Saturday, July 02, 2011

The state of blogging - dead or alive?

Today one of the quality bloggers I read declared blogging is dying. Two weeks ago, Brent Simmons, an early sub/pub (RSS, Atom) adopter tacked the RSS is dead meme. Today I discovered Google Plus Circles don't have readable feeds.

Perhaps worst of all, Google Reader, one of Google's best apps, is getting no Plus love at all -- and nobody seems upset. The only reference I could find shows in an Amil Dash post...

The Sparks feature, like a topic-based feed reader for keyword search results, is the least developed part of the site so far. Google Reader is so good, this can't possibly stay so bad for too long ...

That's a lot of crepe. It's not new however. I've been reading about the death of blogging for at least five years.

Against that I was so impressed with a recent blog post that I yesterday raved about terrific quality of the blogs I read.

So what's going on? I think Brent Simmons has the best state-of-the-art review. I say that because, of course, he lines up pretty well with my own opinions. (Brent has a bit more credibility I admit).

This is what I think is happening ...

  • We all hate the word Blog. Geeks should not name things.
  • The people I read are compulsive communicators. Brad, Charlie, Felix, Paul and many less famous names. They can't stop. Krugman is the most influential columnist in the US, but he's not paid for his non-stop NYT blog. Even when he declares he'll be absolutely offline he still posts.
  • Subscription and notification is absolutely not going away. Whether it's "RSS" (which is now a label for a variety of subscription technology standards) or Facebook's internal proprietary system there will be a form of sub/pub/notify. There are lots of interesting sub/notification projects starting up.
  • Nobody has been able to monetize the RSS/Atom/Feed infrastructure. Partial posts that redirect to ad-laden sites rarely work. (A few have figured out how to do this, but it's tricky.)
  • Blogs have enemies with significant economic and political power. That has an opportunity cost for developers of pub/sub solutions and it removes a potential source of innovation and communication.
  • Normal humans (aka civilians) do not use dedicated feed readers. That was a bridge too far. They don't use Twitter either btw and are really struggling with email.
  • Even for geeks, standalone feed readers on the desktop were killed by Google Reader. Standalone readers do persist on intermittently disconnected devices (aka smartphones).
  • Blog comments have failed miserably. The original backlink model, was killed by spam. (Bits of Google Reader Share and Buzz point the way to making this work, but Google seems to be unable to figure this out.)
  • The quality of what I read is, if anything, improving. i can't comment on overall volume, since I don't care about that. I have enough to read. It is true that some of my favorites go quiet for a while, but they often return.

Short version - it's a murky mixed bag. The good news is that pub/sub/notify is not going away, and that compulsive communicators will write even if they have to pay for the privilege. The bad news is that we're probably in for some turbulent transitions towards a world where someone can monetize the infostream.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Alive. Thanks to Google Reader.

Most people don't read (at lot), most people aren't that curious about what's going on in the world. So what?

I've always read a lot of online content and it's getting more and more - mostly from independent sources, i.e., 'blogs' and other sites with RSS subscriptions. I'm especially happy about a growing number of experts who publish free content in their field of expertise.

My only complaint: I don't watch TV but I've to pay for public TV about USD 550/year … :(