A few months ago, Charles Arthur had a column The long tail of blogging is dying ("The popularity of blogging seems to be fading as people turn to the easier aspects of social media: status updates and tweeting")
People are still reading blogs, and other content. But for the creation of amateur content, their heyday for the wider population has, I think, already passed. The short head of blogging thrives. Its long tail, though, has lapsed into desuetude.
See also The Rise of the Professional Blogger
The blogosphere was supposed to democratize publishing and empower the little guy. Turns out, the big blogs are all run by The Man.
There's a predicatable reaction to articles like these - reading it absurdly as saying nobody would ever post again, redefining the word blogger to mean low/unpaid corporate writer who rants, discounting the article because of the author, and so on. But it's quite measurable. Not by text string searching an index, which is going to be full of spam and echoing, but examining various indicators.
One strong indicator is to look at what the professional attention-sellers are doing. Remember, these people have as their careers figuring out what's the top manipulation tool, what trend they should promote. That's their job - and if they don't do it with reasonable skill, they don't succeed. So while they're hardly infallible (any trend-hyping is going to invove many duds), they are evidence. It's not canary in a coal mine, but more at if you see a pack of predators cluster in a particular territory, it's likely they think that's the best place to find prey (which, remember, is YOU!).
I finally installed the Gregarius feed aggregator, even though it is no longer actively supported. I only need a web-based feed aggregator, and so far I've not been able to find a single one that is still actively being supported. Not a single one.
In fact, most of the feed related software seems to have been discontinued in Fall of 2008 - just about the time when Twitter use exploded. I knew that Twitter was popular, but I hadn't realized what an adverse impact it is having on how we find, and read, information on the web.
So, hypesters, developers, investors - all basically have now abandoned the former gold-rush. Stick a fork in it, it's done.
Coda: One marketing A-lister recently sent out a Twitter message about
my article regarding why I refuse to be a sucker again, commenting "[Seth Finkelstein] is not happy about Twitter, for the same reason he wasn't happy about blogs".
I wanted to respond "Well, wasn't I right both times?". But of course, for either blogs or Twitter, A-listers reach orders of magnitude more people than me, so being right is something of a pyrrhic victory.
As part of what I call The Sign Of The Bubble, I've been interested in what happened to a venture capital fund which wanted to invest $100 million dollars based on "RSS" (syndication feed) businesses, started by two people at Harvard's Berkman Center. It raises many issues that I shouldn't elaborate on in a public message. But I was never able to figure out how to ask the questions I wanted to ask, in a context and manner that might have gleaned candid answers. And it didn't seem worthwhile to annoy people over the issue (both in asking sensitive questions, and in possibly writing about it).
But the peHUB site ("A Public Forum for Private Equity") now has a short article on it: RSS Is Dead, So Is The RSS Fund. Key points:
The firm launched with a press release touting "the creation of a $100 million fund," but that was basically a PR stunt. ... [they] wanted to raise $100 million, but had only $20 million from a cornerstone
The firm made a series of investments, in companies like Attensa, KnowNow (defunct) and Edgeio (assets sold to Vast.com). But new deals stopped when RSS Investors ran out of cash, and the decision was made to close up shop.
I'm not sure what the moral of the story is, beyond the obvious that the attempt to make 100 million dollars justifies every cynical thought I've ever had or written regarding blog-evangelism and the huckstering which drives it. I suppose a more politically astute person than me could have sold them some snake-oil and cheerleaded all the way to the bank ("Oh yes, RSS is a world-changer, people can write *blogs*, so buy my data-mining start-up ..."). But as we see, that game doesn't work well even for the players (though still much better for them than all the digital-sharecroppers).