I'm not going to ponder whether blogging has a future – because I obviously think it has one. People still feel a need to present their more structured or definite thoughts in one place, distinct from the places where they pose questions, copy cartoons, tell jokes or provoke spontaneous discussions about right-wing infiltration of Occupy. This contribution, for instance, is going to be cross-posted to my WordPress blog – whereas 99% of what I (and most others) contribute on social networks doesn't strike me as begging for any degree of immortality at all.
But blogs have definitely ceased to occupy the territory many people somewhat naively continue to associate with them. What they once almost were is something they no longer much resemble: alternative publications as standalone entities somehow mimicking the traditional media – but full of fresh impetus and surprise. That's still what they look like
, but it's not what they do
In reality, except for the chosen few, blogs don't get read or commented unless they are part of a communicational mesh – part of the author's virtual mesh, but part of the reader's, too. Very few people regularly visit a blog site the way they flock to the Guardian's online fortress. If truth be told, I even suspect the Guardian is noticing the same thing and that the number of people doggedly going to their front page every day is decreasing, whereas overall readership is probably growing quite healthily. Nowadays, readers increasingly visit specific items rather than revered institutions. Most people under the age of 25 probably do little else, whereas some of us geezers still feel duty-bound to check certain established sources on a vaguely regular basis. But even we are doing less of it – we're following other people's links instead.
The point I'm getting at? That your latest blog article is actually least likely to be found via your blog's homepage and very much more liable to be passed around as one such link, probably starting with your own efforts to advertise it on Twitter and Facebook. Which is all very fine and the way people do things nowadays – except that the links aren't always particularly successful in soliciting comments. There's something about leaving the (true) social networks to read someone's blog that feels like entering a church. There's a pastor here, who is actually the person doing most of the talking. Participation isn't equal, in fact it's very visibly and tangibly unequal and possibly even censored. The erstwhile revolution of comment streams, once the main attraction of blogs, doesn't look all that motivating any more. Compared with discussion on the contact-based social networks, it's far too hierarchical, far too much like a prophet-disciple relationship. Some guy gets to talk at you... and to respond at all, you get a little grey box with a captcha task to solve – then wait for your contribution to be approved by powers you often have difficulty recognising as power-worthy.
So to go a step further, perhaps linking your blog to your online social mesh isn't really sufficient after all. Putting ads all over Facebook and Twitter no longer constitutes real integration – it's retroactive, not seamless (and people receive it that way). To put your blog bang in the middle
of your networking activities, maybe that is where it needs to start out – within the social networks, rather than grafted on to them. You can read more about that here: http://friendicablog.wordpress.com/
In effect, your blog site does cease to be a primary venue (but to be honest, it probably stopped working as one yonks ago). Instead, it becomes a showcase of the things you consider special enough to preserve and present in a slightly more exalted way to the rest of your communication – more like your photo album than like the events and objects the photos actually depict. By the time people notice an article there, the bulk of your real
readership will have been and gone – discussion having taken place on other platforms. But that's fine, isn't it? The main thing is that it happened, and that it's still visible. Your blog site
is the castle of your past, rather than the marketplace of your present and future. It still has purpose, but that purpose may be rather less vivid and more conservational than you originally assumed. Your blog itself is a different matter. But it's in the articles as they emerge, not in the place where they are presented.