I’ve found that no matter how hard you try to keep the quality of your blog high you’ll eventually end up posting something that’s utter crap, even more so if you go for the silly idea of blogging on a regular basis. This particular blog is a good example of that as whilst I’m overall satisfied with the level of quality stuff I’ve written over the years there’s more than a few examples of me trying to shit when I didn’t have to go and ending up posting something that does little more than keep this blog alive in Google’s search algorithms. Still this won’t stop me from pointing out when others crap out posts that add nothing of any value to anyone, especially when the articles are pulled directly out of their asses.
One of my favorite blogs who I regularly use as a punching bag here is Techcrunch. Don’t get me wrong there’s a reason that I keep coming back to them everyday for my fix on up and coming companies (I’m mostly watching for competitors) but they do have a habit of making news out of innocuous crap in order to generate some page views. From creating recursive posts with 0 content to wild speculation on new products without little to no research they’re no strangers to peddling out shit to their readers and seemingly act surprised when a vocal bunch of them begin trolling them. With the volume they put out though its inevitable that a percentage of their content will end up like this, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it adds nothing to the value of their site or the wider Internet.
And rightly meta-blogging like this is similarly of low to zero value as all I’m really doing here is belly-aching about a much more successful tech blog. I try to avoid posts like these wanting instead to give my readers the information behind the news so that my posts can stand by themselves (and as a result age well) but a combination of lack of inspiration, seeing one of these 0 value posts and having this thing in draft for a couple weeks finally pushed me over the edge. You’d think the irony would be getting to me, but I’m just happy that I can satisfy my OCD for the day by getting this thing written.
I think the biggest issue I have with this kind of blogging is that when big sites do it the smaller ones follow suit turning the non-news story into a story in itself. I pride myself on not laying on the bullshit too strongly here and if I can’t verify something I just don’t write about it (or flag it as opinion). Unfortunately in the rapidly paced world of online news there’s really little time to allocate to fact checking a story when it hits, leaving you with the undesirable option of either reporting it verbatim or missing the boat by attempting to verify the story. My rule of posting once a day negates this problem (and also helps keep me sane) but also negates any benefits of posting on hot news as I’m often behind the times. I’m not a news reporting site however, so the impact on me is quite minimal.
When you’re making a living from the number of page views that come to your site it is understandable that you’ll do anything to keep that number high. Hell even just having a higher page view count can make you feel pretty good (like it did back when I first started this site) but in the end being proud of your work feels a lot better. I might change my tune when I finally think about monetizing this site, which could be coming soon since I moved this to a proper server, but that won’t change the fact that I’ll hate on those who aren’t providing any real value and I encourage anyone to point back to this post should I start playing fast and loose with the quality content just to keep the page views up.
Cast your mind back 15 years, what was the most common way to get into contact with someone? Your answer was probably a land line telephone as the Internet was still low in its adoption rates and sending letters was starting to feel a little antiquated. Additionally faxing was beginning to take over as the de facto standard for sending documents around the globe further cementing the telephone as the goto means for trying to communicate with someone. The alternatives where thin on the ground and realistically if you wanted to send a message to a large, multi-national audience you’d have to shell out some serious coin to get that done. Today however it seems that no matter who you are or who you want to talk to there’s already infrastructure in place to facilitate your desire to communicate and with that comes some interesting problems for those who used to dominate the international communications space.
This blog is a great example of just one of these forms of communication. Realistically if I wanted to write about things on a daily basis to a decent sized audience my options were fairly limited. Usually I’d have to have some kind of journalistic cred in order to get myself a daily column and that would also subject me to being under an editor. I could have wrote everything up, printed out thousands of copies and then hung them all over the place but that would be both time and cost prohibitive. Today I can reach a daily audience of dozens of people all for the cost of an hours work, an Internet connection and a bit of electricity to power my home server. If I was so inclined I could eliminate most of those costs by moving to a hosted solution, but I like tinkering too much to do that 😉
For the most part though I know that blogs don’t suit everyone, especially the kind of style that I’ve adopted for myself. Writing a post a day can seem like a chore to most people and if you’re like me you’re not prone to fits of creative inspiration often leading me on a frustrating hunt for something to write about. Additionally many people were already happy with their more traditional forms of communication and saw no need to start up a blog or similar to communicate to their intended audience.
Many of the new forms of communication are based around making the more traditional forms of mass communication (television, radio, newspapers, etc) much more accessible to the everyman. Primarily we have the Internet to thank for this as its pervasiveness opens up the largest potential audience for any content that you might dare to distribute. The rapid change from traditional media to the current user centric Internet experience has seen many corporations playing a game of catch up to make the most of this new medium with many just being outright hostile to what they perceive as being a threat to their bottom line. I can’t say that I blame them as any good corporations main goal is to maximize its profit for its shareholders but realistically if you’re trying to fight a fundamental change to your business model rather than adapt to it you’re not long for the technological world. There’s already a dozen hungry start ups that would be willing to take your place.
On the flip side though the various means of communication can be a bit of a curse. Although there is always a dominate player in the respective field the success of any new form of communication means there will be multiple players, all with their own distinct set of benefits. Ultimately this leads to a fragmented audience meaning either you attempt to cover off all your bases to hit the largest audience possible (exponentially increasing your work) or just target one potentially segregating off a large audience. In the end though content is still king and if you do good work people will overlook the medium in which its delivered.
What all this means for the everyman is that no matter who you are, what your message is or who your audience is there’s probably already a form of communication that’s perfectly suited to you. Want to start a TV show? Get a YouTube channel. Feel like exposing every little nuance of your life to the Internet? Get a Twitter account. Have aspirations of being a journalist but don’t want to do the training but hope that some technology/gaming/space big shot will see your potential and then pay you to write for them? Get off my territory and start a blog somewhere else boy! 😉 The traditional content gatekeepers no longer apply for those of us lucky to live in the age of the Internet, where those who wish to express themselves and their audience is only separated by a few clicks and bit of bandwidth.
Even though I’ve been doing this whole blog thing for a while now (well, longer than I’ve held most jobs in the past 5 years which is saying something) I still feel that’s probably one of the more out-there hobbies that people take on. Whilst I share this interest in blogging with many of my social circle for the majority of them they have little to no interest in the long form of social media, gravitating much more heavily towards Facebook. Can’t say I blame them either as the format there lends itself easily to posting a quip or comment in under 5 minutes and usually generates a very immediate response. Writing a blog post takes at least 1~2 hours out of my day and the results vary wildly from a slew of comments to barely registering on anyone’s radar. It’s definitely akin to shouting into the darkness hoping someone listens.
Maybe that’s why I feel so comforted by my Google Analytics account.
More interesting however is how the long form of social media on the Internet is on the decline:
Blogging is falling out of favor among the young’uns these days as they move to quicker-moving social networking sites. At the same time, older adults are getting into blogging and teens still aren’t hot on Twitter, at least according to the latest report from the Pew Internet and American Life project.
Only 14 percent of teenage Internet users said that they blogged last year—that’s half the number from 2006. Similarly, teen commenting on blogs is way down from 76 percent in 2006 to just over 52 percent in 2009. It doesn’t matter whether the blog is on Blogspot or buried within MySpace, either—blogs in general are definitely not the new black.
Delving into the statistics that the article above was based on reveals that not only did the teenage population leave the blogging platform en masse but also the young adults. There was a slight improvement in the over 30s and as a whole the Internet has seen a rise in the usage of blogs but for the youngsters and fledgling adults it would seem that blasting your thoughts out hundreds of words at a time is just not the in thing anymore. That left me wondering: why the hell is that?
I could easily write the whole phenomena off as being part of the revolution of mobile Internet. Nearly every modern phone has a Facebook application on it or you’re a Twitter account away from enabling it on any SMS capable phone. I’ve tried doing blog posts on my phone in the past and even with a hardware keyboard its laborious work and I can imagine would feel quite unnatural to a demographic who grew up with short form communication method SMS as their defacto standard. Thus with our increasingly mobile generation the longer forms of social media become outmoded for the quick, up to the minute feeds that services like Facebook and Twitter provide.
However I believe there’s also another side to this phenomena that will be hard to find in statistics like this. The blogging medium has evolved quite a lot over the past 10 years, going from something that only the technically elite were capable of to becoming freely available to anyone who cares to spend 5 minutes setting up an account on Blogspot. Over this time corporations began to see the value in such information channels and so the corporate blogs were born. The same thing could also be said for celebrities with their blogs functioning as a direct channel between themselves and their fans. A great example of this would be the Dilbert blog as prior to launching it no one really knew the face behind the comics that parody our cubicle life so aptly.
To use a musical analogy, blogging sold out. For the most part all the large blogs around the world are centered around driving traffic and getting more eyes on the content you’re either producing or regurgitating. Gone are the days when a blog was someone talking about their life or what interests them. No today you’re more likely to find a corporate blog or niche news aggregator, with the one you’re reading now being no exception. It started out as a platform for me to collate my various Internet censorship fighting exploits and evolved into what it is today. But make no mistake I’m just a few steps away from being the newsbots I used to loathe so much.
Personally though it feels like an evolution of the medium. It initially started out as an easier way for anyone to have a presence on the web and has since evolved into a tool that’s been applied in a much wider sense. The younger generation hopped on this tech because it was new and cool but with all the late adopters coming to the field the platform of blogging has lost its cool and the likes of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are here to pick up the slack. It will be interesting to see how long social network can go before it starts to lose its shine to, if it ever does.