Saturday, December 8, 2012

ARE BLOGS DEAD? THEY JUST MAY BE...


Greetings one and all.

As you may have noticed, I haven't updated Bukowski's Basement for quite some time. Between being harried at the day job and gathering thoughts and research for my upcoming Fight Card novella 'Union of the Snakes,’ things have been getting dusty round these parts. For that I apologize.

Funny enough, the daily traffic here has maintained a steady level of visitors (261,000+ page views). Reason? I can only assume there's a healthy selection of posts to keep new visitors busy and old ones entertained. Well that and I suppose good ‘ol fashioned search engine optimization where a few standout posts have been ranked high by Google.

That particular fact has brought me to an interesting question to ponder: Some time ago, I was having a conversation with a writer colleague online. We were chatting about maintaining blogs to which I was told, "Blogs are dead..."

At the time, the statement didn’t register but ever since, the more I thought about it, the more I discovered there may have been something to it.

Look, the great thing about blogging is that there'll always be a need for interesting, thought-provoking, informational or humorous content. Bearing this in mind, however, it’s a no-brainer (to me at least) that casual bloggers an the dawn of 2013 don't present their content the same way anymore.

There’s been an evolution.

CONVERGENCE


Back in 2008 when I started Bukowski's Basement, it was the perfect home for a YouTube video I wanted my readers to see or an aggregation to a particular news story or blog post that I found compelling.

Then convergence happened shortly after.

Again, over the past few years, I noticed a shift in blogging patterns from many of my writer friends as well as myself. Funny thing, I don’t think many of us were aware the tide was turning.

I'm about to say something blasphemous so get ready: Whether we like it or not, our online visibility is now fueled by social networks. That's the bottom line. WE ARE WHAT WE POST. You could have the best blog content this side of NPR but it wouldn't make a difference because people will judge you by your Twitter feed or Facebook wall. Those two social networks, behind Google search, are the primary turnpikes to your blog content.
Our blogging visibility online is now fueled by social networks.

Are you that person who posts funny cat memes on Facebook or tweets your every waking thought while stuck in traffic? During the election, were you a politico propaganda machine? You get where I’m going...

Through our updates and tweets, we become and cultivate a brand whether we like it or not and, as writers, it’s important to maintain a level of exposure and engagement that will ultimately drive traffic to our blogs as well as give a hint to readers what we’re all about.

It’s simple math. Need more proof? As long as everyone on the planet has a smartphone in their pocket, they're taking their online lives with them. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. That fact that I've connected with so many writers on social networks allows me to follow their musings so much more than I would I were still poking around their sites on blog news readers. What’s more, I’m finding we're using these said social networks - Twitter, Facebook or even Google Plus - to share the tidbits we'd be normally putting on our blogs in years past. Someone who does this brilliantly is Paul Bishop of the stupendous pulp crime fiction blog Bish’s Beat.

Again, it's all about convergence.

It’s no shock that Facebook and Twitter are the top-tier networks. Second-tier upstarts like Pinterest, tumblr, Instagram all can feed into a top-tier network cleanly. In addition, Google Plus and YouTube are joined at the hip and do a respectable job knocking on each other’s door. So what am I getting at? It’s easier than ever to build a visible platform as a writer on a social network so when we DO have content (#FridayFlash etc), readers may be more apt to visit your page.

EVOLUTION AFTER DECLINE?


Before you think this is some half-cocked Jerry Maguire food-poisoning memo, I'm not saying that writers shouldn't have blogs. Absolutely not. There's always be a need for a self-promotional home base to pimp a sample chapter of a new work, essay, book or film review, poem or even a weekly flash fiction piece. This is where I still think blogs shine - when we, as content creators, have premium material to share.

But let's face it, keeping up with blog reading has become a chore for most and it's much easier to peruse a Facebook news feed or twitter scroll than to muddle through a Google news reader backed up with weeks of unread blog posts. So, yes, in the traditional sense, blogs may be on the ropes.

Social Media Influence may have said it best:
"Last month we looked at growth trends for each of the big social media publishing channels, namely, Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Not all of you agreed with our conclusion: that blogging is an activity that, at best, is leveling off. At worst, it’s an activity in decline. The New York Times is now jumping on this discussion meme, declaring that today’s twentysomethings no longer blog, a further sign that fewer people can find the time."
They go on:
"...Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family."
Boom! Waning writer momentum coupled with new (and easier) consumption methods are drastically changing the blogging landscape.

Noticing, even The New York Times has weighed in:
"Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval."
... No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do."
So as writers, what do we do now that blogs are not as popular as they once were?

That’s easy. Build a compelling presence across a few social media platforms. Engage with readers and writer friends alike. Retweet them. Engage friends on Facebook (that all helps with their own algorithm). Build a compelling profile akin to your work as a scribe. Become a respectable content creator (and sharer) that people look forward to seeing. You're a curator just as much as you are a writer.

Need an example? There isn't a writer currently that I think does this better than author Caleb J. Ross. The guy is simply everywhere and he makes sure that all roads lead to Rome – his more than impressive web page and yes, his own blog. He does a stupendous job of being visible on social networks so his blog can thrive. In short, he's easy to stalk.

Above all, it’s important to keep writing. Share your own links and your blog traffic shouldn't suffer too much.

So there it is... Are blogs dead? Maybe the way we initially thought them to be. They’re still there but nowadays, we must ensure that our visibility online cultivates the kind of traffic we want.

So with all this said, I'd love to hear and discuss other writer's opinions regarding their own blogging practices or how others are adapting on this emerging online landscape. Sound off below and feel free to share...

19 comments from fellow 'Basement' dwellers:

Linda said...

Great post. For some time I have been contemplating putting my blog to rest because of my inability to: 1) blog as frequently as I'd like; 2) read others' blogs; and 3) feed the social media gods. Like you, I just do not have time, and when I do have time, I prefer to spend it writing on my current projects.

That said, the ease of the 'like' and the character limits of twitter allow for the writerly equivalent of the soundbyte. And though I am a huge fan of micro-fiction, I really do not want to go the easy route. Facebook, twitter, pinterest, tumblr--they go buy too quick and often fail to have the engaging content I desire. I want to read indepth posts such as this one because they say something.

So I hear you, and I agree, but the writer in me wants to fight against both convergence and compression. Peace...

Angel Zapata said...

A great post, Anthony.

I don’t believe blogs are dead. There are just constantly evolving into the next, best, most efficient communication trend. There will always be readers who want to know more about the writers they admire— more than just my twitter announcement of the scrumptious lasagna I just inhaled. I would have loved to have been able to interact with writers I loved in my youth, like James Crumley. Oh the comments I would have posted on his blog.

For any writer, this whole blogging / social media self-promotions can be terribly overwhelming and, sometimes, even out of character. Of course, lack of time is the greatest factor, but there's also keeping track of reader interest / behaviors through analytics and such, and just plain keeping the posts interesting and engaging. Tough job. It also helps if the writer is naturally a social person, which I am not, so sharing my love for cats (of which the love in my heart for them is Grinch-like small) has never been on my agenda.

Every writer rather be writing than anything else.

Without a doubt, interaction with readers is absolutely vital for writers, but every writer must determine how far they’re willing to go with it. Blog / Facebook/ tweet all you want, but don’t forget to get out from behind the typewriter and physically meet your readers: attend readings, workshops, whatever it takes.

Anthony Venutolo said...

hey Linda! Thanks so much for reading. It's great to see that some peeps are still around to read long posts. I hope you and your projects are well... Peace. ;)

Anthony Venutolo said...

Hey Angel ... Long time no see/speak... I hope you're well ... You bring up many great points about that social nature of what we do ... Keep on keepin' on ...

Anthony

RaShelle Workman said...

Hey, Anthony -

Blogs aren't dead, but they also aren't as necessary as they once were. I do consider my blog my "home base," but it isn't the same as even a year ago, when I would wake up and first thing, check my blog. Time is def an issue, but more than that, other social media, like Pinterest, and Twitter, let me say what I have to say a lot faster. Still, I do post on it a few times a month.

Good luck on your writing ventures. Can't wait to read more of your stuff. =)

ThomG said...

Great post. I started my blog in 2005 to help get over the death of my mother. Then it morphed into a place where i could test short fiction. I spent two years posting every single day. It got to be too much.
Not, it's hit-or-miss. I thought about being a better blogger in 2013, and I still am angling toward that goal. Maybe write shorter posts, more about my life, as well as flash fiction.
I still think a blog, for a writer, has a place. But you have to pimp that place on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook to get seen.

Caleb J. Ross said...

Thank you for the mention, Anthony, and for the compliments. As you say, blogs aren't dead, but they have evolved. In fact, something not too many people know about yet is Authorship Markup (Google it) which helps align your content no matter where you post. So, if you contribute to various blogs, you can help Google see all of that content as belonging to you. It's becoming less about the value of a blog itself and more about the value of the blogger.

Kevin Michaels said...

Great post Ant - timely and thought provoking....I think (as others have pointed out) that blogs have evolved over the past couple of years. I resisted Tumblr but I've found over the past couple of months I've transitioned one of my blogs in that direction, and as a marketing vehicle, I'm using Tumblr to promote Lost Exit more than its original website....more visual options and a whole different world of readers. I am not yet on Twitter but Facebook is an integral part of my online presence.

Off to check out Authorship Markup (and finish my next Fight card entry and work on another book and post a couple of updates on FB...)

Anonymous PI said...

Is it that blogging is dead or merely certain types of blogs?

Certainly there are plenty of literary corpses out there - blogs with just the one or so entries before the author gave up in a pique of despair that writing actually requires some degree of work. And quite possibly the realisation that no-one except their therapist might be interested in their stream-of-consciousness ramblings.

Anthony Venutolo said...

Hey RaShelle: You bring up great points about quickie sites Pinterest - which I find to be super easy to use.

* PS - Great to see your books on Amazon...

Anthony Venutolo said...

ThomG:

Thanks for popping by ... I look forward to reading some of your flash... I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Anthony Venutolo said...

Thanks, Caleb for letting us know about Google's authorship markup... I set it up via my day dig on NJ.com but I must admit it seemed a tad wonky at first. That siad, it is pretty cool to see a mini-tumbnail next to your Google search result.

Anthony Venutolo said...

Oh man, Kev ... I have a love/hate relationship with twitter. The peeps I know that love it, loooooooooooove it. I've found it to be a necessary evil. I've found that HootSuite helps with all of my twittering since I manage three accounts.

Anthony Venutolo said...

... 'literary corpse' ... I like the ring of that, Sir PI.

Kat said...

I'm about as anti Twitter as a person could possibly be. I much prefer the idea of writing thought provoking, bizarre, and occasionally depressing blogs--even if no one's reading them. Let me be the lunatic in a tinfoil hat ranting about 12-21-12. LOL. Seriously, my blog has been dead for over a year. I logged on tonight and couldn't remember my password! Lmao!

I missed my blog though. Really wanted to visit it and see old friends. You know how it goes. Is blogging dead? Or does life just get in the way? Maybe I'll come back to it when I'm 90. But by then the kids will be transmitting psychic thoughts on alpha waves or doing some other networking thing that I won't understand. Lol.

In any case...it's good to see ya Ant. :)

Anthony Venutolo said...

Hey Ms. Kat: Where YOU BEEN?? You have to keep it up... Really dug those dark stories... Truly did.

Kat said...

Lol. I'm glad someone read them.

I've been lost in Wisconsin, learning to love green and gold. Lmao!

And too tired to string two sentences together. :(

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Bill Dameron said...

I started my blog the same way I started everything else, late. It took me a long time to find my voice and once I found it, I couldn't shut up. My blog has certainly morphed over the past couple of years. In the beginning, I just wanted to tell my story. Now I want to write a well told story. I love the act of writing and revealing truths. But, maybe it's time to evolve again (which is how I found this post, typing in "Are blogs dead" into the Google search box). My blog has been a way to grow as a writer, because we need an audience to spur us on and help us craft our voices. But it's time to head out to bigger, greener pastures, whatever that means. I think it means it's time to try and recognize my worth by selling something instead of slaving over a post that I give away on a weekly basis. If it works, great. If not, check out my blog!

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