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Why Blogging Is Like The Norwegian Blue

April 11th, 2008 · 48 Comments

The Norwegian Blue - it has ceased to be

The blogging world is changing and unless you change, you’re going to be left behind.

Before you launch your new blog, you’d better have a long, hard think about what you’re getting yourself into. The days of publishing new, fresh and insightful posts have gone. The days of starting a new niche blog every couple of months have gone. The days of making money with a blog have gone.

You missed the train, buddy.

Blogging is dead. It has ceased to be. It’s not tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk and it’s definitely not pining for the fjords. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s kicked the bucket. It’s shuffled off its mortal coil.

However I have had a look around the back of the shop and I might just have found a replacement for you.

It’s called blogging.

Confused? You will be…


If you’re not a fan of Monty Python then you’re probably already confused so do yourself a favour and go off and read the Dead Parrot sketch and I’ll see you again in a couple of minutes.

OK, so let’s carry on shall we?

No matter how beautiful your blogs plumage is, you’ve got to start making some changes really soon otherwise it will soon become an ex-blog. The way people interact with blogs is changing and, as a blogger, it’s vital that you understand this. Whilst some of the statements are above are bordering on the sensationalist, there is also more than a hint of truth in each one.

Over the last few months I’ve seen a definite shift in the way people write and use blogs. I touched on this briefly in my last post and it prompted some interesting discussion in the comments section. The conversation carried on over at Blog Blokes place in his post about the end of blogging where we looked at once prolific bloggers who now either post infrequently or not at all. People are dropping out of blogging at a rapid rate of knots so the question has to be Why? One of my commenters suggested that it was natural selection – survival of the fittest – and there’s some truth in that but I see it as also being about a change in reader expectation levels.

People had much lower expectation levels of blogs say 3 years ago whereas today they expect – demand – to be entertained/educated/enlightened.

When I started blogging a couple of years ago it was the norm for people to post at least once a day and, in a number of cases, more than once a day but that seems to have changed over the last 6-12 months. I previously joked that perhaps people had run out of things to say which explains why folks have moved away from posting multiple times a day. Certainly there is evidence that those blogs which continue to post more than once a day are now using guest authors to keep up the post volume. Skellie seems to post on ProBlogger more regularly than Darren Rowse and let’s not even start with John Chow. Does that guy ever post anything any more apart from posting pictures of his latest restaurant trip?

Maybe blogging has gone full circle and we’re back to writing about our cat and what we had for lunch.

No, I think it’s more about the expectation levels. There are millions of blogs out there vying for attention and unless you’re consistently writing outstanding content, posting every day could kill your blog. A couple of years ago I used my feed reader in a “set and forget” mindset. I’d subscribe to a site and then rarely unsubscribe. Provided the author wasn’t writing something that I vehemently disagreed with, I’d stay subscribed. Today if someone doesn’t deliver within a few posts, they’re outta here. I simply don’t have the time to wade through 20 posts to find that one golden nugget.

Maki gets it. He used to update Dosh Dosh on a daily basis. These days he only posts a couple of times a week but, rest assured, those posts are nearly always packed with great content and useful information. Every time I see a new post from Maki, I’m all over it like a rash whereas there are others in my feed reader who I haven’t read for a couple of weeks. Unless I see something that educates, entertains or enlightens me in the next couple of posts, I’ll probably ditch them.

When Aaron Wall made changes to his SEO Book program, I was concerned about whether the quality of his posts would drop as his focus shifted to his new venture. In the article I said that I felt Yaro Starak had dropped the ball after he launched his Blog Mentoring project and Yaro responded by saying

Fair enough Mike. People come and go and their perception of any blog’s content changes regardless of the blogger…I remember speaking to Darren [Rowse] one time and he said he felt like he had an entire new audience every 12 months since old people move on and new people subscribe.

I thought this was a fair point and it has probably been bouncing around in my sub-conscience for the last couple of months. Now regardless of whether you make money with your blog or not, I think it’s important to view your blogging ventures as a business. It helps you maintain a focus and direction. In most industries there is an accepted churn rate or attrition rate. Your customer base is constantly changing. New customers come. Old customers go. So long as you maintain a customer base at a level to sustain your business, you can continue to turn a profit. With your blogging business, it’s very similar. Your RSS subscribers may well be remaining stable or increasing each month but that doesn’t mean that it’s the same people subscribing month on month. I unsubscribe from your site and someone else subscribes. The numbers are the same but the faces are different.

Blog Churn or Blog Burn?

Blog churn or blog burn?
Image by David Knudsen

With every passing hour, another couple of hundred new blogs are created. The authors of those blogs, unless they’re scraping content, are starting off with all the best intentions. They want their blog to be a success. They want people to read their blog. They think that within a couple of months that they’ll be vying for a spot in the Technorati Top 100.

They’re going to fail.

They’re approaching it in the wrong mindset. The chances are that they’ve been sucked in by the blogging hype created by the “experts” or the garbage they’re read in the latest “get rich through blogging” eBook. They see blogging as a quick way to make a buck or to get that elusive book deal but the advice they’re following is outdated. They believe that they can roll out a series of pillar articles, drop by a few blogs to leave a comment and get some Stumble Lovin’ and the job is done but things have changed.

In today’s blogosphere it takes you a couple of years to become an overnight sensation.

The signal to noise ratio is such that there is no longer any long term future for the mediocre. Last year you might have got away with it. The year before you would probably have got a rabid following but today? No chance. The days of rolling out new content every single day and expecting people to lap it up is so 2006, darlink.

Over the last two years I’ve seen a number of blogs appear, gain a lot of traction and then get sold off for big dollars. You can see the obvious attraction of blogging when you read about a 9 month old blog that has just sold for $20k. The problem is that the new owner doesn’t write in the same engaging way as the previous owner so, in most cases, the blog fizzles and dies. Why? Because people tend to subscribe to people, not blogs. As a result, how many big dollar blog purchases have you seen in the last few months?

With the saturation of blogs, people have become more selective with what and who they read. You’ve either got to deliver with every single post or you’ve got to be able to relate to your reader on a personal level. The successful bloggers are those that follow these rules. They’ve recognised the shift in blogging and have adapted to the new way of working. It’s all about the Four E’s:

  1. Educate
  2. Entertain
  3. Enlighten
  4. Empower

The Future Of Blogging

The evolution of blogging has seen a shift from single authors to collaborative efforts. Every blog in the Top Ten of the Technorati list is written by multiple authors. TechCrunch started out in 2005 as a place for Michael Arrington to share his passion for technology start ups. Today it has 790,000 RSS subscribers, a team of full time bloggers and a seven figure turnover. Now you may be thinking that if Arrington can do it, you can do it too but the fact is that the way people interact with and view blogs has changed since ’05.

Going back to the post by Blog Bloke, he suggests that the rise of social networking and services like Twitter could be contributing factors to the demise of blogging and he’s got a point. Blogging was shiny and relatively new when TechCrunch started but today there are so many more diversions out there that you’ve got to be seen to be doing something different to capture attention.

So where is all this going? Well in my opinion we’re going to see blogging fracture and splinter. To a certain extent it’s already happening but the difference is that this time some media whizz will come up with some snappy buzzword and, before you know it, we’ll be at the start of the new age of online publishing.

There’ll be Buzzword A content produced by large multimedia companies employing staff writers who roll out 15-20 articles a day, get regularly quoted in Time Magazine and be regarded as the superstars of the Internet. Then there’ll be Buzzword B content which is made up of websites run as a co-operative by like minded individuals all focusing on their passion, knowledge or expertise of a specific niche. Nomadic writers will sell their content to the highest bidder and attract a cult following who slaver at their every word. Syndication methods will evolve to allow the reader to differentiate between Buzzword A and Buzzword B to deliver laser focused content straight to their desktop. Buzzword A publishers will sneer and look down on the Buzzword B writers, all of whom secretly want to be A-listers in spite of their public name calling and accusations of selling out, and, in the middle of all this, will be the one man band who, having been freed from the shackles of expectation and any over hyped buzzword, will continue to write about the things that interest them.

It’s blogging, Jim, but not as we know it.

Preparing Your Plumage

The future of online publishing is changing and whether you agree with where it might end up, it’s difficult to deny that the blogosphere is fragmenting and shifting its focus. Recognising that fact is the first step to getting yourself ready for the next level. The key thing is to stop what you’re currently doing and ask yourself some serious questions.

  • What am I doing?
  • Why am I doing it?
  • What do I want to achieve?

You’d better be really thinking about your answers because you’re going to live or die by the decisions you make over the next few weeks. Are you going to embrace the new age as part of a collaborative venture or as a standalone? Do you see yourself as the next Michael Arrington? If so you’d better get your arse in gear because time is running out. Planning to make money with your blog? Well you’d better have a crystal clear objective in mind and not deviate from it because in the new age you don’t get a second chance.

Someone once said that Internet years are like dog years. 1 year in real time = 7 Internet years. I think that’s probably a fair reflection of online time. Putting things off by a couple of months online is akin to letting your business stagnate for a couple of years without doing anything about it. You wouldn’t do it, would you? You’d react and adapt to shifts in your market as they happened so why should your blogging business be any different?

Tags: Blogging

48 responses so far ↓

  • Blog Bloke // Apr 11, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    WOW!

    Excellent article Mike except for one small problem. You went over the 500 word limit. 😉

    You and I have to talk. We are obviously on the same wavelength and I’m working on a book as we speak.

    Want in? Give me a jingle.

  • Blog Bloke // Apr 12, 2008 at 12:03 am

    I forgot to mention I agree with most of what you say with the exception of Darren Rowse’s comment that he get’s a new audience every 12 months. I don’t buy it and it’s hubris in the extreme, but then again I’ve come expect comments like that from him.

    The reason why he hasn’t been blogging lately is because he’s coming out with a book that I helped him name (yes it’s true). He’s also come up with a new twist and is plagiarizing his own plagiarized archives (so what else is new).

    So you too can now pay for what you can already read for free. Better hurry while quantities last!

    Only Rowse could come up with a scheme like that.

    By the way, I’m also an extreme Python fan. Can’t you tell?

  • Mike // Apr 14, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Darrens remark regarding reader churn isn’t too far off the mark. If you think about it, a lot of people will come to read his blog when they first start out. The brand is out there everywhere you look when you’re new to blogging. After 6 months, a lot of new bloggers have given up because it’s tougher than they thought it would be so they probably unsubscribe. If you’re still around after 12 months, the chances are that you don’t read Problogger as religiously as you did when you started out.

    Personally I still subscribe to Darren because every now and then he comes up with a golden nugget and also because, let’s face it, he’s still considered the guy at the top of the tree for the niche so it makes sense to keep an eye on what he’s covering whether you agree with him or not.

    Regarding the book, I’ll drop you a line :)

  • Kathryn // Apr 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    My blog will never crack the Technorati top 10k, but that’s ok. I actually took a six month break from blogging, including not reading other sites in my knitting niche, before deciding to try again with better SEO via WordPress than the iWeb site I was using.

    The time off helped me to see my blog from a reader’s viewpoint. Basically, I’m going more towards the four E’s route you mentioned above and away from the diary monologue so prevalent in the crafting blogoshere. My page loads are ten times what they use to be. For me, that is a huge success for now.

  • Stefanie // Apr 22, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Wow, very long and thoughtful post. It’s odd, but I’ve definitely noticed that my favorite blogs (with just a few exceptions) all post far less often than I might like. Of course, the fact that they save their posts for when they actually have something to say is a major part of why I like them so much.

  • Mike // Apr 23, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Kathryn – Sometimes taking a step back is exactly what is needed. It’s so easy to become so wrapped up in what you’re doing that it’s impossible to see things objectively. That’s kinda what I’m doing here with Twenty Steps.

    Stefanie – I think that it’s the way things are going to be for the foreseeable future. In a lot of ways I prefer this because when I check my feed reader at least I know I’m going to get something worth reading whereas a year or so ago it just seemed to be the same thing said over and over again. Then again, perhaps I’m just more choosy with who I subscribe to!

    Thanks both for stopping by and leaving a comment :)

  • Ryan // Apr 29, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I agree, very insightful post.

    However, I can’t help but wonder, even though it seems that everything has been written about, that there are always going to be hungry readers for that information, whether they find it on blog A that’s been around for 4 years, or blog B that’s been around for 4 days?

    Is this just an excuse to cut back posting frequency? Sure, we all get tired of coming up with new posts day in and day out, even the big dogs do, but that’s what outsourcing is for! (If you can find decent people to do it).

    Afterall, one of the reasons, in my mind, to post at least once a day or more is the search engine benefit – the more posts (pages) that you have out there, the more “bait” you have for people to come to the site. Now this may be a biased view since I’m one of those people that build up blogs to the extreme and sell them, but even though I write for the readers, I also write for the blog. To grow it. Nourish it. Then add a year or two, and you have a massive library of information and hooks.

    It may seem that blogging is changing course, but personally, I don’t think it’s as extreme as you make it out to be….yet. There is still plenty of time to experiment. Wait ’til 2010 and see what happens.

    Again, excellent post, and you definitely sparked my near lifeless brain this morning. Best of luck!

  • Mike // Apr 30, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Some great points you make here, Ryan.

    It’s interesting that you bring up the subject of outsourcing. I’m not a big fan of multiple voice blogs. Personally most of the sites I subscribe to are written by individuals because I want to hear what they have to say, not a collective voice. Sure there are some exceptions but generally they’re one man bands.

    I just had a quick look at your site and you’re definitely approaching it with the 4 E’s in mind. This is probably as much for the readers and search engines as it is for your longer term goal for the site (i.e. sell it) so that’s got to be a win-win situation.

    Glad I managed to kick start your brain in the morning. Copious amounts of coffee is the only solution for me 😉

  • Lord Matt // May 5, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    A 12 month cycle also gives a target to aim for. Let’s talk freelance writers and magazines for a moment. A wily editor will be working to an exact 24 month cycle which is made of two matching 12 month cycles. Every two years near identical articles are taken out handed to a staff writer and reworked for the current audience, modern references and so forth. The editor needs only to worry about getting the gossip reported in a timely way but everything else needs to be written once – in the first two years (with the second year aping the first).

    It’s not very interesting but it works. I wonder if it would work in blogging?

  • Mike // May 7, 2008 at 11:24 am

    That’s bloody brilliant, that is, and absolutely spot on. Let’s face it, how many times can FHM print “101 ways to make your woman scream for more” without recycling old articles. When you read through magazines you definitely see the same stuff repackaged so maybe you’re right. Maybe it can work although I know of at least one blogger who would disagree with you 😉

  • Alex Filippi // May 13, 2008 at 8:20 am

    How to be more selective ,you belive in the war Blog?

  • Phyllis V // May 16, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Powerful post. I love Monty Python so that helped. :-) Honestly, I think, sensationalism aside, you are right on the mark. The market is saturated and it is survival of the fittest.

  • Phoenix Search Engine Marketing // May 18, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    It depend on why you are blogging. We include a blog on all of our websites and provide training on how to use it and how to use it to market a business.

    We use a blog for providing fresh content for static sites, if no one ever comments that’s OK. The blog has fulfilled its purpose.

    The blog provides another communication channel for the small business owner. It allows them to create trust by displaying their expertise.

    Like anything it only works when it is used properly.

  • online bingo // May 21, 2008 at 5:11 am

    I am hoping more from the blogging world. Maybe one day it will revolve into something else, better..

  • zohai // May 22, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Wow… It’s kinda true that blogging is going downhill with all those using blogs for the wrong purposes. Very good arguments you have in there. But me myself still think that blogs are here to stay at least for now. Cheers and thanks for such a insightful post.

  • Vitamin E Cream Resource // May 22, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Blogging has indeed evolved since it’s introduction. Those of you already in the blogging game do need to adapt to the recent changes that have swept the blogosphere. Expectations are much higher and we as bloggers need to deliver.

  • Southwest Rugs // May 25, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Thank you for the well presented and informative post. It certainly explains things in detail. Please do keep it up. All the best.

  • Earn Cash // May 26, 2008 at 6:52 am

    You really presenting a great post! It’s really worth to read through!

  • Ramona // May 28, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Blogging used to be about building links .Until the rules changed for our industry.How else do we get to page one on search engines so our customers can find us .We need to keep content fresh so daily posting is important.

  • acne // May 28, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Your blog posts are interesting and thoughtful. Got your blog from the search engine and totally hook on it right now..

  • Mike // May 28, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Ramona – I’d add brand awareness into that.

    In terms of daily updates, I’m not convinced. At the moment, despite not having updated content for nearly a month, I’m still getting daily visits by the bots, tweaks I’ve made to older posts are being reported in the index within a couple of days and my search engine traffic/ratings are pretty stable.

    Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the discussion.

  • Earn Cash // May 30, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Monty Python huh…i never heard this name before viewing your post. Thanks for the link to the details, i love it!

  • Make Money Online // Jun 2, 2008 at 12:03 am

    useful post mike. I think the blogging and the topics are becoming more satrated as we see thousands of new blogs everday.

  • Ecommerce solutions // Jun 4, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    i think the 4 E’s is important…. i never tough of this before…i think most of people also tough this of this also….it’s really good informations,thanks really useful

  • Igor The Troll // Jun 4, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Dieing to read your next post!

    Is there going to be one, or are you going on vacation?

  • California Fast Food Insurnace // Jun 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I like blogging so I can post my new poems that I write. For me it is a great way to let my family easily read about me and my life.

  • Mike // Jun 5, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Igor – I’m in the process of the house move from Hell as well as being snowed under with a lot of non-Internet based work so have been struggling to find the time to keep abreast with what’s happening in the world of search and Internet marketing. Hopefully I move into my new place this weekend so should be able to free some time up to post again. Fingers crossed.

  • Mike // Jun 5, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Gentle reminder to everyone leaving comments using commercial anchor text

    Please read the comment policy

    I delete the URLs for any comment left with commercial anchor text. Please use your name only.

    Thanks

  • Hock // Jun 6, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Mike,

    Excellent post, although I had to skip through it a bit because of its length! 😮

    You brought up a lot of valid points. Getting the blog traffic to stick is the really tricky part. Unless your blog is about something specific and have raving fans, it will be hard to get repeat traffic. Some blogs that I used to read daily have veered off course and as a result I stopped reading them. I was reading them because they were doing a series on a particular topic that I was really interested in.

    The truth is that there is a certain threshold before your blog really takes off. One can reach this threshold faster if 1)they can get some sort of buzz and have lots of other blogs talking about them or 2) to have an established blog with tons of readers recommend their blog. These are not the only ways.

    Something I was reading recently about email marketing was along the same vein. The secret to IM’ers who have a large list is that they were able to leverage their list by doing JVs with other marketers. But to do that you have to first have a large enough size list to garner some interest.

    With blogging, you won’t become popular till you get a lot of readers but you won’t get a lot of readers until you become popular. :)

  • Mike // Jun 10, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Hock, although I had to skip through it a bit because of it’s length 😉

    It is a bit of a Catch 22 situation, you’re right. I guess it all comes down to what you’re in blogging for. Is it the money? Is it the fame?

    Regarding topic, this site has suffered a wee bit from that over the 2 years it’s been running. To a certain extent that’s part of the reason I’ve not updated for a while too because I’ve not been working on SEO or Internet marketing much over the last few months. Hopefully that will all change once I’ve settled into my new place and can escape dial up Hell!

  • Hock // Jun 10, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Gee, dialup… that seems like ages ago for me. 😉 I’ve got a fiber connection now.

  • home decor // Jun 12, 2008 at 8:44 am

    i think what people write on their blog determines whether or not their blog will be an ex. sometimes, we write and write and write, but we dont know someone might get hurt from our words.
    anyway, good article here!!
    congrats

  • Ramona // Jun 14, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Thanks for the heads up about branding. I can now have more time.Thanks.

  • Danny // Jun 15, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Great article, well worth the length! I can’t believe that no one has commented on the bird picture….I love it! Goes great with the article!

  • Nursery Furniture // Jun 18, 2008 at 3:47 am

    Nice post. I love reading it. Learn something today. Very good arguments you have in there. But me myself still think that blogs are here to stay at least for now.

  • Guy Cohen // Jun 19, 2008 at 2:06 am

    It’s important that you have to keep your blog updated so that you could not be a left behind of what’s the latest in the blogging world. Thanks for the great article and for the nice photo of the dead parrot. lol

  • Michael // Jun 27, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Hi,
    Thanks for this post. I would have crossed it while surfing the net for informations about blog.
    Great,,,
    It;s very useful article….

  • Gwen // Jun 28, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Blogging has become more social because of the new generation of networking serviceses. Bloggers need to get in tune with these changes to stay in the game.

  • Ascent // Jun 29, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Blogging will cease to exist when people find that there are easier ways of connecting to other people on the Internet – and that is happening with some of the social media tools. Also people who blog with the intent of making money on the Internet will also go away from blogging if they find a different more profitable medium.

  • Aaron // Jul 9, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Extremely in-depth post. Lots of good stuff. I’m trying to think of how I can better involved the four Es on my own blogs.

  • Mike // Jul 11, 2008 at 12:33 am

    The downside, Aaron, is that you end up not updating your blog for months on end because you make a statement like I did 😳

    Hopefully I’ll get round to doing one of the 4 E’s in my next post. Whenever that may be….sigh….

  • Nick // Jul 14, 2008 at 4:12 am

    Even though your article is little long one…. I enjoyed it a lot…

    Valuable information with some great points…

    Thanks for the post…

  • Richard // Jul 14, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    wow! What a nice article! Thank you so much for sharing a valuable information.

  • Jordan // Jul 28, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Your article is kinda long but its worth to read. Thank you for sharing.

  • sugitha // Sep 10, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I love the picture burning cpu, what a wounderful imagination.

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