A Dying Breed

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With each passing day, the blogger – as we have known them to date – is fading. 

That may sound dire, but think about it in this context: do you still use a RSS reader? How many blogs do you subscribe to? Even the ones that you do subscribe to, how often do you click and really engage with the words? If the full text is not on LinkedIn or Facebook or Medium, do you head over to a blogger’s page as some form of destination that pulls you away from where you were? The truth is this: the world of writing online continues to evolve. There has been a ton of time and investment in getting you to read and connect with me here at Six Pixels of Separation. Still, it’s hard to ignore the data, stats and general consumer behavior of the masses on this day. If the story is not in your feed, or you’re being forced to leave wherever that feed may be, it’s getting harder and harder to get those readers to click out of their native environments (the places that they want to keep thumbing through).

Maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be?

Before blogging existed (I started this one thirteen years ago!), I was a freelance writer (since the late eighties). I didn’t “own” the platform. I was able – through a lot of hard work and rejection – to (sometimes) get my content into a magazine or a newspaper. It was a tough job (did I mention the rejection?), but these publishers and editors held the key to the audience. Blogging really flipped that model upside down. Suddenly content creators were not just writers, they owned the publishing platform and the direct relationship with the consumer. This grew. In fact, it grew so fast that it paved the way for new publishers to exist (think about Huffington Post, Vice, Buzzfeed and beyond). Even traditional publications with online platforms started allowing bloggers to add content (think about Inc., Harvard Business Review, etc…). Shortly after that, they removed the delineation between what was an “article” and what was the “blogging section.” The idea that bloggers were a good farm team to drive traffic and nurture the search engines faded, as all of the content just became… content. With that, the blogs that most of us used to follow changed. The voice of the blogger transitioned from personal perspectives (written in a personal way) to looking, feeling and sounding like an article. Plus, as a blogger that was building one’s own platform, why bother? It feels like things have adjusted and now, if you want to write online, why write and try to build your own platform in a world where you can contribute to an existing platform, that has an established brand name and a built in audience already? Things have come full circle. The big media outlets, once again, control the majority of the audience. As a writer, maybe your time is best spent crafting the words, instead of trying to build the audience (or try to take it away from a publisher with a lot more time, money and audience to beat you at that game)?

In short, it’s hard to tell where a blog begins and a publication ends. It’s hard to tell who is a blogger from who is a writer or a journalist. It‘s hard to beat the big publishers at their own game.

Some of the bloggers that I have most admired over the years, are no longer themselves. Now, they write and publish like a mini-version of a traditional magazine. There’s nothing wrong with that, because the competition is fierce. I just miss that personal voice. I also miss their desire to create something unique, rather than something that might compete better against a Buzzfeed listicle. There has been a massive revolution of words. The blogger (the online journal writer) has become the wannabe journalist (writing in a much more formal format). It’s a generalization, to be sure. But, it’s a fair one.

What chance does personal content have in the present and future?

Of course there is a future for content marketing, but is there a future for blogging? Next week is Social Media Marketing World in San Diego (from April 17 – 19th, 2016 at the San Diego Convention Center). Michael Stelzner and his Social Media Examiner team put on a big and impressive event. If you’re at all interested in how to manage and leverage social media in business, this is one of the year’s marquee events. I have been attending and presenting for many years. This year is going to be unique. On Monday, April 18th I’ll be leading a discussion titled, Is There A Future For Content Marketing?, that will feature Stelzner and Mark Schaefer. Here’s how the session is described: “With so much content happening out there, does your business have any chance to cut through the clutter? What does great content look like? How is it measured? Does it really help a brand make more money? Content can help your brand win. In this session, bestselling author and President of global digital marketing agency, Mirum, Mitch Joel will be joined by Mike Stelzner (founder of Social Media Examiner, author of Launch and Writing White Papers) and Mark W. Schaefer (business consultant, blogger at {grow}, teacher at Rutgers University, and the author of The Tao of Twitter, The Content Code, and three other bestselling books) will reveal their secrets, strategies and techniques for what it takes to win with content, today… and into the future.” But, above and beyond that marketing copy, we will be focusing on blogs, blogging, bloggers, writers and this very important question: Are bloggers becoming a dying breed? In a world of Snapchat, live video, Instagram and the massive uptick in audio (thank you, podcasting) are the online writers who don’t write articles for the bigger publications becoming marginalized?

So, am I a dying breed?

(Sidebar: at Social Media Marketing World, I will also be on a panel titled, How To Get The Most Out Of Your Social Media Agency, at 4:00 pm on Monday April 18th, so please come by and say ”hi”!).