If genealogical blogging had a Golden Age, in my opinion, that Golden Age has now over. For example, in the past, bloggers have been featured as participants in many major conferences. There was a time when bloggers were prominently featured in national conferences. Blogging, like the Internet in general, was originally viewed as a non-commercial activity. As the commercialization of the Web quickly changed, some "bloggers" acting as entrepreneurs, began to reap the monetary rewards of popularity. Blogs became the basis for creating a big business focused around a blogging personality.
Most business began to incorporate a blog for promotional purposes. The incorporation of blogs into the constant stream of advertising has changed the way blogging is viewed by the public and also the part blogging plays in the greater genealogical community. This view of blogging became apparent when the traditional news media, i.e. newspaper reporters and TV crews, began to share the space formerly reserved for the "bloggers" at conferences. Blogging, even genealogical blogging, has become more about promoting business objectives than promoting individual participation in genealogy.
There was an important shift when this occurred. The genealogy bloggers, with a few notable exceptions, were unpaid and technically not employed by the traditional media. Their popularity alone made them a part of their participation in conferences. The idea was to use the bloggers' popularity to promote not only the conference but also the vendors at the conference. As a result of this commercialization, some bloggers were able to transform their popularity into a personal promotional businesses. Others, with no interest in that aspect of the blogging activity, kept on writing about genealogy. But now bloggers are generic. The fact that a blogger writes about genealogy does not mean that his or her posts are valuable for "media relations" even for genealogically related activities. In fact, the opposite is true. Many of the bloggers at major conferences have no association with the genealogical community, in fact, they are merely employees of various corporations and other entities. As purveyors of media contacts, they outrank genealogists.
As blogging became commercialized, the general public began viewing blogging as just another media outlet for news and commercial commentary. Almost all the blog posts I now see now are created by commercial enterprises. Today, blogs are also the new venue for press releases. Many current "news" stories now originate in blog posts. Commercial bloggers talk about product announcements and politics and promote business interests. Blogging has been moved from its "outsiders" status into the establishment, as part of the establishment's official media offerings. Many of the remaining genealogy blogs are focused on promotion of either a sponsoring commercial enterprise or another social entity, even if that enterprise is nothing more but the promotion of a genealogical "personality" to make money from books or to promote appearances at conferences.
It would appear that many bloggers began writing with the expectation that they would receive the same type of commercial and social recognition accorded the more prominent participants. Of course, I have been involved directly in commercial activities. I have written books and articles for which I have been paid. I have received stipends for attending conferences. I have also run "specials" for different companies that paid a "commission" on contacts. But my participation as been far from personally profitable. I certainly do not keep writing because I am paid. It is nice to get paid from time to time, but that has never been my primary motivation. I am certainly not writing this post as an "outsider" to the genealogy blogging community. I am pointing out that the number and frequency of the casual genealogical blogging has dramatically declined concurrent with the fact that the commercial aspects of blogging are growing more prevalent.
With the rise of commercial blogging, the social networking side of blogging has been preempted by other social networking entities. I have written some recent posts about the shift in social networking websites. One marked effect of this shift is an additional de-emphasis on personal, non-commercial blogging. Once the general public and particularly the genealogical community began to identify blogs with businesses and genealogical organizations, the attraction of the individual bloggers began to wane. Blogging has become like the coupon mailers. We examine the envelopes and only open them to quickly check the offers for ones that attract our attention. The rest go directly into the trash.
A few genealogy bloggers, those that have not moved primarily to Facebook, still keep a following solely as bloggers. But the number of readers is dropping for those who did not start out with a substantial reader base before the dramatic shift in blogging occurred. Those of us who write regularly have to examine our own personal motivation for spending our time writing.
I have seen a similar phenomena with online videos. This past week YouTube.com started a commercial, paid, video service called YouTube Red. Many of the videos on YouTube are blatantly self-promoting. We have also seen the creation of YouTube.com celebrities with millions of video views. My now adopted state of Utah has several international YouTube celebrities. The move by Google to monetized what has been a "free" service is similar to what has happened in the genealogical blogging community.
It will be interesting to see how blogging, and particularly genealogy blogging, evolve in the future. My guess is that no matter what happens, I will keep writing and be along for the ride. I guess I will eventually have to find a care center with high-speed Internet access.