In the past few years we looked around the ruins of the Internet and noticed the carcass of an old friend – The Blog. We noticed in 2012, some saying that even the laptop on which we composed the sacred blog would disappear. But we thought everything would end that year in a great Mayan Apocalypse anyway.
We saw the corpse again in 2013, laying by the information superhighway, buzzards named Tumblr and Twitter and Snapchat and Medium picking at its ribs. Livejournal and Blogger picked clean of flesh, baked white by the sun. But that the New York Times was consolidating, and abandoning in some forms, the blog format at the time meant little. Brands absorbed by brands are just condensed brands. Like soup. Who needs a Culture Blog when there is an entire Culture Section? The death of the blog-hosted-by-a-larger-repository-of-comment-and-news is more osmosis than cell death–the blogs didn’t die so much as the bloggers moved on, professionalized (and paid).
In the summer of 2014, bloggers again noted in blogs that blogs were dead. But the blog wasn’t really dead. The first great wave of bloggers created personal & theme blogs in lonely unexplored corners of the Internet, as the internet became more crowded their corners became hubs. Blogging began to be business–and business began to be busy. When traffic is your concern, frequency of updates matter greatly, originality, audience, influence matter, and no one person can blog as frequently as a Twitterfeed can update. The individual commentary blog was crowded out in many ways–abandoned or absorbed as good writers got good jobs writing for bigger outlets.
As we wade into 2015, the death knell of the blog has rung once again. Andrew Sullivan, a great founding father of the modern blog is stepping away from the keyboard. As he says in his farewell, he’s been blogging for 15 years straight. He’s become “saturated in digital life” and wants to “return return to the actual world again.” The man wants to unplug. His stepping away does not signal the death of the blog. Because The Blog is not any one thing.
Chris Cillizza had a not-so-hot take on the matter in the The Fix, a blog he anchors for the Washington Post.
The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It’s not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me — an ever-shrinking populace — a “blog” is simply a publishing medium. It’s a way to put content on the Internet — usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing — opinionated, snarky — that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake.
In the ashes of the blog this past summer, some saw a phoenix. An evolved platform. Again, the focus is on the system not the individuals who inhabit it for a time or a tone many tend to take.
So, bloggers should be excited, not downhearted. Roughly 15 years after the beginnings of the format, we have arrived at the essence of the blog – a highly trafficked, commercially appealing platform whose best years are ahead of it.
Perhaps, as always, George R. R. Martin can lends us some wisdom.
What is dead may never die.