Pew Survey indicates that blogging has lost its lustre, but do you agree?

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a fellow host on the Blog Talk Radio Network in which the link to a February 21st article in the Music Industry News Network titled “Social Media and Young Adults” was included.

The article made reference to “Two Pew Internet Project surveys,” that revealed a noticeable “decline in blogging among teens and young adults,” and a “modest rise among adults 30 and older.”

My associate thought that I would find this interesting in that besides posting between 2 to 4 articles on 4 (and soon to be 6) blogs each week, she was interested in getting my take on these findings as I have been a strong proponent of the important synergy between maintaining a blog in conjunction with one’s BTR show.

The article reported “We often look to younger generations to see where technology use might be headed in the future.”   This being the case, and as suggested by the article, does the significant decline in bloggers between the 12-17 and 18-29 age groups mean that blogging has in fact “lost its luster for many young users?”

I am of course pleased to share with you my response to my BTR compatriot, because it provides an important perspective on why single site blogs (which are confined to the familiar, and relatively narrow communities upon which their readership was originally based), are likely losing touch with the dynamic market changes that are taking place as a result of the emergence of both social media and social networking.

Here is the response, after which I will expand further on the concept of a “collective social media network.”

Great article Val, and one with which I was familiar – at least from the study results. That is why a collective “social media network” which includes blogs, Internet Radio and Internet TV is so important.

Just to give you an idea, I launched the PI Window on Business Blog in June 2009 as a support adjunct to the PI Window on Business Show on Blog Talk Radio.

In the month of June I had 217 visitors for the whole month. In December 2009, the number grew to more than 6,100 visitors and, in January 2010 almost broke the 10,000 mark.

If I was simply blogging without the PI Window on Business Show, I doubt that the the blog would have gained any real traffic. Conversely, as part of a social media network strategy it fills the information/presence gap during the period in which I am not broadcasting live.

With the new TV channels, there will be a third venue that will collectively meet the market where they are in terms of a conversational presence. Whats the saying about the sum being greater than its parts?

Of course the above response reflects the new reality of a changing world where we are no longer limited or perhaps confined to familiar communities of convenience in terms of accessing the kind of information that is meaningful to us.

In an excerpt from the fifth chapter of my newest book “The Unsociable Business of Social Networks And Why The So Act Social Network Will Change The World,” I make reference to the importance of these expanded communities of purpose in the context of hives and cross-pollination.

Chapter 5 – The Company You Keep . . .

” A man is known by the company he keeps.

Aesop’s Moral

A famous Aesop’s fable “The Donkey and His Purchaser” relates the belief that one is known by the company they keep.

According to the fable, “A man wished to purchase a Donkey, and decided to give the animal a test before buying him. He took the Donkey home and put him in the field with his other Donkeys.

The new Donkey strayed from the others to join the one that was the laziest and the biggest eater of them all.

Seeing this, the man led him back to his owner. When the owner asked how he could have tested the Donkey in such a short time, the man answered, I didn’t even need to see how he worked. I knew he would be just like the one he chose to be his friend.”

The above fable is quite interesting in that it speaks to several factors that determine the sustainable interaction and subsequent growth in relevancy of any social network. Specifically, is there enough pertinent and productive activity to warrant the investment of a person’s time in the network?

This is not a trivial question in that like the individual who was interested in purchasing the donkey, we too “test” the social networks to which we belong to determine if we are going to be an active member or a absent profile.

Like the fable, we are also inclined to make said decisions with regard to personal relevancy very quickly. For example, and referencing Nielson.com stats for February 2009, Twitter was ranked as the fastest growing site in member communities with a growth rate of 1382% followed by Zimbio at 240% and Facebook at 228%. Yet despite this meteoric growth, according to an April 28th, 2009 article by Mashable`s Pete Cashmore, 60% of Twitter users “quit within the first month!”

Compared with both Facebook and MySpace continued Cashmore, whose retention rate in their early start-up days was twice that of Twitter’s, one cannot help but wonder about the long-term impact of a social media world in which increasing fragmentation through the emergence of new network platforms promises to further splinter the market.

A trend influencer that is likely to become even more disconcerting to Twitter based on the September 25th article in Mashable by Ben Parr that asks the question “Has Twitter’s Growth Peaked?”

The basis for the Parr question is tied to recent statistics which indicate that “Twitter has hit a growth ceiling.” This position is reflected in the fact that data shows a definite decline in areas such as market share of US visits to Twitter, as well as US-based search volume.

There are of course other factors that need to be considered beyond the issue of retention, including the impact of what I refer to as the hive and cross-pollination effect.

The hive/cross pollination concept or theory is based on the observation that individuals will likely choose at most one or two primary networks as their preferred platforms. That is, they will spend the majority of their social networking time interacting within these main “hives.”

While they may venture out into the vast social media world visiting countless other networks, similar to the honey bee these forays are ultimately geared towards gathering information and insights to bring back to the hive to share with their established community of contacts. This of course is the cross-pollination aspect of the hive effect.

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Simply put while static, single sites (re blogs, websites etc.), that limit their cross-pollination activities to providing somewhat passive links to other similarly myopic single site blogs or websites, may have enjoyed the “nesting tendency” to which I had referred, market dynamics change.   Today’s 18 – 29 year old age group are tomorrow’s 30 something and older professionals.  The time to engage them, in essence to meet them where they are is not at that future date (because it will be too late), but today.

Now I do not want you to think that I am eschewing the members of today’s current market.  In fact quite to the contrary and as the following data will confirm, many of the business professionals of my generation are keenly aware of the fact that the cross-pollination effect is also generational.  Reference recent studies which indicate that unlike any other period in modern history, it is not uncommon for companies to have up to four different generations employed within their workforce at the same time, and you will get an idea as to the increasing importance of this interaction between all age groups.

Nor can we discount the recent economic climate, and the fact that long term unemployment numbers (which are at their worst level since the late forties) have forced many to start their own home-based businesses.  Given that an aptitude in social networking and social media is as essential to business success as are the PC, telephone and business card, expanding one’s conversational reach through a collective social media network that includes blogs, Internet Radio and Internet Television ensures that you maintain expanding relevance that includes the broad demographics of shared or mutual interest communities.

I will use the very Alexa statistics regarding web traffic that most bloggers still rely on as a means of validating their reach.

This blog (Procurement Insights)  first published in May 2007.  According to Alexa the site’s overall rank is 1,065,882, with a U.S. ranking of 252,419.  The average reader demographic is in the 18-24 age range, with a graduate school degree.

The PI Window on Business blog first began publishing in May 2009.  According to Alexa its overall rank is 1,014,248 with a U.S. ranking of 627,904.  The average reader demographic is a college educated, 45 – 55 year old.

Now let’s look at two blogs serving the same industry sector as Procurement Insights, Spend Matters and the E-Sourcing Forum.  Spend Matters, which is a fine blog that is generally well-researched and written is a dedicated blog, while the E-Sourcing Forum is an extension or and adjunct to a core business – in this case software vendor Iasta.

Referencing the Alexa numbers, Spend Matters which first began publishing in November 2004 has an overall Alexa rank of 205,443, and a U.S. ranking of 58,744.  The demographic for the Spend Matters blog is the same as Procurement Insights, that being the 18-24 age group with a graduate degree.  Keep this reference to demographics in mind, as I will revisit it shortly.

Alexa did not provide the date when the E-Sourcing Forum first began publication however, the blog’s overall rank is 1,858,734.  There are no numbers provided relative to a U.S. rank, however the age demographics fall into the 25 to 34 range.

As a means of creating a point of reference for the above numbers, let’s look at the Alexa rankings as it relates to the Internet as a whole.

Facebook, which the Pew Internet Surveys cited as being the “social network of choice” among adults 18 and older with 73 percent of adult profile owners using the network, is ranked second in both the overall as well as U.S. categories.

Blog Talk Radio, the network on which the PI Window on Business is a featured show has an overall Alexa rank of 3,827 and a U.S. ranking of 908.

The LinkedIn social network, where PI Social Media manages a number of groups, has an overall rank of 35 and a U.S. rank of 17.

Finally and to provide a bit of a global perspective Ecademy, which is the senior citizen of social networks having launched in the late nineties, has an overall Alexa ranking of 5,864, and a U.S. rank of 8,919.

Now if we were to stop at this point and base our expectation of reach on simply the rankings alone, one might conclude that order of ranking, particularly in the purchasing and supply chain world, is a reflection of overall reach.  But here’s the thing . . . where you are today is in actuality a reflection of what you did yesterday.  In short, and drawing an analogy based on a PowerPoint slide from a famous Colin Powell speech, today’s experts may have reached (and passed) their peak.

Let’s look at another interesting Alexa statistic.

While having an overall ranking of 1,014,248 in terms of site traffic, according to Alexa’s “Percent of global Internet users” who visit the Procurement Insights blog, for the most recent 3-month period said traffic has increased 50%.  In the last 30 days, traffic has increased 1,100%.

Let’s compare that to the growth rate for the top quality Spend Matters blog.  During the same 3-month period, the traffic increase was 15%, while in the past 30 days the increase was 4%.  (Note: considering that the Spend Matters and Procurement Insights blogs share the same demographics, which has had the greatest growth and likely the greatest reach during this past 3-month period?)

During this same period, the E-Sourcing Forum had a traffic increase of 5% for the most recent 3-month period, and a 70% decline in traffic over the last 30-day period. (Note: another point to consider beyond Procurement Insights reaching an expanded and likely new community of readers, is that Spend Matters had only a 4% growth in the past 30 days, while the E-Sourcing Forum lost 70% in terms of traffic.  Other blogs such as Sourcing Innovation and Supply Chain Matters were also down by 40% in the same 30 day time frame.)

Once again referring to the cross-pollination factor, especially as it relates to the “collective social media network” concept, the PI Window on Business Blog, which it is important to note was just launched this past June (9 months ago), has already achieved what the Procurement Insights Blog took close to 3 years to do in terms of the overall Alexa ranking.  Think about that for moment, only 9 months.

In the previous 3 month period the blog’s percentage increase in traffic was 420%.  While the pace for the last 30 days has slowed down considerably by comparison to only 20%, it still presents a pretty solid track record.

As a means of creating a broader industry perspective relative to what these growth numbers actually mean, Facebook experienced an increase in traffic of 19.76% over the same 3-month period, and a 3.32% increase in the last 30-day period.  Blog Talk Radio had a 11% and 6% traffic increase respectively, while LinkedIn saw their traffic increase 55.3% and 14.5% during the period.  Ecademy had a 25% increase in traffic for the 3-month period, and a 9% decrease in the most recent 30-day period.

Here is the point, the PI Window on Business and Procurement Insights Blogs, along with the PI Window on Business Show represent the core franchises in the PI Social Media Network (which now includes the PI Inquisitive Eye and TV2 Young Entrepreneurs Internet Television franchises and corresponding blogs).

Based on the cross-pollination factor within the collective social media model, the three year old Procurement Insights Blog is in the midst of an amazing growth spurt in terms of reach as a direct result of the reach of the PI Window on Business Blog and Show.  The benefits are of course reciprocal in that the PI Window on Business Blog would not have experienced the accelerated growth it has had to date without the tie-in to the PI Window on Business Show.

There is of course a great deal more to this than merely traffic numbers, such as the quality of content, the publishing of books, the participation in social networking sites and co-operative placements such as when the On-Demand Player for the PI Window on Business Show is posted on a guest’s web site.

This is why I do not put stock in the Alexa numbers alone in terms of verifying reach because at the end of the day to be truly effective and engaging, you have to meet and serve people at their points of comfort and familiarity.  Driving traffic to a single site doesn’t accomplish this because ultimately you hit a peak in which you end up creating a community of comfort and familiarity for yourself and not one of purpose or progressive change for others.

Tying this back into the article on the Pew Survey results, if in fact we do “look to younger generations to see where technology use might be headed in the future,” putting all our eggs in the proverbial one basket (re blogs) while ignoring the emergence of the other social media and social networking venues means that some of the best insights may very well be lost as the eyes and ears of the market will be looking elsewhere.

We merely have to see what is happening in the newspaper industry to realize that sustainable relevance is not a given. With venerable dailies such as the New York Times and Washington Post struggling against mounting losses, despite their foray into the realms of electronic publishing, this is a message that needs to be heard.  Especially taking into account media industry veteran J. William Grimes predictions that all daily newspapers will be gone within 5 years.

It is my sincere hope that today’s blogs do not end up being a footnote in the annals of social media simply because bloggers limited their reach to the venues with which they were most comfortable.

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Comments
One Response to “Pew Survey indicates that blogging has lost its lustre, but do you agree?”
  1. I just received the following comment in another network that is worth sharing here:

    “As far as the analytical sources for data like Alexa – I wonder how they go about measuring blogging activity given that so much of it now is locked away within social networking platforms (for example “Notes” in Facebook is basically a blog – but it’s doubtful Alexa’s tools can penetrate into profiles with restricted privacy settings to measure the blogging going on there).”

    My response clarifies the importance of the concept of a “collective social media network” in terms of calculating true reach:

    Derek, you have made a very significant observation relative to your statement “I wonder how they go about measuring blogging activity given that so much of it now is locked away within social networking platforms (for example “Notes” in Facebook is basically a blog – but it’s doubtful Alexa’s tools can penetrate into profiles with restricted privacy settings to measure the blogging going on there).”

    That is the reason why I stated that “I do not put stock in the Alexa numbers alone in terms of verifying reach because at the end of the day to be truly effective and engaging, you have to meet and serve people at their points of comfort and familiarity.”

    The venues you described, as well as others, are outside of Alexa’s reach but are equally important points of conversational interaction.

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