Is Instagram killing blogs?
Guys, I’m scared.
I’m scared because lately I feel like I can’t open my laptop without coming across another article on how Instagram is killing blogging – and, unlike all of the other times people have cheerfully predicted the death of blogging – this time I feel like they might just have a point.
(Don’t worry, I’m going to caveat that statement. It’s probably going to take me about 2,000 words or so to do it, though, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Hey, I wonder why some people prefer INSTAgra to blogging? It’s a real mystery, for sure.)
(Also, everything I’m about to say, Elizabeth and Catherine have already said better. I’m still going to stick my oar in anyway, though, because AS IF I’d be able to resist giving you my long-winded thoughts on the potential death of the industry I rely on to pay my mortgage every month. AS IF, people.)
Actually, those two paragraphs above basically sum up why so many people are abandoning blogs for Instagram right now. The fact is, Instagram is, well, INSTANT. It’s kind of the whole point, really. If this blog post was an Instagram upload, you’d already have scrolled past it and moved onto the next thing, having gotten all you needed to know from a photo and maybe a short caption. Instead, you’re going to have to patiently wait for me to get to the point of this post – if I ever do – and that’s going to take a bit more time, isn’t it?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to convince yourself you don’t really HAVE the time it’ll take you to read this post. I mean, when Twitter increased their character limit from 140 to 280, people were APPALLED. “BUT WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ 280 CHARACTERS!” they cried. “THIS IS INTOLERABLE!” And this is what bloggers are up against these days. When people can’t even spare the few SECONDS it takes to read a TWEET, there’s absolutely no way they’re going to spare a few MINUTES to read a blog post, are they?
(I really fear for the future of literature, by the way. Like, I’m guessing the people who complained about Twitter’s 280 characters have never read a book? Or even a magazine article, say?)
(Um, magazines were basically lots and lots of Instagram posts, all pasted together and printed on actual paper, just FYI. I feel the need to explain that, because the magazine industry is looking pretty dead these days too – and for much the same reasons.)
And this is why people are predicting the death of blogging.
The fact is, it’s just far easier to log onto Instagram when you want to pass a bit of time online, isn’t it? Or on your phone, rather – because that’s how most people consume content these days, and Instagram lends itself to that much better than blogs do. That’s another reason it’s being declared the new king of content creation/consumption.
Is it REALLY, though? is Instagram REALLY killing blogging, and how worried should bloggers like me be, if so?
Well, so far the signs aren’t great, to be honest. Lately it seems like more and more bloggers are shutting up shop, and moving over to Instagram, where they find they’re getting much more engagement, and just a more satisfying experience all round. As I said in my post on why blogs fail, blogging is hard – and it’s only getting harder. Comments are drying up: all too often, bloggers spend hours working on a post, only to get absolutely zero response to it – which is so discouraging that it makes them much less likely to want to write another one. Far easier to just head over to Instagram and upload a photo – which will almost instantly start getting likes and comments. What’s more, Instagram doesn’t require you to build and host a website, or to pay for a domain name: it’s just easier all round, really – no wonder bloggers are being seduced by it. It is, after all, where their audience is currently hanging out – and you have to go where the readers are if you actually want your work to be read.
It’s also where the brands are right now, too.
Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a huge increase in the number of brands approaching me for Instagram collaborations, and at the time of writing, I’d say I get more enquiries from people who want me to promote them on my Instagram account than on my blog. This might sound like the dream – I mean, who WOULDN’T want to get paid to use Instagram, right? – but, actually, it’s pretty bad news for people like me, whose strength is in writing, rather than in photography. The fact is, taking outfit photos, say, for an Instagram post, takes exactly the same amount of time as taking them for a blog post. Sure, actually uploading the finished photos to Instagram is much quicker and easier than writing a blog post, but the photography process itself is still pretty time-consuming, and requires two people’s time (Mine and Terry’s) to drive to a photo location and do the shoot – not to mention the time spent styling the outfit etc.
As my time is so limited these days, I can’t afford not to charge for that: but because I don’t have a huge Instagram following, I can’t charge nearly as much for a post there as I can for a post here on the blog. And this is why I worry about all of these dire predictions about the death of blogging and the rise of Instagram. For me, switching to Instagram isn’t really an option: I just don’t have the following there that would allow me to make the same amount I do from blogging, so if blogging really IS dead, that’s obviously pretty scary.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think it is.
Or not for me, anyway.
Obviously, every case is different, but so far I’m not really seeing much of an impact from the so-called “death” of blogging. (SO FAR.) I’m still earning money from it. My traffic has remained steady. I might be getting more and more approaches about Instagram collaborations, but I’m still getting enough people interested in appearing on the blog, too, to make it worth my while to keep doing this. Even if I didn’t, I’d STILL want to blog: because, as I said in last week’s post, writing is my passion – always has been, always will be. If I stopped making money tomorrow, I’d keep on blogging – maybe not in quite the same way I do now, of course, but there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll always want to document my life: and that I’ll want to do it in longform prose, rather in single images with snappy captions. (Or perhaps it would be fairer to say AS WELL AS in single images – I do obviously use and enjoy Instagram, too…)
The fact is, some of us just want to WRITE… and others of us just want to READ. Instagram may currently be enjoying its moment in the sun, for all of the reasons I gave above, but there are still plenty of people reading blogs – and they’ll only STOP reading blogs when they stop being interested in reading longer, more in-depth pieces of writing than they can get from apps like Instagram, which fulfils a totally different need. (And it’s not an either/or kind of need, either: it’s possible to love Instagram AND love blogs – I certainly do…)
Will there come a day when NO ONE wants to read those longer pieces of writing? I mean, I guess it’s possible: but I just don’t see it happening. In my case, I actually find that my longer posts tend to be the ones that get the best response: they’re certainly the ones that get the most interesting and thoughtful comments (Not just the “LOVE THIS!” that’s so comment on Instagram…), and they’re also the ones that allow me to build relationships with the people who read and relate to them. They’re definitely not for everyone – I totally get that. Neither, though, is Instagram. Not everyone, after all, wants all of their content to come in the form of pretty pictures or short, disappearing Stories. Not everyone is even ON Instagram: there are, in fact, still plenty of people out there who don’t use social media AT ALL, and while I think it can be easy to get swept up in whatever the latest trend happens to be, I also think there’s a lot to be said for playing to your strengths, and not just attempting to jump aboard every single bandwagon that comes along. You can’t really hope to appeal to EVERYONE, after all, or to excel on every single platform, and while I 100% believe that bloggers have to be prepared to change and adapt if they want to survive, I’m just not convinced that abandoning blogging altogether is the best way to do it.
It could, in fact, be pretty risky. The thing is, blogging killed magazines, and now Instagram is killing blogging. But who will kill Instagram, that’s the question? Because SOMEONE will, eventually. Look at Facebook, Snapchat, and MySpace, if you don’t believe me: at one point they, too, were being declared the be-all-and-end-all of social media, and now? Now, not so much. To be fair to Instagram, it does seem to be managing to buck the trend – SO FAR – but even if it does continue to gain strength, I’d be surprised if it lasts forever, and the problem with that is that, when Instagram finally “dies”, so does your following there. Which is bad news if that’s how you’re choosing to make a living, isn’t it?
A blog, at the end of the day, is just a website which happens to be arranged in a certain way – and which can be changed, and made to work in a DIFFERENT way, if its owner so desires. I’m repeating what other bloggers have written before me here, but I own my blog: I don’t own Instagram. I can do anything I want with my blog – on Instagram, I’m totally at the mercy of the algorithm, and have no say whatsoever on how my content appears. Finally – and most importantly for me – if my web host went bust tomorrow, I could have this site back up and running within 24 hours, without many of my readers even realising anything had happened. If Instagram goes bust, on the other hand, I’ll lose 14,000 followers, and will have to start building that following again from scratch on whatever the next big social platform happens to be.
I’m, er, not going to do that, needless to say.
Instead, I’m going to stick to blogging – and hope that enough of my readers will stick with it too, to make it continue to be worth my while. I’m ALSO going to continue to use Instagram (Because the point of this post isn’t to diss Instagram, by the way: I LOVE Instagram, and use it constantly – I’m just not planning to make it my main focus anytime soon), but, as I said, no matter how much time I spend on Stories right now (And I spend a LOT of time on Instagram Stories right now…), at the end of the day, there’s always going to come a point where I want to put down my phone and WRITE. When something interesting happens to me – or, er, even something not even remotely interesting – my instinct is to write about it. It’s always been that way for me, and I suspect it always will.
Would I like to be able to make bank from Instagram? You better believe it. I’d LOVE to have half a million followers, and brands falling over themselves to throw Insta money at me: but, the fact is, I don’t. (And even if I did, I’d still see it as an addition to my blogging business, rather than a replacement for it.) Because Instagram is not where my skill or my passion lies, and it’s probably better that I admit that, and play to my strengths, than try to turn my focus to a platform I honestly don’t have much success with.
So, I’m not going to be quitting my blog for Instagram: but I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about the current shift away from longform content and towards short, snappy Stories and beautiful Insta grids. As I said above, I’m fortunate in that it’s not having an impact on my blog so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something to be aware of. Ultimately, bloggers WILL have to be willing to adapt if they want to keep the attention of their increasingly time-poor audience. And as for how they do that? Well, that’s another post for another time: but I can tell you for sure that you’ll be able to read it here, rather than on the ‘gram…