Frank Ahrens of The Washington Post takes his turn today at the latest old media one question meme: has the blog movement peaked?
This is one of those questions where the goal is not to find the exact answer, because the exact answer cannot be found. It’s more about expressing your opinion about the status of the blogging movement and wondering aloud where it’s headed.
Blogging and the Bubble
I think too many people get blogging confused with other troubling memories of days gone by, such as Bubble 1.0 and all the non-companies that made the lesser fools wildly rich and the greater fools more poor back in the nineties. Yes, I think we have a lot of people huffing and puffing beneath Bubble 2.0 in the hopes that a new investing frenzy will permit a second generation of lesser fools to get rich, but that has very little to do with blogging.
For every lesser fool blogging about how the next social bookmarking service is going to change the world, there are two others blogging about how it won’t. Blogging doesn’t discriminate between the absurd and the realistic. And blogging is no more a cause for bubble growth than the pen or keyboard.
So is the Party Over?
I don’t think the blogging movement has peaked and I certainly don’t think it has entered its twilight. I think it’s simply maturing a little. This is about math, not rejection.
When anything new is invented, manufactured and first sold to the public, there’s always a ramp up as the pool of existing customers buy it. Whether it’s a car or a DVD player, millions of people who already travel or watch videos, are out there ready to replace their inferior tools (wagons and VCRs) with the better technology. The result is a ramping up of market penetration on the front end, which tapers off as the market is saturated. It certainly doesn’t mean the technology is losing its relevance or mindshare.
It simply means that most of the current customers have already bought it. Millions of new people (younger people; people in other parts of the world, etc.) are still moving into the customer pool all the time. Frank points out this possibility:
And it could be that the people who wanted to start a blog already have. Like settlers joining the land rush to Oklahoma, bloggers charged into the ‘sphere, chunked down their URLs and set up shop. Everyone else stayed back East.
All those people back East may one day get on the wagon train and become a citizen of the new media state. And if they don’t, many of their children will.
Blogging is Not New, Just Easier
Blogging is not a new and different activity. It’s merely an easier way to publish and manage internet content. Sure, it makes it easy enough that someone who wouldn’t otherwise have tried to create an internet presence might do so now. But unless and until people lose the desire to put content on the internet, blogging is not going to lose its relevance any more than video cameras or word processors will. It’s a tool that helps satisfy a need that was there years before anyone combined the web and a log into the Reese’s Cup we know and (sometimes) love.
Growth Potential is Obvious
Oddly enough, the one thing that is clear to me is that there is tremendous growth potential for blogging. That’s not the same as saying it will grow, but it certainly makes it harder to say it’s in its decline.
The fact that we have empirical data demonstrating that so few people currently read blogs is proof positive that market saturation is not complete. It sounds more like the web back in the mid-nineties. I was on it then, and many of you were too. But to almost everyone else, it was a novelty. Today, even those who have never read on word on a blog use the web daily. For news, email, etc.
If you believe, as I do, that old media will move away from current distribution models towards distribution via RSS feeds, then you have to believe that RSS feeds will become more mainstream in the coming years. Once people know how to use RSS feeds (whether they know they’re RSS feeds or not) then blogs will become just another selection on the information menu.
I think blogging, along with reading RSS feeds, will take its place beside email in the mainstream. It will take a while.
But it will happen.