My blog might be shutting down: here’s what I’m doing to save it…
Up until last week, I wasn’t hugely worried about AI; or I was, but in a vague, Scarlett O’Hara-ish, I’ll think about that tomorrow kind of way. So, I knew it was coming, and I knew it was something I should probably be worrying about, but maybe not THAT much, really, because here’s what Google’s Bard came up with when my husband asked it to write a few paragraphs about me, out of sheer curiosity:
It’s a bit like that “Two Truths and a Lie” game Terry’s always trying to get people to play, only in this case it’s more like “One and a-Half Truths and a Whole Lot of LOLs.” So, the first and last points are correct (The last one being the half truth: I would no longer describe myself as a ‘shoe addict’ but that does sound like something I’d have said a few years ago, so I’ll let it go), but… a keen cook and baker? FOOTBALL? FOOTBALL, people?!
For the record, I can’t stand football — or ANY kind of sport, really. I do not give a single shiny shit about Hibernian Football Club, and am pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned them ANYWHERE on the Internet; or even thought about them, for that matter. My lack of interest in cooking and baking is legendary amongst my friends and family, and although I do love to travel, I can only dream of visiting 50 countries, so no idea where it got that idea from, either.
(I mean, I obviously AM “a talented and successful woman who is making a positive impact upon the world,” yadda yadda yadda, but we didn’t need an AI to tell us THAT, and, honestly, it was just cruel of Terry and my parents to roll around on the floor laughing when they read that bit. I don’t know why they thought that was funny? AHEM.)
So, I wasn’t all that worried about AI, then. I figured that if it was going to be a threat to me it was probably not going to happen until some distant point in the future — and then last week, Google announced a change to their search engine, and, WHAM, the future was HERE. And, just as we’d all feared, it was, indeed, filled with scary robots, come to steal our jobs and shut down our blogs.
And, okay, NOW I’m scared.
Here comes a boring, vaguely techy bit that you can just scroll past if you like…
Until now, any time you typed something into the Google search, Google would respond with a list of websites it figured might contain the answer you were looking for. Last week, however, they announced an update which means that, at some point in the near future, when you type a query into Google, you’ll get an AI generated answer, instead. Like this:
So, they’ve basically eliminated the need to visit an actual website, in other words. Which is very, very bad news for those of us with content-based websites — like blogs, for instance — because if no one ever visits our websites, then it’s no longer possible for those websites to survive. It’s as simple as that.
And, of course, it’s not quite as bleak as all that. There are still normal search results underneath this huge, AI-generated response, and there are some (presumably paid) links in the top corner. I’m sure some people will choose to scroll past the AI bit and click on the links underneath (especially if the results are as accurate as the example above…), but a lot won’t. That much is certain.
The figure I keep seeing being bandied around in this discussion is that most publishers can expect to see a drop in traffic of around 50% once this change kicks in. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it was even more that, but even if it is “only” 50%, losing that much traffic literally overnight will be enough to put many publishers out of business and force them to shutter their sites altogether.
And that’s the situation we’re currently facing.
I should probably add here that this is all conjecture so far. Until it happens, we don’t know for sure exactly how this change will play out for the blogging/content industry. One thing I do know, however, is that, even without this potential spanner in the works, my blog has been struggling for a while now; to the extent that, a couple of years ago, I was forced to start taking on ghostwriting work, and then switch to writing my own books, in order to supplement my income.
I also know that, quite simply, my site will not survive a 50% drop in traffic. It’s already close to the point where it will start costing me more than it makes, and when we reach that point, it’s goodnight Forever Amber, basically.
For the last year or so, I’ve been doing as much as I can to avoid this happening. I know the lack of new content makes it seem like I’ve just let it go, but I’ve actually been working really hard (Or as hard as I can in the very limited time available to me these days) in the background to try to turn things around, by working on the posts in the archive, which is where most of my traffic comes from.
The fact is, there used to be a time when people would read blogs by bookmarking the homepage and visiting every day or so to check for new posts, or by subscribing in a reader of some kind (RIP, Google Reader: gone, but never forgotten…), but those days are long gone, sadly. Nowadays, around 95% of my traffic comes from people typing things like “how to walk in high heels” or “how to sleep in rollers” into Google, and landing on the posts I’ve written on those topics. So I’ve been doing my best to improve those older posts, so they bring in more traffic and therefore more revenue; but now it seems all of those efforts have been in vain, because no matter how good my content is, Google isn’t going to show it to people when it can show them an AI generated answer instead.
I’ll be honest: I’m pretty gutted by all of this.
As some of you know, I launched my blog back in 2006, and it’s been a huge part of my life — not to mention a huge part of my income — ever since. My blog has documented the last 17 years of my life: from my wedding and honeymoon, through numerous house floods and other catastrophes, all the way to my pregnancy with Max, and those first few weeks of parenthood. There’s been random acts of stupidity, a couple of unfortunate eyelash incidents, and even an international man of mystery.
Through all of this, the blog has been there for me. I thought it always would be there for me, and the thought that soon it might not be has been… well, it’s been a LOT, let’s just put it that way. A LOT.
But it’s not all bad news. I mean, it IS overwhelmingly bad news, obviously: let’s not kid ourselves here. But with every change comes an opportunity, and that’s how I’m trying to look at this for now. For one thing, this is still, as I said, mostly conjecture. Until it happens, we have no way of knowing how this Google update will shake out, and, who knows — maybe it won’t be as bad as people suspect?
If the worst case scenario does come to pass, though, while it’ll be very bad news for me and my bank balance, I guess the upside is that it will potentially make the websites that do survive a lot more interesting again. Because the posts that bring in the most traffic/revenue to my blog might be the ‘how to’ guides and the product reviews, but those aren’t the posts I most enjoy writing. No, I much prefer writing long, rambling stories about growing up as the ‘Ugly Friend’, or my parents’ ‘Goodie Bowl’: and, let’s face it: no one likes reading or writing sponsored posts, now, do they?
If Google do replace search with AI, though, all of those ‘how to’ guides and product reviews will become obsolete overnight, and sponsored posts will be significantly less profitable. This is all kinds of catastrophic financially, but I do hold out a tiny bit of hope — and it’s a VERY tiny bit of hope — that all of this could herald a return of sorts to the “good old days”, when blogs were just records of people’s lives, or collections of interesting stories, and you didn’t have to scroll past tons of ugly ads to actually read them.
I’d love to be able to go back to that old-style of blogging again; but, with all of that said, I have to face the reality that keeping a blog running, even as a hobby, costs both time and money — and the time investment in particular is one I just can’t afford any more unless I can at least cover my costs.
So, here’s my plan…
First of all, I’m going to keep the blog online for as long as I possibly can.
I’m even going to do my best to start updating it more regularly again — because you better believe I will not go down without a fight.
In order to try to make it possible for me to do that, though, I’m also going to be cross-posting all of my new posts — and re-sharing some of the older ones — on my Substack newsletter from now on.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Substack is a newsletter platform. I actually signed up for it late last year, but it’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve been taking it more seriously, and starting to explore its possibilities. For me, the beauty of Substack is that it’s aimed at writers, rather than “influencers”. It’s not without its drawbacks, obviously, but, so far, it’s the closest thing I’ve found to Livejournal/OG blogging, and I’m really excited about it.
If you’re reading this post in your email, you’re already signed up to the newsletter, and don’t need to do anything else (Although if you would consider upgrading to a paid subscription, I’ll love you forever: more on that in a moment…). If you’re reading on the blog, meanwhile, you can use the from below to subscribe, and start receiving all of my new posts (With the exception of any sponsored ones) direct to your email.
Substack also has a paid option, which I know a lot of people are not going to like (And trust me, I get it: I don’t like having to ask people to pay any more than you like doing it…), but which will give you access to exclusive, subscriber-only content, plus the right to request a post via my Subscriber Chat.
Ultimately, this is currently the best way to support the writers and other creators whose work you enjoy, and to allow them to continue producing content; so even if you don’t want to subscribe to my newsletter in particular, you might want to take a look and see if there’s anything else that takes your fancy — there’s a lot of great stuff over there, and I think we’ll start seeing even more writers migrating to Substack once Google’s changes start to kick in.
Yeah, yeah, I know: I ‘quit’ Instagram a few weeks ago, and now here I am talking about it yet again. In all honesty, I haven’t really missed it while I’ve been gone, but needs must, and if the blog does disappear, I’d like to have at least one place I can connect with the people who aren’t into Substack.
You can follow me here, and, just to make it interesting, if you can all get me to 20,000 followers, I’ll go live to say thank you in person, answer questions, and do whatever it is that people do on Instagram lives. (I just REALLY hope it isn’t singing. I’m terrible at singing…)
(Yes, I’m saying this safe in the knowledge that I will NEVER get to 20,000 followers over there, so I’ll most likely never have to follow through on this promise. You got me there…)
My TikTok account is a place of tumbleweed and despair (With the exception of that one video about my eyelashes that randomly got 50,000 views, and a bunch of comments from people telling me the eyelashes weren’t that bad, and it was just a fuss about nothing. Weird place, TikTok.), but I haven’t started hating TikTok the way I hate other social media platforms yet, so who knows, maybe it’ll be fun? I mean, probably not, obviously, but we can but try, right?
You need to have 1,000 followers to be able to go live over there, so help me get to that number, and I’ll see what I can do. (No dancing, though. I have my limits…)
Twitter & Facebook
I hesitate to even mention Twitter because I’m normally too scared to post anything there, and ever since Elon took my blue tick away, no one sees what I do post anyway. But I do normally post links to things I’ve written there, so if/when the blog does disappear, it’s another place you can follow me — as is my Facebook page, which you can find here.
And I think that’s it.
This is a really long post, and, honestly, it’s a post I hoped I’d never have to write. I had this stupid idea that my blog would just stick around forever, basically, and would document (almost) my entire adult life; I even had visions of Max’s grandchildren reading it one day, and being able to get an insight into what life was like back in the “olden days”, while simultaneously scratching their heads and thinking, “But how DID they manage to flood their house THAT many times?”
More than that, though, I know there are people who still check in here every one in a while who’ve been reading my blog since the very start. Those people are also known as “my heroes”, and I didn’t want to just suddenly disappear on them without at least an explanation.
I’m very aware that, even without Google’s proposed changes, the internet has changed immeasurably since 2006, when I first decided to move from Livejoural to Typepad, and that there isn’t the same appetite for personal blogging as there once was. If you’ve stuck around for even part of my journey here, then,I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping make it possible for me to do this for such a long time. I’m going to do everything I can to try to stick around a little bit longer, but if I can’t make that happen, I hope at least a few of you will continue to read on some of the other platforms I’ve mentioned.
And if not, then hey: I guess 17 years is a pretty good innings…