In his post, The Changeosphere, Robert Scoble asked the question, "If you are a blogger, or a blog reader are you seeing changes?" (see his post for context)
A change I've noticed more than any other is what appears to be a resurgent emphasis on blogging. For a time, it seemed as if blogging had become old hat and everyone's gaze was fixed upon MySpace, Facebook and other forms of social media.
Assuming my perception is correct, what's responsible for this revival of interest? Personally, I believe Blog World Expo had much to do with it. The conference/tradeshow seemed to serve as a lens refocusing everyone's attention on blogging.
It wasn't until 2003-2004 that companies, most of them small and/or in the tech sector, seemed to pay much attention to the medium. It was also along this time that early adopter marketing people began to embrace it.
The most searched for definition that year was for the word "blog," according to Merriam-Webster.com. The question I heard most often was, "What is a blog?"
2005 was a signal year for business blogging. The first conference truly focused on business blogging was held and the first book on business blogging was published. Oddly enough it was a For Dummies book entitled Buzz Marketing with Blogs For Dummies. (I had the honor of serving as technical editor and contributing writer.) Wiley didn't see where a book titled simply Business Blogging For Dummies would garner much attention, so they sexed it up with the buzz marketing part. Still, it was clearly a business blogging book.
It wasn't until May 2, 2005, when Business Week printed their cover story on blogging, Blogs Will Change Your Business, that things began to tip toward more mainstream attention for blogging as a business tool.
2006 gave rise to a number of books on blogging, including Naked Conversations, which has become somewhat of a classic. (The book Richard Nacht and I penned, Realty Blogging, was published in November of that year. It is decidedly NOT a classic, but did receive a nice following among real estate bloggers.) Blogging continued to proliferate.
By this time, blogging was considered an acceptable business practice by most anyone paying attention to the space, though still not everyone understood the many benefits to its use. The question I was hearing changed from "What is a blog?" to "How can a blog help me grow my business?"
This was the first year blogging got its own tradeshow, Blog World Expo, which was certainly a sign of maturation within the industry.
Despite positive indicators of the industry's health, I began to be concerned that we had seen the end of blogging as we knew it.
Other forms of social media began to sweep attention away from blogging and there was a sense that blogs would become nothing more than a component built inside the larger framework of social network platforms. We'd all just have our Facebook profiles and that would serve as our base of operations.
Thankfully, my fears were allayed. Blogging seems to have found its place in the social media pecking order, and its role as a business communications tool has become much more well-established and well-defined.
I see this as a banner year for business blogging. It has received enough mainstream acceptance that organizations who've been holding off waiting to see what would happen in the space may finally decide to embrace it. (Admittedly, most never will...but oh, well.)
This may also be the year where some type of blogging association comes into being. Rick Calvert started the International Blog and New Media Association (IBNMA) last year, but it never gained traction. It, or some other non-profit entity will this year I suspect.
Blog World Expo is expected to do even better this year and is receiving a good deal of corporate attention.
What does the future hold?
Blogging is still a young medium, yet has reached a good level of maturity in a comparitively short period of time. As far as I can see, it has a bright future, though a changing one. I know for me and many others, blogs will continue to serve as our social media base of operations for a long time to come.
Here's a smattering of some of the changes taking place:
- WordPress is now considered a lightweight CMS platform, not just a blog platform. (Has been for a while.) It's becoming more common to see entire Web sites being built using WP or some other blog-related CMS. For example, two real estate news Web sites, RIS Media and Inman News, have now completely coverted their sites to blog-based platforms.
- WordPress is also morphing into a social media application, as is Movable Type, which now has a social network version. I can imagine other blog platforms will follow suit.
- New blog platforms continue to be built. (See here and here.)
- The widgetization of the web is a trend that will contribute to the welfare of blogs, as widgets can be plugged into the sidebar, extending the functionality of blogs as more of a social networking platform.
- Blog posts will be less anecdotal and more article-like in their format. More of what Brian Clark refers to as value blogging. That, to me, spells maturity. The less important, more transient content now ends up on Twitter, Facebook or Utterz. This leaves the blog as the repository for more thoughtfully prepared material.
Much more could be added to this list and I hope to do so over the next few weeks. I want to take a look at the changes taking place from several perspectives: blogging as a profession, its use as a marketing communications tool, blog technology and the industry of blogging as a whole.
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