A recent piece in The Atlantic (itself borrowed from Medium) lamented the ‘end of blogging’ and asked whether there is any real sense in anyone blogging any more?
Before we even attempt to answer the question it’s important to examine why we even blogged in the first place:
- To communicate: Blogging took off as a practice because it made the web social and, back in the days of Web 1.0, was pretty much the only means we had of actually listening to someone else’s thoughts and getting to interact with them (initially, back then via email).
- For SEO: yeah, we’re all (or at least many of us) guilty of the practice of creating content for search engines first, in the past, and people a far, far second.
- To find an audience: You hoped that some of those who found your writing would remember you wrote it long enough to come back at least once more.
- To claim ownership of a domain: from pet peeves to things that keep us awake at night, we all have something that keeps the fire inside us from going out. That something inevitably finds its way to the surface the moment we have a place to say it in.
- To cleanse our spirit: You’d think that points 1-4 did that very well, but no. Anyone remotely familiar with old-style blogging (which I will get back to in a moment) realized that it was a great opportunity to simply let their heir down. Writing with only half an expectation that they would be read, writing became both an exploration of the psyche and a quest for some kind of meaning to it all.
So, where are we now?
Obviously you still need to blog if you want to communicate, be visible to search (SEO), find an audience, and develop domain expertise (more than ever) but do you still need to have a blog? Do you need to set up your own blogger account and slave away all night after your day job is over? Do you need your own website where you can record your thoughts?
Actually, if you are doing what I am doing here, developing my thoughts in my own website you are an anachronism (but I love you for it). If points 1-4 are all you’re after or, even worse, you’ve got even fewer points to focus on (and you are applying the layer of “content marketing” to your actions) then the best place for you to do that would be LinkedIn or Google+ or Facebook even or even Medium.
There Is A Shift
Places on the webs changed from websites to platforms. Websites care about content but platforms care about users. A platform’s imperative for survival dictates that everything its users do become part of its marketing for user acquisition and engagement expansion.
So, really, if you are a modern day marketer, or even a person who is really only looking to work on the web then writing spread across different platforms will give you more by way of eyeballs, authorship, authority, expertise and brand power than if you have a blog you own where you place your thoughts in writing.
In case you thought that the two are the same, let me disabuse you of the fact. Writing is a delicate process. You use a pen or a keyboard to open a line to the center of your mind and from there extract all the little thoughts you find, arranged in a construct that makes some kind of sense. The moment someone looks over your shoulder as you write (which is essentially what blogging on a platform is like) the spell is broken. What you produce is informed more by your understanding of the reception it will receive than the clarity of the thought fantasms you encountered in the mists of your mind.
The early days of blogging gave us gems where in the middle of the night you’d stumble quite by accident upon the musings of an unknown whose writing would be responsible for you getting to work late the next day, your neurons firing in a thousand directions as the possibilities explained unfolded.
As a practice blogging then seemed to be concerned more with points one and five and less with the ones in between. The value of anything is always in inverse proportion to the ease with which it is created. Back then running a blog, without a CMS or CMS-websites that were decidedly clunky made the writing all the more personal because it was not easy to put “out there”.
There are some exceptions to the rule, today of course.
There are diehards like Maria Popova whose brainpickings is not to be visited unless you have an hour or two to spare and are willing to then give it some thought. Or newcomer Teodora Petkova whose website has an old-blog quality infused by a passion for the written word and an enthusiasm for what the web is becoming, both expressed as “thing-finding”
And there are still some ‘unknowns’ like Greg Rader whose On The Spiral is a dip into a different world, or the unknown But Not The Armadillo whose infrequent writing has a compulsive-disorder quality that makes it hard to get out of one’s head. Within industry niches are a few voices that resonate more clearly than any others.
Duane Forrester writes like his life depends on it making the onlinemarketingguy blog a must for anyone who is interested in marketing and SEO and just being human. And Aaron Bradley in the SEO Sceptic produces pieces that read like a chat over coffee, with a friend.
The rest of us have been tainted by our knowledge of platform reach and branding principles. By our understanding of semantic search and the relational importance of data nodes in commenting systems. What we do is driven by our thoughts to some extent but it is also informed by the knowledge that we are engaged in a very public act. The world’s gaze is upon us.
That makes it harder to be open. More painful to be honest. But as blogs and blogging platforms proliferate it becomes all the more necessary to choose your place with care, to understand that value is not just in what you say but also how you say it.
In a world made of machine intelligence where ‘importance’ and ‘relevance’ are subject to reshares and audience reach it is important to remember that those who manage to speak with a human voice will have something unique.
Unique is still valuable. What is valuable is never entirely lost even if it is, sometimes, momentarily forgotten.