Six Industry Perspectives on the Future of Blogging

December 10 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 2

A blog (a contraction of the term "Web log") is a website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. - WikipediaThe Future of Blogging

To me, this definition is synonymous with the regular output of thoughts by a human brain to the web, organized by date, which means that blogging is really just a faster way to share ideas.  As such, it marks a critical developmental step in our collective ability to process knowledge.  And it is far from static.

As blogging spreads, the blog industry is also transforming due to evolving technology and market forces. These include a steady influx of ad dollars, more intelligent software and search, and faster computers, to name a few.

When contemplating the future of blogging, it's important to consider 1) informed industry perspectives on the topic, 2) environmental trends, and of course 3) the fundamental socio-economic role of blogging. 

To start, here are some of the widely acknowledged visions of what's next for blogging:

BIGGER AD PIE, LOWER AVERAGE RATES: Morgan Stanley Web guru Mary Meeker has assembled data indicating that both ad impressions and the total value of the web ad market are experiencing strong growth, which is unsurprising as the world grows more intermeshed and more people start blogging.  At the same time, she expects the average price of such ads to drop as inventory (# of websites and blogs) grows.  These trends reflect the fact that more bloggers are making money through generic ad serving apps such as Adsense, ValueClick, AdBrite and Project Wonderful, but that the serious cash is being made by content publishers who reach niche population segments with smarter, focused content that can be paired with highly targeted ads.  This seems quite reasonable and natural as content proliferates and redundancy increases.

CONSOLIDATION of the FITTEST: Michael Arrington, currently the #1 blogger on Earth, is working hard to build out his Tech Crunch blog network according to the assumption that, "The only way to compete with CNet [king of the top-down blog networks] in the long run is to group [proven] writers together. They should be better writers than CNet has because they are all competitive entrepreneurs with a lot of equity at stake.” (Bits Blog) Viewing things from the inside-out, Arrington backs the notion that a specific type of worker (the natural born output super-hero) with a specific voice will dominate the near-term future of blogging as they band together through formal corporations.

The RISE of TARGETED NICHE BLOGGING: Unlike Arrington who believes that the future of blogging is the banding-together of proven bloggers, Rafat Ali, founder of web-based information provider Paid Content, sees a lucrative future in systematically covering a vertical and selling higher-value information directly to trade media.  By gearing a blog toward a specific niche, with the intent to sell information to certain segments of that interest group, Ali has already pushed CPM rates over $100.  Though Paid Content cannot compete with the scale and distribution of Tech Crunch, it has begun to chip away at the basic Reed Elsevier, Nielsen, Incisive and Informa models, proving that bigger isn't always better in the blogging world.

Fred Wilson, currently the #1 VC blogger on Earth, invests in applications like micro-blogging platform Twitter because he believes "we are headed to a world in which everyone will share their lives with the rest of the world via the Internet."  This more topsighted perspective jives nicely with the quick and dramatic rise of phenomena like life-logging, live-blogging, pervasive sensing which are all driving what Esther Dyson refers to as "The Quantification of Everything".  It's firmly backed-up by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's Second Law, a first-hand observation that "next year people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before."

INCREASED COMPETITION and/or TRANSFORMATION : Jevon Macdonald at The Fast Forward Blog sees a future in which the blogging space is eroded by competing bottom-up content.  "The idea of user-generated content was once almost exclusively owned by blogging," writes Macdonald, "Blogging was the conversation, blogging was the vehicle, blogging was the network.  Now blogging plays a very small role in all of those things."  Macdonald is right that competition from new structures such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc is a threat to blogging as we know it.  But from my perspective of blogging as the regular output of thoughts by a human brain to the web, these structures instead take on the appearance of amplifiers that transform the nature of online conversation rather than replacing it.

Macdonald also points out that blogs are are affected by and are playing a central role in "a shift away from production values to immediacy".  Generally speaking, the first to transmit novel information to the web is rewarded with the most pageviews, especially if their analysis and links provide additional value.  This has become the bread & butter strategy of blogs like Tech Crunch, Venture Beat, and Valleywag.  But now micro-blogging platforms like Twitter, real-time citizen video news such as CNN's iReport and aggregated RSS feeds similar to TechMeme are also competing for the worm.  Thus, bloggers are incented to sit by their RSS feeds waiting for new press releases, patent applications or announcements in order to compete for eyeballs.

SUMMARY of the INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE: More bloggers are putting more content online, essentially sharing more information about their lives and environment.  Everyone is incrementally rewarded for this knowledge.  The fastest and most skilled bloggers are paid the most most, but so are well-organized niche information providers.  New technologies and applications are increasing the speed of rich information transfer.

For Part II of this series go to 10 Trends Affecting the Future of Blogging.

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