Here’s another take on the rise of short format and the decline of long format on the social web. Without a discussion about streaming it all sounds like a series of fads:
Verne Kopytoff, Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter
The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.
Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.
Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.
Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.
Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.
Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.
No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.
Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said.
“If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”
Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services.
“The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging,” Mr. Rainie said. “It’s just morphing onto other platforms.”
The blurring of lines is readily apparent among users of Tumblr. Although Tumblr calls itself a blogging service, many of its users are unaware of the description and do not consider themselves bloggers — raising the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.
Kim Hou, a high school senior in San Francisco, said she quit blogging months ago, but acknowledged that she continued to post fashion photos on Tumblr. “It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,” she said. “With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.”
Asking people why they don’t do something often leads to a general explanation: I don’t have time. Robert Putnam found that when asking people why they didn’t get involved in community organizations was invariably told by respondents that they had not time, that commuting, work, house work, and child care were taking up all of people’s time. But when he researched where people’s time was going, the answer was glaring: television watching steeply increased starting in the ’60s to an all-time high in the ’90s. Almost 5 hours a day in the US, crowding out community involvement almost totally.
So, you can’t really trust people’s folklore about why they do and don’t do the thinks that they do and don’t do. You can, however, examine what they are actually doing, like the Pew folks do.
And the most important and unexamined aspect of the move from blogs to streaming applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr is their streaming nature. Streaming and the open follower model is an evolutionary advance over the primitive social structures of the old school blogging era. People are moving from the slower, less social model of interaction embedded in the blogging model, to a much faster, and much more social model of interaction in streaming applications.
And this is only the wavefront of the transition to a web of flow, away from the web of pages: that’s the deep background story here.