I read an interesting article in Inc. Magazine entitled “Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?” If you read this article it would lead you to believe blogging is in decline and on it’s way out as a marketing tool. The article cites a study from the University of Massachusetts in which the respondents (170 executives from Inc. 500 companies) indicated the use of blogging was down 13% from the prior year. Before you draw the conclusion blogging is dead, you might want to read the text that follows…
Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Especially When It’s Labeled As Research
Research has it’s place, but only as it applies to credible research. Here’s the thing – just because a university, trade association, company, professor, etc., publishes something as research doesn’t mean it’s credible (read Not All Research is Valid). The Inc. article does offer some balanced viewpoints, but my fear is the tenor of the piece may create a negative bias in the minds of readers. The statistics quoted from the University of Massachusetts study infer because blogging is in decline amongst a small sample group, therefore blogging must be on its way out. This is simply flawed logic based upon a lack of understanding about what’s really influencing the decline.
The Truth About Blogging
Despite opinions to the contrary, blogging isn’t dead; it’s just starting to get interesting. Microblogging (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) doesn’t replace traditional blogging, it actually serves as a catalyst to expose blog content to a broader base of readers. My observation is people who say blogging is dead either already have a blog that died, or they have no blog at all. The truth of the matter is blogging requires a committed effort, which many find to be unsustainable. We’ve all watched many a blog launch in prolific fashion only to die a slow public death weeks or months down the road. However for those willing to put forth the effort, there are great rewards to be gained.
There are always naysayers willing to offer their opinions, but my suggestion is not to listen to the rhetoric of the failed or uninitiated, but rather to seek your counsel from those who are experiencing success. While you can find numerous examples of successful bloggers to glean insight from, let me put this as simply as I can; I would not have continued blogging for the last several years if it was not extremely beneficial to do so.
Macroeconomic Forces At Play
For purposes of advancing this discussion I want to examine a few simple business fundamentals and macroeconomic lessons to lend some historical context to the rapidly evolving state of the blogosphere. When a new industry surfaces, the early adopters (first-movers) set-up shop, validate proof of concept, carve out their niche, and build very strong, if not in some cases, category dominant brands. Clearly this was the case for many of today’s most successful bloggers. The truth is that some of today’s most established bloggers aren’t necessarily the best bloggers, they just got there first.
However it’s also important to keep in mind that not all first-movers prosper, or for that matter, even survive. Because first-movers take large risks in uncharted territory, they often make mistakes that are not survivable. Even if their mistakes are not fatal, many times they serve to blaze a better trail for others to follow by removing and/or diminishing barriers to entry. In a previous post “Blogging Hits A Crossroads” I shared some insights on some of the “A-Listers” who have given up blogging, and why others stick it out. In a universe the size of the blogosphere there will always be churn. In fact, blogging has been around long enough we’re now starting to experience the second and third comings of those who once abandoned their blogs only to come back again.
Where Are We Now?
Many successful bloggers today were not necessarily first-movers, but rather fast-followers able to leap frog the early adopters. Any student of history understands as an industry matures, more capital becomes available, advancements in technology occur, new niches, markets and nuanced communication channels open-up, and more players enter the market. This wave of hyper-growth always precedes a consolidation, which is where we find ourselves now with regard to the state of the blogosphere. Blogging is going through a very natural (and healthy) consolidation phase where weak contributors are being weeded out. This is a positive sign – not a foreshadowing of doom and gloom.
Blogging isn’t dying – it’s being refined by those who understand it best, and abandoned by those who don’t have the talent or the ability to sustain their efforts. To be fair, the Inc. Magazine article which triggered this rant did point out those “Companies that do have blogs are very happy with them. Ninety-two percent of those businesses called the platform a success.” I’m not aware of any other medium/platform where 92% of users view their efforts as a success, are you?
Reasons Why Blogging Won’t Die
Because there is virtually no barrier to entry to a medium which offers global exposure to one’s thoughts and opinions, blogging won’t ever die. While the list of reasons behind why people blog are probably only limited to the confines of one’s imagination, the following list contains common representative examples of what I believe to be the main reasons people begin to blog, and why blogging will continue to be an influential platform (listed in no particular order):
- To follow a trend
- To become famous
- To rant, voice an opinion, or champion a cause
- To be of service
- To have a cathartic outlet
- To communicate with friends and family
- To collaborate or exchange ideas and information
- To build trust
- To acquire knowledge or business intelligence
- To engage a particular constituency or constituencies
- To make money
- To expand spheres of influence
- To extend marketing efforts
- To improve search engine rankings
- To improve personal or professional networking
- To create added personal or corporate brand equity
- To establish subject matter expertise
- And the list could go on, and on, and on…
The Road Ahead
The reason I’ve taken the time to walk you through this exercise is because “who” you are, and ”why” you blog will determine your unique definition of success with regard to your blogging efforts. Bottom line; process what you’ve read here and in other places, then incorporate what you deem to be valid into a blogging strategy that will work for you. For those of you in leadership positions, particularly at the chief executive level, blogging is an incredibly powerful platform, which should only be ignored at your peril. I authored a piece for Chief Executive Magazine which goes into great detail explaining the benefits of social media for CEOs. The only way you can lose with blogging is to not blog – stop finding excuses for why you can’t, won’t, or don’t blog and get in the game.