Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 30, 2012 8:52 PM

Blogging Is Dead... Here We Go Again

Less and less of the Inc. 500 are Blogging. Blogging is dying.

ReadWriteWeb's post, Blogging Declines Across the Inc. 500, was bound for linkbait heaven. Who doesn't love dumping on a once popular platform - especially when it looks like it is being abandoned by corporate America and the bigger brands? According to the Blog post, "A new longitudinal study at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth focusing on the online activities of the Inc. 500 has found a huge drop in the number of companies maintaining corporate blogs over the past year. The UMass researchers, under the direction of Nora Barnes, has been following this group for several years. Only 37% of those interviewed had a corporate blog last year, down from half of those interviewed in 2010."

Blogging is hard work. Blogging isn't for everyone.

I'm surprised that it took this long to see the decline in Blogging. The truth is that Blogging is a form of publishing and brands are traditionally not all that great when it comes to creating unique, compelling and frequently updated content. The nature of Blogging speeds this up as both frequency (how often you Blog) and micro-interactions (which happens via the back and forth of Blog comments) can be both time consuming and complex. In a world where Facebook, Twitter and YouTube blossomed, it seems obvious that brands would bail on Blogging for something that required less work... in a world where people were spending less and less time consuming this type of content and became more interested in shorter spurts (140 characters of less) and more snappy/quick content in the form of Facebook wall posts or online videos (which doesn't require so much back and forth).

Blogging works for the brands that want to make it work.

You won't see the people at Mashable or The Huffington Post worry too much about this news item because they know the dirty, little secret of Blogging: it's just a publishing platform. It's the content you put into it, how it resonates with an audience and the community that you can build from it that counts. There are many brands (the Twist Image one included) that are seeing nothing but growth and more engagement from their Blogs. This pruning of corporate American Blogs is probably the best thing to happen to Blogging in a long time. Perhaps all of those vapid and narcissistic attempts to convince unsuspecting consumers that their corporate Blog was authentic - when in reality it was either overtly or thinly-veiled marketing pap - will, hopefully, make way for more authentic voices and opinions to rise.

Blogging is not dead.

Blogging is only dead if you're a brand trying to use a Blog as an extension of your advertising or as a way to attempt to control your corporate messaging by using it to humanize the tone. For the rest of us, a Blog is freedom of expression. It's a place where people (and yes, this includes the people who make up the brand) share, engage and connect with one another. I'm not jaded (or stupid). I know that people would much prefer to tweet or update a Facebook page or record a quick video on YouTube (it's easier to create and easier to consume), but not all content is created equal and there are many different audiences for all of this content inequity. Blogging is not dead. Blogging is just a lot of hard work and you have to know what the vision and strategy is at the outset. The reason that most of these Inc. 500 brands have killed their Blog is more likely connected to a lack of vision and conversion model than the popularity of a Social Media platform.

Is Blogging dead or are useless Blogs dying?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by M. Page
    Mitch Joel

    Blogging isn't dead, but, yes, useless blogs are dying out. Blogs are a dime a dozen, however it's becoming easier to filter out the 'filler' from the 'killer'. Over-saturation, too much information....a lot of useless noise out there!

    Reply
  • Posted by Derek
    Mitch Joel

    Last year, March 2011, I launched SocialTriggers.com into the overcrowded "blogging about marketing" niche, and in about 10 months, it quickly attracted almost 17,000 RSS readers. What's funny is... you won't even find an RSS link anywhere on the site.

    Is blogging dead?

    It sure is... to the people who are doing it wrong.

    However, if you realize blogging is hard work (and it is), put time and effort into what you're doing, and remember, ALWAYS KEEP THE READER FIRST, blogging isn't dead. It's alive and thriving.

    As a matter of fact, I'd even say that blogging is the EASIEST way to build an audience that trusts you for recommendations, advice, and yes, products and services.

    Reply
    • You're brave to say that it's "easy." I think it's one of the hardest marketing opportunities to master.

      Reply
      • Posted by Derek
        Mitch Joel

        It's extremely hard to master, but it's still easy to build an audience that trust you, when you put them first, always.

        Reply
        • I'm still not with you (sorry). I don't think building an audience is easy and building trust that leads to credibility is a very long, hard road in a world where people are inundated with this type of content. Good on you for finding it easy, but I've been struggling with it for nearly a decade.

          Reply
          • Posted by Tony Faustino
            Mitch Joel

            Industry veterans like a Jeremiah Owyang and Brian Solis also validate how successfully blogging and CREDIBLY leveraging this publishing medium IS NOT easy. And, most importantly, it was never meant to be.

            In a Google+ post a few weeks ago (which I would consider a blog-Twitter hybrid), Owyang shared how much time he and Solis invest in writing, researching, and refining their blog posts. That number turned out to be around 10 hrs per week.

            Annualized that's 21 days of billable consulting time they DO NOT BILL FOR because they consider all blog-related activities an important investment in reinforcing and perpetuating their hard-earned status as credible thought leaders.

            More importantly, Jeremiah emphasized that he and Solis work so hard on their blogs is because they love doing it! They derive a sense of pride in their work and how their content informs others' decisions. When you have that sense of purpose, it's always going to be hard. Because, guys like that (and you) are driven to deliver value.

            Reply
          • Posted by Derek
            Mitch Joel

            I'm sorry Mitch, I wasn't meaning to sound flippant. I think you've built up a GREAT audience here (I happily read all of your stuff), and while I did say it was easy, I didn't say it was fast. The steps are simple, assuming you're willing to put the time and dedication in. Would you agree with that?

            Reply
            • I'm not sure it's simple or easy to create a platform, think of content, deliver it well and then take the time and frequency to get it right. I'd still say that there are many other (much easier) ways to build an audience. And don't worry, no feelings were hurt.

              Reply
    • Posted by Danny Brown
      Mitch Joel

      While I'd agree to a degree that blogging allows people to earn trust through how they approach the audience, I'd also say that not every blogger receives the visibility your stuff does, mate. That's not meant as a disservice to you - far from it, as you have great content. But very few bloggers have the likes of Chris Brogan and Chris Pearson eschewing their services, and that type of visibility can only help grow an audience quicker.

      Reply
      • I'm with you on this, Danny... 100% I've worked very hard (and it wasn't easy or simple) to gain that kind of trust where people (with way bigger audiences than mine) like to share what I have to say (and this includes people like you)... it's very humbling. Still, not easy, not simple and not quick.

        Reply
    • Posted by Patrick Allmond
      Mitch Joel

      Blogging is dead the day writing is dead. Blogging is not hard. Writing of any sort is hard. And that is all that blogging is. Every time you see a headline or study about "blogging" just replace it with the word "writing". Because they are perfectly synonymous.

      Reply
  • Posted by Ricardo Bueno
    Mitch Joel

    I'd argue that useless blogs are dying.

    When you can align editorial with business objectives, you've got a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, most people struggle to find the right balance. And so they never really see any solid growth and they dismiss blogging as a useless medium.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ethan Beute
    Mitch Joel

    The blog remains the foundation.

    The implication to me is that they're uncommitted to whatever objectives and strategies led to blogging in the first place. The use of video is also down over the 3 year period, which also makes little sense to me - it should be growing.

    Something conveniently left out of the linkbait piece is that there's a huge spike in companies planning on blogging this year.

    I don't have the time to look into it, but I wonder how the composition of the Inc 500 changed year to year and how that might affect these results.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ken Morico
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, do you read corporate blogs? I don't. Do you consider news organizations like Mashable blogs? I don't. To me, blogging is a one-man show. It's a person's ideas and experiences. Their photography. Their learnings. Their successes and failures.

    You bring up a great point about blogging being dead or just useless blogs dying. People are busy and realize their time is valuable. Google gives us lots of options, but it also filters for us. Can you imaging a blog like Seth Godin's breaking through with the new Google Panda filters in place today? No way! New blogs get buried today.

    It seems every blogger wrote a post about the death of blogging, including me... http://kenmorico.com/blog/2011/12/blogging-is-dead-again/

    Reply
    • It takes all kinds. I do read corporate Blogs... and many of them are quite well done. I also don't agree with your definition of Blogs (but I respect it). I think Blogging is a publishing platform... anything goes (so long as an audience goes along with it :)

      Reply
      • Posted by Ken Morico
        Mitch Joel

        If you look at blogging from a technical perspective and see it as a publishing platform, you'll see it's really just an evolution of content management systems (CMS). Tools like WordPress democratized the technology and brought it to everyday people and out of the hands of developers.

        The spirit of blogging is something different entirely.

        I would write more but there are some corporate blogs I'm dying to read... :)

        Reply
  • Posted by LucasWilk
    Mitch Joel

    It's not so much that blogging is dying (it's not by any means, in fact, blogs have never been better as this place wonderfully demonstrates) but that corporate quasi-blogging was never alive in the first place. Those were not blogs but simulations of blogging that consisted of empty corporate communication shells with no worthwhile content inside. Now they're torturing us on Facebook and Twitter. :-)

    Reply
  • Posted by Christoph
    Mitch Joel

    thank you Mitch... you really expressed what I was thinking about the overwhelming number of "fillers".
    The Blog is dead. Long live the Blog!
    With a friend I started Social Media Club Austria Blog one year ago and some other projects and they rule ;-)

    my favorite line is "but not all content is created equal".... it's so true!

    Reply
  • Posted by Dave
    Mitch Joel

    As with any publishing it's about content, and many businesses that have corporate blogs are weighed down by the corporate procedures and layers of approvals that are designed to make corporate announcements so clear, yet impersonal.

    Few companies have adapted to the personality filled ethos that is is true blogging:An interesting message delivered with a personal touch.

    Reply
    • It would be that much more interesting if brands actually hired real journalists and set-up newsrooms to get those stories to be more human and real. It's something I Blogged about a long while back :)

      Reply
  • Posted by Arie Opps
    Mitch Joel

    The problem with a lot of corporate blogs is that these businesses got into blogging for the wrong reasons - because everyone else was doing it. It's the same reason why many organizations are starting twitter feeds and facebook pages that one day will also be neglected and left for dead.

    These decisions are often made without alignment to an overall strategy. A business needs to first ask the right questions. Why should we engage in this specific tactic? Does this approach fit with our brand? Do we have the resources to sustain it? What does success look like? These questions apply to blogs and social media as much as any other marketing tactic.

    On a side note: How are we now defining a blog? What is it about the Huffington Post that makes it any more a blog than Politico, or the New York Times for that matter?

    Reply
    • Defining a Blog... I'm not going to step into that one. It's like the old saying about pornography: "I know it when I see it." I think the HuffPo is a Blog (still) and I think that The New York Times has many great Blogs. If we're defining it just as a personal online journal, we may very well be short-changing the medium.

      Reply
      • Posted by Arie
        Mitch Joel

        Joel - step into it, please! ;)

        I think it's important to clarify how we define these terms so we're all talking about the same thing. And I personally don't know what the answer is.

        I think the Huffington Post branded itself as a blog when it launched because blogs were "the thing" at the time. Another news website didn't sound quite as enticing.

        Yet the Huffington post has slew of editors and reporters as well as external contributors. Is that a blog or is that very similar to every other major news site? I'm not picking on the Huffington Post, rather I'm pointing out that the Huffington Post is often referenced as an example of a successful blog when I'm not sure that it is one.

        Does Six Degrees of Separation have more in common with Seth Godin's blog or the Huffington Post?

        I think the distinction matters.

        Reply
        • Huffington Post was a place where people without Blogs could Blog (it still is). The content and structure is a Blog (as far as I can see). I think Six Pixels fits into the mix and I do think that both Seth and Arianna are running Blogs. Maybe news websites just look more like Blogs?

          Reply
  • Posted by Jon Loomer
    Mitch Joel

    As with anything that has increased significantly in popularity over the past few years, the authors realize how much work it is and the cream rises to the top while the... not so creamy... quit. You get it.

    I'm not concerned if fewer people are blogging. I'll take notice if it is becoming more difficult to get results when you write a consistent, high quality blog.

    Reply
    • It's funny how we align success with quantity. Are magazine unsuccessful because not everyone publishes them? We need to look at the scarcity models and the ones aligned with abundance and agree that this is about the amount of Inc. 500 companies Blogging, but rather quality and impact that the ones who are doing it have.

      Reply
  • Posted by Drew Hawkins
    Mitch Joel

    I don't think blogging is dying at all. People are giving up. I've had my blog for a couple of years now and it's just now starting to really pick up in traffic. There's still a market for blogs, it's all about what you put into it.

    Reply
  • Posted by Alyson
    Mitch Joel

    I think that useless blogs are definitely dying out, but blogs in general? We may have passed the "golden age of the personal blog", back when blogs like the Busblog, Raymi The Minx, and etc (circa 2004- until a few years back) dominated a lot of what people read, but having blogs -both personal and professional- en masse nowadays force people who are truly dedicated to sharing their thoughts, opinions and views in a way that continues to attract readership makes what's out there right now truly worth reading.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rosh
    Mitch Joel

    Per usual, great points.

    Blogging is hard work. I'm still amazed (in absolute aww) at your consistency Mitch. Having blogged regularly for five years I still struggle. But, I don't give up because of the value you point out.

    You are also on target pointing out that many blogs designed as corporate PR machines and press release publishing platforms don't always work so well.

    Rosh

    Reply
  • Mitch,
    It is interesting that we are even having this conversation. If blogs were dying, there would not be a community here. Your voice would be ignored.

    Every new technology or medium has a definable business cycle, and I would argue that the blogging environment came as a disruptive technology (of sorts) in the marketing world. Many of the Inc. 500 jumped on that train so as to not be left out. But it doesn't work for everyone or every company. Without true engagement, the blog becomes just another advertisement. Without engagement there is no growth. When pushed to evaluate the value added by the blog, many corporations are probably choosing to let them go. Publishing is not their core business, nor can they see why it should be. So the blog dies. Good.

    That leaves more room in the social media world for those of us who are newly entering the environment, and truly want to build a community. When I started my blog (the first, and so far the ONLY physician in my system to be blogging to the outside world), a year and a half ago, I knew very little about the road to success. I just knew that I had a story I wanted to tell, about a growing Children's Hospital. I knew I needed and wanted to build a relationship with the local community as well as the larger community of parents, physicians, nurses and others. I knew it would take a while to "happen." And it took time to develop my voice.

    I am still working. I have not yet "arrived" in the social media world, but it doesn't stop me from continuing. I cannot measure a direct ROI. It takes a lot of my time. It takes passion. It takes a love of my subject matter (children's health, healthcare in general, and how can we all work together to make it better). It takes a willingness to take a risk that people WON'T like what I have to say.

    If I were a large corporation, I might not have the fortitude to take these risks, to spend the time, or to truly engage.

    So, my answer is: It's the useless blogs that are dying and good riddance!

    Reply
  • Posted by rob
    Mitch Joel

    Well, I personally always found it difficult to take strangers op/ed pieces as anything but banter. Without truly knowing who that person is, it's very hard for me to be interested in their lives or thought. I treat news the same way...the moment bias appears...I lose interest.

    I think blogging is fine for like minds on a subject, but again..perhaps I am cold. Stangers lives are not all that interesting to me. This is not to devalue those that enjoy it. :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Kate Robins
    Mitch Joel

    It used to be that when someone had something to announce they'd announce it. Publics just didn't always agree with companies on their timing. HIV/AIDS treatment and community press pushed this issue (with respect to new drugs) and that new tension advanced media relations timing beautifully. It worked because those "unconventional presses" had authority that came with simple purpose. They needed critical information as soon as it was possibly available. There's an expression: Take care of your business or others will take care of it for you. Companies obviously don't have the reporting authority of third parties so instead of issuing their own blogs, they'd do well to cooperate with community presses in their industry, like the HIV/AIDS treatment press in the pharmaceutical industry.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nina
    Mitch Joel

    Useless blogs are dying! Blogging has been the best thing for my company! And you are right, blogging is not for everyone. It takes time and effort.

    Reply
  • Posted by Darren Hughes
    Mitch Joel

    I think that the problem with blogging is that so many brands either feel like, or have been told that they have to. There is no real thought behind the content and no real benefit to the consumer.

    I certainly don't feel that Blogging is dying or dead. I just think that consumers are demanding quality and value, yet most blogs, particularly by brands tick either of these boxes.

    Reply
    • Posted by Darren Hughes
      Mitch Joel

      I think that the problem with blogging is that so many brands either feel like, or have been told that they have to. There is no real thought behind the content and no real benefit to the consumer.

      I certainly don't feel that Blogging is dying or dead. I just think that consumers are demanding quality and value, yet most blogs, particularly by brands don't tick either of these boxes.

      Reply
    • The "me too" mentality or the "they're doing it, so we should do it" minset is very, very dangerous. Have we not learned?

      Reply
  • Posted by Liane
    Mitch Joel

    If you don't overthink about it... useless blogs always die regardless of the context of present time

    Reply
  • Posted by Pauline
    Mitch Joel

    I think everyone's strategies are changing as the mobile web gains more popularity and info needs to be succinct for the mobile lifestyle.

    Reply
  • Posted by Cale Helmer
    Mitch Joel

    Who are you really marketing to though with your blog? The masses? If so, you might be barking up the wrong tree.

    Truth be told, blogging needs to be geared towards your Brand Evangelists; those people that will sing the praises of your service regardless of what you do. Unfortunately, companies often try a "one size fits all" approach when blogging which in turn rubs many people the wrong way or simply causes people to lose interest as the content isn't catering to their needs.

    Brand Mercenaries; those people that use the service only until the next best thing comes along, relish the fact that they have this bare-bones open forum that they can use to trash the company on. Blogging makes everyone feel like the next William Shakespeare. Unfortunately, it also allows them to be a walking bulls-eye for criticism. This is turn might be proof enough for some companies to scale back their blogging or stop it outright.

    Perhaps though it is not a matter of blogging taking that long, slow death march to the ever growing social media graveyard......perhaps companies are just reformulating their battle plans? I think that you'll see the blog pick up steam as the year progresses.

    Twitter is a great discussion launch point, but it's like the appetizer to the Blog's main course. People will always want to seek out more information and companies (well the smart ones) will use this type of forum to stay connected with their customer base.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Wechner
    Mitch Joel

    It seems like I know a lot of really good writers who have NO idea how to market themselves.

    In many of these cases, someone told them, "Go blog!" and they followed the instruction, but they just hoped that they would magically get a following. They didn't have the right background to know the difference.

    Sadly, many of these types of blogs were probably high quality, but they likely died, because who wants to keep writing to an absent audience.

    I also agree that there are lots of POOR quality blogs, and their death brought very few tears to the rest of us.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kathy Radigan
    Mitch Joel

    Thank you for opening up this discussion. I came to blogging very late in the game, after not even having as much as an email address. I also am in the Mom Blog genre which has always gotten a bad name, sometimes deserved. In my year of blogging I have developed a nice following of people who consistently visited and comment. I do work at networking but I also work on my content. I publish one essay a week and am continuing to grow. I think like all things, cream rises to the top, and those blogs that fill a niche whichever it may be will continue to grow and those that don't will not. I really enjoy this site and always feel I learn something from you and your readers. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Posted by Carolyn Winter
    Mitch Joel

    What I love about this digital information age is how it some how weeds out what we no longer need such as corporate blogs that have no substance and how authenticity/integrity wins the game in the long run. The consumer is becoming more intune with the energy of things and will go where they resonate. They don't know why ... they just do. You can't bury a frequency. The aware consumer can and does tune into the real vibration of things anywhere and then makes a choice.

    Reply
  • Posted by Joseph Putnam
    Mitch Joel

    The good news about this statistic is that it means there are more opportunities for anyone who's doing blogging the right way. Mitch, would you agree?

    Reply
  • Posted by Danny Brown
    Mitch Joel

    I remember when Steve Rubel announced blogging was dead and he was moving to life-streaming. And promptly moved to Posterous - a blogging platform... ;-)

    Blogging is tough. It's solitary. It's draining. But it's also rewarding and, like anything, you get out of if what you put into it.

    And at the end of the day, isn't that how business is run anyways? ;-)

    Reply
  • Posted by Kerry Bural
    Mitch Joel

    I think the lines are being blurred between blogging and micro-blogging. What's not entirely clear to me is what engagement will look like in the future as platforms become more and more sophisticated.

    But, I'm convinced that content is still the currency that fuels engagement, and will continue to be so, regardless of the channels and platforms through which it is shared. Agree?

    Reply
  • Posted by Adam Singer
    Mitch Joel

    If blogging is dead, my 50K visitors / month and 25,000 subscribers (across email, Facebook, RSS and Twitter) must be zombies. Blogging *plugs in* to every social application, to mobile devices to search, to email, etc. It is truly holistic inbound marketing. The people who declare it dead just make themselves look clueless. And sidenote *many* of our clients dominate their categories by blogging. But the ones that do put in the work. It's not easy, and that's why it's not for everyone. Those who do execute (and do it well) laugh at the notion it's "dead."

    Reply
  • Posted by Feuza
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with last phrase and there is a study saying how much room growth their is for certain types of blogs like wedding ones, seems we are just tapping the service. Having an integrated system where all social media leads back to your brand & an experience you give to your readers is key

    Reply
  • Posted by Frank Strong
    Mitch Joel

    The amazing thing about this study is that most of the blog posts and news articles I've read overlook the fact that this same study found 56% of respondents listed blogging as a social media channel they are not using but plan to in the future. That’s up 14% from last year and it’s higher on the list than any other single social media channel.

    Reply
  • Posted by Connor
    Connor

    Glad to hear your optimism at the end! I just started blogging.

    Reply
  • Posted by Marko Saric
    Mitch Joel

    Your comment about blogs just being a publishing platform is spot on. The line between blogs and websites is so blurred now. You ask a random visitor to a blog or a website and he wouldn't be able to tell a difference. It is all about content and if your content is good blogging will be alive for many years to come.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Perhaps I am the only blogger on earth who read the UMass report until the end. The researchers basically reveal that their data are flawed. Here is my analysis showing how wrong their conclusions were: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/01/29/why-are-americas-fastest-growing-companies-killing-their-blogs/

    Reply
  • Posted by Christian Sarono
    Mitch Joel

    I’m completely impressed by your post since it is more simple and effective. I have read many times related to this post but I found it less effective. Great job out there.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tom Chapman
    Mitch Joel

    Really interesting article! I don't think blogging is any way shape or form dying, as many people have commented here, the cream of the crop rises up from the masses and the rest either carry on the long journey that blogging is, with many falling by the wayside when it becomes too much like hard work.
    Perhaps budgets and time allocations have been cut and people have been told to concentrate on FB, G+ and Twitter instead?

    Reply
  • I think what's dying are useless blogs. As long as we (as people) have a desire to express ourselves, I don't think blogs (the good ones) are going to die at all, but become ever more resilient.

    Reply
  • Posted by Amber King
    Mitch Joel

    I have to agree that blogging is not dead and I believe it will stay for a long time. Regardless of how many social network pop up or new social media strategies one way to earn the trust of customers and prospects is through your blog. A blog indeed allows freedom of expression where you can post your concerns and share tips.

    If you noticed, when you search for something on google most of the results are from blogs. No, I do not think blogging will die anytime soon.

    Reply
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    Mitch Joel

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    Reply
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