The Future of Small Bloggers
The life I lead as a blogger now is noticeably different than when I started my blog back in 2009. Even then, I was late in the game, naïve about how my words would be received. I didn’t leap to stardom like I thought I would, and I quickly deduced that it was not just about crafting words and adding pictures. I needed to engage in the community because no one was going to read my blog if I didn’t read theirs. Blogging suddenly took on a whole new dimension of time-suck.
I’ve seen people begin blogging for a variety of reasons:
- To record memories for their children.
- To keep extended family members in the loop.
- To share a particular hobby with others. Or they blog as a hobby in itself.
- To practice writing for a larger project.
- To make money through advertising or brand management.
- To use as a launch pad for speaking, consulting, TV appearances, etc.
- To become famous. Yeah – that.
Although memories of my early motivations are fuzzy, I’m pretty sure I started a blog with the expectation that I would become famous, make money, and become a speaker. And although that bubble was not long in bursting, the desire to have my blog go somewhere hummed along as an undercurrent as I wrote one post after another. My husband used to cheer me on, saying, “Just keep writing good stuff. Your audience will come.”
I’ve had my share of writing victories in the past six years. I’ve written an award-winning memoir, appeared on accredited websites, and have received awards for individual posts and for my entire blog. But despite the victories, I remain an average blogger with average daily page views and little to no income from advertising. My audience has not come. Or at least not in the way I’d hoped it would.
The blogging market is flooded. We know that, but we still hope ours will be different. And we do our due diligence, trying to support the community by replying to comments and visiting other blogs. In doing so, we have burnt ourselves out. We envy the bloggers who are able to put 100% of their efforts into their own blog and the community they’ve built around that.
Social media has replaced the original purpose of the blog, which is simply to tell our story. Blogging and Twitter no longer go hand in hand – one for the long conversations and the other for the short. Twitter is now just a place to share links and say ‘thanks’. Our conversations have left the comment threads and have moved to Facebook pages and private groups, which give us more leeway than just 140 characters, but are quicker to engage in than blog posts. Tiny phone keypads make it impractical to say anything but that which is most pressing.
Pinterest has us searching to make our posts “pinnable” by reducing our thoughts to a list. “Ten ways to make your husband wear boxer shorts.” “Five signs that you’re a cougar.” Just yesterday I clicked on a few well-known community blogs, and four to five of their featured posts started with a number. And then Instagram has removed our need for words altogether.
We can’t keep up with this pace of being present everywhere. We can’t study and implement each new blogging novelty, input correct SEO terms, watermark all our photos, craft good content, share in all forms of social media, and read and share the words of our contemporaries. Even as a non-paid, full-time job, this schedule is not sustainable. Something’s got to give.
I’ve seen people leave blogging for a variety of reasons:
- They’re shared out. There’s nothing left to say.
- They get hurt or feel left out by the more ambitious bloggers.
- They get tired of caring about the next big thing that has gone viral.
- They’ve evolved to other projects that sprang out of blogging. They’ve outgrown it.
- They realize they are never going to be famous/ make money.
- They know they could make money if they keep up the insane pace of commenting, but they realize their “blogging success” is just a house of cards that collapses as soon as they stop, and what does that say about their blog?
But I think this reason is the most universal: The pressure to do everything that goes along with blogging becomes too great.
Those of us who want to keep blogging, but can’t keep up with the increasing demands of social media, are often steeped in guilt. At its most cynical, engaging in the community boils down to, “What’s the minimum amount of blogs I need to read in order to ‘do my time’ so that others will read my blog?” At its most lovely, this engagement is simply, “Friend, I hope that liking your status adequately expresses how much I appreciate you because I have no time to do any more than that. Your words matter to me, but my own life and my own words need tending to as well.”
Those of us for whom quitting is rarely a consideration go on because:
- We can’t not write.
- We love the immediacy of the interactions that spring from our words.
- We feel a responsibility to our readers who don’t have blogs and read us for our own sake.
- We worry that we’ll be giving up a support that we’ll one day need when we’re ready to launch that book or that project.
- We fear no longer having a voice, that we’ll be lost without it.
- And … the online community has become real-life friends that we can’t imagine giving up.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not funny or snarky enough to make it big. I’m not loudly political. I’m not an expert in fashion or home décor. I am most certainly not a parenting expert. And even though I have the golden egg of living in France as my root of inspiration, I don’t care about writing what the masses want to see. I want my clicking keyboard to follow where my heart leads, which makes me too eclectic for a vast readership. And in recent years, without the support of my fellow bloggers, who are just as busy as I am, my audience has dwindled even further.I know the trend for blogging is headed towards shorter posts, reality novellas in anthology form, micro-blogging on Facebook, quick videos on YouTube, rich pins on Pinterest, image-led snippets on Instagram, submitting widely and liberally in hopes of getting our name recognized within a larger public (and perhaps getting paid in the process)? I know
I know the trend for blogging is headed towards shorter posts, reality novellas in anthology form, micro-blogging on Facebook, quick videos on YouTube, rich pins on Pinterest, image-led snippets on Instagram, submitting widely and liberally in hopes of getting our name recognized within a larger public (and perhaps getting paid in the process)? I know this and still feel an overpowering desire to dig my heels in and continue to write my blog the way I’ve always done. My words on my terms.With all these recent trends, and with more changes looming on the horizon, I wonder what the future holds for us small-time bloggers. What’s going to happen to my blog?
With all these recent trends, and with more changes looming on the horizon, I wonder what the future holds for us small-time bloggers. What’s going to happen to my blog?
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* I want to thank Alison Lee, Andrea Mowery, Leigh Ann Torres, Katie Sluiter, Brittany Vanderlinden, Elaine Alguire, Laura O’Rourke, Natalie Hoage, and Arnebya Herndon for your insight and perspective as I prepared this post.
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