Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blogging is not dead, but evolving

AK Haart regrets what seems to be the decline of the blog - but what are we regretting?

Are we after numbers of readers (millions would be nice) or quality? Popularity, or influence? Number of visits, or average length of visit? Number of comments, or content of comments?

In the battle between the MSM and the Internet, Goliath is still pulverising David: Martin Langeveld estimates that, even though readership has declined in recent years, 96 per cent of newspaper reading is done in relation to print editions, with only some 3 per cent online.

Similarly, Paul Grabowicz says, "A visitor spends an average of a little over 1 minute per day on a newspaper website. Compare that with the 27 minutes per day that newspaper readers say they spent perusing the print product on a weekday, and 57 minutes on Sundays, according to a 2008 survey by Northwestern University's Research Institute."

But, as Grabowicz observes,  you can offer more online: "More in-depth stories and richer content can be published on a website than in the relatively short snippets of information distributed to people via mobile devices, on YouTube and Flickr, or through blogs and micro-blog postings. Providing deeper content fulfills the public service function of journalism and can help form online communities at news websites where people can gather to discuss issues of importance to their communities, both geographic and topical."

This reminds us that people read in different ways, and for different purposes. In 2006, Holsanova, Rahm and Holmqvist studied eye-movements of a group of readers to test assumptions about types of readership and concluded, "there are three main categories of readers: editorial readers, overview readers and focused readers."

Which leads us to ask, how much of what we write is actually read? In 2008, Jacob Nielsen found that "on the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely." Grabowicz's article (linked above) also observed an increasing tendency to skim and hop about: "while the total number of unique visitors and pageviews at the newspaper websites has been increasing from 2004 - 2009, the average time spent by each person on a site declined." This jackrabbit reading was turned into a very funny Radio 4 series in 1999, called "The Sunday Format."

Writing can take into account readership tendencies, so WikiHow shows us the art of composing adverts (for example, don't use punctuation in headlines, as this encourages the reader to stop).

But unless you're doing it for money, is the reader you whore after the one you should be concerned to attract? Perhaps we need to worry more about why and what we write, and less about who and how many are reading. Posterity and the estimation of one's peers outweigh meretricious éclat.

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2 comments:

A K Haart said...

I agree - I don't think we are playing a numbers game.

I suspect blog design is of some importance in creating a visual ambience, but what might constitute good or bad design I've no idea.

Paddington said...

It's all about the money!