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Thoughts about New/Social Media

Q&A on blogging’s decline

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Charles Moreira, contributing editor at Mobile World & SURF magazines, asked me a bunch of questions about the decline of blogging. Here are my answers:

1. Before we proceed any further, does the term “blogging” refer to publishing one’s views online (POVO) using weblog tools or does it refer to the act of POVO using whatever technology or tools?

The answer is both and then some. Blogging, when it first emerged in the late 90s in the US, referred to the act of sharing interesting weblinks through a reverse chronological format (meaning latest first). The standard formula used was “Excerpt + Embedded Link(s) + Commentary”.

This, incidentally is still the preferred formula for well established bloggers like Jeff Ooi, Rocky’s Bru and Tony Pua/Ong Kian Ming.

Over the years, the term blogging has evolved to embody a broader set of activities. Taken at its extreme, anything published on the web is considered a blog. That is why you have people referring to RPK’s Malaysia Today as a blog although it has little resemblance to a blog in the original sense of the word. It’s basically a website with a lot of content sourced from all over the place. Similarly, people refer to TV Smith’s website as a blog but again, it has little resemblance to what a blog originally was.

Does it matter? Not really. If someone wants to call the New York Times a blog, they can. It’s a free world, you can call something whatever you want to call it. But it does make the term blog irrelevant. When you say John Doe there has a blog, do you know what it means anymore? For all you know it’s a static website with postings of a few cartoons. But some people out there will call it a blog.

But generally speaking, these days, when someone says blog, they refer to a site which has regularly updated postings, in reverse chronological order. Whether there are links or whether there are excerpts seems to be unimportant. As long as there are postings, the site is usually referred to as a blog.

2. Thus if it be the first meaning, is the use of weblog tools for points of view online in decline and if it is the second meaning, then what are the reasons for it?

Social media has become the main way the young and the hip are interacting online these days. Since they are on Facebook all the time, it makes sense that they post their musings there instead of on a standalone blog.

3. While the act of points of view online remains the same whatever the technologies and tools used, what are the benefits of the different tools and technologies for bloggers and why is the so called “blogging craze” so strongly associated with weblog tools and technologies in the public mind?

A blog allows for lengthier entries than say, a status update on Facebook or Twitter. Also from a legacy standpoint, previously people could not publish very easily on the web. Blogging tools came along and democratized publishing by making it very, very easy. That is why people still associate blogging with blogging tools like Blogger.com and WordPress.

4. If there be this decline in blogging, since when did it begin and could it be due to pressures of time, concerns about income and employmemt security, loss of homes to foreclosures and so on which have led to people blogging less or to less people blogging?

I think it has to do with human nature. Very few people can keep up an activity for long – especially without pay, without much of an audience, without any pressure to do so. When blogging first burst onto the scene, everyone wanted to get on it cos it was the cool thing to do and yes, everyone is a writer. Everyone has got something to say. But how long can you keep it up?

5. When it comes to political blogging, could it be a sense of fultility among bloggers in that while blogging gives people a sense of empowerment to bypass the filters of mainstream media to get their views across, still it has not had all that much influences on the actions of their governments and leaders?

The impact of blogging in Malaysia is in the form of secondary access than primary. What I mean by that is that very few people have direct access to the Internet (certainly less than 50% of the population). But when you have a scandal like the Lingam case which first appeared on YouTube and then was blogged to death by countless bloggers, it trickles down to the kampung folks and aunties and grandpas. They might not have seen the clip, they might not have read the blog commentaries but they would know the phrase “correct, correct, correct”. And this does have an impact on the voting population.

6. Is there an element where blogging is a phase activity which bloggers grow tired of, much like a young person in their teens and twenties may frequent a pub or disco two, three or more times a week but grow tired of it in their middle age, when they are married and have children and their priorities in life change?

It’s not so much a phase as it is human nature (see my answer to Question No. 4). Few people can persist with doing something consistently and regularly for a long period of time without some kind of pay off. And for most bloggers, there is no pay off.

7. What are the trends in the Malaysian blogging scene?

The ones who will remain blogging are the ones who have got something substantial to share. When someone is passionate about something or is on a mission, his/her payoff is just being able to share their joy at whatever activity they are passionate in. So, you will see niche blogs – on politics, on technology, on food, etc… continue to thrive. But not the casual, hopping-onto-the bandwagon types.

8. Any other comments on whether blogging is in decline or not, both on the international and domestic scene?

I still consume blogs, especially on technology stuff which includes mobile, New Media, social media, and stuff like that. There is no decline in those kinds of blogs. In fact, John Lim and I have just launched a blog called FTW Media (http:ftwmedia.wordpress.com). Like I said in my answer to Question 7, niche blogs will continue to thrive. It’s the hangat hangat tahi ayam types that will decline. And if there is a general decline in blogging it’s because most bloggers do belong to that category.

9. If blogging or more specifically POVO be indeed in decline, what is the next hot online activity likely to be which will replace blogging?

The hot, hot, hot scene right now is where social media is at. Facebook and Twitter, in particular.


Written by Oon Yeoh

April 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Posted in New Media

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