The notion that blogging, or the blogosphere may be dead or in its death throws is nearly as old as blogging itself. Some predicted blogging would die with the introduction of advertising, and yet it boomed instead. That blogging and the blogosphere is changing is a given; it always has been changing, and I’d suggest that it always will.
The latest round of blogging/ blogosphere is dead angst started with a classic piece of link bait from Paul Boutin in Wired, and was followed up this week an article in The Economist arguing that blogging is no longer what it was because it has entered the mainstream, then a post from Nick Carr arguing that the blogosphere is dead.
The Economist’s piece is the better of the two, arguing that the top of the blogosphere is today indistinguishable from the mainstream media. The correlation between change and pioneers calling death is notable; profound may not be the best description but it most definitely is accurate and a line so well put that it will likely be used many times again in the future.
Carr though makes the mistake of taking the blurred lines at the top of the blogosphere as somehow being representative of the blogosphere as a whole being dead. It’s a myopic mistake often made by those at or near the top themselves who spend little time outside of that space; a classic case of being unable to see the wood from the trees.
The blogosphere is alive, well and kicking.
In arguing with Carr, it’s important to recognize that I actually agree with most of what he has written. Blogging has come to be dominated by large commercial concerns in a short space of time. Top blogs have often become bloated, and are often difficult, if not impossible to differentiate from mainstream media sites. However, there are millions of reasons why Carr’s equation that the blogosphere is dead based on a sample size weighed exclusively at the top.
Millions of blogs are updated daily around the world, and that figure only applies to traditional standalone blogs. Blogging is a feature built into social networking platforms, and tens of millions update their Facebook or MySpace pages daily, or any number of related social networking services. Twitter has led the boom in microblogging, and although we may argue about recognizing Twitter as a blogging service, it is in form a style of blogging, be it different to the traditional long form.
The blogosphere isn’t dead because the top 100 blogs are commercial concerns; these figures only prove what The Economist argues, that blogging at the top has become mainstream.
Blogging 2.0 has emerged in response to the blind commercial shift at the top of the blogosphere. The idea of linking and sharing was the foundation of blogging, so isn’t new, but the tools in the blogging 2.0 space allow people to re-embrace that strong link economy tradition that has slowly disappeared at the top. It’s not that linking and sharing ever stopped either; I spent a lot more time on political blogs lately, and the traditions of blogging are alive and well, even without the use of blogging 2.0 tools. But the rise of blogging 2.0 is a counter-point to the shift away from those traditions.
Blogging as a term is becoming irrelevant
A better discussion is not whether the blogosphere is dead, because ultimately it isn’t nor perhaps will it ever be, at least for a long time to come, but whether blogging as term is irrelevant.
It is difficult to identify a top blog from a mainstream media site, not only due to the move towards commercialism at the top of blogging, but as mainstream media has itself adopted blogging, or blog like tools (such as commenting) as they scramble to survive.
I’m proud to call The Inquisitr a blog, but I’d suggest that the majority of people visiting this site will never realize that we are a blog, and I don’t really care that they don’t. The label isn’t important, because it’s the content that counts. I laugh when I read surveys showing that less people are reading blogs, because other surveys have also shown that many people can’t identify a blog anyway; blog readership isn’t in decline, it just comes back to that blend of blogging and mainstream media that means that blog readers may not know that they are reading blogs.
Blogging will not die, at least in the short to medium term, but the need to call what we are doing blogging may die in the space of years, as it is already in many ways. The blogosphere as such may also die but only in description, because the relationships, link economy and product will always remain, even if it no longer earns a distinct title away from the mainstream or other forms of online publishing.
The ability to reflect on where we have been, and where we are going is important in understanding the space and its apparent place in history. The future will be blogged, even if its called something completely different. The blogosphere will go on, perhaps in different ways not yet imagined, but ultimately it comes back to the people and camaraderie that has delivered us to this point. Long live the blogosphere.