When I first started creating content online, I didn’t like to call myself a blogger. Few people actually asked, “What is a blog?” Most people just assumed it was some kind of online diary. No one, other than my fellow blogger friends, understood how I could possibly make a living as a blogger. So, I instead called myself a freelance writer. After all, as a blogger, I was certainly doing a lot of writing. Writer was a word people in my life understood.
Today, I don’t hesitate to call myself a blogger, since more people are familiar with the idea of professional blogs. But as this industry continues to grow, I have to wonder, is the definition of blogging changing? How can we properly characterize what we do? And most importantly, what does this mean for the future of the blogging industry?
Can Blogs Still Be Monetized Successfully?
Dictionary.com defines the word blog as follows:
a Web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites.
There’s a good reason lots of people associated blogging with writing an online diary: that’s what blogging was before people started to define niches and think about blogging as more than just an outlet for expression. In the early to mid 2000s, lots of people were starting new blogs and blogging networks in order to monetize them. Many were extremely successful.
Today, starting a blog is a completely different ballgame, and the monetization bubble seems to have burst without anyone even realizing it. Instead, blogging has become all about content marketing.
In other words, many bloggers are not making money by selling ad space and making affiliate sales. They’re using their blog content to get people to their website where they sell them a product or service. For example, here on the NMX blog, we’re hoping you like our content enough to purchase a ticket to our event.
And so, there’s become a divide in the blogging world. There are blogs still monetized primarily through ads and sponsorships, and their are blogs that take the content marketing approach, so the actual blog doesn’t make any money, but is instead used as a vehicle to reach more potential customers for a product or company. Some bloggers do both.
What Characteristics Define a Blog Anyway?
Because so many blogs are taking the content marketing route, the definition of blogging has gotten even muddier. What is a blog? How do you describe it to people? These are questions I struggle to answer.
Some people will tell you that a blog is a collection of articles (posts) in chronological order. What sets blogs about from other web content is that posts are dated and the newest content is presented first. But what about bloggers who argue that you should remove dates from your blog posts? There are two sides to this argument of course, but lots of blogs don’t date their posts anymore. Since most people don’t come to a blog’s homepage, is a date what really makes a blog different?
Other people argue that the community sets apart a blog from other online content. It’s the readers who comment to help add to the discussion that makes blogging unique. However, interaction isn’t a new concept. Newspapers publish letters to the editor, for example. The Internet makes interaction from a community faster, but I don’t think it’s a defining blog characteristic. After all, there some blogs, like Seth Godin’s, that don’t allow comments. It also brings up the question: if readers don’t leave comments on a blog, is it really a blog?
Personality might also be used to define a blog. Instead of dry how-to articles and news stories, blogs are all about opinions, experiences, and perspective. People follow blogs because they like the writer, not just because the content is educational or informative. Again, however, this is not necessarily a new concept. One might subscribe to a newspaper in order to read a certain column, and some blogs are extremely objective. In the case of blogs run by brands, sometimes you don’t even know the names of the bloggers.
As blogging continues to evolve, it will become even harder to define.
But is This a Bad Thing?
I argue no. Because the lines are blurring, it’s much easier for bloggers to be taken more professionally.
When we draw lines in the sand and say, “Bloggers over there and real writers and journalists over here,” we are saying that bloggers shouldn’t be taken as seriously. Because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see the differences because blogs and other type of web content (especially news outlets), bloggers are being more commonly invited to press events, being offered sponsorship opportunities, and having their posts cited by others when discussing the topic of the day, whatever that may be.
Is the definition of blogging changing? I think so. And I think that’s a good thing.
How do you answer the question, “What is a blog?” Do you think the definition is evolving? What do you think this means for the future of blogging? Leave a comment!