If you hate clickbait and listicles and love thoughtful posts from a diverse and independent blogosphere, then Marco Arment's latest post should scare you:
Have a blog? How has your traffic been for the last year or two — say, sinceJuly 1, 2013?
Mine’s been clearly flat and slowly declining — the first time the trend has ever gone down — even in periods where I write a lot. I’ve talked to some friends who have seen similar plateaus and declines over the same period, also for the first time. Inbound links from bigger sites also aren’t worth as much as they used to be, suggesting that even big sites are struggling to maintain and grow their traffic.
Nobody’s really talking about it, but I suspect this is a wider trend: blogs aren’t dying, but they are significantly declining. 2015 might be a rough year.
In Is Google making the web stupid?, Seth Godin suggests that the declining prominence of organic results in Google searches is significantly to blame ...
Arment is the first to speak publicly on a problem which I believe is widespread.
One used to be able to write good stuff and let people find it, but that no longer works. What works now is writing stuff which grabs people's attention (clickbait) or which people like to share.
I would bet this traffic issue is why a bunch of major blogs (including Techcrunch, BoingBoing, and others) and midlevel blogs (including Geekwire, Liliputing) have all gone for a partial RSS feed in the past 18 months. They may couch it in different terms, but I'd bet it comes down to their traffic being soft.
I know mine is.
When I started this blog 5 years ago, traffic grew all on its own. My traffic in December 2011 peaked at 50% higher than in December the year before, and that pattern repeated itself in 2012. And then sometime in late 2013, the internet changed.
My traffic peaked in December 2013 at about what it was in 2012, and traffic in December 2014 wasn't significantly better
To be brutally honest, this is the real reason why I changed the name of this blog and broadened the focus.
It's a last ditch move to catch and keep more people's attention. If I can't get this blog growing again, I'm going to have to shut it down and go write for someone else.
Multiply that across the blogosphere, and I think you'll see why I'm so worried. It's not just that we're losing independent voices; if the majors are seeing similar drops in traffic then they're going to have to cut back on staff, which means fewer voices on those sites, or they're going to have to write the stuff which gets page views.
Either way, it means fewer interesting articles.
P.S. Did anyone else notice the parallel between the decline of the blogosphere and the fall of newspaper?
P.P.S. When I said I'd go write for someone else, I meant it. if you have the salary to hire a blogger with my skills and interests, drop me a line. Please.
image by Mike Licht