Remember back to the old days (you know, like six or seven years ago), when blogging was on the cutting edge of the online world? For a while it seemed like everyone had a blog. But apparently, the bloom is off the blogging rose, at least for today’s kids.
The New York Times had an interesting article recently, discussing a recent study showing that blogging among 12-17 year olds fell by 50% from 2006 to 2009 postonmagazine.com . This means that only 14% of 12-17 year olds are now active bloggers (down from 28%). A similar study from last year also found that blogging dropped by 2% among 18-22 year olds from 2008-2010.
So, what is at the root of this apparent trend away from blogging? Well the story argues (and it certainly makes sense) that the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have given former bloggers a host of new ways to connect with their audience – and do it more quickly and easily. It is a lot simpler to fire off a couple of sentences in a Facebook post than sit down and write a page length (or more) article for your blog. While not every blog post takes a ton of time to write, most bloggers who try to create a new post every day will tell you it takes a lot longer than non-bloggers think.
When blogging burst onto the scene in the early 2000’s, it provided a new way for individuals to publish/broadcast their thoughts, ideas, and observations to the world (or at least the small part of the world that would ever run across their blogs). It was revolutionary when you think about it in the context of the time. Previously, the traditional media establishment controlled the one-way flow of information and individuals consumed it. Suddenly, any person with a computer and internet access could begin publishing their own content and making it available to anyone. This new capability meant that the volume of published content available to consumers began to rise exponentially. Traditional media gatekeepers no longer had a stranglehold on what information was fit to print or broadcast. Anyone could become a part of the “media.”
But, if we have learned anything about the internet over the last 20 years, it is that it never stops evolving. While blogging helped change the media and news playing field, as an activity it didn’t appeal to everyone. As mentioned above, blogging is time-consuming and the majority of people don’t particularly enjoy writing. The social media industry exploded onto the scene with new sites like MySpace and later Facebook and Twitter, all of which were created to provide simple self-broadcasting capabilities to the huge audience of internet users who hadn’t jumped on the blogging bandwagon.
Social media sites took off by providing a way to communicate on a very casual level with friends and family. As opposed to blogging, you could write something short and simple (like the often used example of ‘what you had for breakfast this morning’) and not spend too much time or effort thinking about it. As social media has grown, it has actually become a very effective partner to the blogging world by providing bloggers with additional ways to connect to their audience and drive traffic back to their sites.
So, will social media eventually replace the blog? Personally, I find it unlikely in the near future. (With the internet, I try not to predict too far ahead, as much of what is commonplace today would have seemed totally outside the realm of plausibility five years ago.) Instead, I think the lines between the two will begin to blur even more than they do today. The longer-form blog with multi-paragraph or even multi-page posts isn’t likely to be replaced by 140 character tweets, but people will have more and more options when it comes to sharing their thoughts and ideas online.