Felix TV: Is blogging dead?

By Felix Salmon
June 29, 2011

I’ve felt for a while now that the kind of blogging I do — one person writing a series of blog posts in reverse-chronological order — is dying, even if it’s not quite dead. There are still lots of great blogs out there, but my Portfolio.com guide to the econoblogosphere, now almost four years old, is not nearly as out of date as it should be, and very few new voices have emerged since then.

One of the foremost exceptions to that rule is Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic, so I asked him how he managed to break out as a name-brand blogger in a world where most big blogs are now written by pretty substantial teams. His home at the Atlantic is clearly part of it, as is the fact that he’s incredibly talented. But even he agreed that old-fashioned single-person blogs are largely a thing of the past, with the exception of enthusiastic practitioners in the fields they write about, be it banking or science or anything else. And those people normally blog independently, rather than as part of an old- or new-media company.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s convergence going on — news organizations are becoming bloggier, and blogs are becoming newsier — and that process works to the benefit of both, even as it makes the status of “blogger” less interesting or meaningful. And as Alexis says, blogging is a lot of work, and it’s hard to sustain that level of intensity over the course of a career.

And the most interesting new development in the blogging space is Tumblr, which makes publishing much easier than Moveable Type or WordPress, and as a result is putting up some truly astonishing figures: 355 million unique visitors per month, and 400 million pageviews per day. I’d guess that’s substantially more than the entire blogosphere could boast during any golden age — Tumblr and Twitter have truly democratized publishing and helped to eradicate the distinction between writers and readers. Which is much more important than the emergence of any number of media-published individual voices.

14 comments

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anyone over 25 use tumblr?

Posted by q_is_too_short | Report as abusive

Felix, this may not be directly relevant but do you count your RSS hits as part of your traffic? I use Google Reader for my daily reading but in 99% of the cases, I read the headline and click through when interested in reading the content. Yours is the rare exception that can be entirely read through RSS so I barely ever come to the site.

Posted by bmozaffari | Report as abusive

Boy, I hope blogging isn’t dead! Sure, I read the WaPo most days but I get far more out of the blogs I cruise, both individual & group. For better or worse, paid or unpaid, you guys are the new journalism.

Posted by rmhitchens | Report as abusive

Did you ask him if he could keep his mojo working if he took off his hat? I think that the head gear must be the secret of his success.

Posted by bobbymacReuters | Report as abusive

Well that’s a shame. I just added you to my bookmarks yesterday. Dang, I’m always late to the party.

Posted by SouthernBeale | Report as abusive

Blogging isn’t dying it’s simply evolving. From an SEO perspective Google values fresh content and nothing provides that as efficiently as blogging. From a social media perspective shares and crowdsourcing are equally well suited to a blog.

WordPress isn’t difficult, it just takes some time to learn the best way to use it. Tumblr, while fun, is little more than the myspace of blogging and appeals to the same demographic.

Posted by 8burlroad | Report as abusive

“even he agreed that old-fashioned single-person blogs are largely a thing of the past, with the exception of enthusiastic practitioners in the fields they write about, be it banking or science or anything else”

- for me, blogging is and was only *ever* about enthusiastic practitioners in the fields they write about. Things like TechCrunch, Huffington Post, etc., were and are not blogs (IMO). They’re something different, a new style of journalism or what have you, but if it becomes your job, then IMO it’s not simple blogging. It’s more like rapid-fire op-eds with less thought and greater topicality. But the degree to which I seek out voices in any particular field depends on my interest in that field.

I read you on finance to keep abreast of what’s going on; you, to me, are more like an eclectic collector of links and opinion tidbits. RSS is just your publishing mechanism.

Three things I think need disentangling: (a) the presentation and distribution of articles (i.e. reverse chronological order, RSS feeds etc.); (b) the conversational voice and presence of comments etc. vs po-faced communiques; (c) deep insight from actual practitioners, rather than commentators.

(A) can come and go, I care not; (full) RSS feeds had better stay though, and they are intrinsically chronological. (B) – the conversational voice – I think is here to stay for a while, as it is friendlier to the culture of the medium and it’s in line with the broader trends of the times (I wouldn’t bet against things changing in time spans of decades though). As for (c), there is definitely less buzz around blogs, and that has reduced the broad levels, but if you have something to say and you want to broadcast it, a blog is still one of the easiest ways of doing it (tumblr, posterous, twitter etc. included). I personally have no issues with subscribing to an RSS feed that only updates once a year. I actually prefer them to the firehoses who blog every day, unless I want continuous monitoring on a particular field.

Posted by BarryKelly | Report as abusive

I generally like this blog and find lots of good links from it and would call it newsworthy though it be opinion. But the problem is most blogs are opinions not based on fact or in context… it’s a new voice but it’s one that panders to the lowest common denominator a lot of times because that is the majority of America. Now a financial blog may not be sullied by those pressures, but everything from politics to sports to baking cookies is racing to reach as many people as possible and debasing itself in the process. In that sense, RIP blogs (and frankly all newsmedia in that regard). I think instead there should be a responsibility to elevate news and FORCE people to understand what’s going on rather than appeal to the masses and say what (one thinks) they want to hear.

Now I know I’m not exactly on point with the above ramble, and maybe t’was just stating the obvious, but I think those are the convictions that need to lead media (whatever the medium).

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

What is the pleasure based upon that comes with proclaiming something ‘Dead’, as opposed to ‘Less Relevant’ or ‘Less Popular’?

Posted by DonthelibertDem | Report as abusive

What is the difference between a “blogger” and an old-fashioned columnist? Especially when the “blogger” is part of a larger news organization?

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

@TFF, I’m guessing the blogger often gets paid less than the old-fashioned columnist. And is less edited, for better or worse.

Posted by KenG_CA | Report as abusive

I think, somewhat similar to Felix’s title about donating to Japan, the title of the post was a bit hyperbolic. Blogging won’t ever “die”, which I think isn’t even really an issue that Felix raises in this post but rather blogging has gone mainstream. It’s not 2004 anymore where a Ezra Klein or Matt Yglesias can start a personal blog, which turns into a fellowship at smallish magazine and then gobbled up by a conglomerate. The vacuum that’s left behind by the Kleins and Yglesias of the world has now shifted to twitter and tumblr (although IMO, tumblr is really just another form of blogging?) but the question is, how do these new people move up the food chain.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive

@TFF, I think the main difference is links and conversation. Bloggers respond to other things on the internet, and link to them, much more than columnists, whose pieces are much more self-contained.

Posted by FelixSalmon | Report as abusive

@TFF, I think the main difference is links and conversation. Bloggers respond to other things on the internet, and link to them, much more than columnists, whose pieces are much more self-contained.

Posted by FelixSalmon | Report as abusive