What’s next for blogging?
In the 10+ years this blog has been online, I’ve written numerous posts talking about the “death” of blogging, and whether or not the so-called “bubble” was about to burst, and, in every single one of them, I’ve totally refuted those claims. Of course blogging isn’t dead, I’ve said, confidently. Of course people will always want to read personal stories and news articles, and weird anecdotes about someone’s cat – won’t they?
Now, though? Honestly, now I’m not so sure.
This, for instance, is my first blog post in a couple of weeks: which might not seem particularly significant to most of you, but which actually makes it my longest blogging break since… I have no idea when. Even right after I had Max, I somehow kept blogging: hell, back in 2015, I blogged every day for the full year – sometimes more than once. And, you know what? It wasn’t even that hard.
These days, though, blogging is hard.
It’s hard for me personally, because, well, Max, basically. Having a toddler hasn’t just reduced the amount of time I have to blog: it’s reduced the amount of time I have to do anything. At all. Seriously, most days I feel like I don’t even have time to think, let alone try to string a coherent sentence together, so it’s not particularly surprising that blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat.
I’m not the only one who’s struggling right now, though. Over the last couple of years, many of the bloggers I used to follow have either closed down their blogs altogether, or drastically reduced their output. Some are still around on Instagram, or elsewhere on social media, but others have dropped off the radar entirely: and while there are still newer bloggers coming along to take their place, it’s somehow just not the same, is it?
Somewhere along the line, blogging seems to have lost some of its sparkle. It feels almost old-fashioned to still call yourself a blogger in this age of the “influencer”: in fact, last week I went along to a casting call for a potential brand collaboration, and I was the only person there who even had a blog. Everyone else (That I saw, anyway…) was Instagram-only, and, as I sat there, waiting for my name to be called, I have to admit, I felt like a bit of an anachronism: a dusty old dinosaur desperately clinging on to a platform that many people now consider hopelessly old fashioned.
Somewhere along the line, blogging seems to have lost some of its sparkle. It feels almost old-fashioned to still call yourself a blogger in this age of the “influencer”…
For the first time, doubts about the future of blogging started to creep in. I’ve always said that blogging won’t die, exactly – it’ll just have to adapt. I’ve argued – and would still argue – that it’s a mistake to rely solely on Instagram, or any other platform you don’t own, because it might not be around forever, whereas your own blog can be. The problem is, though, that I’ve been making those arguments for years now, and Instagram still doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, despite its many problems, and the many, many complaints it generates from increasingly disgruntled users, it just seems to be going from strength to strength.
And meanwhile, its effects are being felt all over the blogosphere. Mothballed sites. Plummeting traffic. Posts with the dreaded ‘0 comments’ at the bottom of them. Blogging might not be dead – yet – but… well, it’s just a little unwell, isn’t it? Yesterday morning, I logged onto Twitter for the first time in weeks, just in time to catch another, “I’m closing down my blog,” announcement from someone I’d been following for years. And, sure, there are still plenty of people out there reading blogs, and there probably will be for as long as the bloggers keep blogging. How long will that be though, I wonder? Because, the fact is, the Instagram effect isn’t just limited to lowering blog traffic, and lack of comments: it’s also making it much harder to make a living just from blogging on its own. This time last year, most of my income came from sponsored posts and display ads: this year, the increasing use of Adblock has made display advertising much less lucrative, and many of the brands who contact me about collaborations expect to be able to pay me in products… because that’s what everyone else does.
So, what’s next for blogging, I wonder?
Slow blogging rather than daily/weekly updates
My own shift to slower blogging might be partly down to the fact that I now have to juggle work with parenting duties, but that’s far from the only reason. While it used to be the norm to see bloggers updating their sites multiple times a week – or sometimes even daily – I think we’re starting to see a shift towards quality over quantity, with people posting less often, but putting more effort into it. In my case, I came to the realisation a while ago that, when I look back through my blog archive, I want to feel proud of every single post, rather than having to scroll past tons of ‘filler’ content, which I know I published, not because it added value to the site, but purely because I felt like I HAD to have something new to post that day. Slower blogging means taking the time to only publish the posts that matter – and it also gives me time to focus on all of those background tasks that so often fall by the wayside: things like updating older content, fixing broken links, and generally trying to improve the site as a whole.
Personal branding rather than blog branding
Has anyone else noticed how many bloggers/influencers have rebranded lately, and started using their own name rather than a blog/brand name? At least half a dozen times in the last month or so, I’ve been scrolling through Instagram and had a moment of confusion where I’ve thought, “Wait: who dis?” only to realise that it’s someone I’ve followed for years, but whose full name I didn’t actually know until they suddenly started using it instead of whatever username they’d had before. This is, of course, all part of the switch towards “influencing” rather than blogging, but, even if you intend to continue with blogging as your main channel, I think it’s a pretty savvy move to think about how you brand yourself.
In my case, my blog name contains my own name anyway, and doesn’t tie me to a particular topic, so I won’t be changing it any time soon. If I’d chosen something very niche-specific, though, I would definitely be thinking about switching to my own name, purely to avoid being pigeonholed, and allow me to be open to more varied opportunities. The collaboration I was in London for last week, for instance (And which no, I didn’t get, just in case you’re wondering…) was only tangentially connected to my blog: the blog was how the brand had found me, but the opportunity itself wasn’t blog-related, and while it required me to step way, WAY out of my comfort zone, and was something I’d normally have dismissed out of hand, I do think that, going forward, bloggers will have to be more open to opportunities that aren’t just about blogging. Speaking of which…
Ebooks & other offerings
I published my first book three years ago (And was commissioned to write a book for a traditional publisher a year later), and have been working on another one, this time based on the blog itself. (So it’s not just Max who’s to blame for my recent silence: I’ve been busy behind the scenes, too!) I actually prefer blogging to book writing, because I like the more immediate connection with my audience that blogging gives me, but writing books provides an income that isn’t affected by Instagram, or other online trends, and which doesn’t require me to write sponsored posts, or display adverts, so it’s something I’m hoping to do more of. Now, I’m obviously not saying that bloggers all need to start writing books instead of blogs, but I have noticed a lot of people starting to offer other products or services, which are related to the topics they blog about, and I think that’s something we’ll start to see more of – especially if brands continue to think a tube of lipstick or bottle of body lotion is a reasonable exchange for the time and effort that goes into putting together a blog post!
Paid content models
One of the best things about blogging – the thing that helped make it popular in the first place, in fact – is that it gives readers access to totally free content: and we all love free content, right? The problem with that, however, is that content isn’t free to produce: I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the costs involved in running a blog, but while I was busy talking about the actual costs of things like web hosting, and other services that you have to hand over cold, hard cash for, I forgot to mention the most expensive thing of all: your time.
While I know there continues to be a perception that blogging is both quick and easy, the fact is that professional blogging takes up a lot of time – and, yes, a fair bit of money, too. (Right now, for instance, the hosting costs of ForeverAmber.co.uk amount to 50% of the site’s revenue – and that obviously isn’t sustainable.) For a long time now, bloggers have been able to offset those costs – and even earn a living – through traditional advertising and sponsored posts, but as those revenue streams become gradually less lucrative (See: adblock / brands claiming to have “no budget” to pay for coverage…), I think the only real option will be for bloggers to find ways to start charging for their content – whether that be through ebooks or similar, as I discussed above, or by charging directly.
Right now, for instance, the hosting costs of ForeverAmber.co.uk amount to 50% of the site’s revenue – and that obviously isn’t sustainable
Now, before you start panicking, I think we’re still a long way away from a situation where bloggers start putting up paywalls (i.e. charging for access to posts), so that’s not something I see happening anytime soon. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind, though, that something has to change if we want to continue being able to create and consume content online. The question is: what?
What’s next for blogging?