Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that my reading has become more and more heterogeneous and spread out; there has been a perceptible shift away from an A-list approach to a Long Tail, avoiding the “hit culture” implied by A-list approaches.
During that same period, there have been a number of articles about the death of Facebook and, for that matter, the death of blogging. [An aside: When you’re in a position to select the metrics you can “prove” almost anything. I have seen so many business cases that beggar belief, so many presentations written ostensibly by Messrs Andersen and Grimm].
I think the exact opposite is happening, that blogging is becoming mainstream rather than dying. And the same with Facebook.
I have some views on the why, and would love to know what you think about it. So here goes:
There was a time when the barriers to entry to the world of publishing were high, very high. That led to a situation where people who wrote (and were published) belonged to an exclusive class. Then along came the web and the blogosphere, and the barriers began to come down. But not that much. Let’s say this was around 1999. Blogging was still something done by a small group of people with good connectivity and the skills to use relatively technical tools. Readership was based on word of mouse, and so things remained relatively cliquey.
As the barriers came down further, as tools became easier to use, there was a level of democratisation. By this time, let’s say it was around 2003, better tools were emerging, Technorati had a job to do, blogs were mushrooming. Access was still not that great, and people used to say that the blogosphere was an echo chamber. Terms like A-lister flew around; a small number of people even acted like A-listers.
And then we come to now. A blogosphere that is becoming mainstream and therefore getting written off, apparently. Wrong. Because what is happening is this.
Access to the world of the participative blogger became easier every step of the way. The way I discovered new writers changed, the way I tended my list of people to read changed. Cliques and echo chambers were replaced by the Long Tail.
The word of mouse was by definition cliquey. When it was the blogroll you had to know about it before you used it. OPML was also a barrier to entry. Netvibes and its competitors made things easier.
Share, but not on a broadcast basis.
Share, on a publish-subscribe basis.
That power now runs through many things we do, and I don’t think we really understand what we have. It is powerful, it enriches, it enlivens, it democratises.
People will discover Twitter and Friendfeed and their successors in the same way as they discovered blogging. And when they do, when they see the power of pub-sub, the blogosphere will become even more mainstream. Because barriers to entry and access will continue to fall, the risk of cliquism will reduce, the cost of discovering who and what you like will become negligible, the tools to manage your reading will keep getting better. All enhanced by the power of pub-sub.
Choosing what you want on a granular basis. Selecting the capillaries you like and discarding the rest. Weeding your river of reading.