Blogging hits a plateau

Blogging has peaked, according to a recent article published in Gawker. The article cites the Pew Research Center’s “Generations 2010” report, which finds that blogging has declined drastically among young Americans. The decline has been particularly sharp with teens; the percentage of Americans aged 12–17 who blog halved in a three year period, falling from 28% in 2006 to only 14% in 2009.

I found this quite surprising at first—even by the most generous standards, blogging is only about 15 years old, and it only became popular sometime shy of 10 years ago. Why would teens and young adults, the people who are supposed to be at the forefront of this “new media” revolution people love to talk about, be giving up on blogging? Have young people become less willing to express themselves online? I don’t really think so. America’s youth are still sharing their personal lives with anyone and everyone, often to their undoing. It seems we must look elsewhere to find the cause of this “blogging peak”.

Personally, I would attribute the decline in blogging to two simple facts:

  1. Blogging well is hard.
  2. Newer alternatives offer easier forms of self-expression.

The first point, I think, merits particular clarification. Blogging is easy. Free blog hosts abound, and anyone with an Internet connection can get a blog started in an hour or less. Yes, blogging is easy, but blogging well is hard. Anyone with a modicum of willpower can write blog posts on a regular basis, perhaps even daily; however, posting content which continues to pique readers’ interests week after week is a challenge for even the best of writers. (I’m far from the best of writers, so I’ve been finding the process especially difficult. Of course, the fact that my grade in a college class will be influenced by my blog posts also makes me want to spend a little more time writing them.) Today’s American youth often lead full, very busy lives without blogging, and it seems only natural that many would be put off by the commitment of time and effort that tending a successful blog entails.

This gives rise to the second point; the development of services dedicated to social networking in a more narrow form than “traditional” blogging has given young Americans several alternative, and often less demanding, means of communicating with their peers and the world in general. As the “Generations” report notes, “While the act formally known as blogging seems to have peaked, internet users are doing blog-like things in other online spaces as they post updates about their lives, musings about the world, jokes, and links on social networking sites and micro-blogging-sites….” Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr provide a convenient, less time-consuming way for people to share their personal lives and opinions in a stream of consciousness manner. For many young people, there’s just no need to start a blog anymore.

I have to view this as good thing. Blogging isn’t dead or dying; it’s just matured. While people are coming to realize that it’s not the ideal medium for every message, I think blogging will continue to play an important role in the area it excels at: conveying longer, content-heavy posts to a wide community and sparking interesting discussions with Internet users at large. The days when everyone wanted to be a blogging star may have passed, but we’re only seeing the beginning of the effects blogging will have on American culture.

About Jon

Christian, dude, geek, student, hacker, weirdo, King of Awesomeness
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One Response to Blogging hits a plateau

  1. Steve Macek says:

    Excellent post Jonathan. I agree with your assessment about why blogging has declined. In particular, I think the popularity of micro-blogging (Twitter) and the increased functionality of social networking sites like Facebook has sucked away some of the energy from the blogosphere. No doubt, blogs will remain popular among citizen journalists, news junkies and politicos, though. Blogs seem uniquely suited to political discourse and dissemination of news.

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