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Archive for June, 2009

Long tails and short letters

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Charles Arthur’s Opinion column in today’s Guardian starts with the provocative claim that "Blogging is dying," and hastily modifies that to "The long tail of blogging is dying." If I’m following this correctly, this means that the big name bloggers are still writing and still being read, and that organisations like the BBC – and the Guardian itself – still regard blogging as worth doing (or worth encouraging others to do for them!) but that the many people who started a blog because it’s so easy to start a blog are now bored with blogging, and have opened FaceBook accounts instead. Or Twitter…

This makes sense. There have always been a number of ghost blogs out there – like ghost towns, spaces where someone set up a free blog one wet afternoon, and never blogged again. Not to mention the people whose web designers told them they needed a blog because it was cool and trendy, but who never took to the process of blogging. If that bubble has burst, and the people who made it have moved on to the next big thing, I’d call that a sign of health, not of death – but then, I don’t have an editor urging me to provide catchy headlines.

Charles Arthur’s argument actually spins off his analysis of how people respond to the Technology section of the paper. He acknowledges that this is anecdotal, which it is, of course, and also concerns only those blogs whose interests are technological; but I found it very interesting, nonetheless. It seems that very few people actually send in responses written on paper – no, really very few: "months would go by without any arriving". Most of the feedback received is by e-mail. But once the Guardian started treating blog commentary about its articles as feedback, "blogs quickly began to make up the majority of content." And then Twitter came along…

If we assume that any letter published over a name and address has been sent in by e-mail (snail mail being so rare that it’s safe to discard it) then here are some rapid breakdowns:

Today’s Guardian (25.06.09)
E-mails: 4; blogs: 3; Twitter: 5
E-mails: 3; Blogs: 6 (of which two from the same blog); Twitter: 2
E-mails: 4; Blogs: 4; Twitter: 1

I don’t really know what to make of that. The e-mailed responses tend to be longer, the tweets are often, though not always, low on content (a response to an article on price increases on Adobe software reads in full: "Not good news for us creative types who rely on Adobe software" – inevitable, given the length restrictions of the medium, but less than ideal for reasoned discussion).

Or am I just sore because the Guardian decided not to publish my (e-mailed) letter, commenting on two (extracted from blogs) comments about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, about which I have written before and begin to think it’s time to write again)?

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