Too Many Blogs?

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January 06, 2011

A few years ago, blogging was the be-all and end-all of online content creation.

Individuals and companies alike all wanted to get in on blogging, and they saw it as the best way to reach people.

Blogs about blogging sprouted up everywhere, telling people how to create better blogs, how to make money from their blogs, and how to get more traffic.

But has the blogosphere grown so large that there are, simply put, too many blogs out there?

Is blogging going to fall by the wayside in favor of other forms of user-generated content and social media? Where do blogs fit in the age of Twitter and Facebook?

How Big Is the Blogosphere, Anyway?

Getting a clear picture of the size of the blogosphere is difficult. WordPress has statistics for both (15.1 million blogs and counting) and self-hosted WordPress installations (17.4 million active installations), which gives part of the picture.

There are more than 10 million tumblogs on Tumblr. Blogger doesn't offer any public statistics on how many blogs they host. Technorati is currently tracking more than 1.2 million blogs. And there are likely millions of other blogs out there hosted on other services like Movable Type, TypePad, Expression Engine, and other CMSs.

Conservatively, it would probably be safe to assume that there are over a hundred million active blogs out there. And more blogs are being created every day. A lot of people have multiple blogs, and plan to create more. And there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of blogs out there that have been abandoned by their creators due to a lack of interest (or a lack of traffic).

Who's Blogging?

There are three basic types of blogs out there, though there is often some overlap between the types on a lot of blogs.

The first type is the personal blog. These are blogs run by on person, and usually reflect their own views, activities, and unique outlook on life. In most cases, personal blogs aren't written with the idea of making money directly, and most of these blogs fall into the category of only having a few hundred or maybe a thousand visitors each month. And usually, their authors aren't too worried about their readership, as it's more of a hobby than any kind of business activity (they blog because they want to).

Next are topic blogs. Virtually all of the most popular blogs online are topic blogs. These blogs are often run by more than one person, and focus on a particular subject or niche. A topic blog with good, unique content and active marketing can usually easily surpass the thousand-visitor-a-month benchmark, though many topic bloggers don't bother putting the time and effort into their blogs that they need to get beyond that point.

Corporate blogs are the third type of blog. These blogs are run by a company as a secondary activity to their primary business. Some of these blogs are excellent, and come across more like topic or personal blogs than corporate ones. Others are nothing more than corporate spam, akin to a series of press releases that only talk about the company's new offerings.

Hybrid blogs combine two or more of the other types of blogs. For example, if the CEO of a company has an official blog, that's a hybrid of the corporate and personal blog models. A corporate blog that focuses on providing content on a specific topic is a hybrid of those two models. And a personal blog that focuses on a specific niche is a hybrid of the personal and topic blog models.

Content Overload

The problem with so many blogs is that readers are suffering from content overload. We only have so much time in a day to read blogs, and even if we limit our reading to a particular niche or topic, there are still way more blogs out there than we could ever hope to read.

This is one reason so many blogs are abandoned after a little while. It's probably safe to say that most blogs never surpass roughly a thousand unique visitors each month, and many don't even reach that level. It can be very discouraging to a blogger to plateau at a few hundred visitors each month. But each of these blogs is contributing to the feeling many users have of there simply being too many blogs out there.

Think about it: how many blogs do you currently subscribe to or read on a regular basis? Even avid blog readers out there probably don't read more than a couple hundred blogs on a regular basis. And most of you likely don't read more than a couple dozen with any kind of consistency. So why do you care if more blogs are created?

The Blogosphere as an Echo Chamber

Another common criticism of the blogosphere is that it's little more than an echo chamber. And it's an honest assessment when applied to the majority of blogs out there. A lot of blogs out there keep rehashing the same topics and the same arguments. A lot of them don't create original content. Instead, they simply reblog what others have said, sometimes adding a line or two of commentary (and other times not even bothering to do that).

That portion of the blogosphere that is little more than an echo chamber provides little value to blog readers. And those are the blogs that rarely climb the ranks to become popular.

Not every blog is like that, though. It's quite the contrary when you look at the most popular blogs out there in any given niche. Most of these blogs are providing useful commentary, new insight, and even breaking news ahead of mainstream media. The idea that the entire blogosphere is nothing but an echo chamber is not only false, but it's the kind of argument old-media adherents cling to to try to discredit blogs and their authors.

Is There Room for New Blogs?

With a hundred million or more blogs out there already publishing regular updates, what more is there to be said? If the blogosphere is really this overcrowded, one can't help wondering if there's any room for new blogs?

The good news is that there's always going to be plenty of room out there for new high-quality blogs. The bad news is that there are a lot more challenges facing bloggers now than there were a few years ago.

  • It takes a huge investment in terms of both time and energy to create useful, original content, and then to get out there and promote that content to prospective readers. Because there are so many more things competing for reader attention than ever before, you really have to stand out to get noticed.
  • Building a loyal readership and engaged fanbase is a slow process. When you're starting out, you may have days when only a handful of people visit your blog, if anyone at all. Can you handle these kinds of ups and downs?
  • Unless you become a very, very popular blog, and one with a tight focus and engaged readership, there's very little money to be made blogging.
  • Competition fierce, and with more blogs now resembling major media corporations, there isn't as much of a "buddy-buddy" feeling in the blogosphere as there once was. Don't expect a helping hand (though that doesn't mean you shouldn't reach out to others in your niche anyway, as some bloggers out there are still happy to help out noobs).

Should You Start a New Blog?

With all that said, just because you want a blog doesn't mean you should have one. There are plenty of other avenues for building an online following that don't include traditional blogging.

For example, if your primary reason for starting a blog is to share cool information you find online related to a topic, you might be better off just setting up a Twitter account or a tumblog to share links. Blogs are better suited to original, long-form content.

Likewise, if you want to build a community, then why not just start with a community? Set up a social networking site or a group on an existing site. There are plenty of open-source, free, and low-cost tools out there to help you do those things.

If you're still sure you want a blog, then make sure you have clear goals in mind when you get started. Know whether you're blogging just as a hobby or for some other purpose. Produce high-quality content and then network like crazy to get that content in front of people.

Written exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.

What are your thoughts on the state of the blogosphere? Is there still room for more blogs, or is it better to invest in other means of reaching people and sharing content? Share your thoughts in the comments!

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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