Why blogging is dead (and why it is not)

I began blogging eight and a half years ago, and I feel like I no longer even recognize the landscape. Having spoken with many fellow bloggers, I know I'm not alone in feeling disconnected and like maybe blogging as we knew it has played out.

Here are the reasons why we (and perhaps you) feel that way, and at the end, the ways blogging is continuing on into the future — altered but still alive.


We used to blog for community — now we blog for search engines.

I remember when I got my first commenters on my blog and how thrilling it was. I joined blogging carnivals, posted others' blog buttons, and chatted with authors and readers on Twitter.

I came to know my audience from their commenting and sharing, and they were real people to me. I could put names to many of them.

The change isn't just the audience growing larger, it's that it's grown quieter. The community (mine, at least) has dissipated. Comments and shares have moved to social media and, often, behind my back (not in a bad way, just in a private way).

I check my analytics and see: People are still reading. But they're not necessarily interested in ME. No, I don't blame them (I'm not that narcissistic), but it's a sign that they're not dedicated followers of my blog but rather searchers who've stumbled on a single post of interest to them and then backed away once the information was secured. These readers aren't watching my children grow up or asking my opinion on things. My folksy, homey posts go virtually unseen. Instead, most visitors come to read a few evergreen fact posts: DIYs mostly. I'm not bitter, and I welcome any readers, but it's a sign of the change.

Commenting has moved to social media.

And specifically to Facebook, where it is now incredibly hard for a blogger to get posts seen without paying advertising money, and sometimes even with. I don't bother much anymore with posting links on Facebook, because the views are abysmal (1-10% of my followers, if I'm lucky). If it's something very important to me, I'll occasionally pay to promote it. I've mostly stopped sharing other people's fine links on Facebook, even though I used to love doing so, because no one will see them, and it just hurts my overall page metrics, making it even less likely within the Facebook algorithm that my posts will be seen in the future.

People definitely do a lot of their link reading on Facebook, so this seems counterintuitive. If so many people are reading shared links on Facebook, then surely sharing links on Facebook still works? But it doesn't for most links, only for a (relatively) few viral ones, usually from big-name news sources or very lucky bloggers. (I've had a post or two go viral on Facebook, and it's always been a surprise.) Unless a link gets a lot of traction immediately, Facebook buries it in the feed, so bloggers can no longer rely on their business pages to drum up traffic.

Mobile views have changed blog reading behavior.

People are more and more reading blogs on their phones or tablets, where logging in to comment is clumsy and usually too much trouble. It's easier to use the default apps (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) where you're already spending your time.

RSS feeds and feed readers are slipping into obscurity.

I blame Google Reader's demise for this, because I love to do so. Fewer people are subscribing to blogs, and so fewer people are reading them regularly. See above re: mobile usage. It's easier for people to check out the links friends and family curate for them on Facebook and Twitter than to seek out their own.

Bloggers change and grow, and their blogs become obsolete.

In my parenting cohort in particular, I've witnessed massive attrition as bloggers' kids grow past the baby and toddler years. There's so much to write about those years. Writing about older kids is tricky on multiple levels. For one, they might not want you writing about or posting pictures of them. For another, life becomes more varied the older your kids get. One family might be into soccer, another into gaming, another into camping. There's more unity to those early years of child development.

While bloggers could keep talking about topics that they're not currently experiencing, that's hard for those of us with a more personal bent to our blogging. Plus, it's hard to maintain enthusiasm to blog about topics you've moved past. Speaking of which:

Bloggers run out of things to say, and readers run out of reasons to read.

I know that a lot of my identity at Hobo Mama is bound up in being a breastfeeding advocate. Whenever I think I really should, then, write another breastfeeding post, I think, "And say what that I haven't said already?" I've gotten my messages out (out of my system, out into the public view), and I no longer feel that urgency to continue repeating myself.

Similarly, I think my first audience is experiencing their own children growing past the baby and toddler years, and they've read about everything they need to about that. I've heard similar refrains from bloggers on other topics, and readers of same: They've fulfilled that need and want to move on to other voids.

Monetizing has led to inauthenticity.

I've heard this complaint as well — that bloggers seeking sponsorship deals have injured blogging by interspersing so much selling with their writing. Since sidebar ads are fading as an option for earning money, more and more bloggers have been posting about products in thinly veiled sponsored-content posts. I'm not a snob about earning money as a blogger, but I can see how readers get turned off by seeing honest posts about, say, child-raising turn into a series of irrelevant links and untargeted sales pitches.


So where's the hope? Certainly there are still bloggers out there, and new bloggers starting up every day. In what ways is blogging still viable, and how can we adapt and figure out ways to blog within the new system?

I'm assuming here that you're blogging for more than just fun, that you want to say something with your blog and/or make some money with it. Obviously, if blogging is a side hobby that you can take or leave, you have precisely that choice before you. For those sticking it out, here are my tips for the changing landscape:

Take advantage of the social media conversation.

You can't beat 'em, so join 'em. Get where your fans and readers live, and talk with them there. Some blogs still get a ton of comments, and blessings to them, but don't fret if your comments are silent. Find the conversation elsewhere.

Try microblogging on social media.

Post snippets and summaries of your content on longer-form social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest. If that's as far as anyone goes, at least you're getting your content out there. A percentage, though, will click through your links to read the whole shebang.

Find or keep your passion.

If 90% of your readers come to your cat-care site for that one-off post you wrote about unclogging toilets, you have two choices: You can decide to be "professional" and write more toilet tutorials. Or you can keep writing what you want to, and let the people who want to find you do. It really is up to you.

Tool your topic to maintain its fit.

Along the same lines, if your blog isn't fitting you so well now, rebrand. You can tweak slightly and gradually, as with a parenting blogger including more and more recipes and cleaning tips. I've seen several parenting blogs transition into a homeschool focus, for instance. Or you can go for broke and start from scratch. Switch from writing about shoe trends to start that blog about auto repair. Be prepared to shed some readers and followers, but you'll make new ones in your new niche.

Monetize wisely.

By this I mean not just to beware of turning readers off with too much sponsored content — I mean reevaluate your whole monetizing strategy. Static sidebar ads are diminishing in popularity with the rise of savvier and mobile readership. While there are things you can do to get ads in people's vision still (ad-friendly responsive layouts, overlays, in-text partnership mentions, and so forth), I think it's even more important to cast a wider net. Consider the greater task of converting readers into customers if making money blogging is important to you. Consider supplemental sources of income, such as ebooks, print books, subscription services, consulting and coaching, podcasts, YouTube channels, product lines, and the like.

Accept the search engine elements.

Take advantage of sites like Pinterest showcasing your evergreen, popular content. Use searchable hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to find suitable followers for your topics. Keep SEO in mind when crafting your posts. Include nice images for sharing. In looking back at my earliest days blogging, I did nothing visual. No pictures, no formatting, nada. I just wrote. It was nice. But those days are over if you want people to share. That's how it is, so either write to be found, or write for yourself.

Make your choice.

On that note, you don't have to play the game. If blogging is becoming unfun for you because you feel like you can't write how and what you want, then maybe it's time to quit the game of it all and just write or share your thoughts and life for the sheer pleasure of it.

Let me know in the comments (surprise me!) what you think: Is blogging dead? Or has it just changed? Are you (still) blogging or thinking of starting?


Holly Guerrero said...

Haha, case-in-point? No other comments here. Obviously you just posted yesterday, but it seems fitting for the post at hand. I am only a casual blogger, with infrequent posts, highly personal, and so basically, I write for me, because I like to write. However, I do remember the good old blogging days... When blogger was the new kid on the block, but mostly everyone preferred Live Journal or Xanga... Good times, for sure... I am totally guilty of the search engine-blog relationship without continuing to have interest in a blog once I found the information I wanted. I guess it's weird how you hope things stay the same, all the while you are changing yourself, without realizing it. Thanks for the post. It has made me a little reflective and nostalgic. =)

Holly Guerrero said...

Haha, case-in-point? No other comments here. Obviously you just posted yesterday, but it seems fitting for the post at hand. I am only a casual blogger, with infrequent posts, highly personal, and so basically, I write for me, because I like to write. However, I do remember the good old blogging days... When blogger was the new kid on the block, but mostly everyone preferred Live Journal or Xanga... Good times, for sure... I am totally guilty of the search engine-blog relationship without continuing to have interest in a blog once I found the information I wanted. I guess it's weird how you hope things stay the same, all the while you are changing yourself, without realizing it. Thanks for the post. It has made me a little reflective and nostalgic. =)

Luschka said...

Yes yes a thousand times yes. I do feel sad for the 'good old days' though. It was a fun community.

Inder-ific said...

I still read blogs! Mostly sewing blogs these days, though, rather than parenting blogs (I do follow a couple special ed blogs, and of course many of the sewing bloggers I follow are parents and talk about parenting). There has been a bit of a crisis in sewing blogging as well, but sewing has the advantage of being both visual and technical, so it was possibly the perfect subject for blogging, unusually suited to the medium ... ?

I have noticed that you don't respond to comments on your blog anymore, Lauren. I do miss that, I think the conversation was always fun, and maybe I just crave that "gold star" of recognition. So when you complain that you don't get comments anymore, I'd say, well, I comment but I don't get responses as often as I used to!

I freely admit that too much commercial content, especially unrelated to the subject matter of the blog, seriously turns me off. I do, however, support many bloggers by buying e-books, patterns, and other products that they make. But if there are too many posts advertising Kleenex or Folgers crystals, I get really bored and annoyed, and I will remove the blog from my feed if it's a regular thing. It's more than just the ad content, which is annoying - my observation is that bloggers who are working too hard to monetize sometimes lose their own voice and their blogs become less fun and personal. Some writers can straddle this really well, but many cannot.

I am still blogging, but as time goes on I am more sensitive about my children's privacy and my own privacy. There was a time when my blog was so small that I really felt that it was a pretty safe space to vent or talk. Now I am pretty sure that my boss and everyone on the planet is reading, or would read if I said anything problematic, and it has dampened my enthusiasm for personal sharing, and I think that the loss of personal sharing is another factor sometimes associated with a loss of enthusiasm and interest in blogging. I definitely blogged less last year than in prior years, but in retrospect, I was sad about this, because my blog does provide a great record of my life, my creative work, and my kids growing up.

Anonymous said...

Best post I've read in ages ... I have 5 languishing blogs, once written for a time, place and audience; they've been fossils for a long time and that's fine. Reading this, I see now why I have not started a new blog, being so involved in social media and book marketing, I must've sensed that the blog is not the way to go. Makes me wonder about virtual book tours on blogs, though! Yeah, they're specialized and people go to them for the book info ... Hmmm ... focused-delivery blogs in future? Maybe someday there'll be a "vintage blog" movement or biographers will find richness in searching blogs.
Kay in Seattle

Lauren Wayne said...

Yes, totally. I keep wondering when Blogger will disappear entirely… I think it's fun to write for yourself, and I plan to do more of that since it just doesn't matter as much anymore, anyway! :)

Lauren Wayne said...

@Luschka: Exactly! I would never have met you if not for blogging. <3 I really value all the friendships blogging helped forge.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Inder: I think you have me confused with someone who was good at replying to comments, lol. I always *meant* to. I'm not complaining (or not trying to) that I don't get many comments — it's just an observation. I don't comment as much anymore, here or elsewhere. I notice fewer comments on others' blogs. Just in general, fewer comments on blogposts, I think.

Today's the day I realized a few things: (1) This blog is showing both native Blogger AND IntenseDebate comments to select groups, so half the comments are here & half in ID, and I don't know how to reconcile this! (2) I think I want to uninstall ID because it's no longer maintained, but I also want to redo my whole template so think I'll wait to wade into the coding of that. (3) I didn't receive any notifications for these comments, just happened to see them here by chance. Not in my spam folder, either. Mysterious.

I could see where sewing tutes would be well suited to the Pinterest/Google-search era. Food blogs seem to be doing just dandy as well.

It's very true that we can become more sensitive to who's eavesdropping on us as we continue to blog. I know I worry about that, especially as regards my oldest. I don't want my kids one day to find something online I've written about them and feel hurt by it. But: The flipside is I've had a lot of really funny, engaging conversations with them lately about stories I'd shared on my blog when they were little that they're asking me to retell again and again. So, yes, as a record, it can be invaluable. It's kind of like how I got out of the habit of regular (on-paper) journaling, but I do enjoy delving back into my diaries of days past and wish I had that kind of record going still.

Anyway, you're one of my most faithful commenters, so thank you. Gold star! Platinum!

Lauren Wayne said...

@Kay: You're right — I wonder what new methods of information delivery we'll all come up with.

Conrad Zero said...

Great Post Lauren, and I completely agree. I've been blogging since 2003 and I've seen my own metrics of post success change from 'number of comments' to 'hits' on Google Analytics. Since the majority of my traffic comes from new visitors via search engines, I take SEO into consideration just as much as audience when writing blog posts. Not a bad or a good thing, it still works well for me, but it certainly is not the same as it used to be.

What I don't like is when people blog directly on social media. Tumblr for example. Not only do you not own the content any more, but it isn't working for you as much as it could be. Or I should say, it's working for you in a different and more limited way. The more this happens, the more it keeps people trapped in their ecosystem. If there's plenty of content right in the stream, why click an external link? Ugh.

One thing that can help bridge the gap between blogs and social media comments is to replace the wordpress/jetpack comments with a social media commenting plugin like Facebook Comments or even Disqus. You lose the SEO of the comments, but you can keep the social media comments right there with the content, which is a win-win.

And ditto on Google Reader. I moved to Feedly, which is fine, but I don't understand why Google dropped support for both Reader and Feedburner. No doubt this helped contribute to the current false belief that RSS is dead.

Keep up the great work!

Yours Darkly,

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