John Scalzi is one of my favorite SF authors, as regular readers know. On his blog, he recently posted some interesting thoughts on the state of blogging:
My piece earlier this week on Clinton and Sanders blew up a bit, with roughly 75,000 views over two days. This gave me an excuse to check my referrers and ego search on Google and see a bit of who was talking about the post and/or sending people my way.
What I found: Facebook was by far the largest mover of visits and the place where the largest number of people were commenting on the piece, on their own wall or in the comments of others. Twitter was the next highest contributor of traffic/discussion. After that, and a bit down the scale, a couple of political sites, community sites like Metafilter or Reddit, and Google Plus, which, yes, apparently some people still use. But, interestingly, almost none of the conversation about/traffic to the piece was coming from personal blogs.
This is not entirely surprising given the social media landscape these days, but it is a fundamental change in how traffic comes to the site. Even a couple of years ago, as an aggregate, personal blogs funneled a fair amount of traffic into Whatever. Here in 2016, however, personal blogs as a traffic driver seem to be a non-starter.
After reading his post, I checked out my referrals and guess what? Right, most are coming from Twitter and, to a much lesser extent, Facebook. All of my blog posts automatically link to Twitter, where they are publicly available. Not all of my blog posts are posted to Facebook, because until recently my Facebook home page has been private and viewable only by friends. Unlike a lot of folks, moreover, I limit my Facebook friends list to people I actually know and actually like.
Because it seems like a substantial number of people are now using Facebook instead of news aggregators to access blogs, however, I have now added a public Facebook page for the blog. At this point, I expect that the Facebook page will be used only to post blog links. It'll give folks a new way to keep track of the blog.
Back to Scalzi:
What happened? Anecdotally, it looks like two things, somewhat related: personal blogs have either died as people migrated over to Facebook and/or Twitter, or they have largely changed their character, becoming less about posting thoughts and commentary on a regular basis (and linking out to the stuff that inspired the entry) and becoming more about a place to have a permanent repository of information about that person themselves — news and updates about life and career, but much less interactive, and updated less frequently or in depth. Where did that chatty stuff go? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. ...
What a blog is today is part of an overall presence, with a specific role that complements other online outposts (which in turn complement the blog). I do it myself — longer pieces here, which I will point to from other places. Shortform smartassery on Twitter. Personal Facebook account to keep up with friends; public Facebook and Google Plus pages to keep fans up on news — news which is often announced here and linked to from there.
This has certainly been the case with ProfessorBainbridge.com. Since I got a Twitter account, most of my political rants, smart aleck snark, religious comments, and so on has migrated from the blog to my Twitter account. Like Scalzi, my personal Facebook account is used to pretty much exclusively to keep up with friends. Today, as a result, the blog is mainly used for long form posts about corporate law and governance. Of course, as has been the case for the last 13 years, what I do here is recreational blogging, so there will continue to be recipes, wine tasting notes, fantasy football reports, and political musings. The precise mix will probably vary, but the recent mix is likely to be the norm at least for a while.