Have you read Kelly's aka Vampy Varnish recent post about changes happening? I must admit her decision to cut down on blogging caught me off guard and even made me sad. Her blog was one of the first I started reading when I was first drawn into the world of blogs back in 2010. Vampy Varnish is a staple in the world of nail and beauty blogs and I hope she will gain her blogging mojo back at one point. However, I can see why she withdraws from blogging daily. Her post made me think about the blogosphere in general and my experiences with blogging in particular and encouraged me to finally write down the thoughts that have been going around in my head for a while.
Changes in the blogosphere
Every time I see a blogger disappear, I cannot help asking myself why they decided to stop. Granted, it is not unlikely to simply fall out of love with something and you just do not feel like doing it anymore. Other bloggers quit due to job and/or family responsibilities. But in my opinion there is more to it than just personal reasons. During the past 2 years I have experienced changes in the blogosphere and others have, too. Already back in December 2013 long-time blogger Jason Kottke presumed blogging dead.
Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. [...] Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs. Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium.
His impressions perfectly match my experiences. Back in 2011/2012, when my blog was pretty new and had only a few readers, it gained more traffic and my posts received more comments than it does now (take this Bling Manicure post from 2012 as an example and compare it to any of my recent posts). Why is that so?
Firstly, blogging is a very saturated medium now. There are hundreds or even thousands of nail polish blogs out there (replace nail polish with any blogging niche you can think of). Thus, readers are likely to follow a lot of different blogs and do not have the time to comment on every single post or even visit every blog in their subscription list. New bloggers can attest to the difficulty of building an audience today, because it has gotten increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Secondly, in our fast-paced world people do not seem to want to read a lengthy blog post anymore (please correct me if I am wrong) and rather briefly scan the pictures and close the site - I can tell this from the average duration of visits in my stats. Please do not take this as a judgement. I myself am guilty of not thoroughly reading a full post when I am busy and I follow too many blogs to leave a thoughtful comment on every post I read. Unluckily, it is the interaction with the readers that make blogging fun and keep the writers going. A quote in a post from political blogger Andrew Sullivan, who FYI also left blogging by now, says it better than I ever could:
Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. … The incentives of the social web make it a threat to the conversational web. The need to create content that “travels” is at war with the fact that great work often needs to be rooted in a particular place and context — a place and context that the reader and the author already share. I think we’re getting better at serving a huge audience even as we’re getting worse at serving a loyal one.
That is where Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter come into play. On Instagram, you quickly like a photo or read and retweet a 140 character message on Twitter - it is much faster and open to more people than a blog. However, these social media have some drawbacks and cannot replace a blog post. It is difficult to convey tone and personality in a short tweet. Similarly, it is hard to provide a thorough review on a product on Instagram (I dislike writing long texts on Instagram, but maybe that is just me).
It's not only the readers' fault
I would like to point out, though, that not only the readers' behaviour has changed. In my opinion, also the blog writers as well as companies' view on bloggers seem to have changed in the past few years.
When I first started out as a blogger, other bloggers happily accepted or asked for guest posts and freely linked to other people's content. Nowadays everyone wants to be more successful (whatever successful means), have more readers and more clicks than others. If you blog for a living I totally see why you need a lot of traffic/clicks etc, but even or especially then it is important to have a network of blogging friends. So why not link to a blog post that inspired you to create your latest manicure and recommend a blog you like? Trust me, once these bloggers see traffic coming from your website, they're likely to link to your blog in return and you do not even have to ask for link exchange (which is considered a big no no anyway).
Brands and PR companies prefer big YouTubers and Instagrammers over Bloggers. I do not have a lot of experience with PR companies myself, because here in Germany you're not as easily sent products as in the US, and 95% of the products I show you I purchased myself. Just read Kelly's post and the comments below it. To me it seems brands do not care too much about what publishers say/write about their products, let alone thoroughly test them - it is only important that they post it and expose the product to as many people as possible, which is easier on Twitter and IG as mentioned above. A quick snapshot on IG might spark my interest in a product, but I still refer to bloggers I trust for an in depth review before I decide to buy an item. Testing the products, taking and editing the photos and writing a post is a lot of work that too often goes unnoticed by the world. This combined with the mentioned changes in the blogosphere turn bloggers off and even force them to quit.
How can we get the fun back into blogging - for readers and writers?
- Share the love! - Link to an inspiring blog post or retweet a post you like.
- Leave a thoughtful comment so the writer knows you're appreciating their hard work which you get to consume for free!
- Do not moderate or filter your comments - of course you should delete spam comments, but do not filter negative comments, as they might turn into fruitful discussions
- Do not care about mere stats - where's the fun in having 1000 followers but no engagement with your readers?
- Be honest! Even if you do not like a product you were sent, say so! Don't lie about it in fear of not being sent samples from the company in the future.
- Be yourself, do your work and people will find you.
Those are just my 2 cents on the changes in the blogosphere and I am glad I got this off my chest. While I have no desire to stop blogging in the near future, I admit I have observed changes that make me worry about the future of blogs.
I hope to have caused some controversy so we can have an insightful discussion below ;) So please let me know what you think about the blogging world as it is now, whether you're a reader or a blogger. And if you like this post, feel free to share it!