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We’re Doomed! Dooooooooooooomed!

James Strachan asked the question, and Matt Raible echoed it: are people blogging less?

The answer, at least in my particular corner of the universe, is yes. Almost without exception. The reasons are varied; some have new job responsibilities that preclude blogging, others are investing their time in other channels like del.icio.us, Twitter or more recently, FriendFeed, and still others have simply lost the interest.

That interest in blogging, and by extension, writing, will wax and wane does not surprise me. What I do find interesting, however, is that as best I can tell, the reading of blogs is down as well. While it might be natural to link a decline in production with a decline in consumption, I suspect there’s little connecting the two. Even if the authoring of blogs is down – a fact which I can only assert on an anecdotal basis, because I don’t view the general statistics I could discover on Technorati as relevant to this granular a level – the fact remains that there’s a wealth of content available, with more appearing every day. If anything, the individual decline of blogs has been offset by the increasing syndication of content of all shapes and sizes.

No, I think that the primary cause of the decline of blogging consumption is the rise in popularity of other tools. Tools which serve yet shorter attention spans than WordPress and Google Reader.

Andrew Turner, for example, writes that “Twitter means reading fewer blogs,” and while that’s not true of me personally, it is true of many I talk to. Jason Kaneshiro, meanwhile, notes that FriendFeed has essentially obsoleted Google Reader for his usage. And so on.

All of which, of course, is fine. Far be it from me to cast judgment on the technology habits of others; if it’s working for them, fantastic. More power to them, etc etc.

But I have to admit to some concern that our culture – already famously devoid of the capacity for sustained attention – is growing only more so. With technology playing an enabling role.

Is it too much to conclude that, simply because a few people are reading fewer blogs than they once did? Perhaps. But if the drop between the long form and blogs is steep, that between blogs and 140 characters is steeper still.

As Jeff says, there are some things that simply can’t be explained in 140 characters. But even if he summons the energy to post the full story, how many will read it?

So I’m worried. Even if we’re not really doomed.

Categories: Blogs.

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  • http://www.gandalf-lab.com/blog Niraj J

    We are probably approaching midway towards the trough of disallusement in the hype cycle.

    The hype was that writing some blog elevates your personal brand to the next level and hey you could also make some money.

    So – when everyone writes a blog the brand value is now moved to what is your pagerank? (which is the difficult part to get) and there is clearly not enough money in advertisement to justify the time investment.

  • http://www.gregwhitescarver.com/blog/ Greg Whitescarver

    I think we’ve seen a little consolidation, refinement, and shifting of blog content. Nerdy bloggers that haven’t gotten much traction (like me), tend to reduce their pace over time. Then again, infrequent posts might be more substantive, and less likely to duplicate the content of other blogs. Personal biographical moments are moving off of blogs over to twitter and friendfeed (and even Facebook).

    The popular, highly useful blogs and news services are surely continuing to pick up subscribers. While I might miss the navel-gazing of my in-person friends a bit, I also don’t see any real decline in useful content (I have just about all the useful content I can handle, actually).

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  • http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/ Jason

    I do think you’re onto something. I believe the returns of blogging are being challenged on many fronts. Microblogging is certainly becoming more appealing, as it takes a lot less effort and folks are increasingly commenting on FriendFeed. The money side of things is always a challenge. I think ultimately, the only ones who continue to blog will be those who don’t need a lot of external gratification. I’m increasingly okay with that.

  • http://blog.futurile.net Steve George

    I agree with Greg, the range of reasons for people blogging widened out effecting the types of content. I’m sure that they’ll find a niche, presumably there are still people using nntp somewhere and it fits a particular use case! The drop is readership is very interesting.

  • http://www.ericnakagawa.com Eric N.

    Here here… Once I cut my RSS consumption from 2-3000 items a day to 0. I converted to reading a handful of sites… notably gizmodo/valleywag/fark. At the same time I took up Plurking/Twittering and have even converted my blog to output my plurks.

    Me, and many friends are evolving blogs into bite-sized micro blogs. How many blogs out there actually say something of interest? Seriously, 99% of blogs are about what I ate for dinner, what I plan on doing before my tv show starts, a random poetry post, pictures of a trip I took and finally uploaded… it’s very local in its context and relevance. Less words increase the value of these collections of thoughts or media.

    For me the effort to blog increases exponentially with the length, depth, and breadth of a post. Some of us have developed neuroses and attention problems as it has become almost impossible to not get tricked into watching ads.

    I cope with my perception that other people are having the same challenges keeping up with things by playing in the game.

    God, even posting this comment was hard. What with email beeping, twitteriffic updating, an IM or two, growlr happily informing me of these updates.

  • http://www.ericnakagawa.com Eric N.

    Sadly, I realized after submitting my comment, 70% of tweets and plurks are about the same things… maybe micro messaging platforms just save us the effort of reading long-winded navel gazings. Higher Signal to Noise ratios for now.

  • http://www.redmonk.com/jgovernor James Governor

    pretty much right on the money. while i realise they are unconnected (or are they?) its interesting that we moved on from blogs to some extent just as Google made blogs harder to find on its search engine. That is- one value of blogging – improving your findability, was severely damaged when Google pushed us down the list.

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  • beth

    I think that people are consuming fewer blogs because there are so many of them it’s overwhelming. I know when I only had 5 blogs I really cared about I read them regularly. Now my rss feed list is about 250 and I don’t know where to start. How do I choose? I can’t read all of them, so I end up reading none of them (okay, not really, but you get the point). It’s the Paradox of Choice.

    I’m not sure about the writing part – maybe a similar reason (so many blogs) but not sure what would cause people to write less because of that.

    And Twitter – I can’t stand it. I can’t follow the intermingled attempts at conversation – I find it confusing and frustrating. I hate not seeing real opinions about topics. And again, I’m following 200 people and it’s too many. I’d be better off picking 5 and following them regularly. With 200 it’s just overwhelming.

    Beth