Blogosphere

Welcome to the post-blog era

I’ve noticed a shift in this blog‘s audience during the almost nine years I’ve been writing it. Early on, bloggers and non-bloggers alike read my posts. But in recent years, if you read this blog regularly you probably have a blog, too, and it’s probably on WordPress.com. So say my stats.

Those stats also say that most visits to this blog come from Google searches. Someone finds Grandpa’s old camera in a drawer, or wants to get film developed, or remembers the CBS Late Movie, and searches to learn more. It’s easy to be an authority on the Internet: write about something arcane or obscure, and searches will drive visitors to your door! But those search-driven visitors never become regular readers. They came here for information about that subject and, once satisfied, go away forever.

2015stats

Views and visits to this blog, by year

Yet those searches have made 2015 far and away the best year this blog has ever had, at least as measured by page views. A handful of my posts about photography have become relatively popular, and drive 200 to 300 page views a day.

On the one hand, I’m glad to have published a few things that people find useful. On the other, what makes me keep blogging is engaged readership. I love it when you comment. I like it when you click Like.

But because I write of the obscure and arcane — old cameras, old roads, the dusty corners of my faith — well, my fantasies of Internet fame with thousands of adoring readers will just have to remain fantasies. I’m grateful I have regular readers at all.

I figure there are on the order of magnitude of 100 of you, people who look at each of my posts on or near the day I publish them. And I thank the Internet that we’ve found each other. Our blogs link us through our common, but unusual, interests. For example, I’ve collected cameras for 40 years. It was a lonely hobby until I started this blog and met you.

And that, I think, is where blogging shines: in the niches. It didn’t used to be that way. Blogs used to be like online diaries that anyone could read. But Facebook fills that need now. And in blogging‘s early days, it was possible to gain a large audience and make money directly by blogging. Some of those early big bloggers are still at it. But today, too many voices clamor for attention. Anyone who wants to attract a large audience on the Internet pretty much needs to write for a site that already gets lots of traffic.

And now I see that possibly even niche blogging could shift toward sites where traffic is already high. Facebook’s new Notes feature looks suspiciously like blogging. I could move there easily enough. I already have my account set up so anyone can follow me, and most of my posts there are public. And Facebook’s easy sharing might bring me more readers. All I’d have to do is start writing there.

Or I could move to Medium, an upstart writing platform that’s doing a stellar job of building an audience. It’s not on Facebook’s scale yet, but my read is that the audience there is engaged, where sometimes Facebook’s sharing can be a little mindless. I occasionally repost something from my software blog on Medium, but have yet to figure out how to get many readers.

WordPress does a pretty good job of shifting with the times. After all, WordPress powers one out of every four Web sites on the Internet! But notice I said Web sites and not blogs. This is a broadening of their original mission, a tacit admission that the personal blog‘s heyday is long past over.

So who knows where I will be blogging in a year, or two, or five. Regardless of platform, I will persist. I crave connection with like-minded people, and by keeping at this for almost nine years and by commenting on your blogs, you keep coming back here. I’m so grateful for you.

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54 thoughts on “Welcome to the post-blog era

  1. Shirley B. says:

    Hey Jim,

    Just a short comment to let you know that, ever since spotting your pictures of former East-Berlin, I’ve become a regular reader. I probably don’t show up in the statistics because I read many of your blogs in the email I receive (the one that notifies me of your latest blogs). I would have liked to be able to “like” the blogs I read, but this is only possible for people who have a WordPress account. Since I don’t have one (I’m a reader, not a writer), no likes from me. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your blogs: I do!

    So please keep on blogging? I’ll keep on reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    I’m a pro photographer, and photo department manager (and I don’t blog either). I found you because I was doing some research on an old camera, and ran across your site, then realized you lived in Indy, which I had just moved to. I like the pics from scanned film that you publish, and the vintage Indy stuff I should be driving to see myself, and your eclectic camera collection! You may not reach blog-star status, but I bet you gain interested readers and the volume matures and grows vs. getting big in a flash and then dying in a flash! Keep it up…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jon says:

    Hi Jim,
    I discovered your blog years ago via Mike’s blog.(which I miss greatly) and have been a faithful reader since. I enjoy it very much. I think it’s interesting that folks can live such different lives yet share the same interests and hobbies. I will never blog and don’t have much to say, but I enjoy reading. One of my favorite features of your blog is the weekly links to your favorite blog posts, and I always read them. Thanks for all the work you put in and Happy Christmas.
    Regards,
    Jonathon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jon, thanks for coming over! I miss Mike’s blog, too, a lot. I learned a lot from him. I’m glad you like my Recommended Reading posts. They’re fun to put together. I read a lot and like sharing what I enjoy. Thanks for coming along for this ride!

      Like

  4. I build and published websites, forums and Bulletin Boards since about 1998 specifically about wildlife photography and zoos, but in the age of Facebook & Co that makes no real fun anymore. So I startet just reading and commanting on around the web and to share pictures on flickr, ipernity and thumblr. I joined WordPress to be able to like your and some black and white photographer’s posts, but I have no ambitions to start a blog myself in the moment.
    By the way: I like your blog and to read about vintage cameras and the old roads very much, I love many of your pictures, but I’m not really happy with the new style and I miss the coverphoto of the pretty winding road!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always appreciate your comments on my Flickr photos!

      As for no longer having the banner photo at the top of the blog: I don’t know how I feel about that, either. I liked it, but more and more blogs I see are skipping a banner photo and are going more clean and simple — or are going the other way, where the banner photo fills the browser and you have to scroll down to read the post. I’m not happy with either approach. I may play with this blog template to see if I can put a small banner photo up top.

      Meanwhile, here’s my favorite of the banner photos from my old theme:

      US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana

      Liked by 1 person

  5. hmunro says:

    I’ve only been blogging for six years, but I’ve noticed the same profound shift in readership and engagement that you have. The lack of engagement especially had begun to bother me, until I attended the Minnesota Blogger Conference a few weeks ago and learned that this is actually a consistent trend across all blogs. Even popular writers who routinely used to get hundreds of comments now receive only a handful. It’s reminded me (once again) to write for my own pleasure and not worry so much about the stats. As for YOUR blog: Even if you switch platforms, I hope you will never stop blogging. Whether you’re discussing faith or Indiana or old cameras, you always have something interesting to say. I probably don’t say it enough, but thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am jealous of some of the blogs I follow where every post gets 30 comments. But there are fewer of those now than, say, five years ago. And honestly, the comment rate here has gone up over the past couple years — but I think that’s because a group of people such as you have become regular readers, and we’ve formed something of a connection through the ether, and so this is kind of like a kaffeklatsch where we all sort of know each other and feel comfortable. But I’m still not getting 30 comments on every post; more like 3-10.

      But yeah, if I focused on numbers, this wouldn’t be fun anymore. I’m just glad to have made connections with people like you. Thank YOU for YOUR blog, esp. your photos and stories of Freiburg, which remain my favorite things you’ve shared.

      Liked by 2 people

      • hmunro says:

        Right back at ya, Jim — I’m glad to have connected with you through your blog. And thank you for your kind words about my Freiburg posts, especially. I’ve been feeling a bit homesick for Freiburg, so I’ll do another post just for you!
        PS: Frohe Weihnachten to you and yours.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Do you think the increase in engagement in platforms like Facebook have diluted engagement? I also suspect that people who click a Like button feel that this is engagement enough, but in reality it’s not the kind of engagement we’re looking for.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hmunro says:

        Absolutely, I think platforms like Facebook have diluted engagement! Some social media strategists argue otherwise, but the inescapable fact is that human beings only get 24 hours a day. If we’re spending more time on Twitter and Facebook, we’re spending less time reading blogs. Period. I also think platforms like Facebook and Snapchat have shortened our collective attention span and changed our perception of what constitutes engagement. In general, most people now seem to favor clever one-liners and “likes” over longer-form comments. I, for one, do miss the more thoughtful sharing of ideas that used to happen in the comments field, but — other than writing deliberately provocative posts, I suppose — there’s little I can do to turn that tide. But as you’ve just proven, at least there are a few of us still out there who enjoy chatting and connecting in a more meaningful way than just clicking “like.” (Although I’m still going to “like” your comment anyway. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think your title pretty well nails it. Blogging may well be the next dinosaur. About seven years ago some of my favorite bloggers caved to facebook. I see that as a quickly growing trend; soon there will be few of “us” left. I understand the appeal of the switch. Readers “liking” a post or even reposting a post spreads it quickly across a large population. I prefer to remain a blogger and I am happy that you have chosen the same path.

    Much of what I read on facebook suggests that it was whipped out on the spur of the moment and encountered little editing. Or thought, for that matter. Not that I never whip stuff out, you understand. *insert laugh track*

    Liked by 1 person

    • There would be a lot to be said for blogging directly on Facebook if I could schedule posts in advance and include photos inline as I do here. Everybody is already *on* Facebook. People aren’t already on WordPress, unless they’re blogging too.

      I have WordPress set up to share my posts automatically on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. But only a snippet of the post shows up there, with one of the photos, and you have to click through to read more. I think that limits my audience via Facebook. A new post might get two or three clickthroughs from Facebook.

      What Facebook has been very good at is bringing visits on specific posts in those place-history pages. For example, my post about the theaters of South Bend has gotten hundreds of visits thanks to being shared repeatedly on the South Bend-area pages there.

      I don’t see me leaving WordPress anytime soon. First, my blog.jimgrey.net address has all sorts of Google search goodness attached to it, and I’d lose that if I switched to Facebook, and I might lose it if I switched to Medium. But I am also watching carefully for a dropoff in readership, because at the end of the day I won’t keep doing this if people won’t read it. I will want to move to where the readers are well enough in advance of blogging’s death.

      Like

  7. I am not a blogger but I do read just about every one of your articles each morning over coffee. I rarely comment but I almost always enjoy the content no matter the topic. I am a little younger than you but you remind me of my older brother except for he regretfully doesn’t collect old cameras. I am an avid film photographer and I collect old cameras, which is what brought me here in the first place. Thank you for being you Jim. I enjoy it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. George Denzinger says:

    Heh! You have elucidated one of my (admittedly small) daily conundrums… Do I respond on the blog? Or do I respond on FB? (Or, how can I expand my vocabulary on the internet?) I get your notifications in my email and my FB news feed. It kind of depends on my mood where I respond, sometimes I’m still plowing through my FB feed and want to come back to something on there, other times I like responding here.

    Several years ago, when the hosting company that was hosting our soccer club’s site decided to exit the free (ad sponsored) hosting business, I brought up this issue to the club’s management. I initially lobbied to have a “placeholder” site and do the vast majority of the club’s public business on FB. Nope, the management wanted a regular website, with all it entails (meaning a fair amount of maintenance on my end as I’m the webmaster for it).

    Now our current hosting company is about to raise rates by 200%, the club is faced with the choice of finding another host and having a real “site”. Or, like I had proposed three years ago, a placeholder site that redirects everybody to our FB page?

    The reason why I bring this up is that even our website traffic has fallen off considerably, and by accident or force of habit are starting to do more and more of our public business on FB. It’s not just you, or even blogs in particular. Many folks have been saying that FB is dead, and some other platform is now king, but I don’t agree. One thing that FB does is to make it easy to integrate them into your business, life and consciousness.

    TL:DR; Keep on doing what you’re doing. You seem to have a nice following, even if it isn’t huge.

    Like

    • Can I just admit that I prefer it when people comment on the blog? But I’m not ever going to complain about comments on FB; just as long as people are reading!!

      My church has gone the Facebook-only route. The upside is no silly Web site to maintain. The downside is that as a Page, Facebook limits our visibility and wants us to pay to promote posts.

      Like

  9. Christopher Smith says:

    I’m no facebòoker and I don’t blog only whish I could, so please keep this blog and I will keep reading . I am a camera collector like you and have been doing it a long time on and off. I like how you write about old film cameras but I find you other subjects interesting to but not always able to articulate a comment but I will where I can.
    btw. I like the new look nice and clean and easy to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with a lot of this post. I also blog about old cameras and new, dusty lenses, optical glass, and other thoughts, but find that an audience to engage with is hard to find despite getting visits each day (nowhere near your stats). Part of that is because I run a self hosted blog, so connection requires a lot of attention and time. I try my best to provide interesting articles, but at the end of the day, a blog is just a personal diary without audience engagement, and I don’t want a private diary. On the good days I persist and am thankful for a single monthly subscriber, and hope they find the content useful. On bad days, I feel like I’m whispering into the wind, knowing that everyone else clamors for attention. Anyway, it’s nice to know that other like minds are out there. You can find my own blog here: http://www.sjp.id.au
    Thanks for your thoughts, and know that I do stop by here :)

    Like

    • I have to admit, starting on WordPress.com turned out to be the most important choice I made when I started this blog. I think it helped me find my initial (small) audience (beyond my friends), and it absolutely removed site maintenance from my life.

      I’ve added your blog to my reader. Hang in there; you’ll find your audience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. I guess I’ll just have to :) I’d be curious to know if my posts appear in your Reader. To my knowledge they won’t since it is considered external to the wp.com encironment. I think there is a way of making them appear if the URL is added manually though, but it’s too much to ask people to do really. I’ve even been thinking o opening a wp.com blog just for the connections, but your post is food for thought.

        Like

  11. Bummer. I’m still adjusting to the post-Usenet era. From the moment I saw this post I’ve felt a response coming on but I just couldn’t get it focused. Still can’t but I’ll toss in one thought anyway.

    I don’t automatically link to blog posts from Facebook but I do it fairly often. There was a time when I was actually displeased when someone commented on a post at Facebook rather than at the blog. It didn’t last long. I appreciate what little traffic I have and appreciate all responses even more so. That includes Facebook, email, txt messages, Twitter, and the oh-so-last-century guestbook. However, I do still get annoyed at people who click “Like” on a Facebook link without even peeking at the actual post.

    Like

  12. Dan Cluley says:

    Another reader without a blog here. I followed you over from Curbside Classics after you mentioned one of your Argus cameras. I suspect one of the hidden blessings of a reasonably small audience, is that you are less likely to attract the trolls. I know some of the big-name bloggers have to spend an awful lot of time & energy moderating their comment threads.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: 2015 in the Rear View | Denny G's Road Trips Blog

  14. I’m very protective of my blog content so I won’t be switching to company owned platforms myself. The beauty of WordPress is that moving to a self hosted instance is dead easy.

    Like

    • Great point: when you publish on LinkedIn, Medium, or Facebook, your words and pictures can go poof and you’ve got no recourse. With WordPress.com, you can export your site and save everything.

      Liked by 1 person

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