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.
I started my genealogy blog just under 2 years ago. While there are lots of commercial blogs out there, Geneabloggers has thousands of individual non-commercial bloggers listed. I follow over 200 blogs daily. Some writers are much more prolific than others, but there is a steady flow of new posts. Some use other social media to share information - that is likely to continue to be and probably even expand in the future - but I think there will be a niche of home style bloggers that continue to write for enjoyment.ReplyDelete
I agree with you, Linda. I am also a non-commercial blogger who writes for enjoyment and the hope of cousin connections. Geneabloggers has helped me find many other blogs like mine, and those are the ones that I truly enjoy reading on a regular basis.Delete
Blogging and the nature of social media has changed tremendously in the past few years, but there are still plenty of good blogs out there, and many bloggers who are writing for reasons other than profit.
James. Interesting observations. Maybe I travel in different blog circles, but the blogs I read and my own blog are still alive and well, the majority without a bit of advertising. Social media is prone to shifts that's for sure. Do hope that the future is blogging is that more people will take part and share their stories. I've met quite a few cousins who have found me via my blog. I enjoy writing and plan to continue in the foreseeable future. Cheers to all the bloggers out there who write for the love of family.ReplyDelete
My blog can be found at www.michiganfamilytrails.com
James, I agree with you that there are more blog posts by company employees and (probably) paid guest bloggers - Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Findmypast, Mocavo, AmericanAncestors, Legacy Family Tree, GenealogyBank come to mind, and i'm sure that there are more, but I don't think they make up even 10% of all the blog posts I see every day. I have over 1600 genealogy blogs on my Feedly blog list, and "read" (sometimes completely) about 400 posts a day. I will try to count some day soon.ReplyDelete
It's true that many bloggers are considered media and welcomed at conferences, but the days of "official" genealogy bloggers seems to be over, except at RootsTech. Some bloggers still receive complimentary subscriptions from providers - I do but I pay for most of them.
I think it's true that the numbers of genealogy blog posts has decreased somewhat as bloggers have chosen to use other social media outlets (especially Facebook).
I certainly hope that the future of blogging is that all of our blog posts remain on the Internet and are findable by search engines for generations. I have put quite a bit of my research out there in hopes of cousins (and family members - rare!) finding it and contacting me. That's the logic of the Amanuensis Monday, Wordless Wednesday, Treasure Chest Thursday, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and Surname Saturday posts that I've been doing over 5-7 years.
One of the huge benefits of my blogging has been meeting people like you. I have no plans to give it up. But am I concerned about the future. Although I am probably glad I don't monitor 1400 posts every day. :-) Thanks for the comment. After nearly 39 years in court, I don't really think anyone agrees with me.Delete
400 posts, not 1400 posts. I'm not that much of a glutton for punishment! After your post, I decided to count how many posts that I read are "personal" or "corporate." I'm two days into it, and will publish something soon. Of course, it depends on how broad my coverage of genealogy blogs is - I think I have most of the "corporate" blogs but not all of the active "personal" blogs. Then there is the content issue - I'm counting a press release on a personal or society blog as a corporate blog post, I've already figured out that 50% or more of the blogs I read are not genealogy related!Delete
Watching out for you James. Here is a rest home in Provo that has an official family history center :) https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Provo_Utah_Cove_Point_Family_History_CenterReplyDelete
Wow, thanks. That's comforting. :-(Delete
Thanks, Nathan! That sounds promising! I wonder if they have a franchise in San diego? Or the LA area?Delete
Do you think it depends on the nature of the blog James? I do believe that the variety of blogs has increased, even though the sheer number may have decreased. By that, I mean that the focus is less on news-of-the-day and more on family history stories, narrative reports, critical discussion of genealogical issues, education, and -- on a wider catchment -- even serialised fiction.ReplyDelete
I still think it's an underutilised medium that could be used to convey much more than it currently does. I've deliberately tried to incorporate a richer format to my own blog-post (which can get quite large), and this includes clickable footnotes/endnotes, tables, images (obviously), "live" Google maps, attachments (as in transcripts held on Google Drive); basically to deliver information in a more readable fashion. More recently, I've also incorporated some script to show/hide sections or even provide dialog-style tools (as in http://parallax-viewpoint.blogspot.com/2015/05/measurement-tools.html). In the future, I may experiment with slide-shows and navigable family trees.
The fact that the standard Blogger tools are so primitive probably betrays a prevailing impression on the size and longevity of typical blog-posts that has become an anachronism.
You raise some very interesting issues. My observations are based on detecting a movement from blogs to Facebook, Instagram and other social media options. From the comments, it looks like there are a lot of very defensive bloggers out there who feel like I invaded their turf.Delete
I guess I am being defensive, James, but not as a counter to what you said. I imagine that I'm talking to the blog hosts who may be reading statistics like this and thinking 'well, there's no point in investing effort here because people have moved away from them'. I personally don't believe that FB or Instagram, etc, cover the same space as blogs. For instance, stuff you put on FB will eventually "disappear" -- meaning that it's virtually impossible to find anymore and is more limited in content.Delete
I very much agree. I am not trying to discourage anyone from blogging. But those of us who do blog and those contemplating a blog still need to be aware of the trends in social networking. For example, I am considering posting my blogs on Instagram.Delete
I'm confused about this post. In an effort to not be specific, I can not understand what the post is getting at. I have a 'commercial' blog that has ads on it. Why not? I spent years writing on and working for a pageant news website for free (or a negative return on investment). When I switched to blogging my passion, I see no reason why not have a possibility of an income stream through ads, my books, or the possibility of paid lectures.ReplyDelete
I do get irritated when I see someone copying and pasting press releases from FamilySearch, Ancestry, or other commercial sites on blogs by people not associated with these places. I just skip over those posts and move on.
Anyway, these are my initial thoughts on the subject but I still am more confused about this post and the emotion/thought process behind it. Perhaps I'm just not that 'in the know'.
Sorry if my comments confused you, but from my perspective, your comment supports exactly what I am saying. Blogging was originally a very personal activity, hence the name, Blogging from Web Logs. I am just observing the fact that the venue has changed to be primarily an outlet for commercial-type messages. The fact that you feel that you are entitled to monetize you blog is exactly what I am saying. Blogging has now moved into the mainstream of commercial advertising and promotion. My opinion is that the casual bloggers in many venues, other than just genealogy, are moving to other social networking outlets. Of course, from the comments i have received, there are a lot of people, mostly who have a commercial link to blogging, that disagree. Thanks for you comment.Delete
I think I understand your concern about the genealogy blogosphere becoming too commercialized. I'd be concerned too if I thought the independent storytellers were being steamrolled by corporate for-profit bloggers or if our readership dropped because the appeal of authentic storytelling and research sharing was overshadowed or doused by gimmicky sales efforts. Like WalMart or Starbucks pushing out all the independent mom and pop shops, right? But there is something to be said for the medium evolving to draw in new contributors and readers alike.ReplyDelete
I mainly write in the Pages section of Wordpress sites rather than the Blogs section because I want to create structured contentReplyDelete