Wired’s senior editor Paul Boutin has climbed aboard the ‘blogging is dead’ train, pointing to Jason Calacanis’ decision to quit blogging as a primary reason to bail out.
The article starts: “Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.”
His main reasons?
#1. Blogging is impersonal. Many of Technorati’s Top 100 blogs are written by a team of professionals.
#2. Search engines don’t give as much easy love to blogs as they did in 2002.
#3. Comment trolls are still comments trolls, and there are more of them.
#4. “Text-based Web sites aren’t where the buzz is anymore.”
#5. Scoble focuses on pictures and Twitter.
I think he’s got it badly wrong.
First off, the Calacanis thing, and forgive me Jesus but I’m going to start referring to him as ‘JC’. Now, JC hasn’t actually quit blogging, he’s simply posting less often. In fact, he has posted FIVE TIMES to his blog since officially ‘retiring’ from it in July, in favour of an email list.
The email list is a good idea for somebody like Jason. It allows a couple of things to happen. Mainly, it prevents people from having a discussion on JC’s blog. This is an anti-blog ethos, in a way, but it makes sense if you enjoy the kind of profile that JC does. Why? Because it forces people to discuss his news offsite.
It is therefore a very smart move, from a PR / linkbait perspective, as was evidenced earlier this week when Erick Schonfeld at Techcrunch published one of Jason’s emails about the Mahalo layoffs, to JC’s (presumably) mock outrage. The Techcrunch article a) generated almost 200 comments, b) influenced at least 14 other blogs to write about it. And here I am, referencing it!
Smart, smart, smart, even if he did this simply to avoid #3. The man could attract a crowd in a desert.
So can every blogger stop blogging and start emailing their readers? Sure, if they have enough demand among readers to hand over email addresses and revert to one-way messaging. But should they do this? No, because it won’t work. Why? Simply because most professional bloggers are not in the business of vanity publishing, unlike JC! We’re not dealing with the same thing here. A one-sized rule does not fit all. Most of the top blogs, as Boutin has alluded to, have to make money to cover costs.
Back to Boutin’s six ‘quit now’ points from his article.
#1. Time is money. Quality content takes time to produce. Content costs. There’s nothing wrong with micropublishers using blog platforms such as WordPress to launch publications. Boutin seems a little bit precious about the meaning of words like ‘blog’ and ‘blogging’. A purist, perhaps. Point is, if your blog does really well, generates millions of impressions / dollars in ad revenue (eg Weblogs Inc), then why wouldn’t you make the most of it?
#2. Search engines don’t give as much love to any site as they did in 2002, because there is way more competition out there. In 2002 there were about 40m sites. In 2008 there are about 160m, if this data is to be believed. It is harder for everybody. Add to that the fact that web folks are more SEO savvy these days, and it’s kind of obvious. But – by and large – emails, pictures, Twitter pages and videos will not rank as highly as blogs.
#3. Why not own the trolls? Is it better to allow the trolls to wade in on third party sites then, as per the Techcrunch example listed above? One of the fundamentals of blogging is to allow readers to comment and further the discussion, on your own site. This cannot happen in an email. But it will happen on other sites, no question about it. It is harder to police what people are saying about you on other sites, than to deal with them on your own site.
#4.Wrong! Text-based sites kick the ass of image or video sites. Google can read and index text-based web pages. It cannot make as much sense of non-text pages. This will change in the future, for sure, but don’t hold your breath. Text rocks. And that’s why a search on ‘Jason Calacanis’ on Google returns pages of text-based results.
#5. Scoble is Scoble. JC is JC. These people are bona fide internet celebrities. The same rules do not apply for the average blogger, nor the majority of the pro blogs featured in the Technorati 100. Calacanis did not make his millions via Weblogs Inc by blogging about Jason Calacanis.
#6. Twitter is great (but it is limited). I use it and find it very useful. The search tool is excellent, for a real time snapshot of what’s going on, and for finding interesting people / discussions. But make no mistake: it is no Google, and it is no replacement for a blog. Twitter is defined by its limitations, particularly the maximum 140 characters permitted in a ‘tweet’. And while Twitter can help raise your profile, there needs to be a point to raising your profile (not least because your Twitter page won’t directly make any money for you, just as it makes no money for Twitter). So why are you Twittering? What are you hoping to accomplish?
All in all I don’t think a simple ‘quit blogging now’ statement is valid. It holds about as much weight as me saying magazines should shut up shop because of the iPhone. Or because of cupcakes, for that matter.