Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Whither Blogs?

Greg Ellifritz made an interesting observation this morning over on that bane of blogging, Facebook:
"This is an interesting look back. I wrote it 5 years ago after publishing my first 1000 articles. At that time I had 100K unique visitors and 400K pageviews every month.

Now even though my writing is better and I'm writing more articles, last month's stats were 29K visitors and 168K pageviews.

I think people are losing their attention spans and don't read 1500-word articles as much anymore. Combine that with social media blocks and shadow bans for certain subject matter and the gun blogs are slowly dying."
I think the talk of social media blocks and shadow bans is largely a red herring.

First, during the heyday of blogs, people linked back and forth constantly, creating freewheeling chains of discussion on various topics.

As some bloggers began to commercialize their blogs, and group blogs became more common, they realized that outside links were bad for traffic, and so blogs became more insular and siloed. Bloggers who counted on traffic became more savvy about building it. (A lot of the stuff I do here on VFTP is actively bad for traffic, but it's always been a personal the original sense: A Web Log of stuff I've run across on the internet or a sort of diary for random thoughts.)

Deprived of that outside source of link traffic, SEO became prime and content often suffered. Buzzword-heavy 150-300 word clickbait at high frequency trumps a 1,500-word essay every two or three days when it comes to pulling in the eyeballs.

Bloggers frequently try to port content over to Facebook or other social media sites in an attempt to drive traffic back to the blog (VFTP has a desultorily updated FB page, for instance) but that rarely works. See, social media sites penalize outside links for the same reason as the commercialized blogs did. Do you want people to see Facebook posts that link to your blog in their feeds? Then you are going to need to pay for the privilege. It's not a "shadow ban", it's FB trying to keep eyeballs inside its ecosystem unless you are paying to advertise. That is, after all, their entire business model. Zuck ain't your free outside blog promotin' buddy.

This isn't some atempt to kill gun blogs, either. All the cupcake blogs and scrapbook blogs and gardening blogs and comic book blogs that have cratered in at the same time as gun blogs weren't just collateral damage in some sinister Big Tech plot to revive gun control. It's just that text-based media consumption is slumping across the board.

People don't read anymore, they watch (or listen). Video and podcasts are thriving; text is dead.

Get you a Tik-Tok or Insta and condense everything you need to say into fifteen to thirty second chunks.

And don't forget, drink Brawndo. It's got electrolytes!