October 16, 2009

The Blog's Place In A World of Microblogging: Not Dead Yet!

Even as the microblogging space seems to be white hot these days, the world of longer-form blogging is still seeing impressive growth, with all major blogging platforms showing greater than 20 to 40 percent growth year over year, and record users, blogs and total readers, according to Compete.com data and a presentation from Google's Rick Klau, product manager for Blogger, who spoke at Blog World Expo this afternoon. Rick reported that his platform, Blogger, which I use, is now seeing nearly 300,000 words per minute, scaling to 417 million words per month, from more than 10 million content creators.

Yet, despite this high usage, many have challenged the platform, saying "blogging is dead". There are more than 360,000 results on Google saying that "blogging is dead", with many high profile articles saying that disparate social networks like Facebook, FriendFeed and Twitter should be where people's attention are. But Rick said that the rise of microblogging didn't necessarily come at the expense of traditional blogging. In fact, he said these third party sites actually served to drive even more attention and traffic to the core blog content.

"Microblogs are complementary, not competitive," Rick said. "It is a driver of attention and engagement back to the blog."

For Rick, who has run his own personal blog (at tins.rklau.com) and has been active since 2001, he reported that Twitter has become the highest traffic generator for his site outside of search, and in that list, so also are Facebook and FriendFeed. He suggested rather than trying to fight against the flow on microblogging, to embrace it, and make sure your content is available to these disparate networks, while remembering to engage where it lands.

"The blog tends to be visited by people interested in what you are saying, and the people on Twitter and Facebook are interested in you, and by proxy, what you are saying," he said. "I happen to believe that based on what I have seen with my blog for eight years, people are comfortable communicating in the environment they have chosen. If I force the conversation back to the blog, I will lose the audience who have the eagerness to engage, comfortable where they live."

Rick suggested that if you are a Facebook user, to pull your blog content into Facebook, making it available to this new audience, who may leave comments much different than those which are native to your site. He also recommended that you utilize tools like bit.ly to track statistics and click-throughs to your site from those links you send through Twitter, to help you understand how much the microblogs are impacting your own blog.

Given his background at Google, Rick made it clear that the company's data-driven nature forced decisions, and the company continues to see serious growth in traditional blogs.

"There are very few questions that get asked at Google when I don't have the data to back up an answer," Rick said. "You don't get many opportunities to say "I feel" or "it seems" at Google."

But in his experience, Rick suggested that bloggers not get locked into writing posts for specific statistics, including page views. He said that as you are a multi-faceted person, you should be confident writing about more than just one thing, so one should feel comfortable covering more than just the single topic.

"Don't become a slave to the focus of your blog at the expense of having fun.You can be passionate about a wide variety of subjects," he added.

Blogging and micro-blogging are not a zero-sum game, but can be complimentary. Sending blog content to downstream networks makes that content available to those connections who are more comfortable in their own environment. As I have mentioned many times, your blog is your brand - which Rick echoed by saying that on your blog, you control every pixel, and therefore, the end user experience.

Bloggers need to adapt to the new world, but aren't antiquated in this new world. It makes sense to participate wherever the content lands and wherever your readers are, without pushing to centralize the conversation on your site, but there is no substitute for long-form conversations and being passionate. Rick communicated a simple formula: "Content + Passion + Engagement". And that will make the blog go, even in a world of change.

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