My blog reader stats are down this month! Is it normal? Is it happening to others?
These are some of the panicked comments I’ve read on various blogs lately. Bloggers wondering where have their readers gone? Comforting respondents tell them not to worry. It’s seasonal. It’s just a fluke.
What if it’s not? What if it’s something more sinister. Is blogging dying off, like SnapChat?
According to several sources, the answer is yes. (Bloggers, feel free to freak out now.) And all signs point with very large, sparkling arrows to its replacement being podcasts.
First, video killed the radio star… Then, internet killed the video star… Now podcasts are coming for blogs.
A brief history of blogging
Per usual, I was late to the podcast game. When people started talking about Serial, I thought they were discussing its homophone the breakfast food (cereal). I was also late to the blogging game.
A decade ago, blogging twittered off the tongues of actors on TV or movies (e.g., Ugly Betty). It had a mystique. It was new and interesting. And it never even crossed my mind to try it. I was still caught up in the ‘if it’s not in print it doesn’t matter’ game. And the ‘internet isn’t real writing’ game.
Then the blogging stars emerged and got book deals. (Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, for example). And everyone became a blogger, myself included. Now blogging is a sort of a prerequisite for writers. Don’t have a blog? Are you really a writer? Want to sell your books (or anything)? Better have a blog. (BTW, that’s a total lie.)
If you’re a blogger or a blog reader, you are likely aware of this trajectory. My brief history lesson is meant more to point out that blogging is no longer the shiny new toy. You likely know at least one or two or twenty bloggers personally. If your goal is to get noticed and get a book deal, that time has probably passed. (Sorry!)
If your goal is to reach people with similar interests and create connections, I’d say maybe don’t fret. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, let’s talk about the numbers. What is happening to blogging?
The evidence for the death of blogging
Evidence: Data show blogging is on the decline. (And podcasts are increasing)
According to Google Trends, which tracks Google’s keywords, searches for blogs are on a downward trend. While searches for the word “podcast” are increasing significantly. (Yes, this is a real graph and not something I drew with markers.)
According to data from Edison Research, there has been a steady growth of the podcast community over the last five years. In 2013, around 27% of Americans actively listened to a podcast. In 2016, that figure jumped nearly 10% to 36%.”
Evidence: Millennials are flocking to podcasts, but not reading blogs
“Podcasts are great media for those with short attention spans. And today’s consumer of information has that.” – forbes
Millennials are a generation marked by short attention spans. They tend to have a sort of wanderlust for information, wanting more but not wanting to stay anywhere too long. For example, over 41% of millennials have no patience for text content that is too long. Therefore, it’s not surprising that millennials are abandoning the blog culture in favor of the non-text alternative of podcasts.
Evidence: People want it easy!
According to Sumo Research, the average reader skims through text and fully reads only around 25% of one blog post. In addition, reading is active, even skim reading. It engages the brain. Listening is passive. It’s like TV. How many people come home and immediately pick up a book? Not likely as many as come home and turn on the TV.
Podcasts have a similar appeal to audio books, consumption of which is also significantly increasing. They are portable, versatile and you can listen while folding laundry. The same ease of use cannot be said for a blog.
Therefore, is the increase in podcasts such a surprise?
A question of mutual exclusivity
Are bloggers losing readers to podcasts? Are the two mutually exclusive?
It’s hard to say. Personally, I enjoy blogs and podcasts. I have no intention of abandoning either one. Podcasts are my companion on long, solo car trips and they help me sleep. But blogs and books are my brain food, my connection to the world of thought and deeper discovery.
The pessimists view: The decline in blog popularity is another portend of the ever-decreasing attention span for reading.
In the pessimistic view, the declining popularity of blogging is another portend of the ever-decreasing attention span for reading. People crave flexible, easy to digest media options. Accustomed to the at-your-fingertips information era, we don’t want to work hard for our knowledge. Several studies point to people reading not just less but reading less carefully. We skim. We skip. We want it faster, easier. We don’t want to actually READ that entire blog. In fact, we don’t want to read at all. Let’s listen to a podcast.
(Stay tuned for a non-pessimistic view, my preferred view.)
Why don’t bloggers just switch over to podcasting?
The problem for writers, or at least this writer, is I am SO much better on paper. In person, I’m a spaz (or at least I sound like one in my head). And not an interesting, endearing spaz. Speaking freely for me comes with consequences, like tossing and turning all night while I dissect every single syllable of conversation.
Mine is not a world of off-the-cuff discussions of murder or funny anecdotes about my ride with a crazy cab driver. Mine is a world of word meditation. Read. Re-read. Revise. Revise. Revise. Revise! This is where I am comfortable.
Of course, there are fully thought-out, scripted podcasts delivered through the titillating voices of charismatic speakers.
Fully thought-out: Yes, goes along with writing.
Scripted: Sure, writing.
Charismatic speaker: No. (See spaz comment above.)
This is not mere conjecture. I know I would be a terrible podcast host because I have tried. A little while ago a fellow writer and I dabbled in the idea of a podcast/vlog. (Short story: She was adorable. I sucked. Thus ended the very embarrassing attempt, which we shall discuss no further.)
Is blogging really dead?
The optimist’s view: Blogging has ditched the trend-followers and is in the processes of settling into an established, stable medium catering to a community of people with a shared desire to think, read and learn.
Here’s the optimist’s view. I like to view blogging not as dead or even on death’s door. I like to view it as established. Podcasts are the fresh trend, the shiny new object. Like its predecessor, many will play with it for a while and eventually, it too will level off. While, conversely, blogging has settled into the comfy role of elder statesman. Useful, purposeful and beloved by those who appreciate thought and discussion. Over the last decade, blogging weeded out the trend-followers in favor of a devoted fan base.
Blogging is a community. And a pretty great one. Podcasts can kill the blogging stars, but not the blogging spirit.
What about you?
So what about you, fellow bloggers and blog readers, have you been hooked by the podcasting trend? Has your blogging suffered because of it? (Take the poll! I just learned how to insert them and I’m giddy with excitement over it!)