70 ft Cut-out of Indian Super-Star Rajanikanth
70 ft Cut-out of Indian Super-Star Rajanikanth

Blogs have changed the media landscape while creating a new breed of thought leaders and influencers. The recent past saw the rise of celebrity bloggers in every niche. Fashionistas, tech geeks, chefs, stay-at-home moms, etc., have had self-publishing ventures launch them from obscurity to stardom.  Along with websites and forums, blogs too became internet ‘destinations’.

Like media avenues of the previous generation, these new media destinations offered us a daily diet of news and entertainment. As a bonus we could also express ourselves, agreeing or disagreeing with content, interacting as part of the communities on these internet destinations. The blogger star had reached its peak…almost. It was good while it lasted.

Fading star

You, like most people on the web these days, now get news and entertainment shared via your Twitter or Facebook feed. We love to share things that interest us. We probably overdo it too. As we gather new friends and followers there’s obviously going to be even more sharing.

With the social sharing phenomenon, blogs and websites have seen their traffic only increase. What next?

Factor in the following:

  • Rise of the Social Browser: Brain Solis writes about the increasing relevancy of the social web

    Either way, it’s just a matter of time until Facebook traffic surpasses Google with tenable data supporting the historic milestone.

    We frequently rely on our social feeds to find interesting content online. ‘Social browsers’ like Facebook (you know that Facebook wants to be your homepage) and Twitter are the new online hang-outs. Websites and blogs are increasingly just stop overs, as we explore the online world via our socially curated feeds.

  • Changes in community behavior: Mitch Joel says

    If I Blog, then you comment and I respond, that’s not community. That’s engagement. If I blog, then you comment and them someone else responds to you, those are the first indicators that a community may actually be forming.

    Even without differentiating between ‘engagement’ and ‘communities’, building communities and keeping them is going to be more of a challenge for blogs and websites. Discussions that formerly took place on blogs, forums and websites now take place in the social browsers of Facebook and Twitter.

  • The coming generation of web users (Zuckerberg’s apparent target for Facebook email) is less likely to be part of ‘isolated’ communities on blogs and websites, instead preferring to stay within the social communities (currently, mostly on Facebook) they are growing up and familiar with. They also seem to have much shorter attention spans as they adapt to the avalanche of content choices.
  • Better publishing methods: The number of content choices, that an average person has, is expected to rise as publication tools get even simpler to use. Facebook and Twitter themselves offer more intuitive self-publication tools/opportunities, than blogging platforms currently do.
  • Everyone is a content creator: Websites and blogs will no longer be competing for attention, just with each other. They will also be competing with individual photo albums, videos and other easy to create, user generated content. All this activity will play out on individual social feeds.

Due to social sharing and resulting increased distribution reach, traffic to blogs and other sources of content will probably increase. However, the total time spent (per visit) on these places will decrease as people jump in, out…and back to the new internet destinations, which relentlessly update with content choices.

A new breed of ‘social interaction aggregators’ (which fetch and display all the comments and other social interactions about the source content, from social browsers) that plug into blogs may well give blogs a renewed lease on relevancy. Communities (built around topics rather than blogs/sites) will be showcased on blogs/sites via Facebook or Twitter. This community will not belong to the source content creator, in an older sense of the word.

As time spent on individual portals decrease, so will the instances of individual bloggers turning into major influencers and thought leaders. Especially when the expected increase in the plethora of content choices, is coupled with audience fragmentation.

Despite this, many of the fundamental reasons for blogging will remain true. Each blog/content post could be enhanced by a wealth of information due to the interaction aggregators that plug in and connect to wider social ecosystems. One’s overall social presence (quantified/measured by these interaction aggregators) will count more than the SEO benefits of ‘dofollow’ comments. Blogs will be increasingly vital to personal as well as business brands. In fact, your social media cred is likely to be an increasingly valuable asset to your career. Blogging is here to stay, in one form or the other.

Star bloggers, maybe not so much.

Democratization of Infuence

About time too! Terms like ‘influencers’ and ‘thought-leaders’ implies an elitist ability to ‘influence’ people into predictable patterns of thought and behavior. This makes fertile ground for ideological as well as corporate monopolies. Such methods may have been vital (even necessary) part of civilization building, in the past. But that was before technology provided us with means of real-time social communication – ubiquitous, intuitive and accessible (by large numbers).

Reasons for individuals, brands, corporations and governments to influence and/or manipulate other individuals into predictable behaviour can now be questioned. ‘Elitist Free Thought’ is an oxymoron.  Technology now enables us to take the next leap forward towards the democratization of ‘influence’ based on the foundations of participation, transparency and service.

… if we really want it. Do we?

Your thoughts?

[ Image courtesy Mid-day.com by Bipin Kokate ]

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