- 22 Oct 08, 18:12 GMT
As I was walking the dog this morning, I checked Twitter on my phone and saw that it was alive with comments about "the death of blogging." According to an article in Wired Magazine, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook make blogs look "so 2004". Oh dear. My response was to go straight home - and write a blog post.
The Wired article argues that fresh, genuine voices have been drowned out by a "tsunami of paid bilge", that blogs attract too many comments from net lowlife, and that the action has moved elsewhere. So is there any truth in the notion that blogging is dead? Well, in the words of the Brains Trust - a kind of 1950s radio blogosphere - it all depends on what you mean by "blogging", and by "dead".
If, by blogs you mean any online article or diary which allows interaction with its audience, then it's a phenomenon that is far from moribund - indeed it is growing every day. But its nature is changing. When blogging first entered the public consciousness it seemed the whole point was that it was amateur, a medium where anyone and everyone could distribute their thoughts, profound or banal. Now every major media organisation, most political parties and lobby groups, and a growing number of businesses have decided that a blog is a good way to communicate.
If I were asked to name the single most influential journalistic product of the moment - in the UK at least - it would be a blog written by a BBC colleague. Robert Peston's Peston's Picks has been the essential guide to the current financial crisis, and is read avidly in the City and at Westminster. It gets an audience of more than 650,000 on some days, and hundreds of comments from readers.
But the very success of the professional bloggers may be draining traffic - and attention - away from the amateurs of the "real" blogosphere. Does that matter? Well it certainly makes it harder for fresh new voices to be heard - can you name a blogger who's burst onto the scene in the last year?
But the argument that it's all getting far too noisy seems a little bizarre. If blogging is supposed to be a conversation, does it really make sense to take fright when too many of those taking part in the dialogue turn out to have little to say that is either articulate or polite?
The more powerful argument is that we are now moving beyond blogging - from the blogosphere to the Twitterverse. In other words, short-form social networking is proving a more useful way of communicating than the more long-winded and less intimate form of the blog. It follows on from the recent "Google is making us stupid" argument, that our attention span is now so short that we can't read more than the 140 characters in a Tweet or the one line status update you see on Facebook.
I do think that there is evidence that early adopters from the tech crowd have moved on, perhaps disappointed that their blogs are not reaching a mass audience - or discovering that it's easier to have a conversation in a smaller space, where the madding crowd doesn't keep butting in.
But what I think we're seeing is the development of a mixed economy, where blogging has many forms, professional, amateur, micro and mega. I started thinking about this post by sending out messages to my Twitter friends, who responded speedily:
"people will continue to blog in the same way that some still use typewriters, but Twitter, Facebook etc will kill blogging".
"social networking is *really* about community ... & the mega-blogs don't foster community in their 1000s of comments".
"I blog more now as twitter and Facebook has given my blog much more traffic."
But, of course, I've ended up blogging - and, with a bit of luck, thousands more will read this than will listen to me on Twitter or Facebook. Let me know what you think - if blogging really is still alive, then we can prove it by having a healthy debate right here.
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