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Why Twitter and Facebook are popular and Blogging is not

It's seems like every month or two someone asks the question "Is Blogging Dead?". It's not hard to understand why. Abandoned blogs litter the landscape like burning vehicles in some post-apocalyptic-war movie.

There was a time not so long ago when it seemed everyone had a blog. Some would be bloggers made it only days or weeks. Others lasted several months to a year before giving up. The vast majority of blogs, however, never saw their first anniversary, let alone their second.

It has nothing to do with talent. You'll find that quite a number of talented writers gave up on their blogs after only a handful of posts. The truth of the matter is that even if you love writing and even if you choose a broad topic that you're excited about, producing consistent, well thought out, meaningful content for an extended period of time is mind-blowingly more difficult than most people imagine.

And this is the reason why Facebook and Twitter are so popular. Because bullet point updates, random thoughts and links to other peoples content are orders of magnitude easier to produce. Even within these limited constraints people many people still find it hard to stick it out because even micro content of any quality is difficult to produce consistently. Faced with this truth they resort to posting mindless updates on what they had for lunch or dinner or where their at now... no now... no now...where they're at now... no now... now... now... now. Annoying isn't it. Worse yet, many give up on producing content all together and choose to Facebook-spam their friends with Mafia-Wars and Farmville invites.

Don't despair though, blogging isn't dead as some would have you believe. Despite the fact that blogs have an infant mortality rate magnitudes worse than the poorest third world country blogging is just as alive as it ever was. In fact I would go so far as to say that nothing about blogging has changed.

Blogging has always been a numbers game. For every X number of people interested in blogging a certain percent of people will start a blog. A certain percent of those will make it a month or a year and a certain percent of those will actually turn into sustainable blogs. That process and those percentages haven't really changed.

What has changed is the number of people starting blogs. During the blogging boom a switch was flipped and anyone who wanted a blog could get one instantly. Those who started a blog told their friends, who told their friends, until within just a few short years all of the people who were likely to start a blog had already been exposed to the concept and the math predictably worked itself out. You're seeing fewer new blogs started now simply because there are fewer new people exposed to the concept.

And the current massive die off of blogs? It's not because other media have replaced blogging as a medium but because a massive die off was inevitable given the massive numbers that went in. I predict that less than 1 in 50,000 newly started blogs will make it a decade and those numbers were inevitable even if Twitter and Facebook had never come along.

No matter how hard core and fanatical the crowd following something, if it requires any effort at all you're going to see a very predictable die off over time. It's why there aren't crowds of 50 year old surfers. It's why the gyms aren't packed with gray haired yoga practitioners with the flexibility of a Chinese noodle. Consistency over time for anything worthwhile is very very hard.

Blogging is an intensely personal and selfish endeavor. People invest the time in it because it meets a practical need or because they find it fulfilling in some way. The second that stops being true they'll quit. Even the most hard core and popular bloggers will eventually write their last post as life and circumstances change.

Noted blogger Joel Spolsky recently announced his departure from the blogging world.  He made it 10 years. His reasons for quitting? It's time consuming and no longer provides the marketing benefits to his company that it once did.

Kathy Sierra, one of my all time favorite writers and speakers, gave up her phenomenally successful blog after less than a year due to death threats and online harassment.

I had thought that long time blogger Dan Appleman had given up blogging but despite sometimes going months between posts it looks like he's still at it.

Blogs will come and go but blogging is here to stay.