The New York Times is engaging in another one of its those delightfully passive aggressive stories it does about blogs, this time focusing — about a decade too late — on the bloggers who quit blogging when they realize that just because they write something online doesn’t mean anyone is going to know it is there. I say this is a decade too late because I certainly remember the grousing in 1999 or thenabouts by folks discouraged that no one was beating a path to their virtual doors, and I remember the newspaper stories about just that fact. What’s old becomes new again, apparently.
The Times also notes that of the millions of blogs that exist, only a tiny margin get a readership beyond the bloggger and the blogger’s mom (“OMG I can’t believe my mom read what I wrote about her on my blog”), and thus as a consequence most are eventually abandoned. But again, this is no real surprise; the numbers are larger now but the percentages of abandoned blogs has been fairly consistent for years. The vast majority of blogs, in fact, have nothing but the following three posts:
Post One: “Here’s my blog! This is where I’m going to share all my thoughts about life, the universe and everything! It’s going to be great and I can’t wait to tell you all what I’m thinking about everything!”
Post Two: “Hey, sorry I haven’t updated in a while — life’s been crazy. But I’ll be back soon.”
Post Three: “Here’s a picture of my cat.”
And then it’s done.
Nothing wrong with this — writing on a regular basis is work, even when you’re ostensibly doing it for fun, and it shouldn’t be a surprise not a lot of people really want to work that hard. Also and perhaps more to the point, I suspect many people who start blogging realize fairly quickly that they either don’t like sharing all their thoughts to the world, or that their thoughts, while interesting to them, appear fairly banal once they’re typed out, and it’s better just not to post them for the sake of posting them. And there’s nothing wrong with this either, and indeed the blogger is to be congratulated of the bit of personal insight. Most blogs are abandoned because they should be.
The thing about this Times piece is that it feels almost endearing anachronistic; not to run down blogs, but they’re not exactly the hot new kid on the block these days, are they. These days it seems like the only people starting new blogs are laid-off journalists, which says something both about blogs and these journalists. Everyone else has moved on to Facebook and Twitter. Which is something I personally applaud; I like my blog, but I’m a wordy bastard, by profession and by inclination, and online social networks actually do a far better job of what people wanted blogs to do, which is be a way to act and feel connected online with friends and family. No one gives a crap if your tweet or status update is short and utterly inconsequential (“Hey! I just ate a hot dog!”) — indeed, that’s kind of the point.
So it’s worth noting that even on Twitter, with its absolute ease of connecting with people and its inherent design promoting short, deep-thought-free posting, the vast majority of Twitter accounts rarely update, and have fewer than 10 followers. Which is to say the same communication dynamic applies everywhere online, regardless of whether it’s a blog, or Facebook page or Twitter account or whatever. It’s hard to make interesting content, whether it’s a 670 word blog post or a 140 character tweet. People might initially think they’re up to it, but they find out quickly enough that they’re not. Which, again, is perfectly fine. There’s no inherent virtue in being a wordy bastard. Some people are; most people aren’t.
I expect the Times will catch up on this news about Twitter in another eight years or so, assuming (he said, snarkily) it’s still around then. Set your timers now.