Kids Today Just Don’t Blog Like We Used To

Verne Kopytoff at NYT:

Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.

Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Caitlin Dickson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Chris Crum at WebProNews:

Here we go again with another one of those silly social media vs. blogs debates. The New York Times stirred the pot this time with an article called, “Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter.”

“Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter,” writes Verne G. Kopytoff. “They are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.”

This idea that blogs are dying has been around practically as long as either Facebook or Twitter, and it almost always gets dismissed as a ridiculous notion.

WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg took some issue with the piece: “The title was probably written by an editor, not the author, because as soon as the article gets past the two token teenagers who tumble and Facebook instead of blogging, the stats show all the major blogging services growing — even Blogger whose global ‘unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million,’ meaning it grew about 6 Foursquares last year alone. (In the same timeframe WordPress.com grew about 80 million uniques according to Quantcast.)”

In fact, in 2010, WordPress had over 6 million new blogs created in 2010, and pageviews were up by 53%.

John Del Signore at Gothamist:

A more accurate headline might be “Google’s Company ‘Blogger’ Sees Domestic Page Views Decline 2%.” Catchy, right? To be fair, the Times does acknowledge “the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.” That’s because Tumblr is proving increasingly popular, and some kids think Tumblr isn’t blogging. “It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,” explains one San Francisco teen. “With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.”

The Times also concedes that “defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.” The study in question found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half. But before you run out and set up a charitable trust to educate children on the vital importance of daily blogging, note the study’s conclusion:

While the act formally known as blogging seems to have peaked, Internet users are doing blog-like things in other online spaces as they post updates about their lives, musings about the world, jokes, and links on social networking sites and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.

PHEW. So kids are still lustily committing “the act formally known as blogging”—they just don’t like using that old-fashioned word blog (Est. 2004), and prefer expressing their incisive opinions on the latest Family Guy episode in 140 characters or less. We can live with that.

Scott Rosenberg:

So the actual story — which, to be fair, the Times’ article mostly hews to (it’s the headline and lead that skew it more sensationally) — is that blogging keeps growing, but it’s losing popularity among teens.

Social networking is changing blogging. (My postscript to the paperback edition of Say Everything addresses those changes at length.) More of us are using Facebook and Twitter for casual sharing and personal updates. That has helped clarify the place of blogging as the medium for personal writing of a more substantial nature. Keeping a blog is more work than posting to Facebook and Twitter. So I wouldn’t be surprised if, long-term, the percentage of the population blogging plateaus or even declines.

Maybe we’ll end up with roughly ten percent of the online population (Pew’s consistent finding) keeping a blog. As the online population becomes closer to universal, that is an extraordinary thing: One in ten people writing in public. Our civilization has never seen anything like it.

So you can keep your “waning” headlines, and I’ll keep my amazement and enthusiasm.

BONUS LINKS: WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg addresses the story:

At some point you’ll have more to say than fits in 140 characters, is too important to put in Facebook’s generic chrome, or you’ve matured to the point you want more flexibility and control around your words and ideas.

And Anthony DeRosa points out that Twitter isn’t very popular among the teen set either.

Dan Riehl:

I spend time on Twitter I might otherwise have spent blogging. But the net result may actually be good for blogging. One does fewer throw away posts meant to only say something quick, better said via Twitter. What this is really about is alternative media taking on the old, or mainstream media. According to the Times, 14% of children ages 12 – 17 are blogging. That may have halved from when blogging was all the rage in media, but it’s still a healthy percentage.

Among 18-33 year-olds, the percentage dropped by 2 points in 2010. Good. It’s a little crowded out here, as it stands. I’ve no reason to doubt that New Media, in its various forms, continues to grow in size and influence.

Atrios:

I’m sure the emphasis of the internet will keep evolving, but what apparently won’t evolve is the mainstream press’s view of “the internet” as somehow being about young people. For years and years after the rise of political blogging, the press kept writing about it as if it was something that young people were into. As I wrote many times, I certainly wished I could take credit for getting a bunch of college kids interested in politics, but the fact is that people who read this site have always been pretty old. Basically the mainstream media types just wanted to infantalize bloggers as part of their mission of painting us as Very Unserious People.

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