Paul Jacobson is a lawyer and long-time South African blogger. He wrote a post today, “Blogging is, like, so 2007”, that triggered some thoughts I’ve had on blogging and growth. In it he talks about how the there are many more ways to publish your thoughts to the web other than your blog (lifestreaming), and how that fractured state leads to less value being placed in blogging.
Asymptotic Growth in Publishing
I think there’s more to it than just the number of ways to communicate, it’s also about the number of new people who come online each year with their own blog, Twitter comments, Facebook Note, etc. Each year there is more content being put online and so your own voice matters less relative to the sum of all noise out there. This applies to niches, and the web in general, and I refer to it as asymptotic publishing growth.
Put another way, even if your blog grows more readers every year, it shrinks in relation to the whole.
This is particularly apparent to first-movers in any new platform. At first you have an inordinate amount of “voice” in a specific sphere, which seems to erode over time.
Islands of Influence
One of my theories on what happens as these environments mature is that as they grow and there becomes more and more options for readers, that there tends to be a coalescing or readers around a certain few blogs or publishers. Though every one of the publishers is likely growing in size, there are certain “keystone” blogs to each niche that have an inordinate amount of influence relative to the general blog in that space.
For example, as a technology blog reader, I might visit 10 blogs every day. However, three of those are likely the same as everyone else.
I compare this to teen hangout locations. There are a lot of places to hang out, and everyone tends to go to a few of their favorite places. However, everyone knows the place to be on Friday night, and that’s the place where the majority of teens go.
There will always be more noise in the blogosphere, or whichever publishing platform is your choice of the moment, than when you first started in it. However, those that provide the most value to the readers will continue to grow and also garner a greater relative audience than their peers.
Basically, asymptotic growth is a truth that we all have to live with, but there will always be islands of influence.