December 10 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Information Year: General Rating: 3
In a previous post I examined Six Industry Perspectives of the Future of Blogging. To build on these, here's a list of less frequently discussed environmental trends and potential disruptors that may also play a big role in the evolution of the field:
1. The LAW of ACCELERATING RETURNS: Yes, the costs of various blog-related technologies are dropping quickly, but you may be surprised by how fast this is occurring across pretty much all fields. Ray Kurweil's Law of Accelerating Returns is a nice umbrella paradigm for the lightning fast pace of innovations in areas such as computing (doubling every 18 months - Moore's Law), interface (high-end screens approach human visual reality by 2015 - Smith's Law), image capture (affordable Flip cams now come in HD), search (Google's database steadily returning better results for longer queries), speech-to-text translation (Dragon's high-end software already is 95% accurate. Among other things, Google's database of audio search queries will help accelerate this.) , etc. Though Kurzweil's Law may flatten out at some point, there are enough amazing developments on the immediate horizon to plan for a crazy decade that thoroughly transforms blogging.
2. EXPONENTIAL DATA: Parallel to technology, the total amount of data on the planet is growing at an exponential rate. Much of this can be attributed to the growing number of sensors and input devices (linked by the expanding web) that permit people to post more information online. If this trend is to continue, it's highly likely that it will be supported by a massive increase in blogging by humans.
3. QUANTIFICATION: As data proliferates, humans are incented to sort it all into meaningful knowledge. Much of this is accomplished by piecing together systems representations of different environments, locations, historical events, technologies, and human behavior. As it becomes more widely recognized that such quantification is economically rewarded, it's likely that much blog output will be structured to fit into such models (it already is - ie Wikipedia).
4. BETTER BRAIN-to-CONTENT MATCHES: Better search, semantic matching and social filtering all mean that it's getting easier and cheaper to more quickly locate the information that interests us the most. This impacts blogging by 1) decreasing the amount of time required for research and ups post context and quality, and 2) altering the content marketplace by shifting traffic from redundant or sub-par blog posts to the posts that better match the desire of the searcher.
5. INCREASING GRANULARITY of INFO: RSS and news filters (Future Scanner, Digg) are good examples of small pieces of larger content that can be consumed quickly or followed to the original source. Standard web copyright protocol limits the snippets that can be taken to 2 sentences, unless otherwise specified by Creative Commons license. It seems likely that a confluence of better search (speedier plagiarism detection), more granular advertising models (in-text ads, automatic % based ad-share, etc) and perhaps new content sharing licenses will enable the freer flow of content segments.
6. NICHE AD SERVING/SYNDICATION NETWORKS: Structures like Glam Media (men's and women's content) and Federated Media (technology discussions) are successful examples of ad serving networks that provide ad dollars and some additional traffic to participating blogs by leveraging network effects. As others mimic these models, they will discover ways to return more value to their blog constituents. This may occur through 1) even more focused content structures that return higher CPM, 2) syndication deals resulting in additional revenue arranged by the parent networks, 3) content-sharing agreements that allow network members greater access to related media, 4) editorial feedback / advice, 5) packaging and marketing of materials derived from blog content, and so forth. Though different elements will be more or less important to different network participants, successful models will all create a more favorable cost:value proposition.
7. CENTRALIZATION of CONTENT: Just as niche ad serving networks rise in popularity, so too will macro structures that return value to bloggers. Early examples include Wikia, which allows contributors to monetize their own pages in exchange for limited syndication rights, and Google's Knol, a wikipedia competitor that pays contributors for the ads that appear beside their submissions. Though both efforts aren't doing all that great right now, I expect it they will pick up steam as better search and content monetization protocols greatly reduce the cost of submitting content by essentially automating the process.
8. LIFE-STREAMING: Considering how competition is built into life systems, Fred Wilson may be overly absolutist about social transparency, but he's dead right about the present-day trend toward sharing a great deal more about our lives. A quick look at blogging, micro-blogging, social networking and a new phenomenon called life-streaming reinforces this. Life-streaming, in particular, has the potential to become highly lucrative as the data mined from our moment-to-moment experiences can more easily be converted into monetizable and personally useful content. By 2015 we'll all be able to cheaply record our behavior and conversations, then easily search our life-logs (aka rich transcripts) for content that we then want to post. This will fundamentally alter how people use blogs and generate content. Everyone will be their own broadcast media station, with selective control over the output.
9. THE DEATH OF NEWSPAPERS? Newspapers as we know them are on the way out. They may well survive in some other form, such as customizable print-outs or as bendable digital screens, but in both cases their core existence will shift to a digital format. This disruption presents a huge opportunity for blogs that can either supply some of the content "broadcast" through newspapers (it's happening already: Tech Crunch/Wash Post, Read Write Web/NYTimes) or even become the newspapers themselves. Of course, this fate is not reserved for newspapers alone. Expect much old media to be converted over into new web-based digital media.
10. EVOLUTION of ADVERTISING: What SciVestor CEO Jonas Lamis forecasts to be The End of Advertising will be, imo, a transition from more-or-less undesirable display advertising to more useful, targeted, solicited advertising largely based on interest and social network context. From the bloggers perspective, this means we should expect semantic, search and social technologies to better pair advertising with content of all formats (large, small, and mixed) and that we'll have more control over how and when that advertising appears. This emerging hyper-fluid ad market will gradually change the way that bloggers package and market their content.
CONCLUSION(S): Blogging, the art of writing our thoughts to the web, is a new mode of communication critical to our accelerating system. It is an essential catalyst for the ongoing quantification of everything and the development of human knowledge. Over the next decade we're likely to see blogging increase in volume, quality and value, especially as rich media output becomes easier and nets more financial and personal returns. As old media fades out, new top-down and bottom-up models, including federations of bloggers, will emerge to claim the advertising and syndication market-share. In the end, nearly all humans will blog in some way or another, but the path to full transparency will be met with great resistance. But public or commercial blogging will become lucrative even as redundant info is commoditized.
In short, the future of blogging is very bright, yet highly complex and variable (as are most futures in the acceleration era).
No doubt I've missed some glaringly obvious trends (such as discussion thread portability, tiers of transparency, the increasing use of blogs for PR and local purposes, accelerated fact-checking / reputation scoring, etc) . If you can think of any others please let me know in the comments so that I can add them to forthcoming pieces, including Part III of this series, an set of scenarios for the world of blogging circa 2015.