Last week I got an email from my station manager at Heritage Radio asking me what I thought of the “big blogger burnout” story in the New York Times. I hadn’t seen the story, so I immediately clicked over to see what all the fuss was about. Before I could get to the bottom of the page I had a handful of other emails, Tweets and Facebook messages about the article sitting in my inbox asking whether or not I thought it was a) accurate b) fair and c) a finished story. The article revolves around the bloggers from Young House Love, John and Sherry Petersik, and their decision to take an indefinite break from blogging. John and Sherry declined to comment for the story (they are, after all, taking a break), but their blogging hiatus was the inspiration for what feels like the beginning of a much bigger story, rather than a full examination of an interesting (at least for those of us who read and write blogs) evolution happening within the blogging community at-large. It’s an evolution I’ve been feeling and trying to process for the past year or so, and something about this story made it all finally crystalize and make sense for me.
Click through for the full post after the jump…
“Is the first generation of design bloggers aging out of the blogosphere? Or is this just a new twist on an old business story, updated for the Internet age?”
This was the question the author, Steven Kurutz, posed mid-way through his article. And after reading that line, all of the struggles I’d been dealing with – alongside my blogging counterparts – made sense.
This wasn’t a new thing any of us were dealing with – it was just new to us. All of the surges in readership and success our community had been fortunate enough to experience were happening as our friends and colleagues in print publishing were feeling like our new blogging platform was making their jobs more demanding. Most of us were too busy or caught up in the fun and excitement of it all to notice that people working in newspapers and magazines were having to create more content and deal with things like social media and blogs that weren’t part of their work load before. All of their struggles were the same struggles we now face as the Internet and design community as a whole embraces social media and other platforms that mean more content, faster content and more varied types of content. In a nutshell, the current trend of readership these days seems to be moving ever forward toward more, more, MORE.
But what does that mean for those of us blogging and reading? Does it mean that we have to fade out into the sunset? Or does it mean that we have to work double-triple overtime (but for less money) to keep up with the demand to provide content for our blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and everything else that pops up and demands our attention and just one more post?
I think it means a little bit of both. But what it means in the bigger picture is that blogging doesn’t have to change – we do. Our expectations of blogging – and the people who read blogs – have to be flexible and change with time.
The common course of work these days (especially work online) is for someone young to start something that involves a high pace of work, high rate of content production and an overall high energy level. But at a certain point, that rate and pace and energy level become hard to keep up. People get married, have children, move, or just decide that they want to make more time for family, friends or other outside activities. Does that mean our voices are irrelevant or too “old?” No. But does it mean that blogging has to bend to suit our new and changes needs and desires? No.
For me, all of these blogging changes are about embracing the natural course of life and being excited to see all of the newer, younger bloggers who will pop up to take over where some of us will leave off – or to help out with areas that are no longer easy or fun for us to handle. I know I struggle with how to produce, for example, videos in a way that works for today’s demands. It can take me a week to produce something for Youtube but it might take today’s 14-year-old a few hours. It doesn’t mean both voices aren’t important, but it means that it’s okay to accept that areas requiring the sort of skills and understanding that come easily to someone younger no longer come easily to me. I will still always continue to learn and challenge myself, but the days of trying to force myself to be something I’m not are over.
But that doesn’t mean blogging has to stop. It just means it has to evolve. As the avenues that used to support us (advertising, mainly) dry up or change in a way that makes it harder to focus just on writing, it means we’re forced to use our creative minds to come up with different ways to support ourselves that use the skills that come naturally to us and take advantage of the places we are in our lives right now. I may not be able to teach anyone how to make an amazing DIY video overnight, but I can teach someone about weathering the ups and downs of managing a team and publication for a decade and how to deal with the feedback that comes from working in a very public place. That experience is still valuable and an important part of our overall community.
So, instead of being terrified of how much work is required of us and how hard it can seem to keep up with the Joneses of the new blogging world, I think it’s time that we try to embrace these changes, our new neighbors (#welcomeJoneses!) and take a second to appreciate what we’ve done and see what makes sense for us to do going forward.
For me, it’s helpful and important to remember that most of the pressures we all feel are coming from within. I’ve had major existential panics over deciding to post less often on the site and after giving in to the need to focus on other aspects of the site – or my life – I’ve realized that not a single person has said anything. Clearly someone out there has noticed that we post four and not six times a day anymore, but not a single person has gotten angry, up in arms or disappointed enough that they’ve taken the time to write and yell at me – which is, of course, what I expected would happen. At the end of that mini self-imposed drama was a great lesson I needed to learn – and try to remember to this day – no one is expecting you to do anything but do your best. Deadlines will be missed every now and then and the world will still go on. You may forget to Pin something for a week (!) and I promise you, your readers will not abandon you overnight. But if you forget to write from your heart, slow down and take a break when you need one and give in to pressure that encourages quantity over quality, you’re guaranteed to burn out. Will it be hard to not feel guilty or scared sometimes? Absolutely. But you’re not alone. I’ll be right here, happy to welcome both new and old friends to the blogging community at large. Because there is room for all of us here and I, for one, am excited to see how we all continue to change and evolve and find ways to keep our voices a part of the larger fabric of the blogging world.