I remember being 12 years old and sitting in my parents kitchen talking about my upcoming 13th birthday. I definitely caught them off guard when they asked what I wanted and I asked for a domain name.
A few months before, I had discovered the 2006 era of blogs. I, the word nerd who never could do much with a colored pencil outside of staying in the lines, was enamored with the concept of art on the internet. Because that’s what blogs were. Digital art bound together with authentic prose and everyday people who (unbeknownst to us) would go on to become modern day celebrities in the digital space. I’d been playing around and learning a questionably sourced download of Paintshop Pro (remember the times?!) and Photoshop. I started learning how to make digital collages, website headers (during the PNG collage era of web design) and coding.
I mastered all of the popular content management systems, some of which are now far removed from blogging history (remember Cute News?!).
And in the midst of all of that learning and creating and, honestly, figuring myself out, I was reading.
The blogs of the early 2000s were very different from blogs of today. There were no product collaborations or sponsored content. You could get away with capturing photos on a point and shoot instead of hiring crews and teams to tackle visuals. There wasn’t a super over saturation of content creators. Everyone had a space and a voice.
When I launched that first blog back in 2006/7, I had no idea what I was delving into. I had no idea it would lead me to a community of creators, that it would inspire my creativity like nothing else, or that it would lead me to a college major (let alone, a career). I had 4 internships during my my college years, but attribute as much of my success to blogging as I do to any of my workplace experience.
All that said, blogging has changed and is changing so much, both rapidly and slowly.
Those blogs who launched before blogging was a “thing” went from monetizing with banner ads to creating product lines and hiring adveritorial teams. Content went from being styled and highly creative to highly styled and produced. Brands realized that these bloggers were really onto something and started budgeting for millions in sponsorship spends and influencer marketing campaigns.
Blogs kept growing. New sites launched every day.
But engagement changed. Instagram became a thing. Then Snapchat. Everyone was obsessed with posting, at all times and on all platforms. Twitter loaded up with new users beyond the journalists and tech types who were early adaptors. Advertising started trickling from blogs onto social media. The lines between advertising, editorial and advertorial were blurring. Press trips no longer only included the New York Times and other longstanding pubs, but your favorite lifestyle and fashion bloggers came along. The need for content became even more intense. Entire industries and marketing strategies were being dramatically shifted.
Creators definitely became overwhelmed. Some of those small blogs started to scale at crazy rates going from a small living room production to media empires.
Micro influencers, content creators, bloggers, vloggers, creatives. The internet was swarming with all of this and everyone was just trying to find their in, someplace in this very saturated world.
And now, here we are. The blogging landscape is still pretty massive, and new sites are still launching all of the time. I get asked often if I think it’s “too late” to launch, or if people have missed the blogging wave. I say no. I saw an example online that when you walk through the bread aisle at the grocery store, there are a million brands of bread. The same goes for body wash, shampoo, deodorant. I mean, how many brands of hair ties have you used in a lifetime? But no one would ever say someone those markets are over saturated. So why would blogging be any different?
The catalyst that caused me to try and pull these thoughts together and write this post was Design*Sponge announcing that 2019 will be their last year in operation. They aren’t the first to close their doors, and I don’t think they’ll be the last.
I was a bit crushed when I read the news, but completely understood the logic. Design*Sponge is one of those blogs that scaled, in a big way. I’ve found some of my favorite writers, editors and creatives through their thoughtful work. Grace has launched books, a print publication and the careers of many through her platform. But like I said earlier, engagement has changed. People don’t interact with or support blogs in the same ways they used to. The demand for new content, free content specifically, continues to be an expectation that hard to balance through advertising and partnerships.
We’ve watched the journalism industry go through this same shift. How many publications have shifted to employing more freelancers than full time staff writers?!
If there was a paywall to read this post, would you be on this site right now? Probably not.
People don’t want to pay for content out of pocket, aren’t fully comfortable to engaging with ads and sponsored content, but still want more, more and more. The demand is overwhelming.
So, what do I think is next?
If been in love with content creating for as long as I’ve been able to power up a computer (my Microsoft paint skills were next level!).
Moving forward, I think that creators are going to be forced to think outside of the box and break out of their comfort zones, especially if they want to scale. What does this mean?
If you think video is big now, just wait. If you’re a creator not thinking of ways to incorporate video, live or produced, into your content or marketing strategies, think again. Big media companies have already been investing a ton into original video content (think Buzzfeed or R29), and I think this will not only continue, but cross over more into the realm of influencer marketing.
Audio, audio, audio, audio. Did I mention, audio? Siri, Alexa and Google have invaded our homes and aren’t going anywhere. So much of search is trending towards audio. So many of us would rather watch than read, but a bunch of us would also rather listen than do any of those things. More podcasts will be coming, even scripted ones (that aren’t true crime) and they’ll have large budgets behind them. Because brands are going to jump on them…if they’re smart. This is great for creatives! There will be a need for talent, writers, producers, editors. There are so many ways to position yourself as an influencer or creative to be valuable within the growing audio trend.
More “end of an era” posts a la Design*Sponge. It’s sad, but as we’ve seen in traditional journalism/publishing, lots of folds are happening. It’s a bittersweet thing to me. Some of these platforms, like Design*Sponge, are ones I’ve read and loved forever and I will absolutely miss having them online. Man Repeller had a great post on this after Rookie announced its end. The industry is changing, and will continue to change, but I hope that this means new creative ventures from all of our favorites. I’m happy to support them however they continue.
More regulation…maybe? The influencer world has pretty much been a Wild West. After those humble bloggers mentioned above turned big brands, money started rolling in for a lot of people, but no one was really making rules to the game. Sure, we’ve seen the FTC come down on a few Kardashians about disclosing paid ads on social, but for the most part, influencers can get away with a lot. I think as more brands try to justify their ROI, and influencers continue to show their true value, more transparency and standard operating procedures will eventually develop…eventually.
I don’t have a magic 8 ball here, so I could be totally wrong about all of this. But either way, it will be interesting to watch! I’d love to hear you guy’s thoughts on the changing blogosphere! Have any blogs you loved gone under? Any trends you see happening moving forward?
P.S. I wrote about why I blog back in 2014. A lot of those thoughts still stand, but I think I’ll update it soon!