what is the future of blogging

It seems to be that time of year when the “is blogging dead” debate swirls around the social web. Of course it’s not dead, but it is changing … a lot!

In this post I will cover three very important issues to the world of blogging:

  • Exactly what is a blog right now?
  • Are blogs as important as they used to be?
  • What is the future of blogging?

Exactly what is a blog right now?

I love Mitch Joel. If you’re not following him and his content properties, go do that right now because hes is one of the most unique and valuable thinkers on the web.

Mitch and I have been debating the importance of blogging over a period of months and he recently posted this on his Six Pixels blog:

I’m not sure what a blog is anymore. I’m not sure who a blogger is anymore. I’m not sure what a blog post looks like anymore. These used to have specific and unique characteristics. These characteristics (tags, comments, share buttons, links, subscription buttons and more) have all been adopted by mass publishers.

In fact, in order to grow the Six Pixels of Separation audience, a lot of the strategy has less to do with posting here – as a hub – and much more with turning this place into a receptacle for the myriad of places that content is now distributed through (radio shows, business books, other digital spaces, magazines, YouTube and beyond). In order to keep familiarity, I’ve dismissed the language of blogs and blogging and have begun to replace it.

The idea of what a blog is (and will be) has become a moving target. 

I recently posted a piece of long-form content on Facebook and Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner asked me, “is this a blog post?” Well … it started as a blog post but now it’s a Facebook post. What is it?

Does it matter?

I’m afraid we can get lost in a sea of semantics here. It’s long-form written content. We can agree on that much. Call it a blog or whatever you want but don’t lose sight of the importance — and perhaps growing importance — of the written word.

Is it dead? Long-form content will be dead when reading is dead. For argument’s sake let’s define blogging as any long-form content, no matter what the “shell” for it might be.

Are blogs as important as they used to be?

Let’s start with a basic strategic truth. Every business needs at least one source of “rich content” to fuel its social media presence:

  • Written content (formerly known as blogging!)
  • Audio
  • Video

In some cases, you can add still image to this list (a travel site on Instagram, for example).

To have the opportunity to build authority on the web and have the chance for massive reach, you must adopt one of these pillars of content creation.

Written content is critically important and always will be because this is one of the primary ways people learn and absorb information.

An example: One of the fans of {grow} recently asked me to provide a transcript of our Marketing Companion podcast. “I just can’t absorb information by listening,” she said. “I want the information you provide but it’s going to have to be written. I can’t do podcasts.”

So text-based content is a pillar and always will be a pillar, but is blogging as important as it was 2-3 years ago. The answer is no.

Blogging is not less important because something happened to blogging. Blogging is less important because alternate forms of content consumption like audio and video are finally catching up. People have more opportunities to migrate to their favorite form of content.

Video and audio consumption are growing but eventually the content consumption eco-system will reach a balance.

Long-form content stands alone in its power over Google and most businesses can’t ignore that. “Writing” as a source of rich content is also the most accessible for many businesses as the primary source of rich content. Written content also offer unparalleled opportunities for re-purposing. It’s more difficult to “cut and paste” a podcast into a newsletter, for example.

What is the future of blogging?

So far we have established that writing is still quite important as a pillar of rich content, but that it’s less important than it was a few years ago. Where is this heading?

There are three trends applying pressure to your ability to succeed with long-form content on the web. Each of these trends will have a profound impact on blogging as a business strategy.

1. Information density

This has been one of the major themes of this blog for more than two years. How do we compete in a world of exploding information density? I’ve written about this extensively in my book The Content Code, but in short, the impact will show up in these areas:

In this white-hot competitive landscape, content is no longer a novelty. Businesses who are marginal content creators (most of them?) won’t be able to compete.

2. The inbound model in jeopardy

The heart of the “inbound” marketing model is that we create compelling content on our sites to attract relevant potential customers like a magnet. We used free distribution channels like Facebook and LinkedIn to make people aware that our content was out there.

Of course the Content Shock of information density and the increasing cost to compete is fouling that model but there is something more important happening too.

Facebook and LinkedIn want to be the publishers of your content. They don’t want to send links back to your website. They want to enhance “dwell time” on their own sites by embedding your original long-form content on their platforms. In short, Facebook wants to be your blog.

For years, the mantra on the social web has been “don’t build your house on rented land,” but I think that advice is dead now. If we want access and visibility on these important channels, we will have to submit to their terms and conditions.

Yes, we might get more visibility by blogging on Facebook, but it won’t be sending people back to our own site like it used to. Your original content will be no less important, but its effectiveness as an inbound tool will naturally be diminished.

3. Distribution as the new imperative

Blogging is a war for attention and we fight our little battles through our posts every day. The nature of that battle is shifting.

Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you owned the only restaurant in town. People flocked to eat at your place from all over the city.

But then competitors showed up, decreasing the amount of people who visited you. One way to fight back would be to find new ways to distribute your food to your customers. You might offer:

  • Take-out
  • Home delivery
  • Reservations and call ahead seating
  • Branded products in grocery stores
  • Frozen food items
  • Offering products like bottled sauces as gift packs
  • Gift cards

In other words, if less people are visiting your site, you have to find more ways to take your site to the people. And that’s what’s happening with content, too. Instead of depending on an ability to drag people to our site, we have to find creative ways to get our site to the people, wherever they are.

Great content is no longer the finish line. It’s the starting line. That’s when the real work starts on distribution and ignition strategies that deliver economic value to your business.

Putting it all together

Here’s my summary view of the current state of “blogging:”

  • Written content is an important pillar of “rich content” and will remain so although people will diversify the way they consume content.
  • Our written content will look less like traditional blogs as we publish on increasingly diverse platforms.
  • The Content Shock of information density will prevent some businesses from succeeding with any kind of content marketing strategy as the competition increases and the cost of success goes up.
  • Content is becoming less effective as an inbound “magnet” as platforms become the publishers and move eyeballs away from our home base.
  • To win the battle for attention, focus must be placed on distribution as an “ignition” strategy.

At first glance, this projection may seem bleak. It’s not. This just means things are changing and the rewards will come to those who can make the transformation.

As it always has been, as it always will be.

What is the future of blogging? Let me know your thoughts on this in the comment section!

mark schaefer

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Sam Beebe

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...