Blog Bubble Bursting?

Is the blog bubble bursting? Only if you're innumerate.

A breathless Economist piece tells us that the blogging “empire” is “giving way.”  Most of the piece is anecdotal and country-specific, but here’s the gist:

Solid data about the blogosphere are hard to come by. Such signs as there are, however, all point in the same direction. Earlier in the decade, rates of growth for both the numbers of blogs and those visiting them approached the vertical. Now traffic to two of the most popular blog-hosting sites, Blogger and WordPress, is stagnating, according to Nielsen, a media-research firm. By contrast, Facebook’s traffic grew by 66% last year and Twitter’s by 47%. Growth in advertisements is slowing, too. Blogads, which sells them, says media buyers’ inquiries increased nearly tenfold between 2004 and 2008, but have grown by only 17% since then. Search engines show declining interest, too.

People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs’ monopoly. Even newer entrants such as Tumblr have offered sharp new competition, in particular for handling personal observations and quick exchanges. Facebook, despite its recent privacy missteps, offers better controls to keep the personal private. Twitter limits all communication to 140 characters and works nicely on a mobile phone.

This reminds me of the brilliant pieces telling us that China is overtaking the United States economically because they’re growing at a much faster rate.   Mature, large entities do indeed tend to be “stagnant” relative to emerging upstarts, given that there’s much less for the former to grow.  But it doesn’t at all follow that the upstart’s rapid growth is sustainable.  Indeed, it’s almost a mathematical given that it isn’t.

I think it’s quite probable that people wishing to do nothing more complex than recount what they had for lunch or pass on some links will continue abandoning blogs for Twitter, Facebook, and other media more suitable for such tasks.  Indeed, I’d encourage them to do so.

But it’s inconceivable that Twitter or Facebook will supplant blogs for the dissemination of long form content — by which I mean writing requiring more than a few words at a time, much less several paragraphs.   Those media are technically limited, for one thing, and their audience is looking for something completely different.

via Andrew Sullivan

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    It also ignores the Long Tail phenomenon. How many of the top 50 or 100 blogs are hosted by either WordPress or Blogger? They account for an enormous proportion of the total traffic.

  2. Rick Almeida says:

    Add “diminishing marginal returns” to the list of concepts with which any person who wants to be taken seriously should be familiar.

  3. john personna says:

    In other news, there are more night clubs than libraries.

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    I don’t think any of those brilliant pieces have claimed that China has overtaken the US economically but just that they are catching up and likely to overhaul us in the next 25 years. I’d say this was well nigh irrefutable. If it’s a mathematical certainty that rapid growth is unsustainable you have to wonder how the US and German Empires overtook the British Empire.

  5. James Joyner says:

    If it’s a mathematical certainty that rapid growth is unsustainable you have to wonder how the US and German Empires overtook the British Empire.

    I’m not arguing that growth is unsustainable, merely the rates of growth that emerging economies enjoy. 10% of a small number is easier to achieve than 10% of a high number.

    And I’m not sure that the German Empire ever overtook the British Empire, although Germany has certainly overtaken the UK. That has as much to do with British implosion — and the burdens of empire — than German growth.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    “And I’m not sure that the German Empire ever overtook the British Empire, although Germany has certainly overtaken the UK.”

    …..by 1914 the GDP of the Germany was almost equal to that of Britain’s and would have overtaken it within a few years had the war not intervened and in any case much of British GDP was based on invisibles which were nowhere near as substantial a measure of power as say steel output …..America had already overtaken Britain. The current British/German situation is totally unrelated. Obviously achieving a larger increase in a small number is easier than doing the same with a big number as Geoff Immelt will tell you, but you seemed to be dismissing the idea that China is gradually catching up with us economically and will almost certainly overtake us at some point and this is erroneous imho.

  7. James Joyner says:

    you seemed to be dismissing the idea that China is gradually catching up with us economically and will almost certainly overtake us at some point and this is erroneous imho.

    I don’t think they’ll be able to sustain tremendous growth absent a pretty radical structural change. But, yeah, it’s conceivable that a nation of 1.2 billion will eventually reach parity with a nation of 310 million in terms of GDP. In terms of GDP/capita, it’s another story.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “In terms of GDP/capita, it’s another story.”

    I’d have said it was more than conceivable but now you’re changing the terms of reference Jim. And even that depends on whether you mean medium term (15-25 years) or long term (50+). There was a good piece in The Economist a couple of weeks ago about the regime’s ability to cope with change. The conclusion: they’ve gone from Mao to Now in 30 years so the odds are they will find a way to manage it somehow.