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Is Blogging Dead?

That’s a dramatic and possibly even sarcastic headline, but it was derived from a real question asked in our current post comparing indie blog platforms Six Apart and Automattic. Commenter jm wrote:

“the other vision is that blogging is dead vs myspace/facebook stuff. Where is the need for a individual expression tool when the whole business is moving to social? they were just pre-2.0…”

Another commenter, Jason, quickly retorted:

“I’m not so sure blogging is dead, jm. New blogs pop up on every few seconds and the emerging markets in Asia and Africa are just starting to be tapped. Blogging has certainly evolved over the past five years, but its final shape has yet to form.”

Obviously blogging is nowhere near dead, but jm does raise some interesting issues. With the rise of MySpace in the last couple of years and now Facebook in 2007, many people aren’t writing personal blogs anymore. Having said that, both Six Apart (with Typepad and Vox) and Automattic (with wordpress.com) are clearly targeting personal – and social – bloggers with their products. So it stands to reason that both of those companies are threatened somewhat by social networks. Although the counter to that is that the overall market pie is growing.

Why People Blog

There are many other reasons, apart from being social, that people may want to blog. One is to focus on a niche and essentially treat it as a media website, which is what we do here on Read/WriteWeb.

Another reason is to join a distributed conversation about shared interests – usually a half social, half work activity. Newbie blogger Marc Andreessen’s blog is probably of that type, as he wrote about today in his Eleven lessons learned about blogging, so far post. Marc goes as far to say that “…in industries where lots of people are online, blogging is the single best way to communicate and interact.”

The Best Blogs Are Social

Marc’s post focuses on how blogging has in some ways usurped traditional forms of publishing (books etc). But I think R/WW commenter jm actually hit on a more interesting tension – between blogging as a social communications tool and social networks like MySpace/Facebook. Matthew Ingram has (as always) a great perspective on this, in a post entitled Do blog comments still matter?. Like Matthew, I think comments are vitally important to a blog. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret – right now increasing the comments and discussions on R/WW is my number 1 priority. The reason why is because blogs are at heart a social medium. Blogs are a publishing platform, sure, but they are a social publishing platform.

Now, we’ve seen some very cynical and exploitative uses of blogs over the past year, along with a lot of stats manipulation. It makes me despair at times, but then I think about how the best blogs have resisted the sleeze and have become platforms where discussions bloom. These are blogs where the writers actually write for their readers, and not just to get page views. A good example is my friend Joshua Porter, whose blog Bokardo is a great resource about social web design – and there are always excellent discussions happening on his blog.

Admittedly it’s hard to get discussions going on a blog, but the blogs that at least attempt it and actually write for their readers — these blogs are the most compelling in my view.

So back to the original question – is blogging dead? Not on your life! Blogs, social networks, newspapers, any other form of publication – all have social aspects to them. It is a spectrum really, with social networks at one extreme and a 19th century novel at the other. But there’s room for all types of social publishing platforms.

Cat photo by junku

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