Are the New York Times’ reports of the Death of Blogging greatly exaggerated?

rip“Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter” claims a recent article in the New York Times, based on some statistics gather by Pew Center research that appear to show a percentage decline in self-identified bloggers among the younger age groups, and stagnation among the more middle-aged set.

Is Blogging dying, or at least on the decline?

The article has sparked a good bit of debate, prompting e.g. GigaOM to retort: “Blogging Is Dead Just Like the Web Is Dead .”

But rather than latch on to the specifics of some percentage gains or losses, that may well be semantically arguable as pointed out in the Times piece, I believe the key quote to be this:

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Which is both an argument for the type of Curation-plus-commentary-plus-community activity I’ve been advocating for on my current “mini-blogging” platform of choice, Amplify.com, as well as apt to highlight what I have come to call “the Content Creator’s Plight” or Dilemma (I’ve been cooking up a longer, substantive post on this for a few months, but ironically always find myself dragged in other directions…):

It is difficult enough to keep up with our 21st century information “maelstrom” to begin with. And to arrest the flow of the real-time Web long enough in one’s mind to write much of substance on rapidly emergent, “newsy” topics, so that a post might persist in providing value for longer than a day or two. The other day I curated a post that aptly coined the term “content decay” in this regard.

In a way, it represents a massive act of will, especially in the face of what is now a fair number of professional “blogging machines” (like Techcrunch), that do nothing else.

Now add to that the fact that without already having sufficiently large, built-in audience, which very few bloggers ultimately achieve, the motivation for these “acts of will” is very quickly used up… Notice the second sentence in the above quote, which points out that many find such a built-in audience, and hence at least perceived affirmation, on their social networks of choice.

A service like Amplify, and intelligent curation tools in general, can solve at least the first issue, and while many of its curation peers are neglecting the community/conversation angle, this is where Amplify ultimately shines in solving the second problem to some extent as well.

Going back to the original question, one could say that blogging is most definitely evolving, though also certainly still alive and well:

[B]logging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services.

Ultimately, people are still expressing themselves online, in however long or short a form (though the trend has certainly gone toward the Twitter- or SMS-like micro-blogging), and the main differences are merely the User Interface (UI) metaphors used.

For example, Amplify has been wrestling with the issues of providing easy-to-use, elegant metaphors, while still maintaining a modicum of depth and relevance for conversation. Bigger services such as Tumblr (another mini-blogging tool) or Twitter have grown so rapidly precisely due to the extreme, push-button simplicity with which content could be created or curated, and passed along socially.

As I’ve argued before, Simplicity Wins, but there is also a fine line to walk to provide both simplicity, as well as still allow for the depth that at least some of us crave.

What Dave Winer’s “Natural-Born Blogger” Criteria Have To Do With Entrepreneurs

Proto-blogger and godfather of RSS Dave Winer on his Scripting News Blog writes this week in “Natural-born blogger”:

We get into the subjectives of what makes natural-born blogger [NBB]. Here are some of the ideas.

1. An natural-born blogger doesn’t wait for permission.

2. A NBB explains things, even when they don’t understand. An NBB is often proved wrong, to which the NBB shrugs his or her shoulders and says something like [“So what”].

3. NBBs go first. If there’s an NBB around you don’t have to wait for a volunteer.

4. NBBs err on the side of saying too much. If you find yourself wishing someone would just [shut up already] you’re very likely looking at an NBB.

Note: Small edits for colorful language… :)

At first sight, it would appear that these points, while well taken, apply only to blogging. And almost in a too-obvious fashion at that.

Unless you have concerned yourself with all manner of business building and entrepreneurship mindset issues, like I tend to do, and take a second look.

Then it becomes clear to you that these are among the most important guide posts for all entrepreneurial activity, and by extension for success in life in a more general sense:

1. Successful people don’t wait for permission

They don’t wait for someone to appoint them to something important (which almost never happens anyway). They give themselves permission to go ahead, they self-appoint.

If you’re uncomfortable with that idea, then you have just identified an important mindset block that is very likely massively holding you back in your business building efforts or aspirations.

I guarantee that almost no one will ever appoint you the expert of your market niche, you have to give yourself permission to be that expert. Of course, you have to make sure you can back it up, else a self-proclamation will ring hollow over time. But the initial catalyst lies within you alone.

2. Successful people shrug off failure

Successful people shrug off failure as if it means nothing, because… well… it doesn’t. All you ever get is a result, all subsequent meaning of that result exists almost entirely in your head.

Any misstep means only that you must be getting closer to your goal than you were before (when you didn’t take any action at all). And of course hopefully you learned something in the process.

The only thing that truly IS tragic is not failure, but being caught in paralysis due to fear of failure. It keeps you suspended in an infinite “possibility loop”, never wanting to find out the truth by either getting proof-of-concept, or not, and moving on to the next concept. It’s a form of addiction to and idea or ideas we have come to hold dear.

Best to find out this week, this month if that idea is only robbing you of precious psychic and other energy…

3. Successful people are ahead of the curve

In branding/positioning there is the well-proven concept of “first mover advantage”, which tends to bestow disproportionate rewards on those that “show up early to the party”.

While the inventor doesn’t always get financial rewards, the Category Leader, the person or business that can install themselves as first for that category in the minds of the consumer (to be taken in the broadest possible sense of a marketplace here), almost always does.

Hence we get Microsoft being more or less unassailable in the business and consumer desktop computing space, while Apple became nearly as dominant in new categories that it either early and decisively jumped on (the iPod), or more or less created (the iPhone).

Anyone else piling into those categories is fighting an uphill, near impossible battle.

And all of this applies to your small business, or solopreneurship as well: Be first, or at least VERY early in something. Ideally by creating a whole new category, which is otherwise known as innovating.

4. Successful People Move The Freeline

While Dave Winer does not explicitly state it here, the idea of erring on the side of saying too much implies the principle I like to call “Moving the Freeline”:

You have to say AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE about what you are trying to get across to people, which means that you have to, in a sense, give your best ideas away!

You can’t hide them behind a Pay-Wall (and even $1 may be too much for people to begin to listen to what you have to say, what you have to offer).

You can’t operate in a way that says: “Once you pay, I’ll tell you something useful or important”.

You can’t drop mere hints about what you have to offer, you have to give away A LOT of the real thing.

Most marketing copy gets this wrong when it merely focuses on trying to persuade, rather than just showing a lot of the goods.

You have to give every possible reason for the other party to do business with you by telling them (nearly) everything you know that could apply to them, free of the irrational fear of being ripped off or plagiarized somehow.

Only then do you have a real chance.

And in order to be able to do this, you have to apply a mindset that most successful people have, what Eben Pagan would call “feeling wealthy right now”.

You see, unless you get to that point of feeling abundant in your ideas right now, you will hold yourself back from getting the business you deserve, because the other party cannot ascertain whether a transaction would be worth their risk.

Does Moving The Freeline Make You Nervous?

In case this kind of openness makes you nervous, you can calm yourself by understanding a few key truths:

The fear that someone wants to rip off your ideas is nearly always an illusion, usually you have the exact opposite problem, that of getting ANYONE to give a dear about you, your business, and your ideas.

Also, the so-called “Curse Of Knowledge” has you systematically underestimate how far you are leaving the non-expert audience behind as an expert in a given arena (see Heath & Heath, Made To Stick).

Even if they wanted to, almost no one would be in a position to replicate your deeper ideas from scratch, without incurring a very significant learning curve.

Of course, if they REALLY wanted to (which is a big if), they could catch up eventually. Which is where the “show up early” principle comes in.

But in the interim, you can, as a consultant say, tell a prospective business EVERYTHING you might do for them in great detail. And it still would be much more likely that they would hire you to work with them, rather than trying to turn around and execute all of these details themselves, cold, from scratch.

To finish up with an example, a prolific tech blogger like Robert Scoble is constantly giving his best ideas away. And certainly a lot of people would say that he can err on the side of saying too much. But that is also how he creates massive value up front, and keeps people engaged with his idea process.

Money and profit become side-effects of his massively “Moving The Freeline” in this way day in and day out. Do thou likewise…

Back in black and white…

I’ve been on an extended hiatus from this blog, here’s why:

I went "back to the lab" of my 1-on-1 coaching business and worked feverishly on refining my "Business Mind Hacks" methods for you, a wider audience. No stone was left unturned, no whiteboard space left unscribbled, no expense of time, money, and energy spared.

There were sleepless nights. There was the occasional throwing up of arms in disbelief.

It’s not that the things I was teaching last year were not excellent, because they were, it’s not that they were not totally relevant, because some of the biggest internet marketing gurus are secretly using many of the same principles to their advantage, albeit often overlooking some of the deeper aspects. It’s just that I needed to develop many more directly actionable derivatives from these materials to serve you best.

After running several Webinar training series last year, I took the feedback from my "trail blazer" groups, added in the experiences from extensive work with my private 1-on-1 clients, and the results are about to become public very soon.

All the while, even though I felt I didn’t quite have the time to devote to blogging at the level of quality that I would expect from myself, I did create a large number of skeleton post outlines, and you’ll get to read the fleshed out and polished versions of these ASAP.

In the meantime, you may have noticed that the blog has had a total face lift, and many, many additional hours of tireless work have gone into getting just about everything the way I wanted it. Having researched many of the ins-and-outs of blogging in general, and the WordPress platform in particular, there is a good number of very subtle design, SEO, and usability principles that have gone into this.

Not to mention the priceless advice of some of the true luminaries of blogging and social media, such as Andy Beard (his blog is a veritable goldmine of stuff that goes way beyond the ordinary… really… how does he come up with these things… almost daily… ?).

So it turns out, I create Mind Hacks, and WordPress hacks as well… I’ll be sharing those as a separate train of thought from my usual topics, in order to give back to the WordPress and blogging community.

Anyway, I’m back. Let’s get this party started.

Here’s to a fantastic Q2!