Two years ago, right around the time I last posted on Digital Gloss, Jeet Heer at The New Republic waxed pessimistic about the fading of the once-important blogosphere. He seemed to believe that the demise of Gawker marked the end of what he called “the utopian promise of blogging.” At the height of the blogging craze, Heer said, some people believed that we were witnessing the birth of “a world where everyone could be a writer and find an audience—an interconnected network where, in true McLuhanesque fashion, a divided world would become a unified global village.” But then, to show that this utopian vision has not been realized, Heer said that the Japanese now have a word for blogs people have neglected or have stopped updating entirely: ishikoro, or pebbles. “We live in a world of pebbles now,” he said. “They litter the internet, each one a marker of writing dreams and energies that have dissipated or moved elsewhere.”
Farah Mohammed, in an article that appeared in JSTOR, provided solid information about what a powerful phenomenon blogging once was. She said, “According to Drezner and Farrell, in 1999, there were an estimated 50 blogs dotted around the internet. By 2007, a blog tracker theorized there were around seventy million. Yet, a popular question today is whether blogs still have any relevance. A quick Google search will yield suggested results, ‘are blogs still relevant 2016,’ ‘are blogs still relevant 2017,’ and ‘is blogging dead’.” The problem, she acknowledged, is that not enough people are interested in even the most popular blogs and are more likely to turn to Twitter for Facebook for the kinds of information they once gleaned from blogs. Mohammed quoted author Gina Bianchini who discouraged new bloggers: “2017 is a very different world than 2007. Today is noisier and people’s attention spans shorter than any other time in history… and things are only getting worse. Facebook counts a ‘view’ as 1.7 seconds and we have 84,600 of those in a day. Your new blog isn’t equipped to compete in this new attention-deficit-disorder Thunderdome.”
Jia Tolentino, a blogger at The New Yorker, said blogging seemed to be disappearing from the internet, but “so, consequently, is a lot of online freedom and fun.” She mourned the loss of sites like The Awl which she described (along with the women’s site Hairpin) as follows: “Both sites became known as intentionally modest showcases, like Joseph Cornell boxes for writers—places where outsiders and the unpracticed could find something that is becoming more and more elusive: a smart, sympathetic, loyal audience, and an opportunity to sound exactly like themselves.” About her own experience she said, “Before I came to The New Yorker, my only professional writing experience was at blogs, places where a piece like this one, about disappearing blogs, would’ve been either eighty-five words or three thousand, and the lede would have been abrupt and vividly unprofessional, like a friend grabbing you by the collar at a bar. “
In an interview that appeared at Nieman Lab Jason Kottke, who has been blogging since 1999 (when there were according to Drezner and Farrell about 50 blogs on the internet), described what’s happened to blogging over that nearly twenty year time span: “One of the compelling things about blogs, for me, was that you had individual people presenting links and information that were a little view into what that person was interested in, and what was interesting about this person. As blogs got bigger, things like Gawker and Engadget and all those sorts of blogs took off — commercial blogs with teams of people doing it; it wasn’t so much an individual thing anymore. I like the personal curation and filtering, and where you find that these days, for better for worse, is Twitter and Facebook.”
Blogs do seem to be going the way of the floppy disk and the cassette tape, and nothing seems to be able to stem the tide. Just last summer NPR shut down its Two-Way blog, and NPR blogger Bob Collins said in a post that announced the blog’s demise : “We don’t like to see news blogs disappear, but it’s an inescapable fact that the days are numbered for them in core media.
“Mainstream news organizations have had a very difficult time squaring the more personal nature of blogs, their willingness to amplify the work of newsroom competitors, and the reader community they create with the traditional practices of newsrooms.”
And so having given some background from around the web about the fate of the blogosphere, I will tell you the reason for this post. Today I was getting ready to delete my Digital Gloss blog because I haven’t posted on it for nearly two years. But, as Farah Mohammed says a number of people have done, I entered the term “death of blogging” into a search engine, and I came up with half a dozen articles that sparked my interest. And because I wanted to present some links to interesting articles and add some personal comments, which is more than I can reasonably do on Twitter, I decided that all this negative talk about blogging doesn’t mean I can’t continue to blog. After all, blogging is more than curation, more than finding some cool articles and pointing them out to the three (or fewer) people who might be listening. A blog post is a very effective journal entry, a way to remind myself of what was important to me on, for example, September 9, 2018. And of course, the word blog is a shortened form of the term “web log,” not a description of cutting-edge journalism or award-winning creative non-fiction. So here I am, once again, writing in my online journal and using Twitter to tell others about my post. It might not exactly be a “Joseph Cornell box for [a] writer,” but it’s actually been quite satisfying.