Towards the end of 2015, I posted my predictions for how the blogging world might change over the next year, and now that the year in question is over, I thought it might be fun to take a look back and find out just how wrong I was.
Or right, of course! I mean, there´s an outside chance I was right about at least one of them, surely? Well, let´s take a look: here´s what I thought would happen in the blogosphere in 2016 – and an update on what ACTUALLY happened…
Prediction # 1: More bloggers will close their comment sections – or never open them in the first place.
While I haven´t noticed many people closing their comments sections, exactly, I DO get the sense that a lot of bloggers have just accepted that comments are no longer as big a part of blogging as they once were. It´s not that we don´t care, obviously – far from it, in fact – but I think there comes a point where you realise that things have changed, that they´re not going to change back, and that there´s not really a whole lot you can do about it.
For myself, I actually don´t think I do too badly with comments. No, I don´t get as many of them as I was getting a few years ago (even although I had much fewer readers back then), but the posts that really matter to me generally DO get their fair share of comments, and as for the ones that don´t – well, I consider ANY comments at all to be a win these days, and I´ve long since learned to accept that just because people don´t comment, it doesn´t necessarily mean the post wasn´t a success. Some of my most shared posts on Pinterest, for instance, are ones that didn´t get a huge number of comments: those posts still, however, drive a large amount of traffic to the site, so they were still worth writing.
I´m also very aware that quite a few bloggers are now taking part in comment rings on Facebook etc (so, basically, they´re part of a group of people who all agree to comment on each other´s posts, even although they might not even have read them all), which can create a bit of a skewed perception about how “successful” some blogs are. I´m sure we´ve all looked at certain blogs, and thought, “How on earth did THAT get such an amazing response?” The truth is that it possibly DIDN´T get an amazing response, though: in fact, some posts wouldn´t get a response AT ALL, if their author wasn´t spending hours every week diligently commenting on blogs they don’t care about, just to get a token comment in return. I´d love to be able to predict that this kind of practice will die out in 2017, but while I certainly hope it will, and that the people who do it will realise there are much better things they could be doing for their blogs than artificially inflating their comments count, I somehow doubt they will, sadly.
Prediction # 2: A move towards selling digital products rather than advertising
Hmm. I know I did this, with the release of my first ebook, but was it a part of a more general trend? I honestly have no idea. As display advertising continues to be less profitable, however, I do think that selling products – whether digital or physical – will be the one of the ways forward for bloggers who want to monetise their sites. It might not happen in the space of the next year, but a change is coming, people: I feel it in the force…
Prediction # 3: Brands will stop trusting social media stats
I obviously can´t speak for brands themselves, but I do think bloggers and readers have become much less trustful of social media stats. Much of this is due to the kind of practices I mentioned above: the comment rings, the “follow-for-follow” thing, the people who buy followers, and think it´s not going to be remotely obviously to anyone but them… It IS pretty obvious when this kind of thing is happening, though, and people are becoming significantly more savvy about it. Now we just need to hope that the message will filter through to the bloggers who still buy most of their followers…
As for 2017, meanwhile…
… well, I think you can see from the above that I´m no Mystic Meg when it comes to predicting the future, but I do enjoy a challenge, so here´s what I think might happen in the blogosphere of 2017…
01. More people will abandon blogging altogether, in favour of social media.
I honestly hope this doesn’t happen, because I feel like one of the few people left who’d still rather sit down with a nice, long blog post, than scroll through social media, but unfortunately I think the rot has already set in. This year is only a week old, but already I´ve seen a couple of “I´m shutting down my blog,” announcements, and I think we´ll see a few more of those before the year is out.
So far, the blog closures I´ve seen have mostly been members of the “old guard”, who have become quite disillusioned with the way the blogging world has changed, so they´re not so much “quitting blogging in favour of social media”, as they´re just quitting entirely. The fact remains, though, that blogging is hard… and while social media isn´t easy, exactly (especially not if you want to make money from it), it´s certainly less time consuming. It´s much easier, for instance, to keep an Instagram feed updated than it is to set up a blog, pay for hosting etc, and create regular content, which earns money without breaking any of Google´s rules – and in an age which has now coined the phrase “insta-blogger” to describe the people who are making serious money just by charging brands to feature on their grid, who WOULDN´T think that was an easier way to earn a living than trying to launch and grow a blog?
Of course, the fact is that making a living on Instagram ISN´T easy – but making a living isn´t always the point, is it? I realised earlier this year that many of the “outfit of the day” bloggers I used to follow had shuttered their blogs, and are now just posting their photos on Instagram, purely because it´s easier, and I can think of a few other blog niches where that might also be the case. As I said, no one will be happier than I am if this prediction doesn´t come true, but… we´ll see.
02. Fewer freebies, fewer sponsored posts
I´ve talked a few times this year about the difficult relationships brands have with bloggers, and this year I think that will manifest itself in the form of fewer collaborations – particularly the kind where either money or goods changes hands. Already, Google´s guidelines on links within posts make it pretty difficult to make a living from sponsorship: the fact is that most brands want a “follow” link in exchange for the money or products they´re offering… but accepting payment for this type of link puts the blogger (and the brand!) at risk of a Google penalty. Additionally, with so many bloggers now willing to work for free, brands naturally find it harder to justify paying those of us who can´t afford to do that: yes, there are still some brands out there who are willing to pay, and who will accept a “nofollow” link, but they few and far between, and even they would much rather get their coverage for nothing if they possibly can (I mean, who wouldn´t?) than have to pay for it.
The upshot of this is that while I think we´ll continue to see a lot of collaborations from both the top end bloggers, who can pretty much name their price, AND from the much smaller bloggers who are willing to work for nothing, those of us who fall somewhere in the middle might just have to scale back on paid partnerships until the situation starts to work itself out. (By which I mean, “Bloggers stop being willing to work for free and/or risk Google penalties, and brands stop trying to take advantage of them.”)
03. A return to more personal posts
2016 saw a bit of a backlash against the polished-to-perfection fashion and lifestyle bloggers who make everything look easy, and every day look like it was designed with Instagram in mind – which it probably WAS. I didn´t always agree with the resulting commentary on this, and tend to view a lot of it as a bizarre, jealousy-driven attempt to basically shame people for being a little too successful (I mean, SERIOUSLY, people!), but all the same, I think that backlash has in some ways paved the way for a return to the more honest, personal style of blogging that used to be so popular. Now THAT change I can definitely get behind: I know I´ve said it a lot recently, but personal posts are my absolute favourite – both to read and to write – so although I will never criticise people for wanting to post pretty photos, or make their blogs look like magazines, I´d be more than happy to read a few more personal stories this year, and I´m hoping to write a few more of them, too.
So, those are my predictions for blogging in 2017, although, as you can see, I was wrong about almost everything I predicted for 2016, so maybe just disregard everything I just said.
What about you, though: how do you think (or hope!) the blogging world might change this year?
P.S. Again, sorry about the slightly strange formatting of this post – my new keyboard is on its way, but in the meantime, I´m stuck with the strange-apostrophe one!