Repent, all ye bloggers; the end of the blogosphere is nigh2011-07-12
In the world of social media, nothing can ever be merely affected. It has to be killed. Slaughtered. Eviscerated. Massacred.
Google+ is the latest alleged killer. Search the phrase “will Google+ kill” and you’ll find nearly 30,000 results speculating whether Google will kill Facebook, Twitter, search engine optimization, email, Flickr, the list goes on.
Some of the rationale for these predictions are head-shakingly stupid. Quora was the last shiny new object deemed a blog-killer. Today, I routinely hear people ask, “Remember Quora? Whatever happened to it?” While Quora isn’t getting the outpouring of love it did a few months ago, it remains a viable resource getting solid answers to questions and filling a space somewhere between blogs and Wikipedia (as the founders described it in a Wired piece). Just today I saw a question asking how movie directors deal with action scenes involving creatures—and one answer came from J.J. Abrams. People don’t have to be gushing about a service in order for it to have value.
One of the reasons Twitter faces annihilation is that Google+ lets you communicate in more than 140 characters. Flash back three years, and people were suggesting Twitter would kill blogs because you had to confine your point to 140 characters or less, which was so much easier to read than wordy blog posts.
And, of course, Twitter didn’t kill blogs. At last count, there were 156 million public blogs, according to Wikipedia. But now, all those blogs are living on borrowed time. Google+ is here, and it is poised to kill blogs.
At least, so says Rich Levin in a post to (wait for it…) Google+. He writes:
Google+ is a blog killer. Several high-profile people, led by +Kevin Rose, have redirected their blog domains to their Google+ profile. Others will surely follow…If more key influencers make the move, the masses will follow. Blogger.com and WordPress.com could become vast wastelands (some would argue they already are).
I found Levin’s post through a tweet containing a link. The tweet was from Steve Rubel. I retweeted, noting that you’re free to kill your blog but I’m not killing mine. Steve responded that he wasn’t, either.
The main reason blogs won’t succumb to Google+—or anything else—is that they fill a variety of needs other platforms can’t deliver. For example…
You own it
Marco Arment, creater of Instapaper, has done a brilliant job summarizing this issue, saying, “If you care about your online presence, you must own it.” He adds…
I’ve always built my personal blog’s content and reputation at its own domain, completely under my control, despite being hosted on many different platforms and serving different roles over the years. It has never been a subdomain of any particular publishing platform or host.
That doesn’t stop you from reaching people through corporate-owned social services. Using tools like DLVR.IT, I’m able to cross-post my blog posts to Facebook, Twitter and other services. Eventually, I’m sure I’ll be able to do the same to Google+.
Some might argue that having my content appear in multiple places diminishes the SEO value of the original post. So be it. Most of the new visitors to my content come from referrals by people in their communities, not serendipitious discovery in a search engine. That works fine for me. If Bob, a knowledgeable communicator working in the kind of organization for which I want to consult or speak, is in my community, and he shares a link to one of my posts with Mary, that’s a far more useful connection to me than an anonymous user who finds my post because it matched a keyword search.
Besides, looking for my posts on Google shows that all this cross-posting isn’t hurting me all that much.
But if Twitter, Facebook or any of the other services where I’m cross-posting ever change the deal or vanish, my posts are still right there, on my own blog and under my own domain, which I own and control.
Currently, Google+ limits you to a network of 5,000 people. (Levin acknowledges this, noting some people could, in fact, regret the decision to abandon their blogs in favor of the flavor of the month.) I’d be willing to bet Seth Godin and Chris Brogan, for example, get far more than 5,000 people reading many of their posts.
I’m a sole practitioner. My blog—and the posts within it—don’t exist in a vacuum, but in the context of my business. Thus, it’s one part of a larger website.
The same is true of a lot of other consultants and businesses large and small. Under those circumstances, it makes no sense to detach your blog posts from your primary online presence.
There’s other context that appeals to other bloggers, too. Steve Rubel recently moved his blog to Tumblr (which accommodates the use of your own domain and allows you to own your content), where you’re not only blogging but engaging with a community of people who can follow you within the Tumblr framework. I can’t imagine the people who love Tumblr suddenly dropping their blogs and resuming their efforts on Google+.
If you want your blog to have a look and feel, you won’t find Google+ any more accommodating than Facebook is or MySpace was. To blog through these social networks means shoehorning your blog into somebody else’s design.
This is especially true for organizations whose blogs are carefully branded to reflect the organization’s identity. It’ll be a cold day in hell when GM’s Fastlane blog folds up its tent and moves to Google+, or anyplace else it doesn’t own and can’t control.
Sure, Google+ posts are among Google search results. They’re not showing up in other search engines, though, and there are people who use alternatives to Google.
Even more important, though, is that I’d rather have a Google search direct people to my site, not Google’s.
The bottom line
Will Google+ have an effect on blogging? Undoubtedly. Will it kill blogging? Of course not. And all this speculation about a service that hasn’t even been around for a month reminds me of the speculation around Quora and Empire Avenue. They may still be viable services, but they haven’t changed the world and the discussion about them—well, you can hear a pin drop.