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Where content meets technology

Dec 22, 2023

The End of Blogging

A bulk of my information diet these days comes from email newsletters. I subscribe to newsletters from news publishers like Axios and the New York times and also personal newsletters from individual commentators. Between personal and professional topics, I probably spend 30+ minutes a day reading newsletters. I don't see RSS feeds promoted as prominently any more. People and organizations have moved their blogging energy to newsletters, LinkedIn articles, or long threads on microblogging networks.

While I feel validated by proof supporting my "Email is the Portal" hypothesis, I am sad that blogging and syndication seems to be disappearing. I like the blogging/syndication model because everyone gets to own a little space on the internet (their blog) and tools (RSS readers) to aggregate content from everyone else's spaces. The system is simple, elegant, and flexible. Everyone has agency to control their content and choose their tools.

The systems that have supplanted the blogging/syndication ecosystem are clearly inferior for the purposes of managing, publishing, and preserving content. In these alternatives, content has no permanent place. You are not going to know about issues from before you subscribed to an email newsletter. Content in an activity feed basically disappears and it's hard to get back to. Thankfully Evernote allows me to store copies of these artifacts.

But the new tools are better for building and measuring audiences because subscription is built into the publisher side of the system. In the blogging/syndication model, the subscriber used their feed reader to subscribe and the publisher needed hacks like FeedBurner and web analytics packages to identify and measure their audiences. With email newsletters, subscribers must provide their email address (and maybe pay money) to get content. On the social media platforms, the audience needs to click the follow button to add their identity to the list of followers.

In this new world, content is an ephemeral input to build an audience. I am not too much of an idealist to realize that the money behind the digital economy always wanted an audience-oriented, rather than content-oriented, ecosystem. People have been talking about "monetizing eyeballs" for decades. But, for someone who loves content (creating, managing, collecting, consuming... all the things), the commoditization hurts just a little bit.

Note... with this post, I have met my 2023 goal to blog every month!