Blogging Is Dead

Dan Lyons, a journalist better known to geekdom as the Fake Steve Jobs, has declared the blogging industry kaput. It has expired. It is deceased, it is pushing up daisies, it has joined the choir invisible. It has ceased to be.

In short, Lyons is an ex-blogger. He writes:

"For two years I was obsessed with trying to turn a blog into a business. I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea. I rationalized this insane behavior by telling myself that at the end of this rainbow I would find a huge pot of gold. But reality kept interfering with this fantasy....I walked away feeling burned out and weighing 20 pounds more than when I started. I also came away with a sneaking suspicion that while blogs can do many wonderful things, generating huge amounts of money isn't one of them."

Lyons says during his best month his blog attracted more than 1.5 million visitors -- and made a little over $1,000 in ad revenue. Ouch. He assumes that if blogging didn't make him rich, it probably isn't doing it for anybody else.

He's wrong, of course. He's also right. More on that in a minute.

Lyons himself gained a small amount of notoriety last November for calling Yahoo's PR team "lying sacks of excrement" on his RealDanLyons blog at Newsweek.com. The reason? They'd assured him Jerry Yang was not poised to bail out of Yahoo's burning fuselage with or without a parachute. Yahoo howled, Lyons' bosses at Newsweek yanked the post, and Real Dan said "C U l8er dudes" to that blogging gig.

Having personally met some of Yahoo's PR team, I can attest to the fact that a) they do not wear sacks, and b) do not appear to be composed of human waste. But I can certainly appreciate the sentiment. It's the flacks' job to lie when their boss/client/evil overlords tell them to. Why Lyons believed them, on the other hand, is a mystery.

Now, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs blog was a hoot. It's rare to find anyone who has the knack of both doing a dead-on impersonation and being funny, let alone someone writing about tech. I doff my fedora to you, Mr. FSJ.

What Real Lyons/Fake Jobs didn't understand is that the best blog doesn't win -- or at least, it doesn't win because it's the best. Quality, schmality. It's all about the marketing.

Does McDonalds make the best burgers? Does Starbucks make the best coffee? Does Microsoft make the best operating systems?

No, no, and Hell No.

But they're all brilliant at marketing, even if it sometimes feels like they're ramming this stuff down our throats. It's the same with the blogosphere. Aside from a few sites that got there early and established big audiences quickly, success in the blogging world these days is all about getting the Google gods to smile upon you, sucking up to more established bloggers in the hopes you can slice off some of their traffic, and coaxing the 12-year-olds who control Digg and other social media sites to notice you. Often it's about catering to the lowest common denominator. Do that, get your numbers high enough, and you can still survive and even thrive in the blogging world.

According to the fine folks at Websense, the top 100 Web sites get 80 percent of all traffic on the Net. That leaves 20 percent for the rest of the 133 million blogs (per Technorati) and lord knows how many other Web sites. You do the math.

So Lyons is also right: The vast majority of blogs won't make a dime.

This is why my e-mail inbox is filling up with SEO spam. Every day I get new come-ons offering the secrets to gaming Google and driving traffic to my sites. I've recently started getting spam for social media sites like Digg and StumbleUpon; there's apparently an army of minions out there ready to boost my posts to Digg's front page if I'm willing to pony up some cash.

We're at the end of one era on the blogosphere and the beginning of another. What the new one will be like nobody can say. Will the amateurs fade away and leave the game to people who actually know how to write and report? Or will the marketers complete their coup, leaving the rest of us old journos to scramble for jobs at Wal-Mart?

See you in the beer aisle.

Is blogging truly dead or merely in a persistent vegetative state? E-mail me direct: cringe@infoworld.com.

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