Reports of blogging's death have been greatly exaggerated — it's just that other social media have taken over some, not all, of its functions.
A report last month in the Economist tells us that “blogging is dying” as more and more bloggers abandon the form for its cousins: the tweet, the Facebook Wall, the Digg.
Do a search-and-replace on “blog” and you could rewrite the coverage as evidence of the death of television, novels, short stories, poetry, live theatre, musicals, or any of the hundreds of the other media that went from breathless ascendancy to merely another tile in the mosaic.
Of course, none of those media is dead, and neither is blogging. Instead, what's happened is that they've been succeeded by new forms that share some of their characteristics and these new forms have peeled away all the stories that suit them best.
When all we had was the stage, every performance was a play. When we got films, a great lot of these stories moved to the screen, where they'd always belonged (they'd been squeezed on to a stage because there was no alternative). When TV came along, those stories that were better suited to the small screen were peeled away from the cinema and relocated to the telly. When YouTube came along, it liberated all those stories that wanted to be 3 to 8 minutes long, not a 22-minute sitcom or a 48-minute drama. And so on.
What's left behind at each turn isn't less, but more: the stories we tell on the stage today are there not because they must be, but because they're better suited to the stage than they are to any other platform we know about. This is wonderful for all concerned — the audience numbers might be smaller, but the form is much, much better.
When blogging was the easiest, most prominent way to produce short, informal, thinking-aloud pieces for the net, we all blogged. Now that we have Twitter, social media platforms and all the other tools that continue to emerge, many of us are finding that the material we used to save for our blogs has a better home somewhere else. And some of us are discovering that we weren't bloggers after all, but blogging was good enough until something more suited to us came along.
I still blog 10 to 15 items a day, just as I've done for 10 years now on Boing Boing. But I also tweet and retweet 30 to 50 times a day. Almost all of that material is stuff that wouldn't be a good fit for the blog — material I just wouldn't have published at all before Twitter came along. But a few of those tweets might have been stretched into a blogpost in years gone by, and now they can live as a short thought.
For me, the great attraction of all this is that preparing material for public consumption forces me to clarify it in my own mind. I don't really know it until I write it. Thus the more media I have at my disposal, the more ways there are for me to work out my own ideas.
Science fiction writer Bruce Sterling says: “The future composts the past.” There's even a law to describe this, Riepl's Law which says new types of media never replace the existing modes of media and their usage patterns. “Instead, a convergence takes place in their field, leading to a different way and field of use for these older forms.” That was coined in 1913 by Wolfgang Riepl. It's as true now as it was then. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010