Today I thought I would throw a bit of curve ball for my blog, actually it’s more of a boomerang as I am choosing to blog about blogs. My thought process behind this one is that as a Venue Manager at Schools Plus who is tasked with writing a weekly blog (and meets that goal most of the sometimes), it means that an integral part of my online ‘working’ online presence is the blog.
Millions of people reads blogs now, whether they’ve become a legitimate source of news information and views with blogs often being quoted in mainstream media. Some blogs are still associated with traditional news media, topic-based blogs related to one’s work or hobbies, or blogs purely for entertainment, just about anyone who spends lots of time has a regular or favourite blog.
However, Blogs are still in evolution, and in some areas said to have reached their end of life and are superseded by tweets, vlogs and the latest thing I’m not yet up to speed on. Blogs have a relatively short history, even when compared with the history of the Internet itself, perhaps it’s been the last ten years that they’ve really taken off and become an important part of online content.
It’s generally agreed that the first blog was posted by links.net, created by Justin Hall, while he was a Swarthmore College student in 1994. At that time they weren’t called blogs because it was just words on a webpage, and he just referred to it as his personal homepage. Then 1997 the term “weblog” was coined. The word’s evolution has been attributed to Jorn Barger, of the influential early blog Robot Wisdom. The term was created to reflect the process of “logging the web” as he browsed. Then in 1998 Jonathan Dube blogged Hurricane Bonnie for The Charlotte Observer and marks the first known instance of a blog on a traditional news site. Finally “Weblog” was shortened to “blog” in 1999 by programmer Peter Merholz. It’s not until five years later that Merriam-Webster dictionary declares the word their “Word of the year”.
The original blogs were updated manually, often linked from a central home-page, direct link web page or archive. This wasn’t very efficient, mainly because at that time, unless you were a competent programmer who could create your own custom blogging platform, there weren’t any other options to begin with.
During these early years, a few different “blogging” platforms cropped up. LiveJournal is probably the most recognizable of the early sites. In 1999, the pre-curser to what would later become Blogger was started by two enlightened workers at Pyra Labs. Blogger is largely responsible for bringing blogging to the mainstream and the go-to site for people looking to start their own blog. As of today there are an estimated 3.1 million blog sites and 100 million+ separate blog posts. My blogs are still in the 30’s so a real drop in the ocean. But, when you look at Schools Plus with 30 odd venue managers posting a theoretical 150 blog posts each month (about 1800 per year) then we are looking at serious input into the mass of the world wide web.
Before starting with Schools Plus I didn’t feel I had anything much to say so never ‘blogged’ a single word. But now it is part of the company expectations I actually find it a good place to put a little bit of me on the internet and help to promote our business. I joined blogging therefore in 2016, yet it’s been going by the masses since the early 2000’s where a period of growth for blogs exploded. To say that blogs experienced exponential growth is a bit of an understatement, but if you have an interest, ANY INTEREST, I can almost definitely say there is a blog post for you out there. That you’ve made it this far into my Blog post has to say something about the medium!
Political blogs were some of the most popular early blogs. Some political candidates started using blogs in the early days, these are the days BT (Before Twitter) and so were a thing people would copy and paste into eMails, send as links or link to from other places on the net. In-depth topic blogs were also becoming more popular during this time. They often delved much deeper into current news and pop culture than mainstream media sources, in addition to commenting directly on what traditional media was reporting. These Blogs were often news stories that were dissected and looked at for what they were, their origins, there true meanings or, as in most cases, peoples own views! In 2002 “meta blogs” (blogs about blogging – like this one) are out there and getting many hits, so many hits in fact that the advertisers saw an opportunity. A number of popular blogs got their start in the early 2000s, including Boing Boing, Dooce, Gizmodo, Gawker and the Huffington Post. Weblogs, Inc. was started in 2003 was seen as such a potential gold-mine that AOL paid a then whopping 25 million dollars for it. It was that sale that helped to cement blogs as a force to be reckoned with rather than just a passing fad.
For many the game changer for the commercialisation of blogs was when the AdSense advertising platform launched in 2003. AdSense was the first ad network to match ads to the content on a blog. AdSense also made it possible for bloggers without huge platforms to start making money from when they first started blogging. These micro payments though to less popular blogs weren’t very large. One blogger posted that it took them 17 months to make it to £5 from what they saw as a popular blog with nearly 1000 regular readers. To me this equates to needing 10,000 to earn £50 or 100,000 to earn £500 and a million readers gets you £5000 (over about a year and a half). Thus you’d need 10 million readers regularly to make a living from it. Let’s just say I won’t be leaving Schools Plus any time soon to pursue a career in Blogging!
Once bloggers started making money from their blogs, the number of meta blogs skyrocketed and some savvy bloggers who were able to get their own advertisers on board made sizable amounts of money instructing other bloggers how they could turn blogging into a full-time career.
One early event that highlighted the rising importance of blogs was the firing of employees for comments posted on their blog regarding their job, co-worker or employer. These firings started happening in 2002 and they sparked legal debate over privacy issues. These issues are still up in the air and still havn’t been fully sorted to date with legislation stuck in cross border problems as the below BBC article shows.
By the mid-2000s, blogs were reaching the mainstream. In January of 2005, a study was released saying that 10 million people in the UK read blogs, which was about 15% of the entire population. It was agreed though as time passed that it was probably closer to 9% because many people own multiple accounts. But anything that reaches 10% of a population is going to be recognised as a revenue stream! Mainstream media sources are also teaming up with existing blogs and bloggers, rather than just setting out on their own. Take, for example, the regular posts on Sky News and bloggers being panellists on newspaper reviews. It was a self-proclaimed Blogger and Podcaster who was on Sky News that taught me about podcasts (see an earlier blog post).
Eight to ten years ago, blogs were becoming the primary point of communication for individuals online. But with the advent of social media and social networking in the past eight years, blogs have become only one portion of an individual’s online content. Vlogs (Video Blogs) and podcasts (Audio Blogs) have also taken on a bigger role in the blogosphere, with a lot of bloggers opting to use more multimedia content. Services that cater to these kinds of posts, like Youtube, Tumblr and Twitter, are likely to keep growing in popularity.
But…… For the moment at least, Blogs are still current. Enjoy mine and if you do, link it to your friends and family.