3 Predictions for Blogging in 2016
2015 was a pretty big year for blogging.
Honestly, EVERY year lately seems to have been a big year for blogging: people have been predicting that the “bubble” will burst for as long as I can remember, but so far it hasn’t happened and this year blogging seems to have become bigger than ever. There are SO many blogs out there now: so many people starting out, going pro, or deciding that THIS will be the year they start earning money from their blogs. I feel like if 2014 was the year blogging became more mainstream, 2015 was the year everyone and their uncle decided to jump on the bandwagon: which leaves me wondering where 2016 will take us?
Here are some of my predictions for how blogging will develop in 2016:
More bloggers will close their comment sections – or never open them in the first place.
I know this has been a recurring theme on my blog all year, but the truth is hard to ignore: comments are dying. For whatever reason (and there are plenty of very good reasons why people don’t comment, so please take this simply as an observation, not as a guilt-trip!), people just don’t want to communicate with bloggers in their comment sections, and even when you know it’s not personal, it’s incredibly demotivating to write something and get no response. Because of that, I think it’s likely that more and more bloggers will start closing comments altogether: there’s a growing feeling that there’s no point in having a comment form on your site if people don’t want to use it: and seeing that big ol’ zero staring you in the face every time you look at your recent post can make you want to give up altogether.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m planning on closing comments here – I have absolutely no intention of doing that. But I think a lot of bloggers will start to go down that route, and just accept that if the conversation has moved to social media, they may as well move with it. Not only is a low comment count a disincentive to write more, it’s also quite off-putting to brands, who see it as a sign that the blogger isn’t managing to engage their audience, even if they have great traffic. For that reason alone, I think 2016 could see the beginning of the end of blog comments: I really hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see…
A move towards selling digital products rather than advertising
Most bloggers will tell you that it’s increasingly difficult to make a living from advertising these days. Readers hate display ads, don’t trust sponsored posts, and go out of their way to avoid clicking on affiliate links – so what’s a blogger to do? Well, given that blogging can be incredibly time-consuming, and that not all of us can afford to put that amount of time into it without getting at least something back, I think that in 2016 we’ll start to see a move towards bloggers selling products rather than advertising. Ebooks, training courses, downloadables – perhaps even physical products, for those who have the skill, or financial backing.
Related to this, I also think we’ll see an increasing use of plugins which prevent people with adblock from accessing blogs – at least from people who need to make a living from it. You might think that sounds greedy or unfair, but you could ALSO argue that it’s unfair to actively try to prevent someone from making a living from something they spend a lot of time on (and which you’re able to consume for free), so I think ultimately you have to ask yourself if you want blogs to be free to read, or simply free of advertising: you can’t always have it both ways, as nice as that would be.
(Again, I’m not planning on installing those plugins myself: I do think it’s something that will start to become more common, though.)
Brands will stop trusting social media stats
We all know that some bloggers buy social media followers, but this year I’ve been quite amazed to witness just how far some people are willing to go in order to artificially inflate their stats. This was the year “spam for spam” became a Thing, with bloggers agreeing to follow each other on various platforms, purely to increase their numbers. I see a lot of this in the blogger groups I’m a member of – people will start “follow for follow” threads where you’re expected to follow everyone on the list, so they’ll follow you in return – and I think if things continue this way, it will end up rendering social media stats meaningless.
Not only is “spam for spam” completely worthless to the blogger (you might get extra followers, but they’re followers who will never visit your blog or engage with it), the fact is that brands and their reps aren’t stupid: it’s not hard to work out that if someone has a million Facebook followers, but doesn’t get any interaction at all on their posts, that something is up with that, and when people are willing to spend so much time manipulating their traffic, begging for follows and then chasing up people who were supposed to follow them but didn’t, brands will be forced to find another way to decide who they want to work with.
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Of course, all of this is pure conjecture on my part, because who really knows what 2016 will bring? If you have any predictions of your own, though, I’d love to hear them!
[P.S. I was actually a little bit reluctant to publish this now because I started working on this post a few weeks ago, saved it to draft because I thought it would be better as an “end of the year” post… and then a bunch of other bloggers all had the same idea, and beat me to it. So now I feel a bit like a copycat, and I really hope it doesn’t come across like that: although the idea is the same I don’t think the predictions are, but I promise any similarities are entirely co-incidental!]