Blogging is Dead: When the Bubble Bursts
Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”. Oscar Wilde proclaimed, “Everything popular is wrong”.
My grandma, who is 87 years old, just launched her brand new blog. Obviously that got me thinking … is blogging dead? Are blogs doomed? Is the blogosphere a bubble ready to blow up? Years ago my dad taught me something about stocks – “When you hear a hot stock tip, SELL”! In other words by the time that “hot tip” trickles all the way down to you and me, it’s way too late.
More than 133 million blogs have been indexed by Technorati since 2002, pumping out a mind-numbing average of 900 thousand blog posts 24 hours of every day, 365 days a year. The current population of the U.S.A. according to 2010 census statistics is 310 million. That means better than one out of every three people in the country owns a blog, and lest we forget that a third of the US population are children, so perhaps the number is closer to every other adult person in the U.S.A. is a purveyor of a blog?
Now granted, Technocrati’s coverage extends beyond our borders and the worldwide population is 6.8 billion, so my ratios may be skewed, but the point remains, there are an awful lot of blogs – and the numbers are growing exponentially. The number of new blogs born each year far exceeds the number of new babys born each year. At the current rate of growth we could see billions of blogs clogging the information superhighway in the years to come.
Hell, If blogging isn’t a bubble, then I don’t know what is!
History warns us about the madness of crowds. Every time you find the vast majority of people en mass enthusiastically adopting anything you will find an irrational bubbles forming, followed by a unanimous consensus and collective denial from the participants in the bubble, claiming that, “it is different this time” …which inevitable is followed by a loud pop! – which quickly silences the crowd.
“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking”. ~J.K. Galbraith
There is no exception to this pattern, it repeats itself without fail, and the result is always the same. Bubbles may be difficult to identify while they are forming, and impossible to predict when they will burst, but one thing you can count on is they always will. The laws of gravity are agnostic. It doesn’t matter if it’s dot com stocks, housing, or blogging, what goes up, always comes back down. Unfortunately, what we learn from history, is that we don’t learn from history.
Bubbles can be traced all the way back to the latter middle ages when Italian cites in 1351 first issued marketable securities that the masses purchased for speculation only to be burned when the issuers and early adopters sold at the top of the market.
Speculative euphoria and widespread optimism gave birth to Tulipomania in the Dutch Republic in the 1630’s. The Tulip craze grew to embrace most social classes where the bulbs where bought, sold and traded. At the height of the boom a single tulip bulb could be had for the price of a small townhouse. On February 3 rd 1637 the tulip market suddenly crashed.
There was the Mississippi and South Sea Bubble in 1717. The emerging gold rush in the 1820’s where folks sold it all to “head to them there hills” to mine their fortune, only to leave most broke and destitute. Railway mania took hold in 1845 and that bubble burst shortly after. The crash of the stock market in 1929 and the subsequent great depression is eerie reminder of the devastating effects of bursting bubbles. We saw a stock market crash in October 1987 when equities became over valued from too many people chasing easy money. Followed by the great bull market of the 1990’s which for the first time since the great depression saw the average household enthusiastically buying equities driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average from a low of 2,365 in 1990 to 10,000 in March of 1999, a gain of more than 320 percent, followed by Federal Reserve Chairman Allen Greenspan’s irrational exuberance speech, then the dot com crash. The housing market bubble in the 2000’s and its collapse in 2008 is a more recent reminder that history does indeed repeat itself.
All of which reminds me of Cato’s letters, dated January 1721: There must certainly be a vast fund of stupidity in human nature, else men would not be caught as the are, a thousand times over, by the same snare; and while they yet remember their past misfortunes, go on to court and encourage the causes to which they were owing, and which will again produce them.
So back to blogs … are they dead? I certainly hope not! I’m passionate about my blog. I wake up every morning thinking about how I can serve and add value to the lives of those who read my stuff. I love creating worthwhile original content and putting it out into the world, and can’t think of any better way to get it out there than my blog. But as the name of my blog suggests, I am an oppositional thinker by nature and nonconformist by training. I cannot help but think that my chosen vehicle for spreading my message is anything but contrarian. I wonder about the fate and future of my blog, considering I am now standing squarely on the side of the majority, so it does make me pause and reflect.
“One dog barks at something, and a hundred bark at the bark”. ~Chinese Proverb
I’m pausing and reflecting…
The intellectual inferiority of the crowd is well documented. People filter and manipulate new information to make it accord with their existing beliefs. Psychologists call this behavior “cognitive dissonance”. Dissonant information, which contradicts the collective view, is uncomfortable and people seek to avoid it. They may do this by shooting the messenger or by conscripting new converts to their fold to justify their own position. I am not a profit of doom, nor do I have no stake in seeing blogging as we know it die, in fact I have skin in this game as an owner of a blog so I’d prefer they live on and prosper. But I also don’t live with my head in the sand, and there is no denying the fact that the hyper-growth of blogging and the mania surrounding the industry has all the stereotypical characteristics of a bubble.
I fear the day of reckoning is at hand with the air already started leaking out of this blogging bubble. In 2002 when blogging was young, enthusiasts rode high, with posts quickly skyrocketing to the top of Google’s search results for any given topic, fueled by generous links from fellow bloggers. Today, the odds of my clever, insightful, witty prose appearing high on Google’s list? Zero, zip, fuggeddaboudit!
Brian Clark of Copyblogger recently wrote an article, called Actually, Blogging is Dead . His article however was a tongue-in-cheek piece lampooning those who have been unsuccessful (so far) in their claim that blogging is dead. Brian accurately points out that every year the critics are wrong. But I must ask, are the critics wrong about the bubble bursting, or are they just wrong about their timing?
Warren Buffet refused to participate in the 1990’s dot com bubble, and every year for seven years in a row he insisted that equities where overpriced and represented a bubble, and warned that the bubble would inevitably burst. Buffet sat on his hands while his contemporaries made money buying into the mania. He didn’t follow his peers into the gold rush, stating, “even turkeys can fly in a high wind”. For six out of those seven years Buffet was wrong and all the while the enthusiastic masses like a herd of lemmings poured their hard earned money into the market, and for a while they where well rewarded for it. All the stock market professionals and financial gurus said Warren Buffet was passé, he didn’t know what he was talking about, and their famous last words… “It’s different this time.” Funny how none of those experts where around for comment in the seventh year when the bubble blew up and all the naysayers portfolios where halved.
So, are Brian Clark , Darren Rowse , and all the other blogging experts correct, or are they suffering from cognitive dissonance? Is blogging alive and well? Is there no bubble on the horizon? Is it different this time? Will blogs survive and thrive? Or will those who foretold blogging’s fate be found to have been wrong on their timing, but right about the ultimate fate of blogging? Who knows? But if past history is any indication, and if it does indeed repeat itself like it always does, we know how this story will end.
“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted”. ~Bertrand Russell
One thing I do believe is the altruistic voices with a meaningful message to share who willingly create profound content for it’s own sake, are needed now more than ever, and will be just as much in demand in the future as they are today. The marketplace will always make way for its writers, artists, and poets who create NOT for profit or “tribe building” but because they are called to fulfill a passion.
In the months following the doomsday scenario the blogosphere will resemble a moonscape littered with light-minded blogs that regurgitated hollow recycled drivel, including those that used to hype the latest and greatest SEO tips, subscriber-building gimmickry, and blogging chicanery. But in the aftermath of the exploded bubble, those who consistently created worthwhile, honorable, and meritorious original content will still be standing tall. They will go to work today, just like they did yesterday, diligently creating their works of art, and we will seek them out, and if we don’t find them in the form of a “blog”, then it will be in the form of something else - and we will all be better for it.