almost all of the wordcraft we launch and I spend most of my time clearing turkey buzzards and deer off our virtual runway, but once in a while, I get to fly a post of my own. And on that Saturday morning in Whiting, NJ, I held the nose on the centerline and rotated that Piper into the air. 


I climbed to 400 ft and turned left toward the coastline. Over my shoulder, as I approached 1000 ft, I could see the massive airship hangars of Lakehurst Naval Air Station and the abandoned, but standing, stall of the Hindenburg, unoccupied since May of 1937 when the dirigible burned at her mooring.  When it departed Frankfurt, Germany on May 3rd that year, the crew that launched her expected a return, too. Though it was scheduled to fly back from North America to Europe with a full manifest of transatlantic passengers en route to  the coronation of King George VI of England, its final destination remained in New Jersey.


Fifty years after the famous crash, long after it was branded a mystery and pursued only by academic enterprise, the actual cause of the craft's incineration was discovered. The paint that protected its outer skin from the harsh ocean crossing, burned like a magnesium fuse when lit by lightning over land.


WWD Cape May County


 


I quickly flew through Atlantic City's airspace and continued inbound to the Sea Isle City VOR. My checkpoints, spaced on my chart at 10 minute intervals, rolled underneath my right wing at 8, then 7, minutes.  I was ahead of schedule and soon I'd arrive at WWD 10 minutes before my flight plan had estimated.


Traffic was light at Cape May County. I radioed the airport's CTAF for the active runway and entered the downwind pattern for 28.  There were no other aircraft in the pattern (or rolling on the ground) and I touched down just past the threshold markers and turned off at the first taxi-way. Not stopping to visit, I headed back to the east end of runway 28, throttled back up and, five minutes after I had first touched down, was airborne again and heading home.


I flew back to Miller through the same airspace that the Hindenburg traveled on its last day.  I landed, safely, just a few miles from where the dirigible fell to the ground.  It had only taken a couple of hours but I returned to the airport from which I'd departed -- a luxury the Hindenburg pilot never had.


Maybe fifty years from now, like the paint on an unburned scrap of the Hindenburg, some word, sentence or phrase from Serendipity35 (or some other internet archive) will drop out of the internet cloud and reveal some small unintended truth about the lives we lived today.

Blog Action Day: Poverty


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Blog Action Day 2007 last October had more than 20,000 bloggers with an estimated combined audience of over 15 million viewers, reading and discussing issues on the environment.

In 2008, the topic will be poverty. Bloggers who sign on will discuss that issue from the view of their own blog. Serendipity35 will try to cross poverty with learning and technology, for example.

Blog Action Day will be on October 15th. If you have a blog of any kind, you can sign up to participate.

It would also be a good classroom activity, whether you are a blogger or not, to look at he poverty resources and information that will be online that day on participating blogs.

An example is The Global Fund which combats AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria which have a crippling effect on the fight against poverty. Blog Action Day for this year encourages bloggers to donate their day's earnings to The Global Fund as their official Blog Action Day charity.

Two other resources for the classroom are the Causes of Poverty at the Global Issues site, and the Stand Up Against Poverty site.

Some of the world’s most popular blogs (according to Technorati) have agreed to participate in Blog Action Day this year, including: TechCrunch.com, ReadWriteWeb.com, Mashable.com, SmashingMagazine.com, GigaOm.com, Jauhari.net, Problogger.net, CopyBlogger.com,DailyBlogTips.com, ZenHabits.net, Inhabitat.com, VentureBeat.com, Mentalfloss.com, PronetAdvertising.com, TorrentFreak.com


Webby Awards


Earlier this month the Webby Awards were announced. There are lots of categories, but I'll just point you to a few blogs.

The Huffington Post won best Political blog. PostSecret is the best cultural blog, and FT.com Alphaville won for business blog.

The Webby Awards is a contest for the best of the internet from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and they announced the winners for dozens of categories covering blogs, websites and video.

Here's a complete list of winners.

One thing I do like about their awards ceremony (in June) is that winners of the Webby Awards must restrict their acceptance speeches to five words.