The Changing State Of Blogs

Posted by

Are blogs dead? Why is this question being debated so much lately?

Earlier today, Social Media Examiner‘s Michael Stelzner invited Mark W. Schaefer (author of  The Content Code, Social Media Explained, etc…) and I on to his podcast to discuss this whole, “is blogging dead?” meme that seems to be back in the public zeitgeist (the show will be published in the coming weeks). Like many of these conversations, it seems to devolve into a conversation and debate around semantics and definitions.

What is a blog?

In the early days of blogging (I started Six Pixels of Separation in 2003), I defined blogs as a personal publishing platform that enabled anyone to write something, hit the publish button, and instantly have it distributed to the world for free (and fast). At the time, many new types of blogs started down the same path. Some of them looked less like personal online journals, and more like quick moving and frequently updated digital versions of magazines and newspapers (think Huffington Post and Mashable). Still, these blogs had the core technical features of a personal blog. They enabled people to comment and share, had links within the text, and were also available via RSS feeds.

Remember RSS feeds?

This was another core component of what made a blog a “blog.” It was the ability for readers/community members to “subscribe” to a blog feed. We would use independent RSS readers, web browser-based readers or email add-ons to have these pieces of content delivered to the reader, the moment that they were published by the writer. It’s not an archaic notion, but things have changed since our social media newsfeeds have taken over. RSS readers are all but gone now (except for relics like me, who still use them in a less and less frequent way). Now, blogs like Mashable and Huffington Post just seem like publications more than how we used to define blogs.

And, that’s the point. The idea of what a blog is (and will be) has become a moving target. 

It’s hard… actually, impossible to tell the difference between a blog and a publication at this point. They both mirror one another with similar features, feel and content. Yes, the voice and tone of the content is varied, but publications always had these different styles of writing as their unique selling proposition.

Why the term “blog” could (and should) die.

I’m not sure what a blog is anymore. I’m not sure who a blogger is anymore. I’m not sure what a blog post looks like anymore. These used to have specific and unique characteristics. These characteristics (tags, comments, share buttons, links, subscription buttons and more) have all been adopted by mass publishers. In fact, in order to grow the Six Pixels of Separation audience, a lot of the strategy has less to do with posting here – as a hub – and much more with turning this place into a receptacle for the myriad of places that content is now distributed through (radio shows, business books, other digital spaces, magazines, YouTube and beyond). In order to keep familiarity, I’ve dismissed the language of blogs and blogging and have begun to replace it.

The new way to talk about blogs and content.

In short, this is how I have moved the vocabulary of blogs into the shadows, in order to modernize the content that you’re reading:

  • From a blog to a publishing platform.
  • From a blog post to an article.
  • From a blogger to a writer (and, for some, it could be a journalist).

A game of semantics.

It’s easy to just call this semantics, but it feels more like the proper evolution of blogs and publishing. Blogging used to be the ideal way for those without an audience or publishing history to build their own, and in a unique/more personal voice. Now, with the shift of channels like Mashable and Huffington Post from blogs to publishing empires, and the growth of publishing in places like Medium, LinkedIn and even Facebook‘s Notes to publish, there are a myriad of ways for brand (and individual) voices to get published. They all offer different types of audiences, access and distribution, but they are valid choices – and alternatives – to what used to be a very different model (either you got published or published on your own). Having Six Pixels of Separation be a type of publishing platform that I use to distribute my articles along with places like Harvard Business Review or Facebook creates a more dynamic portfolio and content distribution strategy, than spending my days worrying about driving unique traffic to a blog in a world where the readers have moved on, diversified and – from what I can tell – could care less. Readers care that they’re getting the best content in whatever platform they’re consumed by, not by where they have to go to get it.