My online routine was turned upside-down the other week when my usual “dose of pop culture” from the highly-visited Gawker.com was interrupted by a new site format.

After months of knowing what to expect from the pop culture blog – a front page of witty headlines and paragraph posts and pictures (contained perfectly in rectangular block sections that moved effortlessly with my eyes as I scrolled) – the site was now condensed with one short headline, a twitter-like scroll-bar on the right side for additional posts, and a good amount of “read more” links urging me to navigate away from the barren front page. I can understand minimalistic design on Web pages, but this was more empty than minimal.

At about the same time, articles from the New York Times and tech blogs GigaOm and PC World confirmed that this “new format” was more than just a refresh – it was part of a growing trend of leaving traditional blogging by the wayside. A bit surprised, I looked deeper into the trend.

Here’s my breakdown.

The Findings

While there seems to be a few sources that instigated the trend, Pew Internet Research recently conducted a study on “Generations Online in 2010” and found some pretty interesting figures and findings. According to the study, only half of teenagers who had their own blog in 2006 had one in 2009 – a pretty substantial decrease of 28 to 14 percent. Likewise, the “Millennial” age group (18-33) also had a slight decline in blog ownership, a decrease of 20 to 18 percent. Between the research and the articles, I developed my take on some potential reasons as to why blogs are being “left in the dust.”

Blogs are too much work for me

Blogs take time and energy, both of which people have less and less of in their busy lives. Not to mention that the ability to consistently talk about a topic and deliver thoughtful posts is a large task to tackle.

I can’t tell if people are reading and/or liking my blog

What do I like about my Facebook status updates the most? About 30 seconds after my posts, I usually get a comment or a “Like.” This instant gratification is not only satisfying, but let’s you know someone is listening. This isn’t always the case with blogs. Sure, people can take the time to comment, but it just isn’t the same.

I’d rather spend time on blog-like things

The Pew study coined the phrase “blog-like things” – the social media tools that align with many characteristics we see on blogs, but present them in a different way. With sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and even SoundCloud, people can share the same thoughts and opinions that might populate a blog to more people, more simply and faster than ever before. All while using creative ways to express themselves – photos, voice, and song are just naming a few.

The Future

Is the end really near for blogs? I think GigaOm says it best – this trend is more an “evolution” than a destruction of blogging. When you take another look at the recent Pew study, the findings show that older adults, namely the Gen X age group of 34 to 55 year olds, are still active in their blogging. So, while younger generations may be gravitating towards a “140 characters or less” communication style, the facts still show that important other age groups are still actively engaged in the blogosphere.

What some may not realize is that blogs are essentially the driving force behind the tweets and Facebook posts we publish every day. Without blog content, other social media tools lack substance and content. For example, if you happen to be a Mac enthusiast and see the announcement of a new product on Twitter, your likely next step would be to head to a blog like Mac Rumors. The blog would in turn help to break down the new product and provide further insight and analysis. Or, if you know want to know what the latest and greatest is from Google; chances are you’ll pay a visit to their blog. Not only do you know to visit the blog, but Google knows that its blog is where its content will be viewed and commented on the most!

Outside of the tech sector, and from my experience of being an intern, blogs like Intern Queen and P.S. Peter Shankman (of HARO founder Peter Shankman) are among some of the best examples of established blogs that I turn to for advice and opinions from experts in the communication field. True, I may not go to the blog until I see a new tweet from @Intern Queen saying, “New post on PR trends,” but I still click through because I know what’s most important is on the post, not in a one sentence blurb and hash tag. The tweets, posts and updates act as tools to help navigate to the real content – the blog post. And I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Whatever our age and however we utilize social media, it is still most important that we continue to produce creative and thought-provoking content that showcases our expertise, inspires others, and most importantly, engages our audiences. While there is an ever-increasing amount of ways to accomplish this, I can’t think of any better way than with a blog.

Author Cullen Heaney is currently an intern at Weber Shandwick Seattle. You can follow Cullen on Twitter @cullenhny.

Image courtesy of futureshape.

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