Blogging is close to our heart, the beauty of the written word never fails to add more clarity to our thoughts. But blogging has undergone a sea of change, even while the digital world is speculating on whether it’s dead.
Blogs, as we know them, are certainly extinct. That independent voice on the web that was strengthened post by post, and that which led to heated discussions in its comments section, that often went viral on the social web, is clearly nonexistent now.
That, however, does not mean blogging itself is dead; it has only transformed into a new and multi-faceted avatar. As we cross over to a new year, we try and figure what blogging has transformed into, and what future blogs could look like.
Blogging, then and now: The age of content creators
The very world of ‘blogging’ as we knew it has ceased to exist a long time ago, but content creators are growing by the day. Old time bloggers migrated to other virtual lands in search of readers. Back in 2008, when Facebook became very popular here, it claimed everyone from Orkut, Yahoo groups and major blogging platforms. Blog comments, discussions, scraps, all gave way to likes, shares and FB comments. The Facebook status update became the right place to blog, no more did they have to ‘share’ their blog post on Facebook.
Meanwhile, a new species of bloggers had evolved and they began infesting the virtual space in large numbers. They blogged too often – sometimes even several times in a day; they began to be called the micro-bloggers who weaved magic within 140-characters, on a platform called Twitter. The ones who’ve ‘cracked the medium’ found a massive number of followers, with many having as much as a million followers. They have now been crowned as ‘social media influencers’.
Others who are only into photo blogs or video blogs went into either Tumblr, Instagram or YouTube. Now they too have evolved and become influencers or stars on the platform.
Music creators, songwriters no more need to embed audio-streams into their blog, they have a SoundCloud all for themselves, where listeners can add their thoughts to any part of the audio.
Live video streaming is in, Periscope is the new cool. 2015 in particular, also saw the rise of ephemeral apps like Snapchat emerge as a powerful self-expression tool for millennials. Now they can post something and then have it disappear!
For the still-textually-inclined folks, there are specialized blogging platforms like Medium, promising a serious community of readers. One can leave comments even at paragraphs. Medium has some of the world’s top thinkers and doers sharing their thoughts with the community. Highly viral articles are picked up by mainstream publications too.
Content distribution: The last hurdle
Blogging has just become more specialized with new platforms having emerged to cater to every need. While creating content worked like a charm, spreading it to your target audience has turned into an uphill task.
There was a time when content creators were a happy lot after having spent hours writing that massive post detailing everything, all they had to do now to reach out to the online world, was use free distribution networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. But, that has been curtailed too.
Organic reach became a thing of the past. Facebook ensured your blog did not touch all your fan’s timelines; you needed to pay to reach out to your own fan base!
Moreover in 2015, Facebook and LinkedIn – the world’s biggest social network and the world’s biggest professional network respectively – transformed into ‘publishers’ themselves. They are no longer looking to give you free link backs. Read: How Social Networks Evolved From Helping Publishers To Becoming The New Publishing Platforms
LinkedIn Pulse, that began life by inviting some of the top influencers on LinkedIn to pen down their thoughts, then evolved to letting every member share their posts for a wider reach, is now ineffective for crossposting too.
Along with cutting down referral traffic further, 2015 also saw the emergence of Facebook Instant Articles, Facebook’s grand attempt at helping publishers. Now publishers have a format for creating rich media stories on Facebook itself.
Besides, Facebook Video is out to woo all video creators and giving a stiff competition to YouTubes of the world. Facebook is also revamping the more or less dead Notes and shaping it up as a clone of Medium. So going forward you want to blog and get a bigger reach then Notes would be the answer.
2016 and beyond: Content discovery – The biggest problem of the Information Age
What this means for content marketers is increased challenges in discovery. Facebook might be a great place to blog and is still the major source of traffic for content creators, but its role as a distribution channel has ended. Facebook and LinkedIn both want to be our blogs now!
In 2016, blog distribution will get extremely difficult as the funnel is dead. Content creators would need to find multiple ways to distribute content and be happy without referral traffic. They would need to find their niche content and identify the best network to reach out to a maximum of their TG. Read: How Facebook & LinkedIn Are Quietly Slashing Referral Traffic Hurting Publishers
Else, they would have to succumb to the conditions of publishing giants like Facebook, LinkedIn and the others.
Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page) project and WordPress plugin could be a saviour but it is too early to say how it will shape. The open source initiative aims to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web.
Email marketing still holds the key in 2016. An email database is your very own social network, nobody can sabotage that. It is still an effective distribution channel to your subscribers. So growing it wisely is a good practice to follow this year but be prepared for the challenges posed by a 5 inch screen.
2016 marks an important transition year, one where the world has mastered ‘Content Creation’ but for distribution it would either need innovation or heavy ad spends. Simply put, the good old days of blogging and fetching readers on the quality of your content is over.