Blogs wane as young drift to Facebook, Twitter
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
February 21, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO -- Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.
''I don't use my blog anymore," said McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. "All the people I'm trying to reach are on Facebook."
Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people - particularly the younger generation.
The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.
Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.
Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging - to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats - that Merriam-Webster declared "blog" the word of the year in 2004.
Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a website on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.
Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.
Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.
No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause - all the things a blog was intended to do.
Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women's blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said. "If you're looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs," Camahort Page said. "You aren't going to find it on Facebook, and you aren't going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter."
Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services. "The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well - even more so than at the dawn of blogging," Rainie said. "It's just morphing onto other platforms."
The blurring of lines is readily apparent among users of Tumblr. Although Tumblr calls itself a blogging service, many of its users are unaware of the description and do not consider themselves bloggers - raising the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.
Kim Hou, a high school senior in San Francisco, said she quit blogging months ago, but acknowledged that she continued to post fashion photos on Tumblr. "It's different from blogging because it's easier to use," she said. "With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that's it."
The effect is seen on the companies providing the blogging platforms. Blogger, owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the United States in December than it had a year earlier - a 2 percent decline, to 58.6 million - although globally, Blogger's unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million.
LiveJournal, another blogging service, has decided to emphasize communities. Connecting people who share an interest in celebrity gossip, for instance, provides the social interaction that "classic" blogging lacks, said Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal, which is owned by SUP, a Russian online media company. "Blogging can be a very lonely occupation; you write out into the abyss," she said.
But some blogging services like Tumblr and WordPress seem to have avoided any decline. Toni Schneider, chief executive of Automattic, the company that commercializes the WordPress blogging software, explains that WordPress is mostly for serious bloggers, not the younger novices who are defecting to social networking.
In any case, he said bloggers often use Facebook and Twitter to promote their blog posts to a wider audience. Rather than being competitors, he said, they are complementary.
''There is a lot of fragmentation," Schneider said. "But at this point, anyone who is taking blogging seriously - they're using several mediums to get a large amount of their traffic."
While the younger generation is losing interest in blogging, people approaching middle age and older are sticking with it. Among 34-to-45-year-olds who use the Internet, the percentage who blog increased six points, to 16 percent, in 2010 from two years earlier, the Pew survey found. Blogging by 46-to-55-year-olds increased five percentage points, to 11 percent, while blogging among 65-to-73-year-olds rose two percentage points, to 8 percent.
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