I last blogged some eleven years ago. I guess that makes me a veteran; not a pioneer perhaps but certainly one of the early adopters. After building it up to something unexpectedly substantial I gave it up for a job that didnâ€™t allow going off on own tangents. Two years later, after I finished the job, it was mostly laziness that kept me from trying to pick up where I had left off. Not that you ever can. And by laziness I mean the memory of the commitment it took to spend on average four hours a day, every day, to produce the quantity and the quality of output that would keep readers engaged and coming back regularly. But the memories fade.
A lot has changed between 2004-05, the golden era of Chrenkoff.blogspot.com. and today, the infancy of Thedailychrenk.com. Sure, I have sporadically followed a few blog favourites over that time, but being a passive consumer of online news and commentary, particularly doing so quite narrowly, doesnâ€™t necessarily focus you on the big picture.
So what has changed in the world of blogs â€“ particularly political blogs â€“ over the past dozen or so years? Here are a few observations:
1) Font size â€“ Really. Itâ€™s bigger. Probably since, as one friend pointed out to me recently, most people nowadays use smartphones and tablets rather than desktop computers or laptops to access digital media, including news and opinion. This means the so called Responsive Design, which means larger font on your devices, so you donâ€™t have to zoom in to read the text. The font sizes are in practice linked (though there is no logical reason they should): a larger font for your iPhone screen also means a larger font on your computer screen.
(being self-referential â€“ these are the default settings, then and now)
2) Fewer and fewer â€“ The blogs arenâ€™t necessarily dead yet, but it seems like their golden age is well and truly over. What you have instead are websites. The people who previously used to write solo now do it collectively. There has been a significant consolidation, which was already starting as I was leaving, for example with the creation of Pyjamas Media (now PJ Media), which became an umbrella for a dozen or so of big names of the day, the only one of whom (and still the biggest) â€“ Glenn Reynolds a.k.a. Instapundit â€“ still runs what a Rip Van Winkle from 2005 would recognise as a blog (though, in turn, even Instapundit itself is now a group blog with up to half a dozen regular posters in addition to Glenn). Sites like The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, and dozens of others have mushroomed over the years, each with own stable of regular writers who in the past would have been blogging on their lonesome selves â€“ and many of them had.
So the era of the Lone Blogger is pretty much over. Long live the era of political webzines. In line with the trend towards â€œmagazinationâ€ of blogging, one recent survey by Orbit Media Studios has found that â€œthe typical length for a post is about 900 words, up 100 words from last yearâ€™s survey.â€ When you are competing with â€œnormalâ€ media outlets, you need to try matching both quality and quantity. Blogging used to be called citizen journalism, but citizen or not, it had to become a lot more professional.
3) Different ecosystem â€“ Maybe because the traditional blogs as such donâ€™t exist anymore, they donâ€™t really link to each other anymore. In the past, half of everyoneâ€™s posts would have been referring to or commenting on some other bloggerâ€™s recent output. I know because thatâ€™s how the original Chrenkoff grow from nothing to something in a space of a year.
Today, itâ€™s the social media that connects and drives people to read your work â€“ Facebook, Twitter, other, smaller platforms. This makes the whole process more decentralised and democratic â€“ instead of relying on a handful of big and influential friends to give you a leg up and promote you, now itâ€™s up to hundreds and thousands of average punters who might or might not be impressed enough with your work to share it with their friends and followers â€“ it also makes it a lot more difficult to get noticed and build up a readership base.
4) Itâ€™s more visual â€“ Maybe because peopleâ€™s attention spans are getting shorter (and they most certainly are) and a picture still tells a 1000 words, maybe because user-generated material is now so much easier to get thanks to ubiquity of cameras, blocks of pure text are out and the visuals are in. Photos, videos, GIFs, memes, you name it. A catchy headline is not enough; every story now needs a picture to hook the attention.
In conclusion: hereâ€™s your larger font and here are your graphics (and a funny video of a cat which looks like Donald Trump). Looking for an army of unpaid contributors to turn The Daily Chrenk into the new Huffington Post. Oh, and for Godâ€™s sake, share my links around!