Blogging: Ten Years On
I was digging around in my email archive today trying to find something or other, when I found a receipt from the now defunct blog.co.uk hosting service. It was dated Friday 10th August 2007. So, it would appear that I have been blogging in some shape or form for a decade now. There have been a few disruptions along the way but broadly speaking, I’ve been writing every day for ten years now. I like to think that my writing style has improved over that time and the website traffic would seem to indicate that my output is relatively popular. All things considered I still enjoy writing about a broad spectrum of subjects and see no reason to stop at present. So, I guess that means I may well continue writing for another ten years.
Writing a blog is a very personal undertaking and peoples motivation to write varies. Many often cite an enjoyment of writing itself. It can be argued that a true purist blogger, who is not in any way driven by matters of ego, would not care if their blog remained unread and wouldn’t concern themselves with statistics and traffic. However, I think such people only exist as a notional concept. Many of us also write as a means to communicate our passion for something and to share that with others. Therefore, an audience, comments and feedback are important. Sadly, social media has altered the way in which readers communicate with writers. I am fortunate enough to still receive positive feedback but most of it now come’s via Twitter rather than as comments left on individual posts.
Another thing that has changed over the last decade is the overall perception of blogging. Like so many online activities, blogging was initially a distinctly separate form of writing compared to traditional platforms and outlets. The most obvious difference was that it was a very democratic medium open to anyone. Ironically its greatest asset has also become its greatest weakness but that’s a separate debate. Sadly, like so many new mediums, after an initial period of innovation blogging has become subsumed by the mainstream and the corporate. Blogs are no longer seen exclusively as havens of independent thought and creativity. White noise and marketing nonsense have now muddied the water.
Then there is the culture of expectations to consider. Joe public has got use to “free content”. A fellow blogger who wrote a popular MMO fansite, once told me that they considered their writing as a public service in a way. I do not think the remark was a reflection of their vanity. It simply showed that they enjoyed participating in a wider community. However, they also remarked that once you embark down that road, especially if you are receiving a high level of traffic, it can turn your passion in to a chore. When this blogger did indeed hang up their spurs it was met with mixed reactions from their readership. A sizeable group where far from pleased that they were no longer going to getting their daily fix of “free content” and took a rather peremptory stance on the matter.
Another myth that has finally been laid to rest in recent years is that you can get rich from blogging. That ship has well and truly sailed. The advent of adblockers, combined with an overabundance of free content means that advertising revenue has dried up. If a site such as Massively Overpowered has to supplement its advertising revenue with Patreon donations and merchandise, then it’s highly unlikely that a solo blogger is going to clean up in any way, shape or form. Blogs can still be invaluable in generating a brand and maintaining an online presence but you’ll be lucky if you do anything more than break even financially. Running a blog is an indulgence in some respects and so costs money like any other. You can pursue a free account but that comes with its own set of risks.
So, after ten years of blogging, I remain enthusiastic about writing and am content with the material that I’ve produced. I’m considering returning to a book project that stalled last year due to personal circumstances. It’s a work of non-fiction about cinema and my personal experience thereof. It has been meticulously planned and structured. All I need to do now is to knuckle down and write the remaining 50% of the text. There’s no reason why this can’t be achieved with a well-disciplined schedule and a healthy dose of focus. I also see no reason to stop blogging every day. Irrespective whether some audiences have drifted away from long form criticism, I am still committed to writing and consuming material of that kind. Who knows, I may still be here in another decade’s time still pondering about the state of blogging.