Friday, March 16, 2012

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

Or rather where have all the bloggers gone?

I’m not talking about those that have gone down the line of “product placement over something to say” (not that I blame anybody for taking this tack in the current financial climate, Lord knows I’d sell my own creative soul for a buck or two). I’m talking about the real bloggers. The proper bloggers. People who write. Who write stuff. Interesting stuff. Non-interesting stuff. Bizarre stuff. People who write and read just for the hell of writing.

I’ve noticed a real disappearance of regular bloggers lately. It’s like they’ve have been snatched away by those weird walking turd-shaped aliens in Cowboys And Aliens. Body snatched. Blog-napped. Hijacked. Gone off on an life sabbatical.

One or two I can understand. People lose their creative mojo and fall by the wayside all the time. But of my blog list in the ol’ sidebar there barely 50% are still functional. Actually, don't bother checking - I've just culled the ones that are no longer producing (I'm a cold hearted gardener when I get down to brass tacks).

I’m not having a go at people, I’m really not. I’m coming from a nice place, here. I miss you guys. Well, if I’m honest I certainly miss your comments and your feedback. And I know that life at the moment is becoming harder for us all. Sometimes blogging – a truly idle pastime if ever there was one – has to take second, third and sometimes fourth place.

But if feels almost endemic at the moment.

Like the lack of blogging is a barometer for the creative state of the nation. Nobody has the time. Nobody has the energy. Nobody has the will. More and more blogs are converting themselves into advertising billboards. Lord knows I’ve tossed a few ads on the ol' blogging mantelpiece myself and accepted a greasy bung or three for my trouble... but there is something uncomfortably sad about all of this product placement on a forum that I always figured was a medium for the little person to voice their opinion and exercise their freedom of speech.

Maybe I’m just not getting myself out there in the blogosphere enough? Your readership and the list of blogs you read has to be continually reviewed and renewed. As bloggers drop away you have to plug the gap with somebody new. Maybe I haven’t been doing that enough.

Have I become a stay at home blogger? While other bloggers are out having wild blogging parties on a Saturday night have I been staying in with my pipe and slippers and writing about the virtues of Horlicks and the problems with my false teeth. Am I missing a wild party somewhere?

Or have I just lost the plot? Has my own blog lost its sense of relevance? Indeed, did it ever have any? Have I unwittingly driven readers away and become a blogging island? A blogging cul-de-sac? A barren branch on the tree of blogging evolutionary development?

Hey, guys, I’m just sounding off here. Voicing ideas and a few stray threads of dubious insight.

But is anybody else having similar thoughts or is it just me?

Is there anybody else on the range or am I just driving a load of bullocks home on my own?



Unknown said...

You know, this is actually a very insightful piece. And some of your fears may be true. Now that advertisers have gloamed onto blogs as a vehicle for advertisement, the blogosphere is experiencing a shift toward the commercial and the corporate. The message has changed the medium.

Steve said...

Readily A Parent: and the message has become corporate... about the "big man" rather than the "little man". And that is wrong. But where do you draw the line? I'm happy to feature a few ads tucked away here and there - the extra money is damned useful at the moment - but I draw the line at sponsored posts and full-on product endorsements. But really, what is the difference? The blogosphere has changed. It's soul has been bought.

the fly in the web said...

If I take a look at sites about blogging it does seem to be all about getting paid by someone or other....or networking, whatever that might entail.
Sounds a bit like dumping the net over the side and coming up with a dubious kettle of fish to me.

I agree, a number of blogs I liked for their writing style or for their views seem to have shut down lately....perhaps they are feeling the hopelessness that prevails in the hideous economic context in which we are being forced to live.

One blog that is going from strength to strength is 'The Slog - deconstructing bollocks'.
That will cheer you up and its soul can't be bought.

John Going Gently said...

I found this moving
people here become sort of necessary dont they?

they are not friends,
but they become important!
I understand

Steve said...

The fly in the web: nice to know that a bastion of blogging ideology still exists. Will head over and take a look-see... actually read something instead of being told to buy.

John Going Gently said...

when I start advertising
thats the day I leave!

Steve said...

John: some of them do become friends and that is really great. But you're right. Really most don't... and yet they still have an important place in the heart.

I admire your stance on advertizing I really do.

AGuidingLife said...

:P I write, I pour my soul out on to the screen, I rip my heart out and wipe blood all over your keyboard, I'm dripping emotion, I'm hurting for you here Steve, hurting, but do you even bother to come and see the pain of my posts? Do you even try to sip from my bloody goblet? 'No' is the correct answer to that. Whilst I bleed an emotional writers death you sit with your wooley socks up, sipping horlicks...I can't say any more Steve, I just can't. I'm a broken blogger.

AGuidingLife said...

Ps I did accept some lil-lets from a PR...I guess they didn't see the metaphors.

Fran Hill said...

Aha! Suddenly I can leave a comment! I haven't been able to for ages. And now I don't know what to say, except, Hi Steve!

Gorilla Bananas said...

You sound like an innocent child who's just discovered that fairies aren't real. I can't think of a single blog I used to read 5 years ago that's still active. Most bloggers lose interest and find better things to do. Only the leisured and the needy can keep on going forever.

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Interesting post and I agree, some of my favourite bloggers have definitely gone AWOL, but I'll forgive them for now because I know they have life issues to deal with.

Thankfully, some things come full circle and some bloggers have come back into the fold to mix things up and give me something to read in the almost carpet of sponsored posts and reviews.

I think because of the credit crisis too many bloggers have gone down the commercial route (easy for me to say given that I am not offered any of this being oversea) and it's harder to pick out the good stuff if you only have a limited time to read stuff.

I have two theories - it will either get a lot worse and the blogging scene will just be about the cash, or (sadly more likely) PRs will get bored of bloggers, bloggers will get bored of PRs taking the piss and everyone will just get back to doing what they did when they first started their blogs.

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: and I am suitably chastised. And in a strange way, pleasurably so. I shall endeavour to make amends.

Fran: hi Fran! Let's hope we're waving not drowning!

Gorilla Bananas: what do you mean "fairies aren't real"? I've seen the bloody photos! And I note with interest that you have been on Blogger since 2005. You are plainly a friend in need too.

Very Bored in Catalunya: I agree with your synopsis. And who knows? Maybe this will all be a good thing... filter out the weak, sort the wheat from the chavs. Did I say chavs? I meant, of course, chaff. ;-)

libby said...

Maybe they all tweet/twat now instead?

Keith said...

It is as natural a process as evolution. Only the true artists and the sad fuckers remain.

I'll leave it up to you to decide who is what.

Gappy said...

You've captured my thoughts exactly. I also believe that product placement and advertising is sucking the heart out of blogging.

I've unsubscribed from blogs on the basis that the content now just consists of continuous sponsored posts and product endorsement. That is not interesting to me - I don't want to read it.

Like yourself, what always appealed to me about blogging was the fact that ordinary people had a space to say their piece and connect with others who felt similarly. It felt subversive. And it doesn't so much anymore.

I am an incredibly cranky blogger lately. Bah.

Steve said...

Libby: twatting does seem to be very popular now. Especially with celebrities.

Keith: I'd ask for a vote but I think the result is a foregone conclusion.

Gappy: well, we can be cranky together. I must admit when I see a blog post that is nothing but a paid-for product placement I immediately skip it. Which is surely counter-productive to the advertizer and the blogger both? A few adverts placed down the page are fine. You can click on those or not and I think fairplay if someone is making a little bit of pin money. But the most important thing about a blog is the blog content surely? Blogging is about people living their lives!

Gappy said...

Absolutely. Blogging *is* its content. And without stimulating, innovative, thought provoking content, it is nothing.

I actually feel quite strongly about this. Blogging for me is about sharing ideas. It is a medium that creates an equal footing, in the sense that anyone with an internet connection has the opportunity to share their ideas with a potentially huge audience. It should be a force for good, not some meaningless worship at the altar of capitalism.

Grrr. I might write my own post on this subject. I suspect it won't make me very popular though.

Steve said...

Gappy: hey, who needs popularity? Debate is good for the soul. And what is that old Jewish saying? - He who never made an enemy never made anything? ;-)

Gorilla Bananas said...

I thought you would realised than I was the leisured one and you were the needy one. I didn't want to spell it out, but you forced me.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: touchy.


English Rider said...

Interesting post, as always. I too have felt that many quality "writer-humans with points of view" have dropped off. Some have died. Blogging has allowed many people, isolated by illness or age, to have a voice and a connection with the rest of the world. One dear woman had throat cancer and could not speak. Blogging was her voice. It's kind when their families let us know when the last post has been written.
There are a couple of bloggers I really liked who may be in witness protection, jail, or otherwise on the run. There are some whose blogs were tyrannized by evil family members and so they left.
Mostly though, I like to think that our lives are filling up with other things. Blogging means you have something to do, besides worry and wait for a silent phone to ring. It is a welcome crutch.
I have noticed that early on we search out new connections, click on the avatars of those who leave interesting comments on others' blogs. Have we become complacent ? Do we expect others' to do all the legwork? Do you even read comments on other blogs now, or do you skip to the comment form and say your piece and leave?
I plead guilty to most of the above.

Trish said...

I'm still here but I'm conscious I have a bit of advertising in the sidebar and will now and again review stuff. I hope you won't abandon me. I haven't sold my blogging soul to the devil just yet...I just rent it out on a pay as you go basis.

Steve said...

English Rider: you make some interesting and worthwhile points. I do think there is a sea-change in blogging at the moment and it is not necessarily for the better. But blogging is still a democracy and people vote with their time and their comments. There's always hope.

Trish: stuff in the sidebar is fine and the occasional post too. But when the balance shifts the other way and it becomes all about "sell sell sell" then I am afraid I turn my blogging eyes elsewhere. You are perfectly safe. Thought you'd got rid of me, didn't you? ;-)

Rol said...

I realised recently that I had a LOT more blogging time back when I had the old job. I'd regularly spend a large part of my afternoon writing blogposts (and reading everyone else's) because I had very little else to do. Now I don't have a job but I'm spending my time training, teaching, running up and down... when I *do* get back in front of the pc, my time is far more precious. Who knows how that'll work out?

Steve said...

Rol: it's an ironic fact that isn't lost on me either - sometimes we need a shit job to enable the creative juices to flow.

Suburbia said...

Yep, really with you on this one. I was so desperate I went back to old posts to see who was missing and looked them up. It wasn't until I realised one blogger was dead that it really made me understand how real this blogging thing is. It felt unbearably sad.

However as you said many have just disappeared without trace.

I have tried to visit blogs I've not been to before recently but the etiquette of visiting back seems to have died!

Hey ho!

Steve said...

Suburbia: I wonder how many new blogs are popping into existence just so people can sell the advertizing space? The blogging world is changing... and not for the better.

Löst Jimmy said...

It's a fickle blogging world out there Steve.

(Acme Living Room Furntiture, sponsors of this blog comment)

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: do you offer discounts on leather corner suites?

Being Me said...

My God. I am leisured. And needy. I learnt this from a gorilla.

I know what you mean. I feel the barrenness of the blogs that "used to be". Although, it seems to still be alive and well here in Aust., there are many who get caught in the voting/blog-for-money trap... and then lose direction. Conversely, there are those who do that and do it very successfully. I am not one of them.

You can count on one thing: I'll be here with the cockroaches after the bomb drops. In some form or another. I just cannot imagine a life without a blog now, after 7 years. I'd like to think it's about growth and evolution, not about hanging around never changing.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Steve, we nearly lost your distinctive voice there for a bit, when things were going badly at nursery school. I can't say that I've come across these full-on advertisisng blogs and I do have to chuckle when I clean out my spam box and read the exhortations to harvest more hits and comments. Ye gods, with my slow old computer what I get now is about what I can deal with and I do enjoy the interaction with people that I have established a rapport (if not actually a friendship) with.
Certainly as I come out of the worst of bereavement and realise that I have 3 acres of land to manage and two houses to restore on my own, I am exercising discipline with myself regarding blogging and that means reducing the time I spend at the computer. Ironically, this happens as I build a presence and come up in searches more for a wide variety of reasons. All things change with time. Who knows if the blogosphere goes belly-up, some of us may just end up writing each other good old fashioned letters!

Steve said...

Being Me: I'd be so pleased to have you hanging around but, please, don't be down with the cockroaches... they're dirty and not at all appealing. I must admit, I can't imagine not blogging and yet, sometimes, just sometimes, I do question why I'm here.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: I think blogging less because you are living more is actually the right way to go about (just as long as you don't disappear from the blogosphere forever). As for letters... yeah... I miss those. I used to have penfriends and everything and, ironically, since the advent of the internet they fell by the wayside.

femminismo said...

In case you took me off (I haven't looked) I did blog yesterday. I was finally looking through pictures of my old blog days and I used to have so much FUN! (The ice cream party I had for a few odd dolls - real dolls - looked so pretty like a magazine layout. I'll do better, Steve. Good to read you again!

Steve said...

Femminismo: so nice to welcome an old friend back to the fold!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Concerning real letters: a friend recently recounted sending her teenage son to buy a stamp and post a letter - the boy didn't know where to put the stamp!
PS the real world is cold and wet so I feel justified in sitting at my computer ... just :-)

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: the bit I hate is trimming the feathers so they can take the ink...

Perpetua said...

Fascinating post and comments, Steve. I followed the link from Fly's latest post and am interested how different your experience is from mine as a pretty new blogger (just over a year).

I follow some 70 blogs, of which only a small handful have a few ads and I haven't seen that change at all. One blog has closed and one is intermittent for personal reasons, but the rest post almost more often than I can keep up with. :-)

I'm retired which means I have plenty of time to write and also to read others and i have to say that my small corner of the blogospere seems to be in the rudest of health and perennially interesting.

I can well imagine that younger bloggers with a living to make in a hard financial climate may well find blogging a luxury they can't afford unless it makes money for them. Yet there are still lots of bloggers out there who write beautifully, have interesting things to say and constantly challenge my ideas and opinions.

Steve said...

Perpetua: your experience is very reassuring. Plainly there are different blogging circles - some that I am not part of or am not aware of. Maybe it's not all doom and gloom after all? :-)

Suzanne said...

OOOh good call. I have slightly lost my blogging mojo, reading blogs and posting on my own blog. TBH ICBA, as the youth of today would text.There are just a handful I return to. You, my man , are on my list. I love your writing.

Steve said...

Suzanne: thank you. You shall forever more be on my list.

Marginalia said...

You're talking about me, I know you are.

Look I feel as guilty as hell not giving you a regular laugh at least once a week, but I'm busy. Get that busy...that means not sitting in front of the computer trying to think of something funny to write about.

I know you think that's not much of an excuse, but look I've a life to lead, a position to maintain and a houseful of cats and a wife to feed - in that order.

Maybe when the pressure's off, when the pay cheque lands and the frigging' world's stops pissin' me about I may have the time to put pen to paper.

In the mean time you'll have to be satisfied with 400 odd gems in my back catalogue!

Steve said...

Marginalia: don't give me that "busy" bollocks. It's been winter for the last few months. No gardening to do. You've had plenty of time to write stuff.

You've bought an X Box, haven't you? That's what it is! While I've been blogging you've been playing Skyrim.

Unknown said...

I'm brand new to blogging... and just test driving at the moment... love a good read... and like your blog very much... I hope I'll find more bloggers like you around!

Marginalia said...

Shit, how did you guess?

Steve said...

Hannah: thank you - that's very kind. I do hope you'll be back.

Marginalia: all the references to elves and dwarf armour on your blog gave the game away.