What is the future of blogging?

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

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  • “Long form content will be dead when reading is dead”
    Love you for that, Mark!
    I am a die-hard writing and reading fan and resistant to the audio-video trend, in terms of consumption as well expression.
    Great insights on the future of Blogging, too! Have noticed that my Published posts on Linkedin get similar traction as my Blog does. A decided shift happening there.
    Yet, I think that long form content on Facebook loses steam if a post is too long. Same does not apply when posted on a Blog.

  • Thank you for your insights sir.

  • Konstanze

    Mark, you express what can be translated to so much communication in today’s digital era: we label communication by it’s channel rather than by what it actually is. Of course, no one denies that the medium is a large part of the message; and all the expectations that color it shape it’s perception. At the core, however, is the communication depth and the absorber’s intent and intake preference, in general and at a particular point in time. What I mean by this: If I have some time and I need to understand a topic in depth, I will go to the platform that I know will likely fulfill my expectation; if I need to get a quick overview, I do the same. Today’s digital platforms are defined by genre (loosely) and by mode and by register and by depth of information, by credibility, by style…..and so much more that, as daily users, we have come to implicitly understand and have formed expectations around. These expectations help us process the content. Disturb them and you will confuse, surprise and possibly anger the content consumer. We love labels because they make things easier. A ‘blog post’ is a piece of content that fulfills certain expectations (one of them the channel and the surrounding content, hence the confusion about the a ‘blog post’ on FB. While established, labels will always be fluid as digital communication continues to reinvent itself.

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  • Steve Woodruff

    All the prior labels and forms and platforms are morphing and merging. It’s time to think less about the specific method (blog, podcast, YouTube video, white paper, infographic, book, etc…) or even intent (journaling, marketing, instructing, entertaining, etc.) and just think of the whole for what it is: Publishing.
    Defined as, “to issue ___________ for distribution to the public.”

  • Wow. That is so great. Thank you SO MUCH for that amazing comment Konnie!

  • You are correct. The uncomfortable part of this is measurement. It was quite elegant when I could publish something in one place and look at “page views.” How many people read what I write today? I sincerely have no idea.

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  • Contrary to what many might believe, blogging is certainly not dead. I’m my experience, my frequency of blogging drives the quantity and quality of leads our firm receives. Not only that, but blogging even 50% more has driven as much as double the traffic and 5x the leads. Blogging will remain central to our lead gen strategy, supported by self syndication.

  • Awesome feedback Randy.

  • Thx Mark. In especially interested these days with solving the self syndication strategy so as to share content pieces without being repetitive. So far, my audiences in different platforns varies a fair amount, so simply tailoring to the audience in each platform has been fairly successful.

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  • I completely agree. Also because Storytelling will never die. But historically, how those stories catch on changed – from the campfire, to the town square, to print, radio and TV, to blogs and vlogs to multi-channel formats, the storytelling craft will live on. If you can match the craft with the preferred place and method of consumption, you will have content that converts. But that’s work, and the naysayers want it to be easy ;).

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  • Doy Wil

    Great article. You have to go where the fish are!

  • A very keen question sir. I have seen no data on this but my instinct is there is not much overlap. Would ba an interesting study.

  • Well said Mana. Thanks for sharing your wisdom today.

  • Thanks. I believe this is your first comment here. Welcome.

  • Eric Enge

    Great article Mark. I completely agree that there is no danger of long form content going away. When someone’s need level is high, this is what they want. For example, if you just learned you have diabetes, you are not looking for sound bite content, you want comprehensive information.

    I speak a lot on the topic of content marketing, and frequently reference your “content shock” article. What I usually say about that is that the problem is not too much content, but not enough outstanding (or elite) content.

    If you are going to write (I don’t care if we call it blogging or not), or create other types of content on your site, you need to focus on creating outstanding stuff.

  • Better to understand this ‘new reality’ than to gaze at your stats and wonder why. Thanks for continuing to talk about content shock and how to adapt, Mark…

  • Steve Woodruff

    Yes, that’s the price tag of fragmentation. In an ideal world, members of the creative/publishing class could have a personalized “ContentVault” through which all stuff would be distributed to various platforms, and which would somehow, magically, allow for centralized measurement. And payment. Probably a pipe dream…

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  • Perhaps the biggest challenge is time? I avoid auto-posting so don’t use tools like Buffer or HootSuite, so it’s really a matter of making time to personalize, post, and engage.

  • Good to hear from you Eric. Alas, I’m not sure even creating great content provides any guarantees at this point. Depends on a lot of factors, including the information density in your niche, site authority, etc

  • Awesome Todd. Thanks for commenting.

  • Thank you, Mark — I really appreciate the wisdom of The Content Code and the way you are bringing this issue to the forefront…

  • I’m cool with this…

    “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.”

    My outcome is to be of service and as the result of doing so, gaining a special place in the hearts of my perfect prospects. I want to be welcomed into that special place that is dedicated to “people I like to give my money and attention to.”

    So as long as I am able to get your email address and as long as I don’t take any kind of hit for having the same content on Facebook as I do on my blog, I don’t care where I am being of service.

    If people prefer to be served on Facebook over my blog, cool. Just give me the opportunity to reach out to my perfect prospects with email and I’m happy.

    It would seem to me that the people who can’t do email right (read: profitably) are the people who are freaked out by the idea of not being able to drive to “property they own”.

    Getting emails… getting people to open them… and then getting them to click through are not tasks to be underestimated. But when you do it right, you can be of service in any media and be free of worrying about “rented vs. owned” property.

    If one were serious about mastering the art of getting emails and crafting them, it seems to me that it can work in your favor.

    You become the Bear Grylls who can live off the land out in the internet wild with only your wits and bare bones resources.

    Those bare bones resources being a way to capture emails, a way to send them and a way to collect money.

    I have made this Grylls approach work for years and there are quite a few other well-known and brilliant marketers who are doing the same.

    It’s been nice because I’m pretty crappy at trying to be in eight different places. And it’s nice to hear from you Mark that with how things are shifting with blogs, my nomad ways will still be viable. 🙂

  • Eric Enge

    Agreed! I think of it as “Necessary, but not sufficient”. Having a great product has never been enough, even in the pre-Internet world. You also have to have the highly effective promotion as well.

  • Thank you Mark.

  • Jeremy Victor

    Mark, I never fail to learn from you. Really well written assessment of how we should be approaching content strategies today. Hope you are well and that you have a great holiday season.

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  • agreed

  • absolutely correct

  • There is a business idea in there.

  • very kind of you to say. I’m so happy you are enjoying the book

  • I like this sentiment and approach very much Thanks for sharing with us sir.

  • Oh man. So great to hear from you. We need to catch up. Maybe send me an email so we can schedule a call? PS I think this is the first comment you have left where you agreed with me. What’s up with that? Don’t lose your mojo man! : )

  • @kayakonlinemarketing:disqus what is a self syndication strategy? by that do you mean sharing your written content in different platforms?

  • My individual approach is to publish to my own blog, then customize/personalize my post for other platforms. I don’t send content just anywhere, only where I feel there’s a fit with that platform’s readership.

  • Excellent news! If blogging is dead, my company is dead, which would kinda stink after 16 years. I’m too old to re-enter the workforce. 🙂

  • It is changing though. Never stop learning and adapting. Thanks Michael.

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  • Virginia Lawton

    Some interesting information shared. Thanks. I read short punchy content. I only did a speed read of this because it was too long. Having said that I do agree with other comments that at times more information is required. If structured well we can read what we need to know.

  • Kitty Kilian

    That is a very succinct summary! But the fish are awfully scattered.

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