There's been a lot of online discussion recently about whether blogging has had its day.
There's certainly evidence of a 'cooling-off' in the medium. In April, Business Week reported that while Technorati publicly states there are 70 million blogs worldwide, the real story is that the number of 'active' blogs levelled off last October at around 15 million.
More recently, popular bloggers like Shel Israel have reported a drop in readership figures, prompting an outbreak of navel-gazing of the kind bloggers specialise in.
One view is that the decline is due to shortening attention spans and the rising popularity of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr and Jaiku. People can no longer be bothered with long, ponderous blog posts, goes the argument, when there are new services available that let people post short statements, questions and links.
There's a lot of truth to this. Posts on Twitter and other networks are communicated instantly to 'followers' by email, SMS and/or RSS, increasing the sense of interaction and conversation that is characteristic of communications in the Web 2.0 world. For the networked generation, it's an ideal way to stay in touch.
But to think that blogging is 'over' is to misunderstand the differences between blogs and social networks. Blogs provide an outlet for more considered writing, while Twitter and its ilk are really only good for dashing off statements of one or two sentences.
It's a nuance that is well understood by Steve Rubel, author of the popular Micro Persuasion blog. Rubel says that from now on he will only post more thoughtful pieces on his blog, using Twitter to keep in continuous contact with his online social network.
Over time, the rise of Twitter, Facebook et al should lead to an overall rise in the quality of blogs, even as the number of active blogs declines. Why? Because people who are not writers by nature will gravitate to alternative social media, while the domain of blogging will increasingly be left to people who are prepared to put more care and thought into their posts.
It's good news for marketers, I think – a less crowded blogosphere will mean less competition for attention, leaving marketers who excel at written communications a clearer field for interacting with audiences.
tags: shel israel | steve rubel | micropersuasion