Blogging is on the decline, according to a New York Times story published this weekend — citing research from the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project — and it is declining particularly among young people, who are using social networks such as Facebook instead. Pretty straightforward, right? Except that the actual story said something quite different: even according to the figures used by the New York Times itself, blogging activity is actually increasing, not decreasing. And as the story points out, plenty of young people are still blogging via the Tumblr platform, even though they may not think of it as “blogging.” What blogging is really doing is evolving.
The NYT story notes that blogging among those aged 12 to 17 fell by half between 2006 and 2009 according to the Pew report, but among 18 to 33-year-olds it only dropped by two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier — which isn’t exactly a huge decline. And among 34 to 45-year-olds, blogging activity rose by six percentage points. The story also admits that the Blogger platform, which is owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the U.S. in December than it had a year earlier (a 2-percent decline), but globally its traffic climbed by 9 percent to 323 million.
In many ways, this “blogging is dying” theory is similar s to the “web is dead” argument that Wired magazine tried to float last year, which really was about the web evolving and expanding into different areas. It’s true that Facebook and Twitter have led many away from blogging because they are so fast and easy to use, but they have also both helped to reinforce blogging in many ways.
What’s really happening, as Toni Schneider of Automattic — the corporate parent of the WordPress publishing platform (see disclosure below) — noted in the NYT piece, is that what blogging represented even four or five years ago has evolved into much more of a continuum of publishing. People post content on their blogs, or their “Tumblrs,” and then share links to it via Twitter and Facebook; or they may post thoughts via social networks and then collect those thoughts into a longer post on a blog. Blog networks such as The Huffington Post get a lot of attention, but plenty of individuals are still making use of the longer-form publishing abilities that blogs allow.
One of the reasons why Tumblr seems to have taken off, particularly with younger users, is that it is extremely easy to set up and use — but it also offers many of the same real-time sharing options that have become popular with Twitter and Facebook. For example, Tumblr makes it easy for users to follow others and see their content in a “dashboard,” and then with a simple click they can “re-blog” another user’s post, which redistributes it to all their followers in much the same way that a “retweet” does on Twitter.
So what we really have now is a multitude of platforms: there are the “micro-blogging” ones like Twitter, then there are those that allow for more interaction or multimedia content like Facebook, and both of those in turn can enhance existing blogging tools like WordPress and Blogger. And then there is Tumblr, which is like a combination of multiple formats. The fact that there are so many different choices means there is even more opportunity for people to find a publishing method they like. So while “blogging” may be on the decline, personal publishing has arguably never been healthier.
Disclosure: Automattic, the maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.
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Post and thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user Beverly