Some thoughts on the apparent end of blogs which aimed for a mass-market audience and monetised through advertising.
The Death of (Mass‑Market, Ad‑Supported) Blogging
I think it’s because they’re typically by bloggers who had an audience ruing the disappearance of that audience. To those of us who have always blogged in obscurity, welcome to the club. For us, there never was an audience. That’s why social networks (particularly Facebook) are such an attractive place to post instead.1
However, the absence of large audiences for blogs doesn’t mean blogging is over. Indeed, it could never have begun if that was a prerequisite. What is (probably)2 over are multi-member blogs that target the mass market and are advertising supported.
To which it’s tempting to say ‘good riddance’. The incentives for this type of site are all screwed up. In the piece linked above, Tolentino talks about the posting cycle at the Hairpin being 45 minutes. Who was all of this content being produced for? I read some terrific posts on the Awl and the Hairpin over the years, but if I don’t go spelunking through Pinboard, I could not point you to a single piece that has stuck in my mind.
And at the risk of straying into no-true-Scotsman territory, were these even blogs in the first place? Weren’t they just magazines with a really fast turnaround? They felt more akin to that than to the idiosyncratic, opinionated, individualistic writing that is the essence of ‘blogging’. These sites certainly had idiosyncratic, opinionated, individualistic brands but what the continued destruction of the media landscape in 2018 appears to be demonstrating is that people don’t care much for brands. At least not when it comes to written entertainment.
I don’t wish unemployment on any of the writers at these publications, but I confess I can’t find much enthusiasm to wring my hands at the fact a bunch of privileged, (predominantly) white, American twentysomethings have a couple of fewer opportunities to live comfortably in New York. I don’t want blogging to go away but I’m also not sure that it is. ✺
This is part of what makes Micro.blog an interesting experiment. Manton is trying to build a social network atop decentralised blogging. To some degree, the hyperlink has always meant blogging was a socially networked activity but (to my knowledge) there’s never been a social network built out of decentralised blogs (Tumblr and WordPress have social networks but only of the blogs running on their platform). ↩
It seems dangerous to completely write off this type of publication and so I’ll hedge instead. Perhaps through a combination of podcasts, video and other ancillary revenue, there’s a way to make a sustainable business. I’m doubtful but it’s always risky to bet against the Internet. ↩