An Ode to the Independent Blogosphere

They say independent blogging is dead. Perhaps they're right. But we do not have to go gentle into that good night.

Blogs are dead.

Social media and larger commercial publications have swallowed up the little guy typing away on a laptop in a trendy café somewhere, pressing publish and watching the top of the index page update with the latest missive. Now it’s all about constant “lifecasting” on the Instasnapbookchaterest.

No longer do we have to bother with such archaic notions as linking to other bloggers’ work of interest, engaging with readers in the comments section, or participating in reciprocal guest blog posting (and related concepts like blog rolls or blog rings). No longer should we concern ourselves with writing solid topical content in order to rank well in search engines. It’s all about the social “juice” now. You live and die by how “viral” your content is on Facebook et al. Oh yeah, and don’t forget: text is out, man. You really should be doing photos or videos. Who actually reads articles anymore?

You know, I didn’t actually believe any of that. People said such stuff and I thought it was nonsense—a bunch of goofy hyperbole by overactive social marketing “gurus” with an agenda to push. That is, until this summer, when I started to notice a series of disturbing trends.

Firstly, traffic on my blog from Google had been constantly inching down, and not because my placements on Google had changed. Fewer people were actually clicking on the search results. I haven’t been able to determine why this is, although one possibility is simply that the main article I constantly rank high for has somewhat exhausted its target audience (in other words, many of the people searching the term have already seen the article). Whatever the reason, my efforts to improve SEO over the past few months have yet to materialize into improved traffic.

Secondly, I noticed open rates on my newsletter going down. Now this is a challenging thing to contemplate. One possible reason is I’m simply not writing anything interesting. (Yikes!) The more likely reason I suspect is that it’s simply getting harder and harder to stand out (or even be visible at all!) in people’s email inboxes anymore. I’ve heard of other newsletters having issues with engagement as well in recent times.

Lastly, I have become rather frustrated lately due to my failed attempts to reach out to other bloggers to either (a) write guest posts for their blogs or (b) receive guest posts from them to publish here at JaredWhite.com. I remember “back in the day” (I’ve been blogging in one form or another since the ’90s!) most bloggers were quite willing—excited even—to share blog traffic back and forth via guest posting. Now it seems nobody has either the time nor the interest. For many people, their blog is largely just a marketing vehicle for some other media or product, and the actual blog itself and being a collaborative part of the “blogosphere” isn’t the main priority. Instead of a blog being a “social” medium in and of itself, a blog has become just a dumb repository for content promoted via other social media platforms.

I must admit, as a veteran blogger, I am saddened as I look around at the state of blogging on the web. I feel a little bit like how the past generation must have felt when they saw their favorite record stores all closing down, or stopped getting handwritten letters from friends. Fifteen years ago, blogs “disrupted” traditional news media, and now it seems blogs themselves have been disrupted. Oh sure, I’ll grant you there are still a number of successful blogs out there, but they tend to be in certain topical niches published by people who already have an established background in journalism or online publishing (Sixcolors is but one example in the well-trafficked Apple/Tech genre).

This all leaves me wondering what my best course of action is. There are two writing initiatives in particular that up until now I’ve placed lower priority to my blog, and now I’m rethinking that prioritization. One is my book on Christian mindfulness that is need of concentrated attention. The other is a specific magazine concept I’ve been toying with in the back of my mind for the past few years. I’m getting a strong sense that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to put my focus on that more than I have to date.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I am at heart an essayist. And I still believe that independent voices on the web deserve their own home and the freedom to publish whatever, whenever, and however they choose. In short, I am and always shall be a blogger. Which means that, no matter what happens, I intend to continue writing and publishing on JaredWhite.com until that day when the world-wide web is consumed in a fiery ball of obsolescence and some other newfangled technology becomes the Next Big Thing for words which connect writers with their audience.

Jared White