A dangerous thought has been running through my mind recently; is it time to quit blogging? It’s not through lack of ideas, but fun. If you have never run a blog before then let me tell you this, it’s bloody difficult. A burden of time and mental resource, a commitment that must become habitual otherwise a blog will quickly fall into disrepair.
When I began blogging 10 years ago the social media landscape looked entirely different, and with that, an entirely different culture. Blogging was a community experience where online ‘blog carnivals’ took place (essentially a monthly newsletter populated by bloggers and hosted by different authors each month), commenting was rife and it was easier building a social media following.
Through a range of external factors, these ‘old’ days of the Internet are now over. Perhaps it was inevitable that though the commercialisation of digital marketing that the original authors of the Internet have been left forgotten? Blogging is now an activity pitched up against mainstream media outlets, needing time and monetary investment to cut through the social noise. This noise itself also poses another challenge, creating original content that matters rather than joining in with the masses; regurgitating statistics, videos and images that have already made the digital rounds.
Sadly, the day of blogging may soon be over for individual authors, especially for these reasons:
Fragmentation of community
When I ran a blog on atheism/humanism I was very young, but still my ideas were heard. As part of a bigger community my followers were shared between likeminded publications and debates in comment sections were huge. Blogs or forums were the go to places for debate but that changed with Facebook in 2006. The community moved, forums became ghost towns and comments were left on Facebook rather than on blogs. User behaviour had changed due to new social media sites, and today the social media landscape has never been bigger. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn have become popular places to host your social personality. Standalone blogs are not as relevant as user experience has fragmented across a number of social sites.
Cutting through noise
Changes in search engine optimisation have meant that blogs ideally need to be updated daily with fresh content, contain a mixture of image and video, and are of a decent length (800 – 1200 words). This is to show Google that a site has fresh, digestible, shareable and in depth content. Along with some technical factors, these are basic rules of climbing search engine rankings.
Where is the best place to hide a body? On page 2 of Google Search results. Blogs need to be read by people and it’s likely that the majority of this traffic will come from search engines. Without traffic, a blog is unable to grow, and you may as well spend time writing articles using LinkedIn Pulse where posts are publicised in a contained social site. The big bad SEO world has got tougher due to the abusive influences of people and organisations changing rankings. We’ve all suffered as a result, especially bloggers.
The ‘why?’ Factor
When I first began blogging it was fairly easy to make money from banner advertising, it at least covered my hosting costs, sometimes more. Then sponsored posts came along and at times this helped pay for my University expenses. Today monetising a blog has never been harder. The fact that gaining traffic is harder, means banner advertising is a slow and unreliable revenue source. Alongside this is the decline in sponsored posts due to changes that have taken place in the SEO industry. Who wants to pay for content? More importantly, who needs to pay for content? Online competition has sapped the bank balances of bloggers and it’s no longer a reliable living. Selling consultancy really is the better option for bloggers in my position today.
Scheduling the blog into life
From all the bloggers I’ve spoken to there is a great deal of guilt in the community about worrying about traffic levels, the stats of individual posts, how many subscribers… The list really does go on forever. Decent blog posts take time to consider, research and produce – a commitment that’s a real challenge alongside everyday life. To the point above, to what end? If full time work provides the money, then how is a blog’s success being measured? Running a blog means thinking all the time about what the next post is going to be, who could be the next guest author, when will I have time to write my next 800 words? It’s a hamster wheel of repetition and I have to be honest, after 10 years of doing this, it’s almost enough.
All of these concerns are ones of a more ‘professional’ blogger, rather than a hobbyist. As an amateur (meaning lover in French), merely to love the act of blogging is enough. In the real world though, the purpose of blogging really deserves questioning. The digital landscape has changed immensely over the last 10 years; is it time to live life instead?