The Future of Blogging

It occurred to me over the weekend that January marked my ten-year anniversary of blogging.  I'm spending this week considering the changes I've seen in that epoch of technology. (And I'm almost done with this indulgence!)


Time was the world was starved enough for beer content that the blogger merely had to write a post about the most recent beer he'd tasted.  Readers!  Back in the halcyon days of about 2009--beer blogging was trailing trends in other subjects--bloggers sorted themselves out among type: the reviewer, the gossip, the tracker-of-events, the homebrewer, the garbage scow of random info (my niche).  In order to get a sense of all this stuff, you needed to traffic several blogs.  If you were interested in national trends, you trafficked a few more.

The need for these sources died out a year or two back, as the internet got better at organizing information through social media.  There are now tons of ways to get info--Facebook and Twitter, and sites like Reddit, BeerPulse, and BeerAdvocate.  There's no reason to seek out info about events or reviews, no point in visiting sites that just repeat information.  We all now have ways of sorting our social media to receive the information we want.  Three or four years ago, there were dozens of very active beer blogs around the country (and a good 15 in Oregon).  Many have been abandoned or have gone nearly still.  As a blogger, I get why: what's the point of spending time on a blog people have abandoned for Twitter?

There is one very large exception to this rule: the expert blog.  Sites like those hosted by Ron Pattinson, Martyn Cornell, and Stan Hieronymus are more than relevant.  They are in many ways the backbone of the entire social media superstructure.  Social media feeds on content, and there's more than enough of pseudo-content we all despise.  Modern online media has inclined in this direction where they produce listicles, slide shows, and random "what's-the-best-IPA"-type pieces.  These drive traffic, but they are obvious padding.  What we really want to see are meaty topics discussed deeply.  Experts can put these out, but obviously not in the volume the internet requires.  Collected together they do a better job.

What I've found is that every post I write generates clicks.  But some are almost self-defeating.  If you sucker people into a click for a fiber-free post often enough, people quit clicking.  If, however, you try to make sure the content is original, unusual, and interesting, people will read.*  Even this post, which I know is going to be interesting to only 2.3% of the people who start reading it, is at the very least not the kind of thing you read everywhere.  I've never been interesting in a focused way like Martyn and Ron, but among the detritus of a garbage scow, you do find the occasional gem.

Blogs will survive, but over time a higher percentage of them will be written by experts who depend on massive, social-media generated traffic when they put up one of their relatively infrequent (but fascinating!) posts.  For new bloggers, it is both a warning and an invitation.  If you have special insight and information on a topic, social media will help you find readers, probably quickly.  If you are writing more general stuff from a layman's perspective, the sledding may a lot tougher than it was even a few years ago.

*There is the question of audience.  Beervana, for example, had an almost exclusively local readership.  People wanted to read about Northwest beer.  Then I started writing a book about the beers of the world and quit covering Oregon beer very closely, which I believe drove some people away.  German readers might care what Hans-Peter Drexler and Matthias Trum have to say, but fewer Oregonians do, so my posts about Europe, while in many cases not uninteresting, were not well-directed to a local audience.  I do hope to get back to more local content in a few months.
Jeff AlworthMeta, blogs7 Comments