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Will Twitter Kill the Blogging Star?

Rand Fishking and Darren Rowse have noted a remarkable decline in the social nature of blogs, most notably the culture of inter-linking, and think Twitter and other social media outlets may be partly to blame.

In 2006, a popular blog post or piece of content would generate a remarkable amount of blogging activity. It wasn’t uncommon for a few hundred small & mid-size blogs & news sites to pick up a story, add their thoughts and create links. Today, even very popular pieces of content in the technology sphere are lucky to have two dozen blogs and traditional websites write about them. What’s happened? Darren and I proposed a few potential theories:

  • Blogging has become less about sharing with your network and more about building up your own importance/business, so linking and covering the works of your peers, unless it gets you something, has limited viability. Bloggers are more professional, more self-focused and find less value in linking to/covering what others produce.
  • Blogging, at least in the “bleeding edge” technology fields (social media, SEO, webdev, etc.) is not as popular as it once was. While this might be a hard argument to make, there’s certainly some circumstanstial evidence – just look at my list of SEO blogs from 2006 and 2007 – there is an undeniably smaller amount of content being produced by many of these folks.
  • Twitter is cannibalizing blogging. People who previously might have blogged about a site/news article/clever piece of linkbait are simply tweeting it, and save their blog posts for more comprehensive essays and broader subjects.

They offer a bit of data to support their thesis but admit that it’s rough.

Based on my own observations — and I’m only casually involved with Twitter, Facebook, and other non-blog social media outlets — the first of these bullets strikes me as more plausible than the others.

The professionalization of blogging and the rise of automatic aggregators has shaken out the pocket-Glenn Reynolds types, leaving essayists and discussion leaders in the ascendency.  Most of the “serious” blogs now create quasi-unique content and/or (as this post is attempting to do) bring attention to content from outside their niche into a wider discussion.

The hundreds of blogs that once existed mostly as true web logs — i.e., mostly just pointing to content elsewhere that the proprietor finds interesting — have mostly withered away. There’s just not a market for them (perhaps because the professional bloggers are cranking out too much content and people don’t have time to read anything else.)  It’s quite plausible that those folks have moved in to Twitter.

The second part of that first bullet is right, too.  The linking culture that still persists on political blogs is much less common in other niches.  Although I’m no longer actively posting, I own celebrity and sports blogs and there’s virtually no tradition of source acknowledgment in those sub-spheres.  Celebrity blogs in particular generally pass off cut-and-paste content from elsewhere as their own.

Photo by Flickr user HGruber, used under Creative Commons license.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jay C. says:

    DrJ: I joined twitter on March 19 and since then I have used it as an outlet to release run-of-the-mill blather that I used to place on my blog. Since I plan on using my blog as an outlet for professional networking and more thoughtful writing, I'm a perfect example of the points you make on your site. That said, it's harder and harder to hold captive an audience for an essay when nowadays most of the discourse has been reduced to bumper stickers and slogans.

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