The UK blogging renaissance is on its way

19 01 2009

Over the last six months or so much has been written about the apparent demise of blogging. The story runs that fewer people are blogging, blog networks are struggling to attract advertising and high profile bloggers have ditched the format and are using other social media tools such as Twitter.

The latest media company to put blogging under the microscope is NMA. A piece in this week’s issue written by Greg Brooks rehashes much of what has been written online, but then adds a uniquely British spin. So for example he asks Dela Quist from email company Alchemyworx who, surprise surprise, thinks that brands shouldn’t waste their time blogging but look for other formats – err that’ll be email I am guessing. Then Jamie Riddell of digital agency Cheeze adds that other platforms have replaced blogging. Bizarrely he cites Vimeo as an example, a video hosting site that very few Brits will ever have heard of let alone use.

The rest of the piece is, IMO, actually a really useful summary of the blogosphere and its conclusion that the blog market is evolving not dying is something I can concur with.
In fact I would go beyond what Brooks is saying and argue that we may be at the start of a renaissance in blogging.

Firstly let’s have a quick look at those death of blogging scared cows. Yes, fewer people in the US and Europe are blogging these days, but the quality and breadth of topics covered by the blogs remains high. People who two years ago dabbled with blogging are now using other social media tools which they probably feel more comfortable with anyhow.

Secondly a few high profile bloggers have dropped out – most notably Jason Calacanis the founder of Weblogs Inc which developed one of the world’s uber blogs in Engadget. But almost all the other key commentators in tech and media are still blogging. And as for Mr.Calacanis, let’s just say that he’s always up for a good publicity stunt and his quitting blogging announcement did brand Calacanis no harm at all.

Thirdly commercial blogging is in rude health. There are still big money acquisitions going on, most notably The Guardian’s purchase of the media focussed Paid Content group, and most of the blog networks (Gawker and B5 to name but two) have reported very healthy rises in ad revenue for 2008. Gawker, in particular has tightened its belt and cut costs for 2009, but come the recovery its owner Brit Nick Denton will be in a very strong position to take the business forward or perhaps to sell it. He’ll be able to command a huge price for it if, as has been predicted, we see a serious cull in newspapers and magazines in 2009 and 2010. Blog networks are able to produce a lot of high quality content relatively cheaply and that’s a luxury that established media brands with all their associated costs are finding it very difficult to replicate.

Where I think we will see a blogging renaissance in the UK could be in local and channel content. The economics of producing regional newspapers are looking shakier every day and already a number of journalists have lost their jobs. Some of the savvy ones are producing online content for their geographical area. It might take time to build an audience and advertisers (in most instances commercial blogs take the best part of two years before they develop a large enough readership to monetise) but if the journos stick with it they could soon have thriving businesses.
In the channels people who have been blogging for a few years now are starting to reap the rewards. A good example of this is David Murphy who through his blog, MobileMarketingMagazine has solidified his position as an authority in his chosen channel. David told me that he is not only making money through advertising, but the blog has lead to all sorts of opportunities from speaking at conferences through to consultancy. Any freelance journalist worth their salt now needs to be looking beyond the traditional fees they get from publishers. If they can capture a channel in the way that David has they can attract that all important revenue from additional sources.

As for the concept of Twitter killing blogging – well look back over your tweets – how many of them have alerted you to blog posts? Probably quite a few. Twitter feeds off blogging and in many ways provides the blogger with a very potent way of exposing their content to others.

Finally blogging software is now evolving. Brian Gardner and his Revolution concept has enabled WordPress bloggers to keep their blogging sensibilities but develop sites that looks more like traditional websites. There are some great examples on how this can be used and in time they will finally blur the boundaries between what is a blog and what is a website.

At the heart of blogging is a very simple CMS that enables anyone with an idea and a passion for a topic to create content. That is such a potent weapon for any wordsmith that it I am sure it means that blogging will be with us for a very long time.



One response

20 01 2009
Jamie Riddell

I am delighted you concur that the blogging industry is not dieing but evolving. I was worried the piece would try to spin that [because Jason Calacanis no longer blogs] blogging was dead, which we know is not true. Ironically, when Jason publishes something useful he puts it on the blog for wider consumption.

Vimeo is indeed still niche in this country but I am seeing more and more references to and links to which suggests its on the up.

Your final point about CMS is also very true – I would suggest that WordPress is the best CMS ‘out there’ which becomes the benchmark for any other CMS platform regardless of whether it is used for blogging nor not.

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