December 2, 2007

blogging is dead? according to whom?

yyyylkgjut.jpg

As a blogger, the last three years have been interesting ones, to say the least.

2005 was the year blogs came of age. For a lot of people around me at the time, the key moment was when Businessweek's now-legendary article, "Blogging Will Change Your Business" made the front cover. Suddenly we no longer felt like we were mere hobbyists and unemployed consultants typing away in our pyjamas, trying to prove how smart we were to a cold, indifferent world. Suddenly what we were doing mattered. Suddenly the Big Media was an ally in our personal path to glory, not a hindrance.

2006 was the year of "Web 2.0". Suddenly we saw sites like MySpace, Digg and YouTube get more and more attention. For the first time in ages you could utter the term, "User-Generated Content" without all the girls laughing at you.

2007 has been all about :"Social Networks". With Facebook leading the charge, suddenly who you know seems far more interesting to the journalists than what you know. Screw the nodes, it's now all about the network, People. All about "The Social Graph", People. We no longer worry about what we have to say, we worry about who's controlling our data. We no longer talk about folk we know, like and admire, and what they're up to, we talk about hot-shot startups and how many billions Microsoft is going to pay for them.

Of course, you realize this is all crap.

If you have something to say, then a blog offers a cheap, easy global medium in which to express yourself. This is as true now as it was three years ago, regardless of what the groovy cats in Silicon Valley may be up to.

Whether you have the time and the talent for it, "i.e. the skill and the will", is another matter altogether. Also, whether other people will want to read it, is something one has little control over. But in both cases, the same is true for all other media.

So whether the now-famous Mark Zuckerberg sells Facebook for $15billion or $5billion [or something much less, fancy that], the fact remains, we all have our own lives to get on with, our own bills to pay. And that means interacting in the adult world of commerce somehow. Everyone has to get paid.

And it's much easier to do the latter if one is good at building one's own personal brand, independent of one's job title.

Me? I prefer my brand to be a "global microbrand". It's easy and it's flexible. It's not tied down to one geographical locale, which I've always found to be financially unreliable. So business is a bit slow around here in England. No matter. I'll head over to Redmond, Washington, and do a gig for Microsoft if I have to. New York? Sure. Houston? If they pay me enough.

So that's why I have a blog, I suppose. I like the control. I write something, I post it, it gets read, hopefully good things happen as a result, somewhere on this small blue planet of ours. Unlike a book or a movie or a TV commercial, there's no waiting around for somebody else to greenlight it. The only light is the greenlight.

Sure, I hear you saying, "But the scale is so small." I don't know about that. At last count [and this was a couple of years ago] the "How To Be Creative" page had been downloaded a quarter of a million times. And Lord knows how many copies of the "ChangeThis" PDF version were printed out and circulated. Most hardbacks are lucky if they sell three thousand copies. Granted, movies get seen by a lot of people, but only for a week or two.Then they leave the cinema and are mostly consigned to a lonely life on the DVD rack. And they're expensive and take years to make. They have a lot, I mean A LOT of downtime. Whereas a blog is constantly working, constantly growing. I like that.

I guess my point is, if you're one of these people considering giving up on blogging in exchange for paying more attention to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, or whatever they throw at us mere mortals, bear in mind you are giving up on something rather unique and wonderful. But I would say that.

Posted by hugh macleod at December 2, 2007 6:38 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Insightful post. It gives definitely some interesting perspective as blogging seemed also to get "shorter", "twitter" (as a verb) and people rushing on Facebook, or on the other side famous bloggers like Scott Adams, our Dilbert hero, decide to blog a little less*. I guess each media takes naturally its place and role on the internet and in our daily life after the frenzy and hope are gone. It comes down to how useful it is for the people spending the time to create all that content.

*Post from Scott:
http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/11/going-forward.html

Posted by: Thierry at December 2, 2007 3:11 PM

Nicely put!

Posted by: Bill Olen at December 2, 2007 3:21 PM

Hugh, you helped reinforce, ratify and rationalize my decision (already made) to focus more actively on blogging.

Blogs and PDFs have been my biggest 'marketing' efforts with widest reach. I was surprised too when I first heard (from 'The Long Tail') that 3,000 copies is GREAT for over 95% of published books - and made my 'achievement' of over 3,250 downloads of "How To Cross The Road" - http://www.HowToCrossTheRoad.com - in under 2 months all the more satisfying :)

Long live the blog. Long live bloggers. Cheers!

All success
Dr.Mani

Posted by: Dr.Mani at December 2, 2007 5:10 PM

I think you should set up a Contrubutions link on your site and put a PayPal button on it. Just my $20 worth ...

Best Wishes,
Dave

Posted by: Dave Armstrong at December 2, 2007 6:51 PM

There are people who give up blogging to pay more attention to facebook etc?

Posted by: Phil at December 2, 2007 6:58 PM

I agree.

For one... one has to pay for health insurance and the bills.

My background is in drawing and painting... and originally I was going to study philosophy in college because its something I'm passionate about. But I think people can be crushed by the weight of their own passions (it fizzles out or becomes an unhealthy obsession) and then they only create repetitive things since that is their only connection to the world. My philosophy professor would joke about philosophy conventions/symposiums and how every group of thought would corner somewhere. Oh... there's the existentialist's over there. I see that with a lot of film majors... that's all they know.. their work becomes derrivative, annoying and boring. You have to find 'YOUR' voice.

Life is rich... Go explore it!

So... I'm studying film in school because it's a collaboration and is a different creative atmosphere from the isolation of writing and painting. And it takes a lot of patience. The satisfaction is not immediate and there isn't the same level of creative control. But I wouldn't mind that being my day job. Because at the end of the day... film is my mistress and philosophy is my wife - she's the one I love. ::Shurgs shoulders:: Hopefuly that makes some sense?!


Posted by: Mary Mullane at December 2, 2007 7:08 PM

Blogging's dead. Move along now.

Heh, if ONLY that were the truth!

Posted by: Robert Scoble at December 2, 2007 7:33 PM

Maybe it is time for blogging to change. Blogging as a medium has become far too serious, no?

At Stanley Miller Media we hope to lighten things up a bit on the content side by introducing a new format called the "sitblog." (Basically a blogging version of the old media sitcom.) On the revenue side we believe we can generate higher (and more meaningful) sponsored income by making everyday products and services part of the storylines (e.g. Doritos sponsoring Colbert's campaign). We'll have interactive income - so to speak. :)

Our first project to launch in early 2008 is titled "MegaMistakes" hosted at MegaMistakes.com. MegaMistakes stars the Megan family (Donald, Donna, DixeTheDog, Dick, and their neighbor Rob) all of whom (except for Rob) recently decided to quit their day jobs to blogcast (and dogcast) their lives online.

We have other projects in development as well: The father-and-son team at PartsAndJunk.com. The coffee themed DeliciousCup.com owned by two sisters and later to spin-off DoubleDeliciousCup.com. Then there's a clan of friendly aliens over at OnThePerimeter.com, all experts in tech and surveillance products. And even a radio station, BurnishedVoice.com, where fictional Hannity and Franken-like hosts can trade barbs.

Posted by: Stanley Miller at December 2, 2007 9:15 PM

I agree whole heartedly with what you've said here.

I've spent the last couple of years on myspace / facebook and while I've had a few thousand 'friends' and plenty of hits it's never transpired into anything more than that.

Since starting my own blog, about 12 months ago I've had a lot more paid photography work, a hell of a lot more enquiries about my photography and bit by bit I'm getting more and more traffic..

And while blogging looks a lot more 'professional' than just having a myspace / facebook you still need to make sure you're writing content for it atleast 3-4 times a week to keep it looking fresh and new always..

Blogging is more work, but there are more rewards..

Posted by: Matt at December 2, 2007 9:54 PM

Thanks, Hugh, I needed that.

Posted by: John K at December 2, 2007 9:58 PM

Nicely put Hugh, it reinforces what's been running through my mind of late.

Posted by: Rick Mahn at December 2, 2007 10:38 PM

I don't think it's an effective strategy to detach blogging from other forms of online expression (Facebook, Twitter, Utterz, Seesmic, Magnify, etc). Or offline for that matter. :)

If Marshal McLuhan is right and "the medium is the message," the focus should be on the various ways human beings extend themselves, and how these extensions affect our relationships with one another. (Applies to companies as well).

You may *prefer* one form of extension to another, but IMHO if you're not making use of the depth and breadth of what's out there, you're not doing a good enough job. Fear not - there are lots of people out there to help you.

One other follow up dear Hugh...

(actually 2)

1) Your comment regarding the quarter of a million downloads on how to be creative: Epitomizes the power of the Long Tail; but I'd also venture to guess that the continued success of that fabulous piece of work has a lot to do with your prolific and consistent delivery of other inspired works of art. There is a lot to be said for NOT being a 1-hit wonder.

2) We still need to talk about my card.

Cheers,
Stephanie

Posted by: Stephanie Agresta at December 2, 2007 10:58 PM

Well put. The in the online world things change fast, but blogs are not going away. They give the writer the chance to say whatever he or she wishes.

People love the freedom to be expressive. Social online media is still in its infancy, and how it will be used in 3 years is vastly different than today...but I believe blogging will remain consistent and those with interesting things to say will always have readers.

Posted by: thom singer at December 2, 2007 11:49 PM

And just when I was feeling like you'd abandoned the blog, a real blog post appears. Thanks, Hugh. I know that I came to be a reader (first blog I ever read) via the HTBC, and that was almost 2 years ago.

Vivent les blogs.

Posted by: j. at December 3, 2007 12:29 AM

Hugh, I give you a thimbleful of credit for a white-washed mini-blog basically saying, "nuh uhhhh" but it was really too fucking safe.

I'd like to see you stand the heck up and be counted amongst MEN. Grow some balls and call someone out. If it has to be me, so be it... anything to help get you some frickin fire in that belly of yours.

Sam

Posted by: Sam Freedoms Internet Marketing Controversy Blog at December 3, 2007 12:52 AM

Hugh - as you know: I've said it once - I will say it a thousand times:

Technology changes but human nature does not.

As long as people have a desire to express themselves they will. Did cameras replace painting? TV replace books? "Status updates will not replace blogs - I may just blog within FB or some other tool - blogging is not tool specific. It is a human desire for expression.

That said: I have often thought of my blog/any individual's public blog as the tool to manage "brand u" [a la tom peters]

Posted by: deb schultz at December 3, 2007 12:53 AM

Right on Hugh.

If anyone can consistently demonstrate their expertise, value, and vision in 140 characters consistently, then they can "think" about stopping their blog, otherwise, blog.

Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog.

Do everything intelligently in a way that fortifies your niche within the communities using ALL the tools that reach those that matter to you.

Posted by: Brian Solis at December 3, 2007 5:01 AM

Hugh...Stephanie mentions using all the tools available to express yourself. With regard to a microBrand, is that brand extension or brand dilution in your mind? To me it's probably dilution...Using Scoble as an example...he used to have a full service restaurant, his blog. You could get the appetizers, soup/salad, main course and desert in one place. Now, with his twittering, linkBlog, Facebooking, etc. it's like the customer (his reader) has to run all over town and get each at a separate establishment. That wouldn't fly in the real world, it would probably destroy or dilute the brand or at the very least piss off the customers. Or is that just a bad analogy :-)

Posted by: PXLated at December 3, 2007 6:17 AM

Very well written.

We're the new media mother fucker and do you forget it. ;-P

Posted by: Chuck Adkins at December 3, 2007 7:27 AM

Social networking has turned into a sleazy influence-peddling game. If you'd rather play with Digg and Facebook than blog, you probably sucked at blogging to begin with.

Posted by: Scott at December 3, 2007 7:44 AM

Man... was it 2005...? Time flies...

"The only light is the greenlight" - that's powerful Hugh...

Great post, thanks for the inspiration.

Posted by: Philippe Borremans at December 3, 2007 9:12 AM


As always great read. I havn't been here for a while , glad to see it is always a great place to be. So refreshing!!
Have a good day!
N

Posted by: nabila at December 3, 2007 11:24 AM

The truth is...over 90% of blogs are worthless to anyone but the author, and maybe a friend or two. Most bloggers have nothing to say and no skill for verbal communication. And then there are those who believe that blogging is a path to income. Not for many. Hardly any.

Social networking is becoming a joke as well. MySpace was an interesting idea, poorly executed. And as long as you allow universal unaccountable access, it will become just what it has become...another marketing cesspool.

Until some cohesive vision of online advertising develops...and until those who use adblockers and sit back and laugh about how they can get content for free grow up and realize that real advertising is a necessary evil...we're going to have these fits and starts and unconscionable efforts to co-opt every single venue to stuff it with ads, links and keywords.

Valuable content rules. But a basis of trust and consistency has to be developed before using them for advertising becomes appropriate.

Posted by: Chuck at December 3, 2007 11:29 AM

Read it, love it, downloaded it...

Posted by: F.D. Athow at December 3, 2007 11:35 AM

I was on hi5, then everyone moved to Orkut. Suddenly the cooler half of my e-circle of trust migrated again to Facebook so we went along. What's changed? Nothing, really; I haven't made a single new friend solely on the basis of being part of each network. Social networking, to me, falls hard on that account- that you've access to a thousand different applications that quiz you about your quirks and interests, but no one except the friends that already know can see. It keeps the spam out, but that's not very social now is it?

It's blogs and the forums that initiate dialogue, keep people coming back, and have a responsibility to not suck.

Posted by: Aruna at December 3, 2007 1:21 PM

Good dose of sense there, Hugh. The one constant is that hot young trends change, life goes on for everyone else. The message is the important part. Get it right, and people will return.

Posted by: Alexia at December 3, 2007 4:16 PM

Can't bear Maudlin. Each post even though it is graphic is becoming more so. You are a rockstar in this space, Hugh. Give us a break.Or at least, get your humour back. Or just stop posting for a while. Travel, fall in love, get a hobby or just get over yourself. Tres tres indulgent at the moment and not fun at all.

Posted by: Tired of the Celebrity Angst at December 3, 2007 9:27 PM

Heh. My reaction is that 2007 can't possibly be the year of the social network; I joined LiveJournal ... four years ago now? Five? I don't remember. A long time ago, in internet years.

2007 was the year I joined LinkedIn. I have over three dozen people in my network -- all of whom I already knew. It has done very little for me, other than allowing me to figure out where my acquaintances are working these days without bothering to ask them. Whee.

LiveJournal, on the other hand, has been a very good thing. But it's different from blogging; it's (for me) about small communities of friends -- what I write there is for the dozen or two people who would like to hear that I made pumpkin muffins yesterday, for example. (Who cares? The best explanation I've got is that it's a replacement for living next door to someone, and fills in for the general sense of what our friends lives are like that we don't get when they're a thousand miles away.) My blog -- which is rather dormant; a dissertation will do that -- is something different, and a lot more public, and written for a much wider audience whom I don't expect to know personally.

So I would say it's absurd for social networks to replace blogs -- they are entirely different things. What they replace is the parts of blogging that blogging was not really good for.

Oh, and in particular reply to Aruna: The way I've made friends on LJ has been comments. Someone I know posts something, their other friends comment, and I notice people who write nifty comments and say hello to them, and have a new friend.

But I think that's the key to why LJ works so well. Like blogging, it involves people actually writing things that (mostly) involve some thought, and reflect who they are in ways that quiz results and interest lists don't. A social network that doesn't offer opportunities for that sort of conversation (in even the somewhat limited way LJ does; it could be so much better!) seems likely to be vastly less useful.

Posted by: Brooks Moses at December 3, 2007 9:58 PM

Thanks for this! You're a clear voice for the benefits and power of blogging for those who don't get it, and those of us who do.

Friends encouraged me to join Facebook, and I'm glad I know what it is. But I'm shocked to hear that people would abandon blogging in favor of it. Blogging and Facebook have almost zero overlap, though I do see that both can create communities. The communities that blogging creates, however, are far richer because of the depth and continuity of the conversation, which evolves.

Since the most successful global microbrands are the most authentic ones, successful blogging comes from that authenticity. Facebook doesn't provide a solid basis for getting to know people or for people to express themselves, though it does have its uses (scheduling, events, basic keeping in touch, life updates).

I don't think that zombie quiz scores are an authentic insight into someone's personality. Facebook is not really about the genuine conversation, so it will never promote the authentic as well as blogging -- or even Twitter -- does.

Posted by: KG at December 4, 2007 4:31 AM

If you learn to draw women with naked breasts with nipples on them in your cartoons your readership will quadruple and more. God's law of "Naked Women Make Men And Some Women Come Back". This is one of the greatest advertising designs ever invented. Work with it, work with it ...

Best Wishes,
Dave

Posted by: Dave Armstrong at December 4, 2007 12:19 PM

Hugh

I'm tempted to speculate whether the extra constraint of removing "fuck", "fucked", "fucking" in conjunction with "yourself", "myself", "themselves" for a week might encourage your creativity...

Me - I'm delighted with as many "fuck yourselves" as possible. My readers love it.

Matt Wardman

Posted by: Matt W at December 4, 2007 1:01 PM

trackback: http://blog.iclutton.com/2007/12/100th-blog-post.html

Posted by: Robbie Clutton at December 4, 2007 5:32 PM

Blogs are only true social network.

Posted by: Danijel Kecman at December 5, 2007 10:29 AM

the more and more blogs i read, the more and more i notice that most don't have any comments attached, so it's the old 'if a tree falls in the woods....' syndrome. as long as there are places like blogspot and wordpress that will let people blog for free, there will be blogs.

Posted by: dan at December 8, 2007 12:20 PM

I'm trying to write books. I haven't gone far enough to fail yet. I've only written six short stories and all of them were rejected. I believe in objective beauty and I realize my stories were ugly. Greenlights are useful because they prevent garbage from clogging the bookstores. That happens enough already.

Oh, vile simplicity! Why are my words boring? Simplicity. I'm writing a story, and the structure isn't coming together. When you outline it from a distance, it looks perfect, then the small details contradict eachother on execution, and it all collapses. I'm glad I have editors watching to make sure I don't say anything undignified. I have higher standards than most people, and I want editors to have higher standards than me. If blogs needed to be approved by a kind of Blogmaster, Emperor of Blogs, or the equivalent thereof, they would all be of higher quality.

Why aren't the pieces working? Why am I so pathetic? What did I do wrong? The grass. Does it need to grow? Where is the conflict? If it doesn't grow, then there's no reason to cut it. It's an exaggeration. It grows, and children get stuck. Does that even work? He doesn't care if the children get stuck. His wife does. What does she do? She can't get angry. It doesn't suit her character. How many children get stuck in the grass before she cries? Fiction. Making sense of my own world.

Posted by: X at December 8, 2007 3:32 PM

Blogging isn't dead in my eyes. I think a person's first instinct is to give up if their blog isn't popular, but all it means is that they have to get better. Many people don't want to face the truth, so they give up and try something else instead of working on their weaknesses.
Great perspective!
Karl

Posted by: Karl Staib I Beautiful thoughts at December 8, 2007 3:33 PM

Right on.

On another note: Do you think it's time to publish your cartoon in another medium? An eBook sold on Amazon? A traditional book? Have you submitted to The New Yorker?

Posted by: Dennis Freire at December 8, 2007 8:48 PM

Hugh, thanks for the post, it's motivating me to maintain my blogging goals, which is also a subject Mark McClennan wrote about recently, check it out: http://www.schwartz-pr.com/crossroads/2007/11/common_sense_keep_your_eye_on_1.php

Posted by: Clinton Karr at December 9, 2007 3:10 AM

Hi Hugh

I didnt know you were an alumnus of UT. Do you have a cowboy hat like David Armano from his visit here? When are you visiting? :-)

Seriously, thanks for the encouragement you left for us at "Delling with Bloggers: Listening, Engaging and Delighting the Users - Skype Journal"
http://skypejournal.com/blog/2007/12/delling_with_bloggers_listenin.html

I left you one back!

Posted by: RichardatDELL at December 9, 2007 11:24 PM

A week late (drawn back here by your Twitter revelation of illness forcing you to miss the trip and take some time off...I very much hope all is OK and that you'll be back out here swinging for the fences again soon) I must agree wholeheartedly with this message. Blogs still matter, no matter what. For me, the addition of a robust YouTube presence has also allowed me to explore the differences in what I produce in writing versus in speaking. It's been a lot of fun and I've learned a tremendous amount from the experience. I do, however, find myself being powerfully pulled back into blogging and my blog buddy roots recently. There's something about the nature of content that is so different in blogs and video. It's not just long form versus short form (hell, there's Twitter for short-form blogs), no, it's more about the freedom to explore on a blog that's absent, for me anyway, in video.

Anyhow, thanks for reminding me why I've enjoyed your thinking/writing for so long. Get well.

Tom

Posted by: Tom Guarriello at December 10, 2007 12:23 AM

PS Hugh, several months ago when Facebook was the new and Favorite kid on the blog, I wrote about its limitations and the more significant value of blogging, suggesting that perhaps blogging was simply in Seth Godin's "dip" before fully realizing all its potential....a possibility, of several transitions along the way

Posted by: RichardatDell at December 11, 2007 3:29 AM

I have been thinking about the social networks and how much of my time they take. They don't add as much value to my business and to my life for that matter as my blog does. On the social networks I listen and follow, on my blog I talk, create, give and sometimes lead.

Posted by: Teresa Boardman at December 12, 2007 11:36 AM

Nicely put. Recently I was writing about something similar. I was thinking about the future of blogging after the next bubble (if it actually burst). I would love to hear some feedback. You can read it here.

Posted by: Alex Barrera at December 15, 2007 1:37 PM

Hugh,

The only problem I have with the global microbrand is that it's not saleable the way a business is. No matter how strong your microbrand becomes, you're creating something that you can't sell on. So where is the future financial wealth and security?

Sure you've more control over your wages, since you work for yourself - but there's nothing tangible that's not tied to you directly. So therefore you can't reap a big payout reward that you would was gapingvoid a trading business that could go on independent of yourself.

Posted by: Ed Byrne at December 15, 2007 5:19 PM