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Is blogging in decline?

16 September 2011

I was just asked to take part in a survey for Technorati on the “state of the blogosphere”, and they asked me to provide statistics about my blogs and things like that.

I had to go hunting for the statistics, and they seem to show that blogging is in decline, or at least it seems to be so for my blogs.

Here are the statistics for this blog, Khanya, for this year so far:

Khanya stats - monthly visitors 2011

My other general blog, Notes from underground, shows a similar decline:

Notes from underground - visitors stats 2011

Our family history blog shows a slight upward trend in recent months, but that may be because we have been more than usually active in family history in the period:

But though there is a decline in page reads and visitors, these blogs seem to maintain their general position in relation to other blogs, which is why I think there may be an across-the-board decline.

Here, for example are the Amatomu statistics for religious blogs in South Africa.

For the purpose of this exercise, this blog, Khanya, has been at the number 4 position for the last year or so. On rare occasions it has moved up to 3 or down to 5, but it’s generally about at the same number 4 position. So if its readers are declining, the average reeadership of all the other blogs in the table must be declining as well.

One problem is that I’m not sure how accurate the Amatomu statistics are. The blog at No 3, Dion’s random ramblings, is inactive, and so should have dropped a long way down the list. Dion Forster’s new blog, An uncommon path remains inexplicably stuck below it at number 7, even though he posts to it regularly.

On the same page of Amatomu, though not shown in this extract, there is a list of currently popular recent posts. The list is supposted to contain posts that are not more than two days old, ranked by the number of reads in the last hour. But posts from the top three blogs in the list almost never appear there. That means either that a lot of people are reading their old posts, and almost no one is reading their current ones, or that the Amatomu statistics are simply inaccurate, and quite meaningless.

There is also a quite different picture that one gets when one reads the list according to different criteria. The righthand tab shows the list ordered by Technorati “authority”. I think that is calculated by the number of links to recent individual posts from other blogs, but I’m not sure about that.

But I think one can draw the same conclusion from that too — if blogs remain in the same relative positions, then the number of people reading blogs has been dropping steadily from the beginning of the year.

Amatomu - religious blogs sorted by Technorati authority

I suspect that one reason for the decline may be the Gadarene rush to sites like Facebook.

Some bloggers I know have been blogging less frequently, and have been putting pages on Facebook instead. The problem is that Facebook is a pretty poor medium for that kind of thing.

I sometimes announce links to my blog posts on Facebook. The problem is that many people prefer to comment on the Facebook link rather than on the blog post itself.

That’s OK for ephemeral, trivial or irrelevant comments. But for serious comments, it means that the comments are lost. I can look at the blog post three years later and can see the comments that people made when it was first posted, or at any time since. But the comments that were posted on the link at Facebook are irretrievable, no matter how profound or witty they may have been.

There was a group of bloggers who tried to post a monthly Synchroblog, blogging on the same general topic, and linking to each other’s posts. There is a mailing list for regular participants, to discuss what the monthly theme should be, and remind people about it. But then people thought that Facebook was the new and in thing, and started announcing it there instead. As a result, I missed this month’s one, because I was busy and spent less time on Facebook. I always read my e-mail first thing in the morning (well, fourth really, but first of the things I do on the Internet). I look at Facebook when I have time. Yes, e-mail reminders come to me from Facebook, but they inevitably get dropped in the “Junk and suspicious mail” queue, which I look at about once a week, mainly to do a mass delete of spam.

So really, people, Facebook has its uses, but it’s no substitute for blogging, and for many things, blogging’s better.

Anyway, if you’d like to participate in the Technorati “state of the blogosphere” survey, here’s the blurb:

We’d love for you to share some information about blogging as your passion or your profession, that we can then share back with you, the bloggers, and everyone who is interested in you. It should take just 15 minutes of your time.

The more responses we get the better the data we can deliver to you, so please share this link with other bloggers. http://www.psasurveys.com/detect.aspx?I.Project=a18214

Look for the full study on technorati.com on Monday, November 7.

I have to say that I found it somewhat annoying.

For example, one question offered the following options:

  • I blog as part of my full-time job for a company or organization
  • I blog full-time for the company or organization I work for
  • I blog full-time for a company or organization that I own
  • Right now I blog for fun. I would like to make money on my blog some day
  • I blog occasionally for a company or organization that I own
  • I blog for fun. I do not make, or plan to ever make, any money on my blog
  • I am an independent blogger and consider it my full time job
  • I use my blog to supplement my income, but don’t consider it my full time job

My answer was “None of the above”, but that wasn’t an option.

I find this grossly insulting to people who do the survey. It implies that the only alternative to “making money” is “fun”, and so that anyone who is not blogging for money is shallow and only interested in trivialities.

Still, I suppose it is an accurate reflection of the dominant religion of the West — Moneytheism.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 September 2011 9:15 am

    Hi Steve
    I do think that blog reading is in decline – and yes, that people use Facebook more. I just don’t like Facebook – so I am trying to make Google+ work as an alternative. It’s still early days and not many people seem to be active, but I think it needs to work to keep serious conversation going. Facebook just isn’t up to it – in my opinion!
    The Amatomu stats are not working. There are blogs that I know are way more popular than mine languishing far down the list. However, when I stopped blogging for a while I did drop down the rankings, so something registers. The technorati tab is also out of date.
    I think that the Technorati ratings at Technorati itself might be useful – they are what I have been using to get a measure of what’s what. Unfortunately some blogs are not ‘picked up’ by Technorati and so have an authority of ‘1’. Also, they are not aggregated nicely – so I have searched for and bookmarked the blogs in which I am interested (a bit of a mission) but it gives me a feel of how I am doing in the market.
    In general all the SA blogs I follow have dropped recently – Khanya that used to be way ahead is also now just like the rest of us.
    I’m not sure how to start a revolution – but I invite you to help us get Google+ going – even if you just post links to your blog posts!

  2. 16 September 2011 4:10 pm

    A blog might get less attention, but blogging is not in decline. I’d like to note that in July and August many people in the northern hemisphere are on vacations, and September is not over yet. It may explain the numbers.

  3. 17 September 2011 6:54 pm

    Having just ventured onto Facebook, I’m trying to still find the right balance between that and blogging. I must confess that Facebook does have something tempting to it in that I am more inclined to just post a quick, half-baked comment, whereas for a blog post I feel that I should write something serious, and therefore often don’t get to it…

    Could you perhaps share a list of Christian-cum-theological blogs that you find most worthwhile? So far, yours and Jenny’s are at the top of my list, but I may be missing something. Amatomu seems worse than useless; the blogs it suggests seems to be either defunct or else it sends me to Discerning the World which fortunately threatens to crash my computer so that I am least not tempted to try and interact with it. (At least it’s a salutary reminder that it’s not only Orthodox blogs that are prone to venomous polemicism!).

    One of the things that has surprised me is that I have not come across any serious Catholic bloggers – the closest would be Fr Russel Politt’s blog at the Southern Cross but that is not exactly a personal blog. (There is also that of the Jesuit Institute, but that is even less of a blog in that it does not allow comments or discussion). Am I missing anything?

    • 17 September 2011 11:06 pm

      “Discerning the world” is quite poisonous, but it seems to be a one-person, one-denomination affair. To paraphrase Pogo: “What does ‘discerning the world’ stand for?” “We wonj’t stand for much, believe me.” Got a lot to say about what they’re against, nothing about what they are for.

      Did you get my e-mails about “The Way”?

  4. 17 September 2011 6:56 pm

    PS: In asking about Christian-cum-theological blogs above, I meant South African ones – I realise now that that might not be clear.

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