This one is for all my fellow pop culture bloggers out there (assuming there are still pop culture bloggers out there!).
I’ve been doing a lot of ponderous pondering lately about the state of the internet, and am frankly a little uncomfortable with the way of things. Here’s my problem — Facebook and Instagram are running (or is that ruining) the show. What’s the problem? Well, I’ve been around long enough to observe social media from its inception and have seen its effect, good and bad, on bloggers and business owners like myself.
In the past few years, a lot of once prolific bloggers, and good friends, have packed up their sites and devoted their efforts to posting images on Instagram or quick stories on Facebook (which owns Instagram). They have handed the keys to their kingdom to these mega-companies in exchange for a platform that allows them to more easily interact with their audience. This all sounds like a fair trade-off, and for some it might be the best solution, but there are some big tradeoffs.
With a blog, all of the articles you write are contained on your site forever. The more you write, the bigger your site becomes, and the more valuable it can be for your readers. You can maybe earn a few bucks through ads or partnerships, and your reputation grows over time. Your archive of articles can be searched, and people might find your site through a post you wrote years ago — I consistently receive comments on articles that I put up over five years ago.
You will not get this kind of depth with a Facebook or Twitter post. I would say the shelf life of a social media post is probably no more than an hour or two — those funny cat GIFs just keep coming! It’s a shame, because I have seen some really insightful, well-researched posts on Facebook, but if I ever wanted to go back and reference those posts, they are nearly impossible to recover.
Digital Sharecropping is a term that means anyone can create content, but if it’s posted on a social media platform, that content basically belongs to that platform. Who is making money from all that content? It’s not the people who are creating it, that’s for sure! The more content that is posted just makes Facebook more interesting, addictive, and richer. But what if Facebook goes away, or changes their way of doing business? What happens to all of that useful user-generated information? Poof.
What if you have a created a thousand YouTube videos and one day, YouTube decides it’s going to charge you a dollar for each video you host on their service? How many YouTubers will be able to afford to keep their videos running? What about iTunes Podcasts? What if Facebook thinks you violated their terms of service, and decides to remove your account, or changes the way you are allowed to communicate through their platform? There are all kinds of potential pitfalls to consider when you are hosting your content on someone else’s turf.
Who remembers a little site called MySpace? Or how about Digg, or Flickr, or Tumblr — okay, those may still be around but how many people are using them compared to a few years ago? The truth is that businesses change and evolve at breakneck speed online. Social media is amazing, but I don’t ever want one of these companies to be the holder of my content. I will use social media sites to funnel people to my site, but would much rather have a say in whether or not my articles will be around next week.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just the old guy who doesn’t want to accept this “everything is free” economy where nobody owns anything and everything is ephemeral, but what do you think? Is blogging dead? What are you doing these days with all the content that’s bouncing around in your head looking for an escape valve? Have you decided that social media is the best way for you to get your message out there, or are you clinging to this sinking ship we know as blogging?