From high ground to on-the-ground: is there a future for blogging?

Could be significant, its hard to tell, its in bits. Click image for source.

Could be significant, it

I’m probably embarrassingly late in discovering this, but Steve Rubel has canned blogging. He’s now using Posterous – yet another social media cool tool for expressing yourself online – together with Twitter and Facebook, with the intention that each channel has its own use.

For me, this is fairly seismic. Steve’s Micropersuasion blog regularly topped my PR Friendly Index by quite some way. As he himself acknowledges, some people might think him crazy for losing all that Google juice.

I think it’s an interesting move. Jeremiah Owyang did something similar a while back, by taking a Twitter sabbatical. I’m not sure what the upshot of that was, but when people like Owyang and Rubel do unusual things, it’s time to take notice.

Rubel’s contention is that blogging feels slow, and is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I can’t deny that I have long hiatuses in my blogging when, basically, I cannot be arsed to say anything or indeed have nothing to say. I also have to acknowledge that nowadays I hardly ever go through my feeds in Google Reader, and, to go back to the PR Friendly Index, I certainly have not summoned up the willpower to update that in a long while. Talk about losing Google juice.

So is Steve right? It’s a bogus question. The sometimes harsh reality of social media, or indeed any communications programme/tool/platform, is that there is no real right or wrong answer. Sometimes things work, sometimes not, and generally you can only take your best shot at it. I think disruptors such as Rubel are at the very edge of where social media is at – it’s his job, don’t forget – so what he’s doing is certainly interesting.

He’s right in that media is increasingly fragmented, so you need to fragment and distribute your content too. You need to get the right content in the right place. You need to weave what you produce into the way people consume – and that’s through fragmentation.

But what I’m increasingly finding, now that I’m freelance and talk directly to people who need to get a handle on this stuff, is that they get the web; they understand websites; they know about email marketing; and they know about Google. Most of all, they know about Google. Almost without exception their questions revolve around how they get onto Google, how can they be the top hit on Google, how can they appear on Google and get that phone to ring.

Admittedly these are smaller enterprises that are less ‘bloated’ than larger corporations, and who cannot afford to waste any money whatsoever on what ‘might’ work. But it’s a critical question.

So in one respect Steve’s ‘experiment’ could be judged on whether he gets his Google juice. That is, whether, by employing a similar strategy, his clients get the right recognition in the right places – which means quality placement as well as, I’ll say it again, Google placement.

But I see two problems.

The first is how to tell clients about this. As I’ve said, on the whole they can just about be convinced that blogging is ok. They tend to turn up their noses at Twitter (don’t forget, this is what I’m finding on the ground, for myself, day in day out as I work for clients in a social media capacity as well as copywriting). So I would find it an incredibly hard sell to say “Hey, you know what, forget about all that stuff, just lifestream instead.” I’d probably be shown the door fairly rapidly.

I’ve already given the counter-argument to this: that people like Rubel, Owyang et al are at the forefront, so in a Gartner hype-cycle kind of way they’re probably operating even before the peak of inflated expectation.

But there’s another problem. While I’ve acknowledged that blogging is playing less of a place in my life, I still think there’s a need to have a ‘dreadnought’ solution in your social media space. If you’re really going to put across joined-up, cogent arguments, you need a place in which to do that.

So while it’s interesting in a fleeting way to watch Rubel’s lifestream appear before your very eyes, I don’t get much of a sense of what he’s really thinking. I can’t see that he’s gathered up evidence, weighed up the pros and cons, talked to people, and produced something that we can all reference. The furthest that approach can go is ‘Interesting’ rather than, ‘Wow, read this’ or, ironically, ‘That’s pretty disruptive’.

If you’re a journalist working on a major piece to be published in the mainstream media, then you have that space. Online, your blog does the same. You could just about string something together on, say, a Facebook discussion, but if you want to put across real arguments you can certainly forget Twitter or even Friendfeed (before it was bought out by FB recently).

Rubel concedes that there are several ways blogging could go. It can evolve, or die out. My take is that it will stay, in its current form, because people understand it – at last – and it’s pretty much the only place you can make sense.

Blogs such as Mashable are doing fine, as are indivdual bloggers such as Neville Hobson. Jeremiah Owyang is still kicking everyone else into touch with his unmatched quality of blog posting. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

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