Essay by 204

State of the Blog Union: How The Blogging World Has Changed

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2013 was the most difficult year of blogging I’ve ever had. It felt like everything changed at once. But in fact, it had been changing for long time. Readers, bloggers, the financial system that supports every blog and just about every other aspect of the internet as a whole seemed to hit its tipping point and flip overnight. Jason Kottke, a trusted writer and web commentator, declared that 2013 was the year the blog died. All of these pronouncements and changes were difficult, but nothing was more difficult than the emotional adjustments that needed to be made to adapt to the changing online climate. I’ve been writing little snippets and thoughts about the changes in the blogging world on my laptop for the past six months: things I was struggling with, things I was excited by, challenges we’d have to unpack and solve. And then I read a comment discussion between bloggers on Twitter and realized the discussion was already happening among friends, but not necessarily online. So I decided to sit down and tackle the issue.

Tonight the country will watch the 2014 State of the Union address and today I’m sharing my own state of the union- the blog ‘union’- and how we’re doing as a community. This is my 10th year of blogging and this year in some way feels like the first all over again. I feel like bloggers are up against some of the biggest challenges ever, but after a year of trying to wrap my head around all the obstacles (and it really took me a full year), I’ve finally come down to one conclusion: these are changes that will make us better, stronger and more well rounded people. Not just bloggers, but people.

Please join me in the full post after the jump to share your thoughts, experiences and feedback on the state of our current blog world. I’m so glad to finally talk about some of these changes and challenges openly and learn from the experience and ideas of our community as a whole. xo, grace

It started as a little whisper last year. Are people commenting on your posts anymore?

And then those whispers found other whispers from trusted blogging friends to join. Oh they’re not? Yeah, mine either. It’s like people just stopped talking.

Last year seemed like the year that comments died (RIP, comments). From the newest to the oldest blog, comment sections started to wither and disappear. But for a lot of people, traffic and readership weren’t disappearing as dramatically as comments. So what explained the change?

Without noticing it, a lot of us were experiencing the huge tidal shift in the way readers were engaging with blogs. After years of having the luxury of running websites that were the sole place to comment, participate and engage on a certain topic, we were no longer the only outlet. Social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest offered new options for people. They not only offered new options, they offered completely customized options that made it easy to pick and choose the content they liked and take it into their own (online) backyards to comment and curate as they saw fit. Instead of coming to hang out at our houses, they were dropping by quickly, taking a few key pieces with them and leaving to comment and discuss those things in their own living rooms.

This change was huge for a lot of us that thrived on feedback (both good and bad) from readers, but it was a symptom of something much bigger: the blog as a platform was no longer the sole way we would be communicating and engaging with readers. And if we didn’t change, we would be left behind.

I’ll be honest, this was a difficult change for me. It was wrapped up in a bigger issue I was struggling with: perceived ownership of content. I’ve watched over the past few years as importance of crediting died. And I don’t mean a simple link back, but rather a true acknowledgement and appreciation of the time and work that goes into original content. Over the past five years, original content has come to be the norm on blogs, which is a fantastic growth and change. But then almost immediately, the internet became used to seeing such a wealth of original content that it started to care less about where it came from, who made it and what was behind it. I associate this change with Pinterest culture (the main reason I hesitated to join originally), but I now see that while Pinterest is the most visible expression of this change, it’s only one of the main contributors.

The internet is no longer a place where there is divide between those who make and those who consume. The culture of blogger and reader is obsolete. In the same way that blogs opened up publishing and turned readers into writers, social media and micro-blogging platforms like Tumblr gave the remaining blog readers that weren’t already blogging a platform to become their own bloggers, curators (though I won’t open that whole can of worms debate here right now) and content hubs. Someone that would have typically read a blog, left a comment and moved on now reads a blog or any other content platform and can take content (anything from a photo to a bigger concept) and carry that back to their home (be it a Pinterest board or an Instagram feed) and make it their own in some way. Or they can just carry it back and re-post it there without any commentary. Like it or not (and I spent most of last year sulking about not liking it), this is the way the internet has changed and we all have so much to learn from this trajectory.

Here’s are the major lessons I see in these changes:

  • Reader attention spans have gotten shorter. The 2-3 minutes someone might have spent leaving a comment are now spread among other forms of engagement like Pinning, sharing or clicking a ‘like’ button.
  • The concept of a homepage is becoming somewhat obsolete. Readers will consume content where it is most convenient to them. So it is up to bloggers to now track down their audience and find them wherever they are (on Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
  • Early Adoption is KEY: Those that adopt a new platform or technology quickly and early have chances to gain bigger numbers that are incredibly difficult to achieve later on. This is seen most clearly in the form of Pinterest and Instagram. There’s often very similar content being created by people with 1 million followers and people with 10,000 followers. The difference is often (but not only) when someone adopted this new platform or technology.

One other factor that’s a major player in these changes is advertising. The lessons that print media had to learn over decades of publishing has been learned and experienced by bloggers in only a few years. Advertising went, over a very short period of time, from a seller’s game to a buyer’s game in a major way.

Six to Eight years ago, most bloggers were living in our own version of the ‘Conde Nast heydays’ without knowing it. We were getting great rates for advertising, having to do (relatively) little to get those ads and could keep our advertising and content wells completely separate. Some people diversified and taught classes or wrote books, but most of us build our homes on the same platforms that ended up sinking home magazines in print. And like them, that toppled and changed last year. In what felt like a single month (but was in fact spread out over a year), the online ad industry was so flooded with so many options that they gained much greater control over the market. Rates dropped dramatically and some of the major ad agencies that support blogs stopped selling traditional banner ads (those things you see blinking on the right side of everyone’s screens) entirely. They were replaced with what is now referred to as ‘native advertising’- otherwise known as sponsored content.

Those posts that people like me railed against and swore to never do were now the only option. Well, the only advertising option. There are still banner and text ads to be sold, but they represent such a small portion of income now that bloggers had to choose quickly whether they would accept sponsored content or downsize quickly.

I chose to do a little of both- accept sponsored content that I could (somewhat) control and post transparently and downsize to focus on our core team and the overhead we really needed. Even with these changes made, the industry continued to change. The sponsored content deals we felt (again, somewhat) comfortable making were, after only 6 months, seeming impossible to secure and were being sold at lower rates. In short, the advertising world went from boom to a form of a bust pretty quickly.

Advertising is still supporting most blogs, including this one. But I think most bloggers have started to realize that they need to change in order to survive- and quickly. It’s a theme that runs through all of these major changes: blogs will need to diversify, run with a light footprint (in terms of overhead and team costs) and constantly change to stay alive.

I pondered all of these changes really heavily over the holiday break. I spent time on my couch just thinking- really examining all the ways we work, engage with our audience and what truly makes us happy. And I finally came to one conclusion: the changes I had been so terrified and paralyzed by were in fact the things that would free us to be better writers and more well-rounded people.

How? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • With shorter reader attention spans, we can post smaller-scale updates that allow us to be more informal and operate in a more real-time world.
  • Without the structure of planning content and ad campaigns a year ahead of time, we were now free to test out new columns, pursue content only when it interested us and try things out for short periods of time.
  • With reader engagement spread across different platforms it means each of our team members can find a way to connect with our community in a way that suits them best.
  • With all of these new makers and voices popping up left and right, we’re able to discover more inspiring people and content- and start new collaborations- on a daily basis.
  • The concept of permanence is fading, and with it, our need to hold on to things that are no longer working. If a section or column in our site isn’t exciting to us, we can shelve it for a while and try something new.
  • The need to create new content in different areas (on the blog, on Instagram, on Facebook, etc.) means we get to think of creative ways to offer content. What was once a simple home tour can now become images online, a quick video on Instagram and a series of product boards on Pinterest inspired by the home. More platforms = more content = more inspiration = more people connecting and enjoying what you produce.
  • If the advertising system is unstable or no longer ideal, it gives us the opportunity to be creative again. To think of ways to support ourselves that help us connect to people, learn new things and utilize skills or talents we haven’t yet (like teaching, speaking or creating new product lines).

Is all of this scary in a way? Yes. Is it also exciting and thrilling to have so many new opportunities and places to be creative and connect with people who share the same passions and interests? Absolutely.

Bloggers have a lot of challenges and changes in their future, but I think they’re a blessing in disguise. We’ve all gotten comfortable and used to the daily systems we know so well (editorial calendars, predictable comments, the schedule on which we publish), but it’s time to shake that up a bit. Try something new, engage in a new way. Open yourself up to the idea that your voice and your vision are the true strength you have to offer. And if that voice no longer lives only on your blog, all the better. The internet is constantly expanding and offering new outlets to people who want to communicate and connect. Do these changes mean you have to do every new thing that comes your way? No. But it does mean that technology and an increasingly savvy online reader are giving you new ways to express yourself- along with the ability to change that expression when you see fit.

The only consistency in our web world is change. It’s no longer a clear cut 2.0 / 3.0 world. It’s a constant stream that evolves on a daily basis and benefits us all. In the same way that each of us grows and changes on a regular basis, so does the community around us. Embracing that change and finding a way to make it our own will be the daily task- and joy- of all of us online. It may have taken me a while to get here, but I have never EVER been more excited to come to work each day. I feel like I let go of a burden I didn’t even know I had and feel so inspired and ready to create something new. Here’s to a bright, exciting and ever-changing and evolving online future for all of us. xo, grace

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204 Comments

Malia

This was a great read, Grace. Thanks for such a detailed and explanation of what’s been going on. I really appreciate the way you’ve balanced your advertising avenues. There are a few blogs out there that really drive me crazy with tons of sponsored content and affiliate links. I continue to read those blogs, but make the conscious choice to not click through to those full posts or click the sponsored links in said posts. I don’t have the same negative feeling on DS at all. I’m also really enjoying the different types of columns you’ve been trying out–it makes things feel fresh again on a regular basis.

Amanda

I’m not a blogger, but I am obviously a reader, and I found this post fascinating. I had no idea that advertising dollars had changed and did so quickly. A couple of observations:
1. Way to embrace change. It is why you and your crew are top shelf.
2. I’ve really enjoyed your IG feed this year.
3. I agree with you about Pinterest. I opened an account so I could keep inspirational links in one place (as opposed to look for inspiration) and was shocked how easily I could post other peoples photos with no credit requirement.
4. As a student of economics I can’t help but see a bubble bursting here. Seems we are an economy full of bubbles these days.
Thanks for all the great free content. ;)

Lou

After reading that I felt an especially strong need to leave a comment. Comments forever! Haha.

Jennifer

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this, Grace. I’ve been listening to your podcasts over the years and the times you and your team have touched on these issues have been informative, inspiring and—admittedly—a little scary. I’ve only been blogging for a few years, but I’ve noticed changes in that short amount of time. I look forward to seeing how we all adjust, shift and grow in the months and years to come. Thanks to you all for taking the lead and sharing what you know!

Emily

I definitely engage with blogs everyday through social media, like you say. I personally think I’ve spent less time reading and commenting on blogs ever since Google reader went away. The other platforms never stuck. Google reader was tied into a program I used everyday and was so easy. I wonder if that affected other people too?

Emily

I definitely engage with blogs everyday through social media, like you said people are doing. Personally I think I’ve been reading and commenting on less blogs every since Google Reader went away. The other platforms never stuck since Google Reader was tied into something I use everyday. I wonder if that affected other people?

Jason Hudson

Well-said, Grace. I definitely noticed the change this year. The internet is soooo saturated with blogs, more must be done to remain visible/interesting/viable. I dunno if I have it in me. I’m glad you do.

Robin

Great post Grace. As a maker who is new to the blogging game this is definitely food for thought. I’m pretty active promoting my business on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I’ve just recently starting using Pintrest (I held out for a while too), and am really recognizing it’s value. I’ve also been trying to blog on a regular basis, but it can be rather time consuming. Your post makes me feel freer to write short posts, and recognize that they may flourish not on my website, but on other forms of social media. It’s great to have insight from someone who’s been in the game for awhile and does it well.

Kelsey @ Pinegate Road

Thanks for this Grace :) This was the year that I switched back from blogging with advertising, back to blogging for myself. There is a lot less content, but what is out there is content I’m proud of. It’s content that helps me grow as a designer and a person, and that’s all I could ask for! It’s so true about how when these big changes happen, and you don’t know where to step next, it starts to open you up to so many outlets and new experiences. You get to be more creative and explore and figure out what’s next while jumping from space to space. We’re all on the same path in that sense, figuring out where to land next for US. It was wonderful to actually hear a perspective on this — it’s something a lot of people have been thinking, but not too many have been talking about. Looking forward, as always, to see where you land next :)

olga

yes to everything here. so many points of agreement, i don’t even know where to start. but one thing, i do wish that there was more room for longform – i love the option of on-the-fly, shorter content, but i also have deep love of longer, more fleshed out pieces, such as the one above. As for comments + advertising revenues – le sigh.

Caitlin Spaulding

This is great! I’m an event designer and relatively new to the land of blogging. I love all your ideas and thoughts, it’s also great advice for someone new to blogs! I sometimes think we, as bloggers, over think the publishing schedule and worry about changing something up. When in reality, most readers probably don’t even notice! Yay for the freedom to shake it up!

jaclyn

In my opinion, Instagram has a MAJOR role on the “death of blogs”.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve come to realize that now that all my favorite bloggers are sharing so much on Instagram that I get my “fix” over there and then often, totally forget to go read their blogs.
Even when a blogger is IGing a note mentioning they just posted a new blog post, it rarely prompts me to go to the actual blog because I’m so absorbed in my IG session that by the time I open my browser, I’ve totally forgotten about the post announcement.
I realize that as a full time blogger, this all may seem terrible to you but that’s just my personal experience and what I’ve realized about my own internet habits.

jh88

very insightful post, grace. as someone who blogged for about 7 years and is thinking about re-entering that world, i appreciate your gathering your thoughts here.

p.s. the country will watch the president’s “state of the union” speech tonight; it did not air last night :)

Sarah @ Mocha

What an insightful and interesting post! Things may be changing fast but you’re right to end on an optimistic note. Ultimately, I think it will lead to greater creativity and innovation.

Kerry

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this. I have been experiencing this as a blogger very recently. Realizing that people are connecting with me on multiple platforms and learning to figure out creative ways to keep the content flowing while getting paid to do just that. I too have gotten excited about the challenge that lies ahead to discover new avenues and ways to adapt. I have also gotten down on myself about it but reading this post definitely helped inspire me. Thanks again!

Heidi Jo

Great post, Grace! Very interesting read. I have been noticing the same sort of changes as a spectator rather than a blogger. I left the blogging world last year and have been feeling the need for a creative outlet but blogging is so much more intimidating now. It is much more multifaceted than when I started blogging in 2007. I appreciate the thought and time you put into this and it gives me things to think about as I decide if I should return to blogging. It also reminds me to comment and appreciate bloggers in their own blog homes. I am very aware of the sources of pins I like and cringe when people say “I found it on Pinterest!” as if it is the place everything is born. As fast paced as life is and as great a resource as Pinterest is, I can still take the time to follow pins to their blogs and show actual people my appreciation. In a world where everything is at our fingertips in an instant, it is easy to forget that there are people behind the wealth of ideas and articles on the internet. I don’t want to forget to connect with actual people and take their work for granted. Thanks again!! Xo

Hilty

Wow. Really insightful and interesting. Thanks for making me think.

Giulia

Hi Grace,
we communicated last week briefly on Twitter about this and I’m glad you put together a post about this topic. Yes, changes are happening and the early adapters are the ones benefiting. Some have integrated their FB comments into their blog, which probably helps them look at their posts and feel their was engagement.
There are two things I still wonder though: 1. blogs like Young House Love that have hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments and do NOT work with sponsors . They also write super long posts, have titles that are not SEO compliant and pretty much do everything we are told not to do…fluke?
2. Certain blogs and bloggers that automatically get pushed as recommended feeds on Pinterest and readers such as bloglovin. Any one that seems to sign up for Pinterest automatically follows OhJoy and other big ones. Any time I follow a blog on bloglovin, regardless of segment, I get an email suggesting I follow A beautiful mess and Cupcakes & Cashmere. All of these are lovely blogs, they work hard, but do they have an advantage to others?
I use my blog to create my portfolio, to expand my creativity and push my photography. I’m glad I have this medium and that I have the luxury to do so without having to worry about paying my monthly mortgage feed.
Good luck to you and I look forward how you guys step up and embrace the change.

Alexandra Hedin

I needed this right now Grace! I have felt a little lost and it’s so reassuring to understand that we are all trying to find our way in this ‘wild west’ online. The only thing that remains the same is that things are always changing.

xoxo

Grace Bonney

Giulia

A few of my thoughts on your questions:

1. I think that YHL has a very very devoted following and they’ve nurtured a very active commenting section from the start. I don’t think they’re immune to these changes but like anything, there are always exceptions to the rule. (I’d highly recommend that Kottke article I linked to- he notes that some blogs will continue to go on fine as they had before)

2. I think this is an early adopter status bonus. I’ve noticed the blogs that get suggested are the ones that sign up early and use (and promote) the site heavily.

Grace :)

Kirstin

It makes me feel like such a fuddy-duddy, but I couldn’t care less about Pinterest and Instagram (actually I have a raging hatred of Pinterest) and it bums me out that advertisers seem to be chasing the audience around all of these different platforms. With my (thus far unsuccessful) attempts at being a blogger, it’s exhausting to try to engage on so many different platforms, especially when some people seem more interested in taking original content to populate their own Twitter/Tumblr/Pinterest/etc feeds. If blogging is dead, what is a blogger to do?

Katie

This is such an interesting (and refreshingly honest!) take on all the changes that are happening in the blog world. I never feel like you guys are trying to sell me stuff, and always enjoy your content, so I’d say you are definitely getting the balance right!

Stephanie Hillberry

Grace, thank you for putting so much time and effort into this post. I think your insights are…well…very insightful, and I appreciate your encouragement to take the good with the bad and evolve with a light heart. I, too, see a lot of opportunity in the way things are changing, and will look at your leadership in this arena as a sort of compass. Cheers to a good 2014!

AmberGress

Hi Grace,

This is a really enlightening and great post. I appreciate you taking the time to break this down, and really look at it from all angles. This really puts a lot into perspective, and it’s important that people such as yourself share your perspective for those of us that have not been at it quite as long.
Thanks so much, and I look forward to seeing what you do next.

amber

Sarah Rose

I just started my blog this year, and as I was reading through this article, I was starting to get nervous. Did I jump on the blog-wagon too late in the game? I’m a blog rookie, I’ve got a lot to learn. But your ultimate conclusions were a relief- a lot IS changing. We just have to embrace it. Whatever the future of blogging may be, I know I love it. So I will stick with it. Thank you again for this post!

Katy Gilmore

Oh Grace I love these long, thoughtful pieces you and your team are doing. Thank you! I admire all your strategies for keeping going – and am grateful! It still troubles me about this blending between content provider and consumer – we couldn’t just walk out of a store with a book or a blouse because we like it and take it to our own living room. Why is it ok to pilfer someone’s image or design or essay. But you are right, it’s happening. I spent a while looking at my images on other people’s feeds on Instagram yesterday, and now realize, like you say, I need to do that myself. Also need accept that attribution might get lost along the way. I admire your forward thinking and enthusiasm in the face of this – it is happening – and surely something good will come of it! For sure when D*S keeps going with such wonderful content, that will be something good!

EC

After listening to a number of your podcasts, this is what I’ve been waiting to read. So insightful. Thanks for pulling back the curtain. As a long-time reader, I appreciate all the work you and your team do to produce awesome content.

Katy Gilmore

Oh Grace I love these long, thoughtful pieces you and your team are doing. Thank you! I admire all your strategies for keeping going – and am grateful! It still troubles me about this blending between content provider and consumer – we couldn’t just walk out of a store with a book or a blouse because we like it and take it to our own living room. Why is it ok to pilfer someone’s image or design or essay. But you are right, it’s happening. I spent a while looking at my images on other people’s feeds onPinterest yesterday, and now realize, like you say, I need to do that myself. Also need accept that attribution might get lost along the way. I admire your forward thinking and enthusiasm in the face of this – it is happening – and surely something good will come of it! For sure when D*S keeps going with such wonderful content, that will be something good!

Cat

Really interesting and energizing post! Onward!
(And this is my first comment ever)

christinebower

This resonates so strongly with the blog redesign I’m neck-deep in right now.

One example: I’m moving from topical post/tag-driven navigation (art, design+type, eat+drink, etc) towards platform/content-driven nav links (about, articles, instagram, pinterest, etc)

I’m also not thinking of my blog as a blog; I’m not sure what the new name will be, but it’s in the vein of what Rands, Chimero, medium.com, et al., are doing: focus is moving toward portfolio plus essays plus social assets for me.

Monica

Emily’s point about Google Reader is so interesting, and I hadn’t thought about the fact that my blog reading has really languished since it went away (I finally decided on feedly, which, by the way, isn’t showing this week’s designsponge posts and then re-posted Friday’s posts an hour ago, arrrrgh, rss readers!)

That being said, I look out for d*s on twitter (and instagram, to some extent) and make sure to get to these reflection posts asap. They’re great — and food for thought not only for the design world, but someone like me who studies the digital humanities. Thanks, again, for sharing these kinds of musings, Grace!

Megan

Grace, this post was very insightful! I have 2 cents as a reader (and a small personal blogger): so many blogs have gotten so professional with posts and that’s great. BUT the reason I liked blogs was they were simpler and more archaic (if that’s the right word?). I LIKED the personal feel. The sketchy lighting. The personal posts. The writing that sounded like someone was actually speaking to me…
Now, so many blogs have gotten so slick and edited. They seem too “magazine” for me now. (This is not to mention all the advertising.) I liked blogs because I could relate. I could learn about people who were more like me…not the shiny famous people who have all the money and the cool decorations. I’ve stopped reading many of my once favorite blogs that were in my feed because I just got tired of feeling like I was being “sold to” all the time. There was always a new “diy” project (which I don’t have time to do?!) or some new feature happening, or some new product that was just “so amazing.” It just became more STUFF being thrown at me. So, I’ve retreated back to my quiet life to focus on my own personal priorities. A backlash to the over-inspiration of blog-land? Perhaps. I guess I just like to read more personal blogs these days. They tend to be the most inspiring…telling little stories about simple days with the threads that tie us all together. I think that too much of a good thing can become, well, too much.

Jen @ RamblingRenovators

Well put, Grace. I’ve been feeling the same changes over the last year too. So much so, that I wrote an “epic ode to blogging” post a few weekends ago that solidified at least for me, that blogging was and continues to be my true love. The role of Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter in the demise of blogging is an important one… if only to make one assess whether you should be a blogger at all. I’ve seen some bloggers take Instagram by storm; they possess a creativity and vision using that platform that wasn’t as evident on their blogs.

In many ways, I think we’re entering a renaissance of blogging, with people going back to the basics and embracing what attracted them in the first place: a place to explore your own creativity, to say what you feel (without the encumbrances of sponsors and advertisers), and ironically, blog like you’re the only one reading. I’m excited to see how you and many other bloggers are going to approach this new frontier.

Erika H.

Hi! The increasing sponsored content posts have struck me over the head in the past year. Payment is tied to opinion. The writer’s point of view is fading.
Glad you are optimistic and I’ll stay tuned!

Sandra

My first comment was eaten by WP and then I had to finish moving furniture back into my home office/studio since the wall paint was dry!

First, I so appreciate your honesty and transparency on the financial as well as commenting side of blogging, both here and in your podcasts. I find it so refreshing to hear a “big blogger” talk openly about these issues. It’s what brings me back here – that feeling of connection to an actual person with opinions.

Second, I think that in addition to the faster, more, more, more of content on a variety of platforms, there’s a demand for thoughtful, personal, unique content. A sense of the person behind the post/photo/image. That phrase “slow blogging” has been floating around – I know for me, I can’t keep up with 5 days a week of blogging (that I used to do) nor can I read someone else’s 5 days a week. That barrage of the ten of this or the 20 of that – it’s like getting the SNYT flyers every day of the week. And if it isn’t anchored in a personal take? Just too much.

Third, yes to the commenting and interaction happening on other platforms although I too miss it on my blog itself! I’m meh on FB, love twitter a little less and adore Instagram right now. It’s been fascinating and fun to develop a presence on each.

And finally, I think that the blog will continue but more as a portfolio home base for creatives. If someone doesn’t do photography or design or art or write, etc., I don’t know if a blog is really needed. Of course that excludes the “big” blogs like Design Sponge and others that have been around for a long time.

the-pastry

been thinking about this, too. i only started a blog a little over a year ago… felt a little like i was the last passenger to board a train. then when i discovered instagram only a few months in, i found it to be such a speedy way to both give and receive creatively, that not only did i slow down before i really got going on my site, but i also all but stopped reading the blogs i used to regularly read. change is definitely in the air. as a true pioneer in all of this and therefore most affected, you have a great outlook. keep things going!

riye

Thoughtful pieces like this one is one of the reasons this site is so wonderful. I’ll be really sad when more and more blogs replace longer, more thoughtful pieces with short pieces and pictures with accompanying text that basically amount to “Look! Isn’t this pretty? Yay!” Design Sponge is one of the few sites that pays attention to the important details (i.e., advertising, content, etc.), which is why I plan to keep visiting. :-)

dawn

There are SO MANY blogs now and many of them with similar content. For me, Pinterest seems to gather together all of it in ONE place without having to spend a lot of time visiting different blog sites. Life is too busy. I guess some of us who started blogging in the beginning are now grown up with our own homes to tend to or children to raise…. our responsibilities have grown… drawing away the original (now older) crowd who grew up with blogs while the younger crowd who grew up with everything else, like Twitter and Instagram, move in. I can’t imagine how tough it is now, but I have faith in you and your team. I still come back to read your blog everyday, even though I don’t usually comment. All the best!

Aly

Hello!
I can tell you right now that your instagram is working! I follow Design Sponge by using Bloglovin’ and nothing has posted there since the 24th, but your instagram (which I also follow) lead me to this post! Do you know what’s going on with Bloglovin?

Kat

I read your blog all the time, but through ZITE on my iPad. It doesn’t give me a comments link, only the post. I have to use more cell – I read on the train – to click view original page and then enter a comment. Almost everyone I know now uses a news compiler to read their ‘news’ so maybe that’s why we are reading and not commenting as much…

Julie

Such a great post! I’ve spent the last year pondering all of this myself. I agree about the increase in social media options affecting comments.. I wonder if it’s also because people are consuming more on tablets these days than on their regular computers – I find it much more awkward to type out a comment on my iPad mini than on my desktop…

Carin Lilly

I am interested to see how this all shakes out. I have a feeling things may swing again in that people will miss the depth that comes with anything well written and well thought out visually. I watch everyone pinning and tweeting and tumbling like crazy, and eventually everyone’s gonna ask, “for what?” Obviously, it’s to connect… Eventually, it will come down to meaning and meaningful connections. I have followed this blog daily for nine years… Along with only two others. (Mostly lurking). Everything else has come and gone… And, well, I’m not sure what it is with you and your team, as well as the other two?! You’re accessible experts that don’t dumb down or sell out… Enjoy the roller coaster that is the crazy world of social media, and I have to say, I adore teaching!

Vertie

As a reader, not a blogger, I think you’ve covered many if the reasons people aren’t commenting much, except for the mechanical/physical element of commenting. When I used to use a real computer (laptop), I commented more because it was easier. Typing on my iPad and/or phone is just much harder than liking a photo on Instagram. I’ve seen my nieces favorite a hundred photos in just a minute or two. Also, I think the mechanisms to keep spam out, the signing in, the leaving an email address, etc., can be too much of an annoyance, especially if comments are lost.

Rae

Thank you for the time and energy it must take to creatively inspire each reader.
I’m in Queensland – Australia, a first-time renovator/investor … with the vision of inching my way up the property ladder, until I can comfortably say “I’m home.” Design Sponge is a shining light in a world that would be so dark – if it wasn’t for bloggers. You’re a star – never forget it!!

Nina

Very insightful and meaningful post. I’m new to blogging, but I’ve been a reader for awhile. As a reader, I haven’t noticed a lot of changes in the posts by my favorite bloggers. My only hope is that they can stay true to themselves when they have to accept sponsors. It is fascinating to learn how blogging has changed. I love your optimistic attitude!

I think blogging is here to stay as it’s a wonderful way to learn about different ideas and inspiration from like-minded individuals. It’s not possible to reach this type of concentrated content in a print magazine.

Thank you, again, for your point of view and your honesty in going through these changes.

Lauren Siegel

I’ve thought about this a lot while reading and listening to your podcast. It seems to me that although you have a grasp of the Internet world and where to go, you aren’t thinking big enough. I think that you need to start thinking of a tv show either on the Internet like you tube or cable or netflix or hulu or something. Your biggest inspiration is Martha Stewart for good reason, you should have a show like hers but promotes the makers, designers, cooks that you have grown to love targeting a younger, hipper audience. I hope the best for you and your new adventures

Holly

Thanks for this post, although it does make me wish there was something more I could do – as a long-time reader – to help out. I’ve actually been a ‘lurker’ on most of the blogs I follow until recently, but these past few months I’ve been trying to comment more often because it feels like that’s one tiny way to show my appreciation for the work you all do. It’s just a shame appreciation doesn’t pay the bills!

James

Great post! After 8 years of steady blogging, I started to lose my enthusiasm for the very first time last October. After going through the motions to post a few times, I decided to take an indefinite break from blogging. After about two months, I really felt like I was starting to miss it again, so I resumed. My plan was to come back with shorter posts (since people are primarily interesting in the images anyway), but I just haven’t been able to get back into the groove since then.

My blog has always just been a fun little side project (or a diversion from my design job), so I don’t feel the need to continue if I don’t enjoy it. I don’t do it for the money, but I really do miss the days when the blog felt like a really strong community. I used to love writing long rambling posts, and I really loved the discussion (sometimes heated) that followed. I always thought of my blog as a place to share and discuss ideas, so I am having a hard time getting excited about quicker, shorter posts that just generate content for Tumblr and Pinterest.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the future of my blog. I know it’s time for a change, but I’m not exactly sure what that will be just yet. Change is never easy, but it’s good to know that I am not the only one who struggled a bit last year. Thanks again for sharing these thoughts… and for kicking off a great discussion.

kelly

This is so interesting and since I’m just a reader and have no idea about the behind-the-scenes of blogging I can only offer my personal experience. I comment a bit on blogs but only the ones I have been following a long time.. like the ones I visit every day, many times a day. I’m really loyal to my favorites. There’s no substitute for reading a full post and learning something and chuckling at someone’s story. A cool photo on pinterest will often lead me to a full post and if it doesn’t I’m usually bummed. I do read primarily from my laptop at lunch and at night so maybe that’s just me.

Also, I wonder if the home design blogging community is different than say another blogging community– like my husband and his crazy sports blogs…he loves commenting like crazy and no changes in the social environment has affected him.

Shashi

Really interesting read Grace. I can only say that I have been reading you from the very start of your blog and I keep coming back because of your ability to convey integrity with your writing and columns. Many of the original blogs I read haven’t fared as well with me – either because of the reason above or they just do the same stuff all the time or it reads as too sponsor driven. I may not read every single word on this blog, but I check it every day and follow you on instragram. not to sound creepy – but your instagram conveys a more personal side which you tend not to share as much on the blog (which i think is totally fine). I like seeing both sides! Also the blogs I return to are the ones with original content – specific columns that are particular to that blog, etc. I think you do that really well. Looking forward to seeing what the future brings.

susan

Thank you for putting so much thought + insight into this issue Grace, and I enjoyed our back and forth on twitter. I certainly noticed a slow down in my comments in 2013, but chose to deal with it by commenting on the blogs I read with even more ferver. I’m one of those people that always leaves a comment-if I read it, I leave a comment to let that person know I was there, and appreciate their content. I have always responded to every comment I receive, but know that is a luxury considering I don’t have the kind of following/response as bigger blogs (such as yourself) do. I intend to keep that up until it is impossible to do so. And…is it ever truly impossible?

I’ve been “slow-blogging” for the duration of my time online (almost 4 years now…not long but long enough to have a comprehensive understanding of this issue). With my husband earning our main income, my blog began like many, as a way to keep in touch after a big move and I had the luxury of quality over quantity. However, after my interior design business started to pick up speed, it also became a support for my creative endeavors, and I felt more pressure. Moving forward, it might not make sense for those without businesses to blog. Of course, for many (as it has for me)…my blog has become a business in it’s own right.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the direction of blogging, and reading the Kottke piece certainly confirmed what I’ve been seeing. We all want our media faster, shorter, richer. I hope to keep up with this changing environment! Thank you again for getting this conversation going here-I’m enjoying reading all the comments and will return to read more!

patty gee

This same subject was discussed in the Sunday New York Times a few weeks ago, but in the area of creative writing, namely poetry. A poet complained that her work was stolen online, sometimes verbatim, in other venues, with no attribution to her original work. I think all art forms and business concepts are being ripped off very easily now because of the online encouragement of “sharing,” “liking,” “friending,” and other euphemistic techie (which rhymes with “tacky”), ways of reconstituting and appropriating content. A very vexing problem/ indeed!

Kirstin

Gosh, this is so needed and helpful and enlightening, especially for someone like me who is just getting started with blogging. I don’t necessarily see myself turning my blog into a business, its really just a means to an end, a way for my to get my photography out there. I’ve always loved writing and so a blog seems the best way to get those creative juices going but at the same time it feels overwhelming. Sometimes I think about all the work it will take to actually build that community with my blog and I wonder if I can do it and still be genuine. Sometimes I don’t comment on blogs because 1. 100 other people comment and I think, “Really, no one is going to read my little comment” and 2. because I can’t quite tell if I’m commenting on so-and-so’s blog so maybe they look at mine…and that just isn’t the person I want to be. Whatever I do I want it to be real and genuine and so there’s this battle I feel in blogging, at least personally. Truthfully, the content I want to write about is usually not “5 Ways to Make Candles” (although, thats what I like reading), I’d rather write something personal, something that has to do directly with my life. But then I think, “Ok, but who is going to read that…?” other than my mom. You know? Anyway, I appreciate you mentioning the lack of commenting (which I am guilty of) because truthfully I wasn’t sure if it mattered that much, but now I can see that in terms of creating community it absolutely does. And that is what I love, community, and so I want to add to that, genuinely.

Carolina

Did not realize any of this, as a reader of blogs. I very much like the lengthy features, and am not one to go to Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. As Lampedusa said “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”

This is the only design blog I read–it’s great. Good luck with all the changes!

Serena

As usual, this is a very well thought out and written post. It’s great, and brave, that you are embracing change and moving forward. Your blog is a favorite of mine and I refer many to it.
I feel your points are spot on. Instant gratification and social media are changing the face of most everything. I would like to add that (for me) it is the comments section that steers me away from sites these days, not the content. I am not an overly sensitive person; I am a 43 year old educated married woman with a well adjusted 21 year old daughter, and I love life and people! I just can’t take the cranky mean spirited commenters. I don’t use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, google+ anymore either. Too many people are jerks and I’m too nosy not to scroll down. So, 2014 is the year of peace for me. I hope it is for you as well.

sam

Hi Grace,
I’ve been reading your blog regularly for about 6 years now, about once or twice a week. I am yet again inspired by your chutzpah and moxie. Keep at it, you are completely right about change being the only constant thing on the internet. However it also prudent to acknowledge that change is the only constant in our lives too. Wabi Sabi. Thank you!

Sarah

Way to embrace. I think a year is a short span of time to adjust to such a huge shake, especially when it concerns your livelihood. Best to you Grace and the DS team.

Kerrie

Great post! Personally, I don’t find Instagram or Pinterest nearly as interesting as the select blogs I still read. My must-read blog list has been sharply cut for other reasons. At the moment I am down to DS, Manhattan-Nest and Door Sixteen (not even six degrees of separation there). I’ve bored of other blogs, because they have just not evolved. Yes, you have great style. Yes, that was enough to keep me reading for a while. Three years later – I don’t want to see only your face and your outfits or your home. Many blogs just don’t feel like they are making an effort to develop content…not to mention the blatant amateur product endorsements of the “Clearasil make me feel like I can conquer my day” variety. Please. In the meantime, the cream is rising to the top and Design Sponge is leading the way. Great work! Looking forward to reading in 2014.

Allison Foster

great essay Grace! I’ve certinly notice the lake of original comments and content on my facebook feed, and it is interesting to hear how that is changing everywhere, and your analysis of this shift. One thing that would keep engaging me as a reader, to to feel more like a contributor, and to begin to blur the lines between the two. readers are most invested in what they feel they have a voice. could it be possible for instance to leave an image “comment” instead on a text comment. A reader of say a sneek peek could photograph an area of their home inspired by design sponge; a shot of a vignette, room, or DIY they tried after reading, and imbedded in the comment feed at the end of a post. This would give design sponge a pulse on what people are interacting with, as I have found more people posting photos on facebook them writing status up dates. Just ideas. love the post! keep it coming!

Angela Brown

Great post, Grace. I thought your point about the lack of reader comments was really interesting — it is a topic that, like you mention, has been “whispered” among my group of blogger friends for a little while now (most have felt somewhat embarrassed, I think…”why are my readers ditching me?!”…even though it is something that most people have been experiencing). I do enjoy your positive outlook, though, as I really feel you are right: all these changes are likely to open everyone up to more creativity which, in the end, is always a win. Thanks for sharing all these insights. I admit, though I’ve still been reading daily, I haven’t left a formal comment here in a while (guilty as charged), but this post sort of inspired me to get back on the train :)

susan

I’m so glad you are starting this conversation here Grace, and I enjoyed our back and forth on twitter. Change is happening-we all want things faster + easier. Thankfully though, it seems we are all hungry for more “meat” in our content-if we are going to spend our precious 3 minutes reading something, it better be original and thoughtful. I have been fortunate to be able to “slow-blog” over the years, as my blog is a support to my business and not my main source of income. Therefore I’ve had the luxury of quality vs. quantity…and it seems that is becoming more the norm.

As far as comments go, I certainly noticed the drop-off in 2013. As someone who always leaves a comment if I read, it actually made me do so with more ferver. I want the person to know I was there, and I appreciated their content. I’ve also made it a mission to respond to every comment on my blog, from the very beginning (4 years ago). After all, isn’t that why we’re all here-for the community? I know some don’t have the luxury of being able to reply to everyone (yourself included)…but I personally drop off as a reader if I never get any interaction, barring a few cases, such as sites I visit purely for eye candy + visual inspiration.

I feel I’m doing a decent job at keeping up with the change, adapting my content and utilizing other media (instagram, twitter, pinterest) strongly. I hope I can continue to keep up! Thank you again for this forum, and I look forward to returning and following along with the reaction.

Annie

Exceedingly well articulated post. I think you’re so right on all counts– most especially that our attention spans as readers seem to be ever-waning and that early adoption feels (frustratingly at times) to be EVERYTHING.
Ironically, and up until a couple of months ago, I had always thought that getting blog advertisers was my end goal. It was what I was keeping on eye on those stats for. It was all anyone was talking about. And I was going to know I had really made it as a blogger once I finally launched that program.
The subject happened to come up one day in November over coffee with a designer and fellow blogger. I asked for her guidance on how much I should charge, expecting, assuming, she would give me a number. Instead, she said the most obvious thing that had never occurred to me: don’t advertise. Don’t do it because the moment you do people see through you and you lose your credibility and so on. I was sort of stunned. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right she was. I mean, I hadn’t been working so hard, pouring my heart into each and every post in order to wave some other company’s flag for some piddly amount of money– I had been doing it spread my own message! The second I decided to follow her words everything changed. I felt this huge amount of relief at the conversation I wouldn’t have to have with my readers, the sacrifices in authenticity I wouldn’t have to make. I’m not saying that advertising is always bad, but the point was I felt relieved that I would be able to continue just putting out content that was motivated by unfettered motivation. The months following have felt the freest since I started my blog–I’ve felt like I could really post whatever I felt like, or what I thought my readers truly needed to hear.
I know that some bloggers differ in that they do need to be supporting themselves through their blog, and I don’t mean to discount that. But I think your assertion that we will all be compelled to do so in more creative ways IS a good thing, and can only help to distinguish between people who are really adding value from the ones who are merely echoes of everyone else’s work.
The one exception to the short attention span might just (still) be really great quality content that feels original, and genuine. Personally, those are the kinds of posts I continue to read through to the end, the kinds of blogs that are marked as my favorites.

Rita

Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and thoughts on this. As a reader, it’s the first time I’ve realized I’ve stopped my daily commenting action since I’ve opened my Pinterest account…I was a NO-NO Pinterest person until I was converted to it (and I do love it and find a lot of inspiration there) but I never realized the connection between Pinterest and less commenting. (is “commenting” a word? I’m Portuguese!) Thanks again, this was a great read!

Karen

Loved reading this!!! Thanks for taking the time to write it. I’m just a reader, but share your sentiments about the lack of credit given to work on Tumblr & Pinterest. As someone in a creative field, it drives me nuts. I also agree with some comments here that having so many posts that are sponsored has lessened how much I read blogs. The work seems less genuine, even when it’s not. The blogs that used to get my steady traffic were ones that felt like a personal effort, not corporate-sponsored. (But kudos to those that were able to profit!)… And if I never hear the word “curator” again, it will be too soon!

Madineh

I don’t think I’ve ever commented before. DS is a great sight. I specially like that over the years it hasn’t turned into one of those ‘look at me’ design blogs. Thanks for all the content, didn’t know it had been rough.

Liz {What Dress Code?}

Such thoughtful and timely words, Grace — I think, as with the marketing and advertising and publications fields, too, blogging is becoming a constantly morphing presence and it’s up to us to keep up. How that happens remains to be seen, but it’s refreshing to see even a really, really solid blog network like Design Sponge is feeling the pressure — it’s reassuring to me as a much smaller-scale blogger!

Jen

Hey Grace,

I felt compelled to comment because I thought this was a really insightful, thoughtful post. I haven’t been an active blogger for a year, so I guess I’m coming more from a blog reader perspective in reading this. The points you made were mostly news to me. Coming from a print media background, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about advertising changing for blogs as time goes on. But I guess I assumed the big, established blogs, like yours, would be immune to ever having advertising challenges. I was curious if you’d noticed any changes in the blog world in relation to the rise of personal lifestyle blogs that make some bloggers loved in almost a celebrity way. Of course, I know you wrote this from the design blogger perspective, but I was curious if you had any thoughts about how the changes have/have not affected bloggers who basically just document their lives in really photogenic ways. I have noticed that they’re also going down the path of sponsored posts regularly, and to me, it actually feels more forced than the sponsored posts I’ve seen you at d*s do where you’re creating content, not just wearing sponsored clothes or being photographed next to lotion or something. I feel like all the blogs I follow on that front seem to still have large numbers of commenters across all their platforms, which is why I was wondering if you thought they’re “immune” to some of these changes in the blog world that you talked about. I think that the attention span, like you said, has shortened, but I also think it’s changed. It seems like people/readers are almost looking for bloggers to share more personal sides of themselves. For better or for worse, I think the bloggers who share more of themselves seem to be doing well these days.

Naomi

As a longtime blog reader, I am sad to hear about the “death of the blog.” I admit that blogs have become less satisfying to me over the past few years: some blogs have become impersonal and corporate (e.g. too many sponsored posts or contributing writers); others, smaller ones, have quietly petered out. Of course there are still many really good blogs, which I enjoy reading immensely. But these days I find myself completely captivated by IG, mostly because it offers a glimpse into the everyday life of the blogger (often missing from the blog itself). But IG, Twitter, and Pinterest still lack something that the traditional blog has—longform writing. And I think that’s significant. Rather than attempt to compete with other forms of media by presenting shorter posts, blogs should continue (if they can) to provide us with more thoughtful content (like this post and many recent posts on DS). There are so many images circulating these days; it’s the authentic voice of the blogger that lingers with me long after I have closed my computer screen. Thanks for this post!

Sarai

What a great post and discussion!

One thing I haven’t seen talked about much is the quality of the interaction on blogs versus other social platforms. Perhaps in terms of sheer numbers, more interaction is happening on twitter, instagram, and pinterest. But how engaged are those interactions?

To me, blogs are still a place for telling rich, nuanced stories and having in depth discussion with readers (like this one!).

I also think it depends on your business model. If you are a blogger who has a shop and sells physical goods (or digital for that matter), forming ongoing relationships with your customers ought to be a high priority. You want them to know you, and to come back. Blogs are a great tool for that. As much as I love instagram, I have much more opportunity to connect meaningfully with readers/customers on my blog. I’m only now realizing how incredibly important that is for me.

So much food for thought, thank you Grace.

Grace Bonney

hi jen

i don’t know how it’s affected style/fashion bloggers, but i do know that the ad changes are web wide. they’re not just on home blogs. it was a huge medium-wide shift. that said, i think those types of bloggers are having better luck integrating sponsored content in the form of say, an outfit to wear, because their readers are used to that sort of thing. it wasn’t always the norm in the lifesytle category so that’s a bigger change for readers.

grace

Grace Bonney

karen

i think we’re going to see the word curator phase back out pretty soon. it means very little any more.

grace

Grace Bonney

susan

thanks for chiming in, i always value your commentary. you mentioned that, ” After all, isn’t that why we’re all here-for the community” but i think the big change is that actually not everyone is in blogging for that reason any more. there are many different motives and reasons people share anything online and i think those that are able to adapt, and not get their main satisfaction in blogging from feedback, are the ones that will be happiest online.

grace

Grace Bonney

kirsten

i think you hit the nail on the head. you like to write longer posts but like reading the list-style articles. i think to be a profitable bloggers (which again, isn’t everyone’s goal and shouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s) have to do a mix of both. we’ve literally experimented with several different styles of naming the same post and something with a number does dramatically better. it’s sad, but true. i hate naming things that way, but i also hate the idea of putting hours and hours into a post and no one reading it. so i think those small changes are easier to accept for me now, knowing that our work and effort will be read and not skipped over.

grace

Grace Bonney

kirsten

i think you hit the nail on the head. you like to write longer posts but like reading the list-style articles. i think to be a profitable bloggers (which again, isn’t everyone’s goal and shouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s) have to do a mix of both. we’ve literally experimented with several different styles of naming the same post and something with a number does dramatically better. it’s sad, but true. i hate naming things that way, but i also hate the idea of putting hours and hours into a post and no one reading it. so i think those small changes are easier to accept for me now, knowing that our work and effort will be read and not skipped over.

grace

Grace Bonney

lauren

i entertained many of those ideas years ago. i didn’t publicize it, but we got very close to having a tv show a few years ago but i backed out when i didn’t like the structure we’d have to use (major sponsor air time and product placement). it didn’t feel right to me and what i stood for. and at the end of the day, i didn’t NEED to be on tv to be happy. but it’s important to know that tv and internet video does not pay much of anything, almost nothing. i know people on fairly big tv and they make very little, but it does occasionally lead to endorsement deals. that again, is not something i’m entirely comfortable with. (video and tv are SO expensive to produce and the producer of the content is usually expected to do work for exposure, not pay)

martha is always a huge inspiration for me. her early days were my favorite parts. she’s diversified into so much licensing now that i think her brand has suffered in a way that i see as more of a cautionary tale. i do this her ipad app is AMAZING though ;)

grace

rebecca

I appreciate this post. Yes, change is the one consistent thing in life and walking through the process does make us better people. We don’t have to like it, but we can discover the gems along the way. You’ve done something here that is quite wonderful–your vulnerability is refreshing and inspiring. Thank you.

Mariella

That was so inspiring! Thanks so much for being transparent and encouraging to other bloggers. I’ve been following your blog for years now, and having other platforms to receive your content is just wonderful. I do believe it enhances my creativity and keeps going on with all my crazy design projects. And THAT makes me happy. xx.

Julie

I must be so late to the game, in an effort to connect more with community I’ve made an effort to step up my commenting. I loved reading this. From a DS perspective, I’ve noticed your comments lately about work feeling in flux and I am so glad you took the time to write about all these changes. I love all your longer, more meaningful posts. And I love Instagram. I can get some DS inspiration at work and then come home and unplug with some longer DS content.

Keep the Instagram challenges coming! I’m enjoying the challenges it provides personally to connect to a larger community and creatively to see what I can come up with. :)

Keep making these wonderful changes, they’re inspiring, challenging, and motivating!

Jett

I’m going to have to chew on this for a bit and then come back to talk about it (maybe?).

This was an exceptional read and the first time I’ve really connected to anything I’ve read in months.

Melinda

Grace. Thank you so much for addressing the blog “elephant” in the room. It means so much coming from YOU; a woman who has inspired millions of others with your blog success. I’ve been blogging over 5 years and I would definitely say the social media has all but killed blog communities…that is unless of course it’s snacking on gossip which seems to be the blood that keeps the Internet’s heartbeat alive. I’ve recalibrated my blogging to emotive writing because I find that is what is most satisfying in terms of creating emotional connections and the rest….well…it will be what it needs to be. Thanks again for sharing such insightful honesty!

Kate Simms Painter

I never dreamed some one in your position would value reader comments so, no wonder you are successful. I am a part time decorator for 15+ years, quite part time as my family and my iniability to multi task dominate my schedule. I rebel against technology a lot. Recently, a client asked me to text her a pic of the table I was suggesting and I had to ask the sales person to do it. Folks who work with me go on blind faith-no website In the last year I started looking at things online. Now I regularly check two blogs that I adore to no end. They have changed me-thank you for that. I limit my time on electronics, I have to allow my mind space to create my own images. I have a need to see things in person. I will not be the voracious reader you speak of. I will move forward though starting with my new smart phone and the concept of adding my two cents. Thanks for sharing yours.

Marty Walden

Great information! Both challenging and frustrating and exciting, as you said! I’ve been blogging for 6 years, but less than 2 in hopes of making an income! I find the whole unpredictability overwhelming at times, but you are so right that you have to change or be left behind! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

lala

thanks for this post grace :) as an indie designer i’ve watched the blogosphere closely over the years and the ebb and flow has been interesting.

on one hand there are so many bloggers now – but on the other – everyone is connected all the time in ways they weren’t before so there is a world of opportunity for us indie folk.

for me it comes down to – what can i create that enough people want, that will pay my bills – and that i will enjoy making. i try to keep it as simple as that and it’s been working for me.

as a side note – i so badly think there needs to be an indie advertising network. it’s tough for us to compete with the likes of r.style.me and to get our names out there in a consistent fashion. as an indie designer i want to support whoever is helping me to get noticed – be that bloggers, pinners, whoever.

there is so much amazing work in the indie sphere right now and i feel like so little is being seen these days :( there was definitely a heyday for blogs – but there also was for indie designers too… it’s a lot tougher now but i don’t think it has to be…

Clarissa

I’m really trying to restructure how and what I blog and right now it’s kind of all over but I am actively narrowing and tying out certain ways to grow my audience. I’ve heard commenting has started to die down (one percent of readers will actually comment or something. It’s pretty low.)

This post was definitely enlightening, maybe a little “scary” but it does give me a great idea of what’s happening and what goals to set for my blog. Thank you so much for your post.

ania @ the new diplomat's wife

As a consultant in my day job but blogger for fun, it’s been quite amazing to watch the shift with 2013 really being a turning point, as you mention. I disagree, I think like you do, that the blog is dead, but that there are forms of supporting blogs that are dying. And I wholeheartedly agree that there is an opportunity for change – and this is true in many forms of digital interaction and media (I see lots of shifts happening on the photography market as well). It’s interesting when you people fight the oncoming change, almost lashing out negatively that the “reader should know better’ or “reader should behave XYZ way”…Just as when it started blogging was different from any other thing out there, blogging as it goes forward will continue to be different. We have these discussions as individuals, but you can bet that huge companies – like Federated Media most recently – are also having these discussions on behalf of hundreds of people that they do or used to employ, too. It will be interesting to see what comes, but even if we pursue slow blogging options like some, the pace of change won’t necessarily slow. It’s exciting…and scary for sure..but exciting mostly and I think it’s wonderful that you’re putting out there a platform for really creating an opportunity to think long-term about key shifts rather than short term fires. Thanks!

ania @ the new diplomat's wife

grace – I tried to leave an earlier comment but didn’t seem to work.

Thanks for introducing the discussion – I think you’re right on many fronts and I think this really puts out there that “change” is coming (is already here and will likely be the only constant for awhile). As a business consultant during the day but blogger for fun, it’s been interesting to watch how companies shift how they think about advertising and support and then watch it play out in the blogosphere. I think many are avoiding the change, somehow blaming the reader or the companies, not realizing that many advertising companies themselves (for example, in light of the Federated Media news) are trying to figure out what to make of this themselves, often times on behalf of hundreds of employees. Even with those that pursue the slow blogging options, which has much merit to it as well, won’t necessarily bypass the changes. It will be interesting to see how content and blogs shift or don’t to keep up – but its’ a welcome and exciting (if not a little scary opportunity as well and looking forward to seeing what you do on the leading edge of that.

Maya @ House Nerd

Dear Grace, you are one of the most beautifully articulate, clever and honest bloggers I read, and it is posts like these that make me come back to Design*Sponge every day, again and again, over years, for content like this, despite the fact that I constantly discover new blogs almost every day. I never, ever leave Design*Sponge disappointed! As a blogger and also a full-time freelance journalist who writes for print publications, I really appreciate this post. I started my renovations and interior design blog almost a year and a half ago, as print media was rapidly changing and I realised I needed to safeguard and advance my writing career somehow. Blogging seemed to be the way to do it – and I went from an avid blog reader to a blogger myself, for two reasons, 1) to rediscover my creative side, lost through years of newspaper and magazine writing, and 2) to, and this is not romantic, but it is true – to supplement my income as the magazines and newspapers I wrote for started getting smaller or dropping by the wayside completely. Blogging has already completely changed my work and my life. And although my little blog has already given me so many opportunities work and contact-wise and has developed a wonderful community, I still wish I had started blogging much earlier, and kick myself sometimes for not doing so. This post made me feel so inspired…. and if you guys are looking at the ever-changing blog world in such a wonderfully optimistic light, then that makes me feel like I can, too. Thanks for a brilliant post. I love your transparency.

Daria

There are still people who comment see? :) I just started blogging this past year so all these changes hit me like rocks, as I am still adapting to what I kne blogging meant, from reading… it’s so difficult to keep up with all the new platforms, especially if blogging is not your main activity. But I do it for fun and, even though my growth will be very very slow, I will try to keep going. Please keep writing such thoughts, as they go through all of our minds and it helps reading them out! Thanks!

Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday

A wonderful thought provoking, and very timely post. It’s interesting and insightful to know that big bloggers, such as yourselves, aren’t immune. 2014 will certainly be an interesting year and it will be fascinating to see what lies ahead.

Sophia

This is such an interesting article. As a reader not a blogger I can’t believe how much I didn’t realise all of these extra factors. I always want to comment but most of the time think that what I have to say isn’t valid or interesting enough. Never considered that the comments are a big feedback for you…oops. So here I am commenting! I love love design sponge, find it so inspiring and particularly am loving the longer posts.

Tracy Francis

Are ‘design’ blogs suffering more because their consumers are visual people and we are getting our kicks from pinterest (spits) and instagram? Grace you and those close to you are much more than your lovely blog, we can all see that. Bring it on!

Louise from TheDasherie.com

This is kind of insightful, honest, articulate post is one of the (many) things that makes Design*Sponge stand out from the crowd for me.

And speaking of crowds – I generally find the comments here to be positive and constructive, I find there is very little “I hate this” or blunt requests for sources without any nice/constructive comment to ground it. I comment on 3 or 4 sites, some blogs and some newspapers, and I find the commenting community does make a difference. It’s nice to be part of a nice crowd!

One thing I find about blogs that you do get on Instagram and newspapers is the option to just “like” a post or “like” a comment – is that something that could be looked at for you?

Full disclosure, I like a cute pet as much as the next non-pet-owning person, but I do find that too many pictures of cute pets on an Instagram feed is a bit of a turn off for me and I have several times followed-unfollowed-refollowed-unfollowed-refollowed (you get the idea) feeds because of it. (I feel quite bad writing that, but feedback is feedback).

One more thing re Pinterest – I now always credit a blog or website when I pin something, but if I’m repinning then often that credit isn’t there because the first pinner didn’t put it in. I notice that some sites (including, at last, my own) have a description on pictures that includes the website name and this makes it much more likely that the credit will survive on Pinterest. This could be worth making a habit of for Design*Sponge too (it’s a little laborious, but not very).

I’m very happy that Design*Sponge is feeling stronger than ever and look forward to the future with you :)

Holly

I have been reading your blog for about six years now, and I must say that I think that Design Sponge has improved significantly over the past year. I love what you all have been doing and I can’t wait to see what else you come up with!

Jen

Hey Grace,
Thanks for responding to my comment. I actually wasn’t referring to fashion/style bloggers though. Not sure the proper term but I meant more personal bloggers, like Bleubird or Cup of Jo or Love Taza that seem to be doing really well despite the changes in the blog world (at least on the comment front – obviously have no idea about finances). I wasn’t sure if it’s related to that love people have for seeing into your personal lives – kinda part of the reason Instagram is probably so successful.

Grace Bonney

jen

ah, gotcha. i’m not quite sure to be honest, but i do know that people being personal has always been something readers love. but there’s a tipping point with that, too.

grace

Alex

Ever since you posted Jason Kottke’s article, I’ve been wondering your thoughts on the topic, and have even contemplated commenting to ask your opinion- so why didn’t I?! I do find it interesting to think about my own behaviors, actions, and habits as a reader and “consumer” of Internet based content.
I appreciate this article as a reader and someone who has wanted to dip my toes in the blogosphere- thank you for being so informative!
I tried to read through most comments, but my bad ihabits had me scroll down after about ten, so forgive me if this question has already been asked or posted about in the pat: do you have any tips for being a better “consumer”? Lets say in regards to Instagram and Pinterest? Is there a way of establishing a system of (or making others aware of) a proper etiquette so that not all credit to creators is lost?
If nothing else, I think it’s refreshing every now and then to remember to just slow down. This article made me want to stop and think, and post- not just “like”.

Ps there’s a great article in the September issue of Vanity Fair about Martha Stewart and her brand. I’m a fan of hers, but not because I think everything she does is wonderful- its a very interesting read! (Is it rude to link here?)

Anna

Thanks for the informative and inspiring information Grace! Much of this information was news to me, so well done for accepting and embracing change. I’m making a conscious effort to cut down my ‘online time’ this year, and by that I mean cutting down on social media and focusing the time I do have available to informative and inspirational blogs (with DS a number 1). Thanks for all the hard work to everyone at Design Sponge (including the animals)!

marcy goldman

Love your summary of the state of the blog – Welcome to my life as a cookbook author and website host (17 years – still standing). Oddly, the stuff we notice ‘outside’ that we protest and pretend is not really there (the demise of whatever life/career we pursued and crafted as if we were actually on-our-way….somewhere :) reflects an inner dissatisfaction as well. In other words, the changes outside get so big that the overdue internal one (as writers, creators, people) finally has to shift. Transitions (evolutions and endings) always sting at first but then, once you embrace them, growth begins again.
I noticed this when I self published my first cookbook last year (after 4 trad. published books). I hated going forward, I hated having to self publish, I hated ‘letting go of the dream of Random House” (so to speak). But en route, I found myself soul and spirit again. Coincidentally, I also published a real book that is, (without social media at all)…..selling. Things continue to change all around me, the social media gurus spout scary things but I’ve also relearned, as we all must: to thine own self be true. And maybe more to the point: focus on great content. On that last note, if you believe you have to chase and find your readers, it’s a poor man’s game. Stop, be still, write, and listen. They’ll find you. (providing you press : Upload)

Grace Bonney

hi alex

i don’t think there are any rules for being a “good consumer” of content. i think the only universal is to be respectful of other people’s work. if you take an idea, an image or a post, kindly credit the original source. though i think that’s more of a request and less of a rule. i think people don’t feel that step is required anymore.

grace :)

Lou

I think you are so gracious to write this…it’s insightful and genuine and makes real points that we should all be thinking about. It’s not just about blogging but a wider issue about the way developed society in general is absorbing information and our fascination with quick, short and immediate. Can the whole world be encapsulated in 140 characters?!

Specifically regarding blogging though; surely if there has been this change, we must return to what matters and possibly what prompted us to start writing blogs in the first place; having integrity and having a voice. The social media arena is a maelstrom and I for one, have often felt I am not getting it right. It’s too fast to change; it becomes impossible to keep up (unless you are a corporation and pay a team of very bright, very keen, very connected people to do it for you). I have sadly seen many bloggers give up as they have lost their voice or they felt too insignificant against the bigger, more established blogs and the ‘monetisation’ (is that even a word?!) of everything.

For me, I go back to what counts: thoughtful content. No adverts. Genuine readership (not the follow-me-I’ll-follow-you mentality) some luck and honesty!

Lisa Keys

“Open yourself up to the idea that your voice and your vision are the true strength you have to offer.” This is your single most important message and I thank you for it.

As a new blogger in her 50’s I am an old dog simply trying to learn new tricks. (It’s good for the old brain). I enjoy leaving comments when the web site doesn’t make me jump through hoops to do so–hate those darn captcha things! And I am truly grateful when someone does leave me a comment, so I am quick to reply back.

Caitlin

I wanted to say I read this, and I love and appreciate all you do! xo

Kathleen

Hey Grace!
Excellent article! As a blogger and a reader it’s left me lots to think about.
How I read is, I subscribe to the RSS or email feed and read from my inbox.
I leave comments sometimes, but only on blogs where there is a more intimate feeling. The very big blogs, the ones that receive hundreds of comments, I don’t bother. Someone has already said what I’d want to say, and my comment would probably get swept away in all the noise. It’s like trying to have a conversation in a very loud night club, nearly impossible and totally unpleasant.
Then there are the trolls and people just there to drive traffic to their own blog by starting a fight. There’s a reason why so many people say, “First rule of internet is don’t read the comments.”
As a writer I have seen my readership go up (way up) in the last 2 years but receive very little in the way of comments aside from personal acquaintances. And that’s mostly on FB when I link to one of my posts there. People are reading and “liking” but not commenting.

Monica Lee

Fabulous as always, Grace. I simply love your mind and your thoughtful way of looking at things. It is an interesting wake up call for sure! As an artist, I was hesitant about Pinterest as well. Now I am kicking myself for not-running with my beta account ha-ha! But alas, I ran into Ben Silberman at ALT and told him I have built an e-course about finding your creative style aand we use PINTERST no less, so I guess I am making it work after all!
The bottom line is to be fluid and well, original. I love that bloggers figure things out before magazines (I’m just sayin’ give a girl something to problem solve and she will!)
Headed off to tweet this (see, all these outlets can be a good thing!)

Karen

This was great! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings on the subject. It is so interesting to learn more and more about the world of blogging full-time.

Ashley

Grace, I always really appreciate the transparency you show about your business. Even though I’m not a blogger it always makes me feel better to know what other small businesspeople are going through. Keep up the good work! Your blog keeps me sane at my day job.

Katie

To all my fellow commenters,
If you love DS and appreciate Grace’s hard work, click some ads. Now. Right there on the sidebar. Show your love with clicks. It takes one second and allows Grace to continue this bog.

Emily

I just wrote a comment about how frustrating it is to comment on mobile only to find that apparently my comment didn’t go through? There are technological issues afoot here in addition to philosophical ones.

Ellen Anderman

Grace, your essays are my first choice for reading at Design*Sponge. They are always articulate, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you. I think this is what blogs offer readers/followers. For I think that is the difference between blogging and other web media – blogging is about reading and connecting, maybe not always to a full-fledged essay, but at least to the writer and editor of the story + images.

At 58, I haven’t bothered to get into Instagram (though I may be forced to) and I am not drawn to Twitter. Facebook was a way to stay in touch, not a place I go to find out about design or food or books… Increasingly fb feels intrusive and unappealing, but I try to leave a light enough footprint, so I hope not to feel it breathing down my neck.

That said, I turned to blogs to replace the hard copy magazines that no longer existed. The link is clear, and perhaps you are right that bloggers thought so as well as we readers. So advertisers who watch stats and shekels like hawks are always two steps ahead. Anyway, just as with Dominique Browning’s essays first in print and later on her blog, or Paul Krugman at the NYTimes and blogging, or Benita Larrson, or Orangette, even when I followed someone, I didn’t write letters to the editor, an appreciation to the author, or comments. I ripped pages from The New Yorker, cut essays or images from The New York Times, shelter magazines, and later, copied and pasted from blogs like yours, always crediting as carefully as I can. So this comment to you is a very rare thing for me.

Pinterest makes crediting very difficult as several earlier comments have noted. The irony of the time I spent on Pinterest immediately before turning to your essay is not lost on me. I was terribly frustrated not to be able to credit whenever that happened, because it is intellectual property, but the site makes tracing back to the original d#&n near impossible. I do what I can, and if I pin from a site, I do my best to credit the image maker (IF evident in the original) and the source. Bloggers need to be clear on their side of this responsibility too. (This is not aimed at Design*Sponge, just a plea in general.)

Anyway, thank you for the clarity and honesty you bring to everything you write, including this issue, which, I am sure, requires bravery to say “out loud” in print and to elicit and respond to the comments you invite.

signed by a faithful reader, (and not a blogger)
Ellen Anderman

Linda

I am a reader, not a blogger. I don’t and have never done Twitter, FB, or Instagram or anything online other than email. My privacy is paramount. I am an introvert so that perhaps explains why I rarely comment. I would question the worth of my comment actually. After reading this I was curious about the comparison of hits/visits vs. comments. Even I have noticed fewer comments on blogs that I do visit. However I feel the terms troll or lurker or stalker can misrepresent the person on the other side of a blog. For a time I was visiting a blog about dogs, which was helping heal my own broken heart after my beloved old dog had passed. One morning the blog entry started with a comment about ‘the lurker’ and I knew she must mean me. I was embarrassed and horrified. We can’t always know the reason people are not commenting after a visit. Currently I am hooked on Hope, and for some reason I don’t fully understand, I like to jump between your DS site and DS instagram. Is there a certain aesthetic to DS? I wonder if there is, and while it is enormously attractive and inspiring, there are (older?) people like me living in houses which need design guidance too. These are the interior photos I found most intriguing last year: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2013/07/01/books/20130702MUNRO.html
Genius in an ordinary house.
I appreciate your genuine approach and your kind heart that shows in your business.
I wish you abundant future success.

Katrin

Grace, you are awesome. I love how you managed to turn all the difficult challenges into something that fuels you and inspires us. Thank you.

Haydee Sentianin

Reading this on the heels of re-designing my own blog and giving it a new fresh perspective. Love your words and inspiration to move forward as a thriving blogging community. It’s important to change with the tides, not resist change and be open to new ideas/platforms. Thank you.

Christina

It’s interesting that I came across this blog post today, because only earlier I was reading someone’s post about why bloggers are feeling burnt out. I found Dr. Beck’s response very interesting, and I thought it might be something to share with your readers as well! This post is called “Social Media as Sacrament: A Thought For Rachel” and is a response to Rachel Held Evan’s blog : http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2014/01/social-media-as-sacrament-thought-for.html

Lauren

This post is fantastic and is exactly what I’ve been thinking for quite some time. When blogging started, everyone was daily new at it so there was a sense of support- everyone supported one another. But those who could put time time and more time towards their websites garnered all those new, unexperienced followers who still shared that zest, while blogs who start out now (as mine is) find it difficult to get followers. I think people are all on Pinterest and Instagram like you say. Those successful bloggers are now business women with paid strangers filtering their emails. There’s no sisterhood anymore, it’s become a land of egos. The big dogs don’t even notice the little guys anymore, let alone support them. It’s sad, really.

naomi d.

I’m a reader. I do not blog, and though old (or are the 50’s now the new 30’s; don’t think so), I use Pinterest and FB, no Twitter or that other thing you mentioned. I like content. It irritates me when someone has a picture of a meal or side dish and no recipe (though it’s worse when the recipe doesn’t work as occurred with a popular, award-winning, baking blog). I like being notified of particular work or new business, with a link. I like interviews of depth and techniques explained. I have been visiting your blog for several years but rarely comment. In the past year I’ve commented less on any blogs. I decided I would only comment if I added something of value to the poster’s writing. I try, not always successfully, to avoid using someone’s post as a take-off for my own experiences, putting up material that is too self-referential. If the writing is just outstanding, I do like give thanks for sharing. I admit to visiting D*S less this past year; the energy and direction seemed off. Yet there is always something that brings me back. In this post I hear the enthusiasm. I’m ready; show me what’s new!

ps On the Pinterest credits, if I see an image of interest, I’ll ‘like’ it and go to the original posting and pin from there. Thus, I’ve tipped the person who increased its viewing and have the source too (as would any who click it). If this is not sufficient for credit, please let me know. Pinterest etiquette is confusing.

Susannah // Feast + West

This is such a great post, Grace. As someone new to blogging (but not blog-reading), I always appreciate your candidness and optimism toward blogging as a platform and business. I’m writing this down and posting it behind my desk: “Open yourself up to the idea that your voice and your vision are the true strength you have to offer.” That’s something I’ll try to remember as I take on this new endeavor. I’m also going to make a point to comment on blogs more! Thank you for embracing the changes and sharing your findings with us always.

Kim | a little lunch

I’ve been writing a “State of the Blog” address every year since I started blogging (two years ago) and was about to pen my third next month. The changes you noted and the reasons behind them are true. (Food for thought.) Personally, I think the game changer was advertising. As soon as “marketing” became part of the mix, it changed blog world as we knew it. That, and everybody and their brother jumped on the bandwagon to promote e-books, cookbooks, you name it in the sidebar(s). Publishing anything (including blogs) will never be the same. Thanks for your astute observations.

Annelies

Change is the only constant- I think you’re quite right about that. When Google+ makes small tweaks making HOA’s more difficult to host without a G+ guide or Facebook changes its algorithm about who / how many can view status updates, it sheds light on the ever evolving nature of the social media communities where our readers are. I’ve been ruminating a lot on human behavior when it comes to blogging and actually wonder if this isn’t part of a larger cycle where people will come back and begin commenting again. History often repeats itself, so it will be interesting to see how social history plays out. Social media is not dead, but some platforms are alienating the people who were once their biggest advocates. As to the issue of crediting, that is more prickly still because it comes down to human nature which can be awfully fickle. I’m curious to see where this conversation leads a year from now. Thanks for your thoughtful post and here’s to a good year for all of us.

Emily

Grace, you are so smart, savvy, insightful, and a fantastic writer. I have enjoyed your blog for many years. Thanks for this fascinating post.

Jillian

Hi Grace,
Thank you for this really insightful post. A few people have mentioned the death of Google Reader as a major catalyst for the decline in blog comments, and I would agree. I used to comment on blogs all the time, but now I read the majority of blogs through Feedly on my phone or iPad, and it is incredibly cumbersome to comment. So I just don’t…unless I really feel a connection with the author and then I save the post to comment later when I’m on my computer. I don’t like that I’ve changed in this way and try to make an effort when I think the conversation is important – like now. Keep up the good work…can’t wait to see how D*S evolves.

thorn + sparrow

grace! i’ve been feeling the same way the past year… i’m not a totally avid blogger, but i’m an artist, and i feel like the entire art world is in the same boat. it’s so easy to see things changing and how artists’ styles have become so similar because it can go viral in a second’s time on all the social media platforms. it was a struggle for me to see my iphone wallpapers go viral but without a hint of where it came from… although i’m happy that people are enjoying something i put out there, it’s hard to make a business when stuff is so easily accessible online and more and more things are being offered for free.
these challenges that i once dreaded are now pushing and inspiring me to be different and embrace my own voice and vision – just like you said! i really appreciate your post on this! it’s encouraging to know others feel the same, and it’s inspiring to know that we’re all being pushed out of our comfort zones and into uncharted creative waters. :)
high fives + hugs!

Kreetta

Truly great writing. I love old-fashioned comments and I make them too if I have just time to concentrate. It’s easier to just like or pin. I’m so happy if I get comments on my blog – then I know someone has really read my post and I’m thankful.

I’m happy you brought this “thing” up and I can see there’s a lot of discussion around it. I’ve blogged only about 2 years and I’m in love with thought of slow blogging. Less is more. I just started my IG few weeks ago. Pinterest done. FB done. Twitter? not so done. I think the big thing here is to make a choice that is good for you and your readers. I think blogging or social media is part of you and you can’t make a very good one without heart and soul with you.

Lately I’ve started to think my blog as a small magazine, haha. At the moment I’m wondering what my IG will be…never ending photo essay…

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we really are happy to hear them!

xo
Kreetta

kimberly

I know the point of the post isn’t necessarily the lack of comments in the blog world lately, but…
I know I feel like on big blogs, my comments don’t matter. They hear from all of their readers about what a great room/outfit/recipe/craft that was. My comment would just get lost in the shuffle. I only really comment if I have a question, or if something touched me in such a way that I feel moved to respond (usually more for personal blog posts like this one, rather than a craft or a home improvement project).

Three things about the “state of blog comments” bothers me lately:

1) I think a lot of people comment uselessly on blogs just to get click on their own sites. “Hey, great post” from Sarah at MyBlogNeedsReaders does not add to the conversation…it’s a waste of time for the blogger and the reader.
2) There’s a lot of viciousness in certain blogs’ comments…I hate to see that, both for the blogger and the rest of the “community” of readers. And I will admit that I’ve stopped visiting some blogs because of the bad blood between blogger and commenters…I know I can ignore the comments, but sometimes it feels like the blogger is writing to her “haters” not to her general audience. My blog is so tiny, I don’t have “haters” so I don’t know how I would handle it, but a constant stream of resentment and justification posts doesn’t seem like the answer.
3) I am saddened when bloggers don’t respond to comments. You do a really nice job, Grace (& team) of responding to thoughtful comments and questions. I certainly don’t think every comment deserves a response, but if a blogger shares a craft project and someone asks for clarification about a step and the blogger doesn’t respond, it feels like the blogger is taking her community for granted.
I guess all of this to say that blogs definitely feel more like a business lately, and less like a community.

Stéphanie

To be honest, I feel discouraged to leave a comment on most blogs. I find that many comments are renditions of simple phrases like ‘wow, I love this!’, ‘great jacket/product/artwork!’, which leaves the blogger with not much to say, and little to no conversation going on. I try my best to leave smart comments that prompt interaction, so the most discouraging part is the author being totally absent from that part of the blog. It’s understandable that bloggers can’t reply to every comment, but even just a couple of replies is enough to show there’s a real person behind all this. One of the things that brings me back to DS is that despite how big you’ve grown in 10 years, you’re always leaving thoughtful replies to what we say. To me, DS is very much alive despite the supposed ‘death’ of the blog. :) Thanks for this post, Grace. It’s always interesting to see things from a more realistic and concrete perspective.

Sarah Melling

I read this post (and the Kottke piece) last night and have NOT stopped thinking about it since. Checking back to comment (yay, commenters!) and seeing the discussion that has ensued shows me I’m not alone. I write a blog purely to share my artwork and communicate with viewers/other artists…no commercial motivation at all. A couple of years ago, when I’d post on Illustration Friday, I’d get 20 comments, now I get a couple. I’ve met people via those comments that I now consider to be friends. But that has all seemed to dry up as of late, and I was in a quandary about it until this piece made it all crystal clear.

Yeah, I”ll admit it, I’m one of those 0ver-40 bloggers, and frankly, and have no desire to spend more time online and less at my drawing board. But I may have to, if only on principle: I’m tired of seeing my drawings show up on Pinterest without credit. (It’s easy to find them with Google image search). I’ve emailed people to ask them to stop using my drawings in their blog banners without permission, and some seem genuinely surprised. I’m hoping the pendulum may swing back to the middle somewhere at some point, once we’ve hit our limitations on how much info we can absorb in a given day!

Harry Wakefield

Well done Grace! Fragmentation of our audience will only continue IMHO, as will the atomization of all content. It’s what we do as influencers, and especially as entrepreneurs, with the “economic problem” that will either strengthen or extinguish our voices. As for comments, they’re not dead, this is #131 in this thread as I write this. But I would suggest DS upgrade commenting so that each comment could get direct replies and community moderation like with Disqus. It’d be more fun and lively and that’s where people want to be.

Bobbie Jansen

You have always been far and above the best blog on the internet! Your content is worthwhile, and tho maybe I could find is scattered about the pinterest/instagram, but why would I go try to find it there when I can find it here? I like the visuals of pinterest..very inspiring, but tho I think blogs need to have good visuals, it is the combination of good visuals and good content..and more importantly you are creating your own content, pinterest is just clipping it..IF I want to find good original content…I am going to design sponge first..the others much much later.

Grace Bonney

Thanks Harry-

I’ve always hated the way Disqus works as a user, but it’s probably something we’ll integrate at some point. I’ve only had it be glitchy and slow on sites I read that use it, so we’ve really hesitated to make discussion have more hurdles :(

Grace

Karen @ Dogs Don't Eat Pizza

Thank you – this perfectly sums up what a lot of us bloggers have been feeling for some time. I love your positive spin on it – looking at the changes as opportunities rather than just problems. I love your blog and can’t wait to see how you face these challenges.

Bliss

In this case for me ignorance really is Bliss! Since I’m basically a new blogger I only know what I know- the past 2 years. So I just plug away at it, never really knowing what I’m doing right or wrong, or what changes are happening. I just attempt to embrace anything I can figure out and refer to posts like yours to keep me in the know.

Creede

Grace, Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I’ve been struggling with these same issues for a few years now, and honestly it’s what has made me all but give up on Grassrootsmodern.com It’s good to at least know that I’m not alone. I’m excited to see how you, and other peers in the blogging community tackle this new world.

Laura Mazurek

This explains so much! Over the past year I saw my comments absolutely drop, and my ads sales too. I was really beginning to think people were just over my blog… But I would still get several really sweet emails from time to time from readers telling me how much they connect to me, so I knew they were still there, and the numbers were showing they were still there. For a while it made me feel a bit blue, like it wasn’t worth their time to comment anymore… But then I remember why I started blogging in the first place. For me, it wasn’t about business… it was more personal. A place I could connect everyday with myself and with other like-minded individuals. In the beginning of ad selling, it was a bonus, but over time I did start to depend on it. As I have seen it decline though I did just adjust my workflow in other areas to cover this and not let it affect me. I always want my blog to be about loving it before and $$$, but I understand many bloggers are using their blog as their only source of income. Luckily I have a fulltime jewelry business to keep me afloat if my blog bombs. But yes, I too have seen the other social media platforms taking over! I particularly love instagram and pinterest, although I hate that you can hardly find proper ownership on pinterest images ever. Great post! Thank you for confirming to me what has been on my mind, but thought I was the only one!

Anne Marie

Totally agree with everything you said….and I cannot help but notice those changes with a bit of remorse…I do miss ‘the old times’ but am so very excited about new opportunities. I don’t own a smart phone (so don’t do Instagram or a lot on Facebook) so some think I am limiting myself…and they are correct to a point, but I am trying to do what is comfortable to me, and working with my web-designer to have new website platform is what I am currently trying to come up with – I think the hardest thing is that even though I have a lot of readers/followers, they do not give me as much feedback any more….so you do what you think is best for you.
Great post.
xo + blessings.

Harry Wakefield

There are lots of good options for comments, Livefyre and the commenting module in Jetpack by WordPress.com are two you may want to look at.

maddie

I know I’m a little late in the game to comment, but I wanted to share my experience with blogging in the last year, and how I believe that one blog niche can be a testament of how strong and powerful blogging can be. My blog, Madalynne, is a sewing and pattern making blog (sorry for the redundancy), and although I’ve seen comments go down in the past year, there still coming in. Fewer, but better, more in depth, and more personal. The sewing community is an extremely connected one, and by posting about what we’ve made, it’s not a vain attempt to take a bunch of selfie’s. We learn from each others “me-makes” and what we research and discover, we share with others so that we all can become better seamstresses. There’s an initiative called “Sew Bossy,” where two seamstresses swap fabric and patterns, make the garments, and post about it. Some of my best friends are people I’ve met through my blog and this shows that blogging is not vain, it’s a way to connect and grow with like-minded people.

Great post, Grace!

Jamie

Grace, LOVE this. Change is fun! And I love that you started a new instgram series this morning :) Go you! I use Google DFP to allow multiple ad networks to compete with each other for ad space on my blog, and have one person run the platform. I started it about 9 months ago, and I love it. I’m sure there are other platforms out there like this. Maybe it will be helpful info for another blogger :) Cheers to change!

Grace Bonney

jamie

thanks! we use google dfp and it’s been great, but it’s not bringing in what it used to across the board. prices have dropped and the ad quality isn’t what we would hope for :( but i’m glad to know it’s working well for you! :)

grace

fangaroni

Thank you for this post Grace! I had no idea this was the state of blogging today, though I did notice drops in commenting in general. AFter this post I have been commenting more often, because I want the bloggers to know I appreciate their work and to keep it up! One factor is laziness, because many read blogs via a blog reader and dont want to click through multiple times to comment.
On home tours and fashion blogs, I don’t comment because many of the comments appear to be: Where did you buy that? I need that item! and so it feels less inspirational to me and more about buy buy buy. However the long-form posts from you, Amy and Maxwell are really wonderful and definitely provide food for thought and topics of discussion!

rose | rockrosewine

First of all, bravo. This was such a well written post. A couple points:

1. You talk about 2013 as “the year that comments died”. Why not change the way your comment section is organized? In this thread I read so many thoughtful intelligent comments that I would have responded to directly if I could. Like huffpost, reddit etc…people go to comment and be engaged with others. Your content is TOP NOTCH, but if people could interact more with others they might stay longer.

2. I have a little blog about the renovation of our 17th century home in Normandy. I do it because I love design and think our project is interesting (and I want to share and meet people). I don’t post a lot, but someday I hope it will turn into something other than the blog. There is no money in blogging alone. One most diversify and offer something tangible these days. People can download music all they want, but they will still pay for vinyl.

3. I admit I am a Pinterest junkie. So while it may be “bad” for blogs, it has also led me to so many great blogs, designers, (and just other pinners) that I wouldn’t have discovered/met otherwise.

Grace, you are an inspiration (that’s so cheesy to say, but it’s true). People love you, but what might make people stay longer on DS is more interaction with other readers. A big website like yours should not just be a magazine with pretty pictures to cut out and take elsewhere. As a big site you have the advantage and possibility to bring people together.

Grace Bonney

Rose

I appreciate your comments. We switched servers on DS this weekend (something most websites don’t discuss publicly because it sometimes attracts hackers and the like), and with it is coming some big changes- comments included. We’re migrating over to a new system that integrates social media and allows people to comment on comments, etc. So you’re definitely on the same track we are :)

I appreciate your comment about us being in a position to connect people- that is a big compliment and I will do everything we can to make good on that idea. We try very hard to find new ways to connect and introduce people and I look forward to the challenge of finding new ways to do that this year!

Grace

jessica @ the ladyette

It feels really depressing as a newbie blogger. I definitely feel like I jumped on the wagon too late. The biggest struggle I have is that I still want all the planning and in depth posts. I don’t really use Twitter and I don’t have a Facebook page linked with my blog because I l-o-v-e the blog. I’ve tried to tell myself that I’m blogging just for me, but ultimately I can’t shake the thought that being able to do it full time would be very fulfilling. I had previously thought blogging would be my ‘cubicle escape’ but now that feels very unlikely with the shift it’s all taking. It’s scary how unsure the blogging future is, yet I think that’s been a large part of why it’s been so exciting in the past.

Jenmarie

I still don’t think I’m used to having readers respond to a specific blog post on various platforms. But I’m starting to learn how to provide different content on each one to keep things fun and interesting.

I have also noticed a lot of traffic coming from my Pinterest page. Probably because it’s easy (and addicting) to search for what you need or what you like.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the changes we bloggers are facing!

Michelle @ Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

As someone who started blogging in 2012, right before the so-called death of the blog, I have often worried about all the issues and changes you put forward in your post. I thought to myself, am I too late? The blog world is so over saturated, how could I possibly make an impact (or any money for that matter)? While your post confirms to me everything I was concerned about, it also gives me hope that maybe I’m not too late, I’m just coming in at the beginning – a different beginning. Thank you so much for your post!

michelle

Just to touch on the commenting front, I’m a longtime blog reader – ds, apartment therapy, young house love, etc. There was a time I commented regularly on almost every blog I followed; however, over time the comments sections got longer and longer as readership increased and it was more and more difficult to connect and engage when you literally had to compete with 300+ other comments/commenters. I stopped feeling heard, so I stopped reading comments.

Erica

Grace,

As a reader turned blogger turned reader again, I found the blogging world very difficult to navigate & didn’t seem to connect well with others as I had hoped. With the thought in mind of joining an online community, It seems that I was just another number added to the crab box trying to climb my way to the top. However, one thing that I noticed heavily are that there are very few bloggers who respond back or engage their readership. I find it oxymoronic that “bloggers” love the traffic & yet take less and less time to respond back to the reader. Because no matter how great your content is, if you have no readership then you have no way to monetize your blog. I find that when a reader can connect with a blogger (even if you have to hire an intern to respond) they stay longer. I myself am I loyal reader, and I stay around for various reasons but mainly for content & growth.

Janet M

Just stumbled on this blog post from another blog that I started following after being a part of Jamie Ridler’s Kickin’ It Old Skool Blog-a-thon at the end of last year. I started blogging last year by doing a 365 Picture project. I am this year doing a 365 Jots Project and blogging a Jot a day. I have it connected to a Facebook page and post the blog link on that as well. Right now I am doing it for fun. I do love to see/read comments and if by some chance it leads someone to my Etsy shop where they buy one of my custom mini-albums or cards, great!! I appreciate your comments and insight on the state of the blog and now do not feel quite so bad that I do not get very many comments. I am happy to see that there are changes afoot and excited to be able to put my toe in the water. Thanks for sharing this!

Maureen

It is easy to comment here so I do. Many blogs require you to login in to Google and other things before you can leave a comment. I have too many damn passwords to remember as it is. There are many blogs that I would like to comment on, but don’t because they don’t make it easy to do so.

Bere

I have been blogging almost a year now and obviously my readership consists mostly of family and friends. I would love to reach more people but as you said there are sooo many platforms out there ! And my problem is (and i think that it is a huge problem): i don’t really like those platforms. I don’t have a smartphone, so i don’t instagram and i hate twitter! It feels like an inner battle: do i do what everybody does?
I blog because i like it, it’s a way to communicate, but of course i would love for my blog to grow.
Anyway thanks for the information! It was really useful guidance and thank you for the opportunity to vent my thoughts :-)

Grace Bonney

bere

you don’t have to do anything on this list- you only have to do what you enjoy in order to blog. but, to be a blog that is profitable and continues to gain followers on a bigger scale, these are adaptations and changes that will most likely need to be made. but not everyone is in blogging to make money or have a ton of followers- which is totally ok and great. so it’s just up to you about your goals and the reason you’re blogging :)

grace

Lauren

I appreciate how you’re viewing all of these changes as positive, Grace. Frankly, I hope we’ve reached a breaking point in all of this–the saddest product of the situation, to me, is that with less money supporting editorial, there’s less money to make original content. Photographers, designers and writers all need to get paid to work! And if the industry doesn’t support it, it will disappear (you can’t run a good blog without good content!) And so I hope because of that things self-correct. That the amount of blogs will become fewer and the good ones that prevail will be able to control how they want to make money.

Sigh, I hope that’s not a pipe-dream. The Internet has created this idea that anyone can be a content creator, and that’s why ad rates have declined. Fewer reading choices is actually better for the industry as a whole.

Ofelia, from Mexico City

Well, here is a comment. Well done! Fascinating reading. My though is a bloggers world has become like a monster eating his tail.

Jo in NZ

God, I rarely comment on blogs (for all the reasons listed already: appreciate my privacy, and don’t want to log into google/facebook to comment, or else someone already said what I was thinking, or there’s just too much white noise in all the comments of little substance etc etc) BUT I wanted to say (as a reader, non-blogger) how much I appreciate this content and ensuing discussion right here. Thank you!

DCTdesigns

Grace- I found this to be an insightful and helpful article. I’ve been blogging for three years now. This year was a rough one for me personally and must admit I didn’t pay attention to the changes in the blogisphere. But since returning have felt them.

I use twitter as a teaser to draw traffic to my blog. Instagram is for random visuals also meant to supplement my blog. I avoid FB (my reasons are long). Pinterest is nothing more then an idea storage facility. A place I save things I want to refer back to.

I do not make any money for my blogging, never have. It was created as an outlet for my creative expression as an artist. And in that vain my blog covers a myriad of outlets writing, drawing, photography, cooking, and general life philosophizing. I am a huge admirer of original content as I too acutely know what goes into creating it. It should be honored.

And have given up the idea that blogging and my art will be my financial support. Though it would be nice. This isn’t to say I’m not still working on other artistic avenues of revenue- eBook, ipad app design and promoting product on Etsy. A marketing agency in the UK just sent an email about posting ads on my site. I haven’t replied yet as I suddenly feel completely out of water. And it was suggested to me a while back to add a donate button to my site. Hmmm feels odd.

Yours was one of the first blogs I ever read and one I return to regularly for inspiration and eye Candy. So simply Thanks for all you do.

Carolann

OK, I think this is exactly why folks don’t leave comments anymore….there are thousands of them! Who can be expected to read much less reply to them. I don’t have that expectation when I leave a comment. I know the author will most likely never read my comment….and that’s fine. I post when I feel like posting. Also, about Pinterest…common…retailers are LOVIN it! Sales are up up and up for them due to Pinterest. Who cares about content ownership when they are making HUGE dollars? Yes, it’s changing for sure…but as you said change is good. Keeps you on your toes :)

Emily

Amazing, Grace. Incredibly well said. Specifically, I’m glad you brought up how the importance of crediting original source has died– that’s something I really struggle with, though not even personally. It’s not my images being lifted and going uncredited, but I see it happen to so many others, and then I see those bloggers who repost the images on their own blogs and accounts earning credit where no credit is due… thriving off of traffic from pins of a photo lifted from their site that was not theirs to begin with. I do hope this will change, but unfortunately you’re right– this is part of the “Pinterest culture,” and like it or not, it’s what the Internet has become and we need to accept such.

Grace Bonney

Carolann

I understand your main point, but there aren’t actually thousands of comments on blogs anymore, that’s precisely the point. They’ve dwindles now so that people actually have more room and time to read and respond.

I can only speak for DS, but we review and publish every single comment manually (and always have), so every comment is truly read and considered.

I understand why retailers love Pinterest, as you said, why wouldn’t they? They’re not in the original content market. That said, if bloggers and platforms for promoting retail die off, I think there business model will end up being hurt. True, they can transition to managing their own social media promotions, but I think shoppers still like to look to some form of advice or publication (whether that’s online, print or TV) for shopping options.

Grace

Grace Bonney

Jo

I don’t like filling out social media details to comment either, I really dislike it. But it’s oddly really the way commenting is going. Sites that use forums like that (Disqus and the like) are getting very active and engaged commenting populations, versus those of us who have the traditional anonymous-blank system. And while it isn’t the end of the world to not get as many comments, engagement is one of the key factors advertisers look for when investing in a site. It matters just as much as traditional traffic. So if we can’t show multiple forms of engagement, we are much less likely to get financial support. So, if things move that way, I hope people will move forward with us in the direction of more social media-integrated-commentary. I would say as a whole, we get way more comments on actual social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter mainly) about posts than on the posts themselves (on the homepage).

Re: white noise. I wish we could control that more. We all try to encourage deeper discussion, but sadly it’s not something we can “make” happen. We try to allow constructive disagreement in the hopes that it will spur discussion and deeper feedback, but in general this particular niche does seem to often fall into two camps: the “I love it” commenters or the very angry “I hate you because you painted that wood and you’re a terrible person” commenter. I can see how that extreme divide wouldn’t lead many to have more substantive conversation. That said, I’m hoping that a more advanced and socially connected commenting system will encourage people to talk more- and that will lead to more meaningful feedback for everyone.

Grace :)

Grace Bonney

Jo

I don’t like filling out social media details to comment either, I really dislike it. But it’s oddly really the way commenting is going. Sites that use forums like that (Disqus and the like) are getting very active and engaged commenting populations, versus those of us who have the traditional anonymous-blank system. And while it isn’t the end of the world to not get as many comments, engagement is one of the key factors advertisers look for when investing in a site. It matters just as much as traditional traffic. So if we can’t show multiple forms of engagement, we are much less likely to get financial support. So, if things move that way, I hope people will move forward with us in the direction of more social media-integrated-commentary. I would say as a whole, we get way more comments on actual social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter mainly) about posts than on the posts themselves (on the homepage).

Re: white noise. I wish we could control that more. We all try to encourage deeper discussion, but sadly it’s not something we can “make” happen. We try to allow constructive disagreement in the hopes that it will spur discussion and deeper feedback, but in general this particular niche does seem to often fall into two camps: the “I love it” commenters or the very angry “I hate you because you painted that wood and you’re a terrible person” commenter. I can see how that extreme divide wouldn’t lead many to have more substantive conversation. That said, I’m hoping that a more advanced and socially connected commenting system will encourage people to talk more- and that will lead to more meaningful feedback for everyone.

Grace :)

Jo in NZ

Wow, I had honestly not thought at all what my lack of commenting or engagement might mean for a blogger; talk about naive! Many thanks for being so honest and pointing the reality out to me. I will definitely try to take the time to express myself thoughtfully from now on, and indeed more often. Your work is so appreciated, Grace!

linda

really interesting essay, grace. i actually would occasionally turn off my ad blockers when coming to design sites like yours because the ads here were interesting to me. trust me, that i never do that anywhere but design sites. :) i’m guessing advertisers lost out too much with ad blockers and hence the switch to sponsored content. is that correct?

i like the idea of connecting people locally both virtually and in real life if you can somehow do that, especially for the indie designer/artist crowd that one commenter mentioned. i would love to be more connected in real life with other indie artists.

recently, i read an interesting discus comment on a blog and it was kind of cool to click on the person’s profile and read other comments of theirs elsewhere. i don’t know what the other options are for you for commenting, but i think your blog audience will adapt.

keep up the great work and don’t be shy about writing these essay posts!

paras pikavippivertailu

When I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Kudos!

Inge

Great post Grace! Very informative and also inspiring to indeed embrace the change and see it as new opportunities to express ourselves. I’ve not been happy with the changes in the blogworld, but I’ve found that I now gravitate more towards a few blogs that have managed to stay interesting and inspirational and have their own voice. Thank you!

Grace Bonney

linda

yes, that definitely happened. people put up ad blockers and it definitely made a dent in people’s revenues. it’s clearly everyone’s right to do that, but it has an effect and the effect was that banner ads weren’t as successful anymore. but i think it’s better in the long run to be out of the ad game- it’s no fun to have to spend so much time haggling over sponsorship details when you’d rather be producing content or something else cool :)

disqus is definitely the way most blogs are going right now- i don’t like having to sign in to do anything, but i do think it’s neat to see more info about people commenting.

grace :)

Grace Bonney

paras

do you not see the option to unclick that on the post or in the emails that come to you? we don’t have any control over individual user settings over here :(

grace

Susan

I starts my blog almost three years ago. It is very small and I have only done one or two sponsored posts, but because of changes in my day job and evolving my personal life, I ran short on time. But everyday I still read tons of blogs and I love their homepage, content, everything. I would leave comments for the “bigger” bloggers that I idolized in the blogging industry and I realized that the comments I would leave we’re not acknowledged by that blogger and those bloggers were only communicating with other “bigger” bloggers (except for two of my favorite bloggers who are very successful and I have met multiple times). It is not the world’s worst thing, but is definitely something I have noticed. This is a great recap though! I hope that blogs will still put their best effort and work into their sites! Those are the core that we all loved from the beginning!

jennifer

Oh my, I just discovered craft/diy blogs and was in a nice feedly groove checking in with minimal time/effort. It is so time consuming to me to figure out a new system! Instagram and twitter involve much more clicking, which is hard to do when I’m trying to catch up while I gulp down breakfast. Sigh. Thank you for the explanation.

Hanna Sandvig

Something that I’ve felt as a reader is that if I post comments now, I don’t feel like I just get lost in a sea of comments. So that’s interesting.

I so dislike sponsered post ads. I totally understand why bloggers are doing them, but it just changes the tone of things. I love the inspiration of design blogs, but I am no that into learning about more things I can’t afford.

Alison @SassyMomChicago

This is a great post Grace! My 2014 goal has been to comment on more blogs and link up with more blogger friends. Giving recognition to the writers we love is so important.

Kate

Quick note regarding leaving comments: This could just be “user error,” but I’ve found that now that I use an ipad or phone to read my favorite blogs (as opposed to a computer a few years ago), I can’t leave comments – just won’t work on a mobile device. Perhaps a small problem that only I have, or perhaps something that blogs need to consider? I have noticed it on several of my favorite blogs.

(As I write this, I am hoping it will work this time!)

Julia

A few thoughts here and there.

I disagree with this sentence: It’s no longer a clear cut 2.0 / 3.0 world.
It’s never been, I think. Maybe it’s hindsight, maybe, or perhaps specific aspects, but since I first booted a computer and started navigating “the internet”, back in a sweltering night in January 1996 (I live in the southern hemisphere), internet has always felt like building with sand. Everything changes too quickly compared to any other of normal human lives’ rhythms.

I am an early embracer of the blog platform. The format just spells out my name. I wrote one for a while, then wrapped it and thought of it as a very positive experience. These days I write for the institutional blog at my job and I’m very happy doing it, though it must be noted it could be classified as a (mostly) literary endeavor.

I thought I was a very visual person but “I don’t get” Instagram or Pinterest. I profoundly dislike video presentations of pictures, as I like to look at them at my own pace (seconds or hours). Twitter is quite unforgiving for non-native speakers and I’ve thrown my towel with it. I wonder, at tender 34 years of age, have I become some sort of “digital grandma”? I just don’t like how out of control some blogs became (Apartment Therapy is a good example… for the most, it’s just an amazing amount of blahblahblah and it’s impossible to get to what you’re interested in, unless you drop by thanks to an engine search), while it’s sad to say goodbye to long loved ones (Chez Larsson is the first to come to mind, Jane Brocket and Yvestown have made large numbers of old posts unavailable).

Yeah, I’m a digital grandma. You know, in my time things were different and much better ;-)

Tiffany

I notice my commenting behaviour on blogs is very much affected by the commenting format. For example, on this post, I had to scroll to the bottom of 176 comments to make this comment – something I wouldn’t normally do, but it’s very relevant to what you are taking about. Also, if it’s hard to log in, I don’t bother. And if the commenting process changes and it does seem to work right, I don’t bother. For example, I used to follow the blog Feministing a few years ago. They would get comments in the 100s and even 1000s on a post. But, then they changed their webpage layout and made it more difficult to comment. The community that existed in the comment section was lost over night. Now, they are lucky to get one comment on a post.

Lakshmi

I wonder if the changes you’re seeing, Grace, have to do with post-Recession values and lifestyles. I started grad school when the market crashed. Since professorial positions are in rapid decline, I, along with many of my peers, face a pretty tough ceiling when it comes to salary. But I see this even outside of my field. People don’t have the money to spend on new cabinets or are too busy trying to make ends meet to diy them. One of reason I’ve drifted from D*S (and blogs like it) over the years is the increasing sense of alienation I experience when I read it. These homes, makeovers, DIYs and even recipes are for people with the money to engage in new projects or live in spaces that allow for food processors *and* juicers…etc. etc. To be honest, I can’t afford a kitchen redo that costs more than $50 or a new sofa. I’m not almost-homeless, but I also lack disposable income. So I’m now more drawn to blogs that talk about minimalism (your minimalist challenge is one reason I ended up reading the blog again after a break) or why some aspects of a given design are better/more interesting/whatever than others. I can’t dwell on sites that implicitly or explicitly focus on consumption and materialism as a way to experience design.

Plus, I think the blogger scene is very very homogenous: lots of white women inviting other white women talk about their work. There’s really no excuse for that continuing in this day and age. As I grow up and grew more aware of these issues, these sites become less and less relatable and less interesting for engagement (either by visiting or commenting).

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)

Fantastic post Grace! My twin sister and I started our sit 5 Minutes for Mom in 2006 and wow how the world has changed over those years. But I firmly believe that change is at the heart of social media and we have to embrace it even while it drives us crazy at times. Yes, our comments are way down. But I always tell people, when we started our site, I would go comment on other blogs for 2 hours every day to build community and relationships. Clearly, other forms of social media have taken over much of that time for me now. It is sad really. But reality. Thankfully, our page views have either grown or remained steady over the years. Social media brings in traffic and now Google no longer holds the same power. The best content wins now. And I LIKE that!

Nicole

For me you can’t beat a well-written, in-depth blog post. I worry that due to these demands you’ve mentioned, our content is fragmenting and becoming shallower and shallower until it fits the attention span of a goldfish. And when you think about that, how interesting can that be?

I write a blog, but then I also have a job, so I don’t feel any pressure to get advertising etc and so it remains a personal, creative space. A different ball game, I know, but I really like the format of a blog (as opposed to Instagram, Pinterest etc) which allows as much text as you like and photos. It really works for me and I don’t think bloggers should compromise their content in an attempt to compete with other platforms.

Lianne

As someone relatively new to blogging this is quite worrying in some respects as it feels like the goal posts have moved and I’m no longer sure where I stand. I started my blog as an attempt to draw viewers from my fairly large Instagram following into a more personal setting where I could answer their questions more fully. If anyone’s noticed, the Instagram notification system is dreadful and when you start getting regular comments from a high number of followers it is impossible to track them all and respond. So a blog base seemed like a better solution for entering into a conversation. My fellow art bloggers also post ‘snippets’ of work on social media with full work and info displayed on the blog. We’ve found that it’s better to choose one or two platforms to connect with our followers and then link back to our websites then to pepper all social platforms with a conversation-less link. People do tend to end up in the blog to read it but they will always prefer accessing your content on the platform they use the most. So I think for me being flexible with THEIR needs will be my best bet. Very thought provoking post. Thank you.

Susan

Your points are interesting and well taken though I’m not sure I agree entirely. Indeed, there were a few popular bloggers who have largely disappeared from the blogosphere because of other commitments such as cookbook deals, classes, etc. That they’ve moved on does not mean blogging is dead. Over the past year innumerable up and coming blogs with stunning photography and writing have emerged. Advertising is only one measure and one could easily argue that advertising is dead. It seems a shame to perpetuate this notion when so much new talent is on the horizon. Pinterest without blogs? How about this blog post without 185 comments. Oh, I see…

Mel

You know, this is the first positive spin I’ve seen on the whole “blogging is dead.” It’s been a bit disheartening to read and hear some of my favorite bloggers talk this way when I still read blogs on their home pages, comment when I feel inspired, and link back. I understand I’m in a minority, but as a newer blogger, I’ve felt a little discouraged about continuing to bring new content in the face of all of this “dead blog” talk. Thanks for shining a new light on it.

Annette

Grace this is so insightful for me the world of photo styling took a dive about 5 years ago since I worked and work in print, now my clients are hiring bloggers for content at a much reduced fee, so I had to come to terms with reinventing myself 5 years ago, that’s when I started writing my cookbook. My cookbook has been the best job I have had to date. You’re right adversity and a swift kick in the butt is the best creative medicine. here here! You always land on your feet you’re an innovator visionary & a smart cookie and the first blog I ever read. You’re the original. xx

melissa

Here’s my take on it… as a reader. I think there is an abundance of blogs right now, all posting very similar content. I follow A LOT of blogs on bloglovin, but honestly only check in EVERYDAY to read certain blogs that I am completely interested in. The short attention span might be from a lack of unique and interesting content (definitely not putting D*S in that category). When i go through my bloglovin feed, i skim through unless i find it to be worth stopping and giving it a closer look.
In terms of commenting– I agree on the lack of comments due to attention span, but one more reason, which is why I don’t comment as often anymore is because some bloggers don’t comment back, so readers may feel like “what’s the point”. if you’re a blogger, and your readers are what keeps your blog going, you as a blogger need to engage more also; not just the reader. On the other hand, I find that there are some bloggers that are replying to comments much more than they used to.
The posts I tend to comment on most are with personal blogs… when a writer shares a personal journey. I think I have more to say and I can be more supportive to them.

Rebecca Jones

Thank you for sharing Grace. As a professional mag journalist turned blogger it’s really interesting to read your thoughts on the blogging world. I’ve been desperate for comments from anyone other than my mum, but now I feel more confident that my social media interaction counts too. Here’s to a happy 2014 for us all. X

emma

This was an inspiring and thought provoking post. Really interesting to read and a lot of good tips to take in!

Sam Kean

“It was wrapped up in a bigger issue I was struggling with: perceived ownership of content. I’ve watched over the past few years as importance of crediting died.”

I applaud this kind of shift in our culture. It shows we are becoming less commercial and authoritarian based and more concerned with the advance of truth and fact itself. This was the mode of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Angela

I’ve been semi-consciously referencing this post often since I read it when you published it and really appreciate the sort of new lease on blogging life I have from it! I feel like it’s somehow all out in the open, things we already knew. I work in content and often feel resistant to the changes in the interest of being creative and original, and yet I really need to be able to adapt. Yet, on my own blog, I’ve realized that I don’t necessarily want to adopt all new ways of blogging, but go back to some of my old ideas. I don’t do it for money so if people don’t want to read my long posts–it will be ok (but hopefully they do!).

That was a lot about me personally, just to say that creativity is in a constant state of flux and because of this I feel a bit more ready to grow with it!

I referenced your piece in my most recent post btw. Thank you for providing the inspiration!

Steph

Very interesting to read. I’m in my 12th year of blogging almost daily – though various platforms – and the changes you’ve picked up on are all things I’ve been talking about with my small community of blogger friends as well. It’s good to see we’re not the only ones. I’m finding the comments here very interesting as well. A much needed conversation!

Jamie H

Great post! I have been blogging for 8 years now and have seen many changes in the blogging world. I have seen the rise and controversy of blog advertising and now, like you, am seeing a fall in it.
I went from focusing on reading other’s blogs and leaving comments to keeping up via all the social media networks. Actual reading has taken a back seat to the short updates of social media.
With the changes in Google SEO this year I see more people going back to the basics again, writing for themselves and not for advertising. Quality content is key now and I think people got away from that for a while. As the web is saturated with blogs trying to get things and make money, those who relied on companies to automatically give them things for a good “price” are going to find themselves in competition with blogs who offer more for less. Blogs who only do reviews and sponsored content are going to fall and blogs that have a balance of real and quality content with some sponsored content will rise.

Juliet H

I think the idea that readers are no longer stopping by for a visit in your home but instead are quickly moving on has everything to do with the onslaught of “sponsored posts” and more posts about some fabulous trip sponsored by a company and less info about the blogger’s own ideas, life events and humor. I get enough sponsored posts on FB that I’m finding myself skipping over some longtime favorite blogs (CNC, PBFingers) when these types of posts crop up.

Elizabeth

As a commenter who was also a pro blogger at one point, I can tell you two things that have been big turnoffs. I don’t comment partly because Disqus is widely used, and it feels invasive to me; the commenting format you have here at D*S is the one I prefer. The other is that I can recognize SEO tricks from a mile away, and these days, I think the average blog reader can, too.

Add to that the stuff Juliet is talking about, and you have decreasing audiences. I don’t like it when a blogger who I used to follow for their relevant content shifts increasingly to posts that amount to self-promotion (Gala Darling is a really good example of this; La Carmina was a few years ago).

Amelia

You are so right about change being the only consistent thing in the online world. I have gotten discouraged so many times b/c of many of the factors you’ve mentioned & others, but with the perspective that we just have to continue adapting, the future feels brighter. It’s like any business, really: if you don’t change, you falter. If you are open to adapting, and soon, you can fight on! Thanks for a great post.

Angela Lopez

Oh my goodness! Thank you! I needed this. That’s a real positive attitude you have you have there, young lady. And I needed a good pep talk. I’ve never posted ads and don’t make a dime off my site – but I need to – desparately. I so want to find the right ways, and with style and class. Keep up the good work. All the best!

Greg

great article! I just needed it, thanks to support of academic-paper.co.uk who found that for me!

Deb

Has traffic to blog posts declined along with the decline in comments, across blogs in general? If traffic hasn’t decreased, I honestly wonder, other than a craving for feedback and community, what is the real problem with fewer comments from a business perspective? My comments are nearly non-existent but traffic has increased. While I do miss and crave comments, I also wonder does it matter in the big picture? I can see people following across several online platforms now. Maybe they’re like a movie audience. They’re there, they’re watching, but they’re not saying anything. But they did commit to visiting.

I would hope that things swing back toward less commercialism on blogs. What I do see as an avid blog reader is a backlash and mistrust for all the sponsored stuff. Also the formulaic “5 ways to do such-and-such” headlines and posts – I understand the need for them, apparently they must work? But they are business-like and don’t make you feel motivated to comment to build a connection with someone. Where I notice active comments for newer blogs, the blogs are written by “big” personalities – people with big “out there” unique voices. Maybe there’s a clue there. Maybe people are looking for reality TV type personalities online. I wouldn’t discount the impact of offline cultural/media shifts and how they can affect what people seek online.

There are those of us who would like to see less blatant self-promotion. On Pinterest, I treasure the hours when people from Europe, Africa, India, Asia and Australia are logged in and the Americans are sleeping. The images are completely different and more inspiring! More like the early days of Pinterest. In the U.S. we have turned our pins into ads with loud fonts. Those pins are coming from blogs. It’s another indicator of “online culture.”

Ariel

Thank you so much for this thoughtful, honest post. As someone who started blogging in 2000, over the last year I’ve had to learn some really difficult lessons about my readers’ interest in recency vs. relevance. My old-school blogger brain is so focused on the way things had been done (where RSS is important! the newest post is the one people most want to read! where I own the conversations via commenting!) that it’s been hugely difficult to turn the ship around. My Facebook followers don’t care if a post is recent — they care if it’s relevant. In fact, most of my Facebook followers don’t even understand that my page isn’t the actual website. I get FB comments all the time that are like “This is my favorite Facebook page” … they don’t even know or care that there’s a blog behind the page!

I guess I lucked out in that my business model has been based on sponsored posts since 2007… but I’m seeing way less of those than I used to, as everyone gets scared of Panda.

Anyway, I could go on and on and on (and will probably write a blog post tomorrow on my business blog about this), but thank you so much for this post. It’s reassuring to know that other publishers are wrestling with this, and I love your positive attitude about the shifts… it’s happening, whether we like it or not! Might as well enjoy the ride as much as we can.

Liuba

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Grace. I’ve landed here via another blog I’m reading regularly, but I do come across your blog here and there. I agree about shrinking comments for many bloggers and most of content appearing in shorter form (or extended form if we’re talking about daily ramblings of bloggers) on Instagram/Twitter. Pinterest is helpful because it provides the extras like “people who pinned/liked that, have also come across this or that”. There’s sort of cross-over that can be refreshing and intriguing. Nonetheless I think only blogs provide that kind of in-depth content and profound sort of bonding with other people whom I’d never met otherwise and whos work I appreciate a lot. I’m only blogging since a couple of years, recently about DIY projects, so of course I’m interested in what other crafters are doing, what they like, how their lives look like and such, so depending on how much time I have and which angle is interesting for me I go read their blog (if I have more time and more energy), check Instagram (for a short tea break) or scroll the Pinterest (more time but less energy). I admire bloggers who manage to get all those platforms filled with different and complementary content. I agree with you, bloggers have to keep up with this evolution, it’s in certain way elegant solutions not to overflow the own blog and keep it more focused on creative content (speaking of crafter’s blogs), because mostly as a reader we have limited time. If a blog I follow starts linking to everything/anything that would be too distracting. But this “linking to everything/anything” doesn’t bum me on Pinterest because that’s the nature of Pinterest. The same for Instagram – I mostly do not have much time to follow the daily ramblings on a daily basis on my favourite blogs, which do not happen that often thankfully, but I do accept it on Intagram and sometimes find it a refreshing change to blogreads. But as I told the core remains the blog content, and I keep getting back to blogs again and again, I wouldn’t just stick to Intagram/Pinterest feeds. I don’t think blogging is dead. I’m glad to have read your post and lots of comments, it made me think! Thank you a lot!

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