Lifespan of a Blog
This post serves as a placeholder for an ongoing, unanswerable question: What is the typical lifespan of a blog?
The question is unanswerable not just because it’s a moving statistic. The question is unanswerable because it is phrased incorrectly as a quantitative question, whereas the real question — the question behind the question — is qualitative.
The question-behind-the-question is something like this: What are the typical scenarios that lead to the creation of a blog, and, for each scenario, what is a reader of such a blog likely to see over time, in terms of the amount and type of content posted?
For any given blogging scenario, how does the blog usually start out? What does the frequency of posting look like, over time? How does the blogger’s content evolve, both in terms of topic and style?
Technorati puts together an annual report called State of the Blogosphere which offers answers to some of the above questions… too many answers, actually. I’m looking for something less statistical, more narrative.
Somewhere Out There, A Narrative
Somewhere on a laptop of a developer for WordPress or Blogger there’s a nice presentation about it.
The presentation is a couple of years old (some would say that it’s decades old, in blogyears) , and as with many discussions circa 2010, it discusses the continuing explosive growth of “microblogging” and how sites like Twitter and Facebook have taken some of the steam from what it archaically refers to as “traditional blogs.”
The presentation may have some stats on how the average length of a blog post initially declined in relation to the growth of Facetwitrublr, but then, ultimately started to increase as those sites allowed for more media-rich postings. It says that traditional blogs have become a refuge for long-form writing. The presentation almost certainly has a graph showing the steady decrease in the number of comments per blog post…. once again, the microblogging Twitumbookverse is the culprit. Thanks to the ambient intimacy of social media (social meds?), our attention and willingness to engage with text has become diffused… a warm fleeting breath of distracted amusement.
The one time that WordPress/Blogger developer gave their presentation, he or she was asked if their data had been controlled for blogcruft, the 50% or more of blogs that are spontaneously created as SEO marketing machines. Of course s/he did. Which is ironic, since right now s/he is working on a system that will improve the monetization of blogs through content-specific, analytically driven advertising.
Taking the Numb out of the Numbers
Meanwhile, in a search for a good blend of statistics-and-narrative, I came across this snarky summary by Caslon Analytics, a consultancy based in Australia, which managed to get its page high enough in Google results to gain my fleeting attention:
- Quantity of Blogs: Statistics, demographics and trends of blogs (c.2007): http://www.caslon.com.au/weblogprofile1.htm
- Quality of Blogs: Types of blogs, purpose of them, pathology of the blogger mindset, etc.: http://www.caslon.com.au/weblogprofile2.htm
Some of the more interesting statistics in that analysis came on the ephemerality of blogs, but then, those stats came from a Stone Age source in 2003. At that time, apparently the longest period of time that a blog lasted before becoming entirely inactive was approximately two-and-a-half years…. but… how many people were even blogging before 2001? Anyone still left today, from those 1999 blogboom years?
Technorati says 95% of blogs eventually die within a few years. Well, maybe Technorati said that… there was too much data, I forget exactly what they said.
Yes, the real question-behind-the-question is: Why continue blogging?
Blog Posts About Quitting Blog Posts
Ah, but then I found a nice post by Doug Noon, covering the topic, with some interesting commentary:
To me, the blog is about discovery and reflection. Not so much about passion. It’s a lot like beachcombing. I read stuff that people write.
I follow links, and follow links from links, heading off in all directions at once. I find stuff and I think, Huh? Where did this come from? Cool. I save it in del.cio.us. It’s a weird obsession. Then I try to make sense of this muddle by writing about it. It’s a system.
… (I) wonder if there isn’t a natural lifespan for a blog that exhausts itself like any other project a person takes on.
(..) I don’t know where this blog is going. I’m following an evolving set of interests.
I was particularly pleased to note that as an edublogger (a portmanteau of “educator” and “blog,” which is a portmanteau of “web” and “log,” which is a shortened version of “World Wide Web” and a sailor’s “log book,” 1990 and 1842, respectively… okay, I’ll stop…) Doug hasn’t given up and is still going strong: http://borderland.northernattitude.org/2012/04/08/search-for-meaning/
Doug also brings in a post from Timothy Burke, where Burke contemplates discontinuing his blog :
(…) I think it’s fair to say now that most blogs have a fairly definite life cycle. Most never really outlast a brief initial burst of enthusiasm, but those that do last rarely hold on for more than about three or four years without either transmogrifying into some other kind of format (a group blog, a paid gig of some kind).
Mostly blogs ebb and flow with the life rhythms of their creator. (…)
However, I think there’s also something about the form itself that poses a problem, and that the problem has gotten more acute as blogging has evolved as a practice. A self-aware blog writer eventually starts to recognize static or repetitive patterns in their posting that threaten to devolve into schtick. Readers may not object: in fact, the larger and more stable a community of readers a blogger has, the more they may in fact come to rely on the blogger to merely convene or spark a rolling conversation among commenters, to be the rhetorical equivalent of comfort food.
For anyone hoping to sharpen and complicate their own writing, or to use a blog for exploration and discovery, however, this repetition and cumulative expectation can become a problem. I’ve talked here before about how much I find my sense of humor drains out of me when I’m writing here, because I’ve gotten trapped by compulsive reasonableness. When I write in this format, I find that my humor is sharpest when it’s snarky and a bit cruel (I don’t think this is true in person), so I often put it aside. There are times where that and other self-imposed limits and expectations frustrate me as a writer and even a thinker, however.
I’ve also hit a point where I’m frustrated by the rigidity of discussions across the blogosphere. (…). We’ve gone past the point where many conversations had the plasticity to go in unexpected directions. We’ve gotten instead to the point where many participants in the meta-discussion are defending fixed terrain, sometimes terrain that they’re paid to defend (…)
So I have to say I was recently tempted to (…) close up shop. I don’t think I will just yet. There are still a lot of things I enjoy about blogging: conversations I find rewarding, discoveries to be made, skills to be honed. (…)
Many of those observations rang all-too-true for me. I liked them so much that I highlighted them above in bold. See, there’s me being a snarky blogger… self-directed snarkiness, at that.
Notwithstanding the Seinfeld Principle of bowing out gracefully, it’s nice to know that some folks keep on blogging away, and will likely do so until their last dying keystroke. That tells me it’s something they do for themselves, not for some misguided quest for fame or fortune.
Hmmm, we could start a whole genre of Blog Posts Where the Author Considers (Threatens) Quitting their Habit. You know, it’s that moment where, the blogger gets all contemplative and super-meta… to the untrained eye, it looks like navel contemplation… but we bloggers recognize the signs… we know not to hang up the phone and keep talking to them… get someone to give them a hug and a warm cup of coffee… don’t… let… another one… get away…
Here’s one that didn’t survive (b.2009-01-25, d. 2010-11-01) :
Thought as my second and proper full review I might just review blogging as a whole. Yep, rather introspective, there’s the obvious possibility of the whole infinite-depth-mirror going on, but I thought it worth at least getting down my thoughts on the blogosphere.
Most of the time, I think blogs are a massive waste of internet.
don’t know – I still think that in general that people who write on the internet are doing so without trying to be a world-class author so perhaps I should give them a break. You take the percentages of start-up, shut-down blogs – the whole blog abandonment rate is somewhere between 60% and 80%… that’s way too high to suggest there’s a great deal of good blogging going on.
Personally I’d like to see us get to a point where you can’t “start” your blog until you’ve posted 5 entries. That’d learn ‘em.
Anyway, we’ll see how I get on. Hopefully I’ll be around in a week or so but you never know.
It’s true. There is nothing new to say. There is nothing new under the sun.
Yet, just like a dandelion’s spirit of hyperseverence, there is a meaning in trying anyway.