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Are Screenshots the Next Hot Trend in Blogging?

twitter screenshot postBlogging has gone through many phases in the 15 plus years since the term weblog was first coined. From plain text posted manually in an html file to automated platforms like WordPress, a very simple idea has become very complicated.

And now it looks like things are going to swing back to the simple end again.

The Next Web has a post up this morning which looks at the growing fad for posting screenshots on Twitter as a way of getting around the micro-blogging service’s 140-character limit. (Here are a couple examples.)

They describe the new fad as being the death of blogging:

Late last year, Mat Honan wrote for Buzzfeed about “screenshorts”, a rising phenomenon on Twitter where people share their favorite quote of an article in a screenshot to avoid Twitter’s character count.

What’s most interesting about the rise of these screenshots on Twitter and other social media is that they’re actually killing traditional blogging in its entirety. The easiest place to look for this phenomenon is celebrities.

Are screenshorts slowly killing blogging as we know it? For some things, I think so, because it’s an easier and more authentic way to reach your fans, friends or followers directly on social media than it is to spend time setting up a blog and then sharing out the link.

I wouldn’t say that this is killing traditional blogging; if there were such a thing, it would be plain text and images posted on a webpage, and that effectively died out with the rise of blogging platforms with automation, fancy features, rich layouts, etc.

No, the "screenshot as post" trend is just the next iteration of one type of blogging. It was inspired by the limitations of Twitter’s 140 character limit, just like services such as Twitlonger.

And like those services, the screenshot post exists only as a result of Twitter’s limitations. It makes almost no sense to use them outside of the Twitter ecosystem; Facebook, for example, doesn’t enforce a character limit so there’s no reason not to post the complete text of an article. Tell me, have you seen very many screenshot posts on Facebook? (I have not, but then again I don’t use FB much.)

Curiously, the screenshot post can also be found on Instagram, where it makes even less sense. Why would you post a screenshot to an image sharing site? That’s not why it exists.

Do you use tweet screenshots much? Do you have a tool you can recommend?

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Maria (BearMountainBooks) April 14, 2015 um 12:56 pm

Everything swings back around. Twitter was hot and some people like it because it’s easier to post a few words than blog. The problem with twitter is that hardly anyone reads it. I don’t even scan it daily anymore. It’s great for news events because you get very fast updates if something important is happening. You can get good weather alerts if a storm is in the area. My husband uses it to read sport’s comments as a game is being played to see what happened to this player or that if one is hurt (the tv tells you too, but twitter is faster because people throw that out there without worrying about when to say it).

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t found that twitter is a good way to connect with readers, fans or anyone else. I don’t find reading a few snippets going by to be very rewarding either.

Nate Hoffelder April 14, 2015 um 1:03 pm

I’ve found the main timeline on Twitter to be good for a few minutes of entertainment here and there, but I can’t really say that I’ve connected with anyone through the timeline.

The rest of the service, though, is sometimes useful for asking/answering tech questions or making industry connections, but it’s hit or miss.

Sharon Reamer April 15, 2015 um 5:36 am

You’re not the only one, Maria. I’ve been thinking of getting off there entirely, but am too scared to do it.

I’ve never seen screenshots on FB, Nate. Or at least not any that stayed with me. Lots of cute dog and cat and weird animal pics and movies, though. I still enjoy those, I’m ashamed to say. There’s not much use otherwise of interacting on FB since traffic is filtered so heavily to get people to pay to bump their posts.

Lady Writerly April 14, 2015 um 3:54 pm

Once upon a time, I used Twitter. Way back in 2004-5. Not much anymore and the people I know who use it use it for communication via DM, so this screenshot thing is news to me. The only time I even visit Twitter anymore is when something in one of the automatically generated 'summary of what’s happening now' email catches my eye and I want to read more about the story.

It does, however, make sense as you expressed in the post–seems like a logical progression to Twitter’s imposed limits–since it’s much easier for a person to provide a slightly longer piece, which may not be full-on blog post worthy in length, to their audience without requiring that audience to deviate to an entirely new site to read it–it keeps the flow going.

Will it be the death of blogging? Doubtful. Sometimes not even a single screenshot which amounts to the size of an iPhone screen will be enough to impart all you want or need to say. Just another way to use an established service. And I’m sure in time, even that will evolve.

As for use on Instagram (a service which I do use regularly), it doesn’t seem unusual to me. Sometimes you need to tell your followers something which can’t be expressed pictorially and Instagram won’t let you post without an image…in steps the screenshot.

As far as tools go, most phones come with a shortcut combo for grabbing a quick screenshot (iPhone = power and home button; Android = power and volume down button or swipe the side of your hand from right to left across the screen–the latter might need to first be enabled under settings though). Or was not that what you were asking about?

Maria (BearMountainBooks) April 14, 2015 um 4:03 pm

I’m not on instagram–what is the difference between it and Twitter?

Nate Hoffelder April 14, 2015 um 4:05 pm

Instagram is focused on sharing photos, not text. Text is almost an after thought on instagram.

Nate Hoffelder April 14, 2015 um 4:04 pm

Thanks for the details about Instagram. I don’t use it, so I had trouble understanding why the text was being posted.

And the reason I asked about the tool was that I wanted to know if there was a simple way to share the text to Twiiter/Instagram. I knew about the screenshot method, yes, but that is long and complicated. I’m curious to see if anyone has developed a tool that can take a screen shot and post it to Twitter in a single click (without having to take a screnshot, switch apps, load the screenshot, and tweet).

That one-click tool would make it easier to tweet the screenshot post, and that could drive more people to use screenshot posts. And if that tool existed then it would be a sign that screenshot posts are more widely used than I expected.

Lady Writerly April 14, 2015 um 4:11 pm

Ahh, I see. Thank you for the clarification. Honestly, I haven’t seen any one-click tools around, either for Twitter or Instagram, so maybe screenshotting (I can’t believe I just used it as a verb) hasn’t arrived yet. Of course, just because I haven’t heard of or seen one doesn’t mean the tool doesn’t exist yet either. 🙂

Jesse Bufton April 14, 2015 um 6:09 pm

Are you a time traveler? How did you use Twitter in 2004-2005?

I would love to know your secrets.

Lady Writerly April 14, 2015 um 7:01 pm

While the snark seems a bit much, I apologize for my mistake, Jesse. It’s been many years since I thought about my Twitter account or posted a tweet and confused the dates with my blog (got my "golden ticket" for that in 2005, btw). I went back and verified that my first tweet was in 2007 and my last was the tail end of ’08. Thanks for catching my error.

Peter April 14, 2015 um 7:21 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an example of a link to a screen shot to get around Twitter limits. Where I do see them increasingly used is as a click-denial mechanism (the opposite of click-baiting), to draw attention to or discuss something that’s been posted elsewhere without sending traffic (and thus ad revenue) to the original site.

Nate Hoffelder April 14, 2015 um 8:10 pm

Now that you mention it, I’ve see this as well.

Or at least I’ve seen excerpts from articles with no link back to the source. Now I finally understand why there was no link.

Mike April 15, 2015 um 3:21 pm

I’m not sure the existence of a screenshot app that is integrated with social media would really tell you anything except that someone decided to develop a redundant app to sell to people who like having lots of apps. It’s redundant because most phones will take a screenshot using relatively simple procedures, whether it be a swipe or a combination of key presses, such as holding down the Home and Back button. The image is then dumped in a specifically named 'screencapture' folder where it’s quite easy to find.

I welcome the phenomenon and hope it catches on. Twitter and Facebook both leave me cold, the former because you can’t say anything meaningful (because we can’t all be Earnest Hemingway), while the latter infuriates me because a lot of good information is posted on FB but none of it can ever be found again! (And that problem predates the 'pay to bump your posts' era – FB is just badly designed and the designers don’t really care.)

I think the 'traditional' blog will outlive the lot of them. The primary goal of internet marketers is still to get into your email Inbox, which means email-based subscriptions, which are usually mediated through traditional websites and blogs (with some exceptions for social media that permit email updates). Blogs are also properly searchable and Google will still find you a blog or website page rather than a Facebook post or tweet, defaulting to social media only if there’s nothing else, or if you specified social media in the search.

Social media will, in the future, increasingly become the domain of teenagers and Young Adults. But as these people’s lives develop and as they themselves mature in their tastes and interests, they will make greater use of email as a communication medium (you can’t attach a resume to a tweet, or apply to a job using Facebook), and they will crave deeper thoughts and analyses than those available in 140 characters, or even on a screenshot. Email and blogging is perennial while social media fights to get itself replanted in each new generation, only to die off again when the weather turns cold.

Nate Hoffelder April 15, 2015 um 10:06 pm

In the past few weeks Wikipedia and instapaper have each added a screenshot-like sharing option. This suggests that there is a demand for this, IMO, and if a similar Twitter app were released then I would think the fad was catching on.

As it is, I think it’s just a fad.

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