Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rewriting the New York Times Headline: Blog Use Wanes Amongst Teenagers

Cross-posted from BlogHer.com

Today BlogHer was pleased to be quoted in a New York Times article by reporter Verne Kopytoff, provocatively entitled: Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter.

The article was prompted by a recent Pew Report from late last year entitled Generations 2010.

Here's the interesting thing: Blog use is indeed significantly down amongst teenagers. Half as many "blog" now versus in 2006. And those in the 18-33 cohort show about a 2% decline. Yet more of those who are 34+ are blogging, leading to an overall increase. Yes, despite the headline (which, let's acknowledge: The reporter probably didn't write) there has been about a 25% increase in number of "all adults online" who blog.


When I was asked to comment on BlogHer's perspective on the Pew report, I shared four main points:

  • Blogs are where meaty conversations happen

  • Bloggers use other social networking tools to bring more people to their blogs

  • Blogs are the only tool that is going to help you be found with your message even just a few days later

  • Blog use is actually rising amongst adults 34 and older, including women in their prime career and family-raising years

  • Kopytoff focused on the first point above, from our conversation. Pulling this quote:

    Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said.

    “If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”

    Apparently, Toni Schneider from Automattic agrees with my second point above about how we bloggers use social networking tools to promote our work on our blogs, because he made the point very well:

    In any case, he said bloggers often use Facebook and Twitter to promote their blog posts to a wider audience. Rather than being competitors, he said, they are complementary.

    “There is a lot of fragmentation,” Mr. Schneider said. “But at this point, anyone who is taking blogging seriously — they’re using several mediums to get a large amount of their traffic.”

    I'm not surprised Kopytoff didn't cite my third point about the usefulness of these media as marketing tools. This article doesn't talk at all about the use of blogs in this way, only as a self-expression tool. If, however, you want to see some outside validation of that position, I suggest you read this detailed post by Stacie Tamaki about how her blog is the only tool that gives her search engine juice. If you want to be found by customers, it ain't gonna happen via Facebook:

    s a user of all three mediums I often see friends, particularly small business owners and advocates, only publicizing content to their existing friends on Facebook or Twitter. The same information on a blog would receive far more exposure and that's (imo) one of the main reasons to market at all:

    1. To help people (clients, supporters and enthusiasts) who didn't know about you to discover you.

    2. To reinforce your brand to people who may have heard of you but haven't connected with you yet.

    3. To keep supporters updated so that they can help you by sharing information with others who would be interested to know about you.

    Finally: The headline is indeed provocative, but a bit misleading. A more accurate headline for the article would have been "Blogs Wane Amongst the Young As They Drift To Sites Like Twitter." The article itself definitely makes this point at the very end of the piece, stating that blog use is rising in adults over 34 (5-6%)... rising more than it's waning in the 18-33 cohort (-2%).

    It's only among actual teenagers that there has been a significant drop.

    But the goal for using social media at all amongst teenagers is still weighted heavily towards "keeping in touch with friends and family," which we know from our own research Facebook has taken over from blogs, and serves as its main function.

    Despite the provocative headline, this story is actually more measured than a lot of the "blogs are dying" pronouncements we've seen since the Pew report. So, I appreciate that.

    But as someone who is 34+, I have to say nothing can make you feel more obsolete than realizing that the habits and behaviors of your entire cohort -- of people spanning more than 30 years in ages, and across three generations (Gen X, Young Boomers and Older Boomers) -- is meaningless in the face of what those young 'uns do.

    And if I were such a young 'un?

    I wouldn't appreciate the assumption that somehow my online behaviors and needs will stay static. That I'd never develop a desire or need to present my work via a professional platform. Or want to support a cause or political stance via a social change platform. Or need to pull together a support community around me while going through something as universal as parenting, via a personal platform.

    I don't buy it for a second. Do you?

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