Sunday, April 18, 2010

A conversation on blogging

KVD, Kangaroo Valley David, is one of my regular readers. His comments have generated a number of posts. This is one more.

In response to Rupert Murdoch and the future of blogging, KVD made some thoughtful observations on blogging. I decided to respond as in a conversation or interview.

KVD: What I really wanted to say was that blogs such as yours, to me, seem to differ in at least three practical ways when compared to mass circulation media:
1) the lack of editorial overview/review and direction
2) the reduced size of the potential audience
3) the “self-feeding” inherent within what seem to be fairly small circles of bloggers.

JB: There are several issues here.

Obviously, blogs like this one are not subject to external editorial oversight. However, this does not mean that bloggers do not exercise their own editorial oversight. In fact, writing on most blogs tends to fall into patterns determined by the blogger's interests. Neil, for example, has a strong focus on climate change, Marcellous on music and law. Both add the personal, as I do too.

However, I must admit to a lack of personal discipline when it comes to this blog. While I, too, write within themes, I end up all over the place. Because I write a lot, I have a blog writing plan, but rarely stick to it.

I am sure that this affects audience. In fact, I know that it does.

Around 75% of the traffic comes from search engines, 20% from return readers, 5% from referrals. When I first started blogging, I focused on building search engine traffic, then on interacting with fellow bloggers. From time to time, I would also consciously write to attract traffic spikes based around current events. Over time, this built up a fair traffic. It was still my personal blog, but my writing was more controlled.

More recently, while return traffic has remained relatively constant, both search engine and referral traffic has declined from the peak levels achieved in 2008. Overall traffic is now stable, but without real growth.

Compare this to New England, Australia. This blog plus New England's History necessarily have a more defined specialist focus. Initially traffic was very low - all search engine. More recently, they have acquired a life of their own measured by return readers, comments and referrals. There is some reader overlap with this blog, but the readership is different. The key here seems to be recognition of my role as an informed commentator on issues New England. So there is a lesson there.

I would agree with you that there is a measure of self-feeding among fairly small circles of bloggers. Previously I have spoken of the village, the way in which small overlapping circles combined to create a sense of broader community.

I see this as a good thing. However, I have a feel to some degree that the community is breaking down a little. I am not sure why.                

KVD: These are not criticisms, just observations – and they are directed towards “personal” blogs, such as yours and Mr Barratt’s, rather than blogs attached to the Crikeys and Huffington Posts of the world. I think there will always be a place for both the mass market and the personal reflections approaches. And I deliberately do not quote your blog title.

I would distinguish blogs such as yours and Mr Barratt’s and Ramana’s from the clipping services provided by some other bloggers which seem to me more to be designed as meeting places for already committed/decided readers to express their already known views via the comments.

The distinguishing feature to me is unfiltered original thought. And for that I politely salute you and both of them. One “problem” is the lack of circulation. But that is only a problem if wider circulation is what you seek, as opposed to personal satisfaction, understanding, fulfillment etc.

JB: We all like to be read!

The blogging world has become more complicated.

From the beginning you had the A list bloggers, those who wrote on particular topics with the intent of attracting traffic and then using this as a base to create revenue. At the other end of the spectrum were the purely personal diaries. In the middle came a variety of subject related blogs and of some of the more serious personal blogs such as the ones we are talking about now.

Group blogs - multi-author - emerged quite early. Then, more recently, the newspapers added blogs. You also had the emergence of syndicated blogs such as the Crikey group formed by grouping existing blogs under one banner to support an on-line publication. A second variant of this I think of as the blog publishers: a central point for multiple blogs and bloggers who actually pay for content. This is usually a pittance. Then you have the clipping services. Meantime, the pure diary type blogs have been in decline, cut off at the base by the new social networking sites.

Another development has been the addition of comment provisions on specific news stories as distinct from the media blogs themselves.

In all this, the role of the true independent blogger has become somewhat diminished. The burn-out rate for all individual blogs is quite high. I know this from my own blog list. It takes a certain degree of insanity to just keep writing! Further, we all have limited reading time, so the more "blogging" style outlets provided by the conventional media, the less time for other sources.

I agree in general with your remark on the comment streams. However, there are some blogs where the comment streams themselves are almost the real content in that they provide information and draw out ideas.

Finally, the Australian blogging world is quite small, despite the apparently large number of blogs. Those who write on particular topics for long enough tend to know or at least know of each other. This can give rise to a degree of in-breeding!

What is missing is something like the now defunct Club Troppo missing link, something that reports on individual Australian blogs and blog posts, thus exposing new or less recognised blogs to a broader audience.         

KVD: I started writing this before your post about Facebook and Twitter. These don’t personally interest me as tools for expression simply because I see them as “closed loops” – i.e groups of like-thinking friends who mainly reinforce (cheer on?) each other’s endeavours. Again – absolutely not a criticism, just an observation.

JB: There is some truth in this. However, and as noted in the post, they (Facebook and Twitter) do serve different purposes. From my perspective as a blogger, a key question remains the best way of using them to support my blogging activities! 


Anonymous said...

kvd4: belsh9 whr u at
belsh9 @kvd4 am thkg i am
kvd4 @belsh9 roks! u thnk so am
kvd4 sry ment so u am
belsh9 hey! gd! cn i uz tht?

I ended a lengthy piece recently about the birth of my first grand daughter thus: “I hope her life is like this email: long, and unedited for correctness”

Wordy I was; prefer this to the foregoing - I do.


Anonymous said...

Even though the former states a greater truth.

Human I am.


Jim Belshaw said...

I did laugh, kvd. One of my problems with your first comment, and I had the same problem when all the strine stuff came out, is that I am a very fast reader. However, this involves pattern recognition. When I get something like this, I have to stop and sound it out.

I have the same problem with my kids shorthand. It takes me longer to read than it does them to write.

And I admire the Wooki phrasing.

Rummuser said...

Your post sums it up nicely and I enjoyed the exchange. I am flattered to be included among people like you! I am often asked as to why I blog. I inevitably answer that it is something that I enjoy doing and I have made a lot of friends doing what I enjoy doing.

Jim Belshaw said...

Ramana, I thought that you caught the personal reason why many of us blog very nicely indeed.