Reading blogs in 2018: thoughts and things to do

So are blogs dead in 2018, or are they a viable part of the web?

To find out I decided to exploit my friends reach out to my social networks to see what kind of blog activity they were currently up to.  I only asked about reading blogs, not writing them, because those are two very different behaviors.

Overall, blog reading is still a going concern, at least among the people who respond to my social media queries.

Breaking it down: I fired off a Twitter poll, and the results were balanced:

Twitter poll on reading blogs

So the leading consumption pattern was people reading individual blog posts, rather than following whole blogs.  They also had to be pointed in the right direction, presumably via social media, email, friends, etc.  I’m reminded of how music downloads shifted from albums to songs.

Now, I asked the same question on Facebook, and the results were fairly similar.

Do you read blogs?
A) Not at all.  (4 picked this one)
B) I read some posts, if I’m directed to them. (31)
C) I read some regularly. (14)
D) Yes, through an RSS reader. (17)

Again, people read individual posts when nudged.

I launched the same poll on Google+ (thanks to George Station for nudging me there), and the results were a bit different:

Google+ poll on blog reading

Yes, the leading response was people using RSS readers.  It might be that I have unusually geeky G+ fans, or that G+ weirdly attracts people who like the old web.

Over on LinkedIn, there were fewer responses, typically.  They reflected the G+ poll.  Out of six responses, one didn’t read blogs any longer, and was regretful. One read fewer blogs.  Four still read blogs through RSS readers, and some of them are technology professionals.  One of the latter was quite passionate:

Zach Chandler I still read blogs, and use an RSS reader (Feedly) regularly! I think FB/Twitter and other closed content networks are deleterious to the open web, and if we want to keep it open, we have to make information consumption choices that support that outcome.

What can we learn from this little experiment?

For one thing, I do terrible social science.  The n here is pathetically small, and there’s nothing randomized about the population.

If there’s anything useful, it’s that blogging still lives.  The anti-blog answers came in dead last across the platforms, even on famed blog-killer Facebook.  Some people actually use RSS, while others pick individual item’s from the blogospheric buffet.

One interesting detail: Feedly was by far the most popular RSS reader.  My choice, Digg’s Reader, was scarcely in play within this group.  An Apple tool appeared once or twice.

So what does this tell us about how to proceed in the modern web?

Well, if some of us like reading blogs, perhaps it’s worth trying as a first step to RSSify as much of your world as you can.  That doesn’t mean using RSS, necessarily, but adjusting things around you to follow that principle.

For example, we can shift our Facebook feed away from the oh-so-helpful “Top Stories” algorithm lineup to the “Most Recent” setting.  If you haven’t done it, check the top left of your Facebook home page:

Facebook settings: top stories or most recent?

Second, keep following blogs you find useful.  I’m not sure how people do that today without an RSS reader.  Maybe it’s manually checking a site in a web browser, or relying on email subscriptions.  Perhaps some use a dashboard within a blog platform, like LiveJournal or WordPress or Tumblr do.  And please share some love.  Write comments, encourage other people to read good stuff, and donate, if you can.

Third – use an RSS readerFeedly apparently works for people, so give it a try if you haven’t.  I prefer Digg’s Reader, mostly because I’m a text-y kind of person, and I also read a lot of feeds.  Or try something else.  Install your own, if you’re up for that.  Whichever you pick, see if you can follow this blog there.  Yeah, I’m repeating myself – because it’s right.

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7 Responses to Reading blogs in 2018: thoughts and things to do

  1. Ann Anderson says:

    Thank you. It’s nice to know blogs aren’t dead since you write such a great one. I personally have only just started using RSS feed stuff for work. When I did, Feedly worked well. It gave me more of the information I needed up front, compared to the RSS feed I could get through MS Outlook and one or two other readers I tried out through my web browser. (Of course, now I cannot remember the readers’ names).

    Specifically, I have a boss that wants to see all the cases filed in a particular federal court. There is an RSS feed for that, but it includes all filings in all cases in the court, not just filings when a case is initiated. Other readers just showed the “headline”, which in this instance, was only the case name and case number. That did not tell us what was filed (e.g., a complaint, a motion, an order, etc.). And with hundreds of entries each day, it was a waste of time click each entry individually to try to find out what was filed. Feedly gave me more than just the headline, so I could tell what was filed, and thus eliminate the majority of the entries. I know that’s not blog related, but Feedly similarly gives a bit more than the title of the particular blog entry. Which can be useful, if you want to pick and chose. I’m sure Digg’s Reader and others do similar, but I thought I would share my particular experience in that regard.

    And thank you for mentioning sharing the love. As someone who has only been at this blogging business for a bit over half of a year, it’s hard not getting feedback. It’s also hard when you think you wrote a particularly good piece, and no one passes it around or tells you why it was not worthy of being passed around. Sometimes the silence is hard to bear. Sometimes I feel like I spend a lot of time I don’t have to spare just shouting into the wind. So the reminder about sharing the love, both with the blogger and with friends, is really excellent.

    That said, I apologize that I don’t comment directly on your blog more frequently. I confess, as I am not in the education industry, I feel like I am too ignorant of the key factors you discuss many times. But that does not mean they have not been interesting to me. So I apologize for not stopping by here sooner.

  2. I’m pretty sure I took that poll somewhere but don’t remember on which

    Between seniors and colleagues stuck in Facebook only mode, I probably deal with a more techly gormless buncht than you do. I gather the Feedly interface is more inviting to starter rss users and easier for them to use. Laura Gibbs uses InoReader but tells her online students to use Feedly. It’s still a hard sell. So is tagging. Even so, I’ve managed to talk some into following blogs, even a few into starting their own.

    As you know, I nudge blogs and blog posts a lot too.

    Facebook and blogging. I don’t think Facebook killed blogging so much as Hoovered up bloggers who wouldn’t have stuck with blogging. That’s not to say it didn’t take out a big bite.

    Current issues with internet culture and social media — privacy, surveillance, conformity pressures in groups — may help well tended blogs survive, even thrive. I strongly believe that blogs still matter and have a place. Who knows, in a time of caps and increased costs, blogs may be able to fly under the bandwidth wire better than other media.

  3. Ann Anderson says:

    Apologies if something similar to this comment already showed up. I had some issues posting my comment earlier, and had to reconstruct it.

    Thank you for putting this all together. It’s nice to know blogs aren’t dead, especially since you write such a great one.

    I only recently started to use RSS feeds, because of my work, although it is not for tracking any blogs. I use Feedly because it shows information that I need in the feed, rather than requiring me to click on each item in the feed individually.

    Specifically, one of my bosses wants to see what new cases are filed in a certain court every day. The court has an RSS feed for filings. But it is for all filings in the court, for any case, old, or new. That leads to hundreds of entries. I tried MS Outlook, and two browser based readers, and they only gave me the “title”, i.e., the case name and case number. But Feedly provided that as well as the type of document filed (e.g., complaint, motion, notice, order, etc.). That allows us to weed out the entries we don’t really need to see without having to click on each one first. I am sure other readers, such as Digg.com, also provide this ability. Feedly was just the first one I found that did so. I checked my own blog using Feedly and it provide the title of entries and the first several sentences, which I think would be helpful if someone wanted to pick and choose entries to read.

    Also, thank you for encouraging people to share the love. As someone new to the whole blogging business (a little more than 6 months), I struggle both with lack of feedback and in attempts to grow readership. It’s hard to know what you are doing right or what you need to work on without that feedback. And engagement encourages the writer. Linking and sharing helps spread interesting and informative pieces, and possible widens readership for the author. Sharing the love by commenting and sharing with the greater world really does help the author.

    That said, I confess I have been remiss on commenting directly to your blog. Usually, you write about the education field, about which I do not feel qualified to comment. But you have blogged about other stuff too, so I really should get off my behind and show appreciation more by commenting directly. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get over here.

  4. Alan Levine says:

    The sweeping generalization “blogs are dead or dying” does not hold up to numbers; I commented on Cole Camplese’s call to Return to Blogging (“return”?never left); from my own remark:

    It seems almost an everybody nods along in ascent at the assertion that “blogging is fizzling” or “everyone moved away to _____”. What exactly is that based on? To be able to make that sweeping conclusion, one would need deity like power to see everything published on the internet. People just echo the geek chorus or extrapolate from their individual experience

    Try some numbers-

    * 84 million blog posts a month at WordPress,com https://wordpress.com/activity/
    * ~400 million tumbr blogs https://www.statista.com/statistics/256235/total-cumulative-number-of-tumblr-blogs/
    * 4 million blogs in edublogs https://edublogs.org/
    * Shops like VCU’s Rampages running over 30,000 blogs (estimating, I know Tom Woodward said last year is was like 327k)

    It’s more like it’s overcrowded by the activity in other places; that does not indicate death at all.

    You know I agree on RSS, it’s the one tool I can honestly saves time. But the poll question might be a bit leading; why just one choice? My RSS reading is a regular habit, but I do glean additional reads from the other options. Isn’t blended better?

    I used Digg to for my reading; Feedly for class feeds. I don’t find them functionally all that different. Digg’s mobile client is pretty crappy, I switched to using web version on phone. Some folks are big on advanced feature in Inoreader.

    There are some other ways to sift the public feeds; The Digg Deeper link on the laptop hooks into what people are sharing in your social network, and I find Nuzzle’s link recommending often useful. I’m a bit baffled on how medium picks the stories to send me; sometimes I hesitate to click wondering if that will tilt the scale.

    A multi-pronged approach is smartest IMHO.

  5. Ed Garay says:

    My answers would have been:

    * I read individual blog posts, mostly when directed (primarily by my Twitter PLN.
    * Once or twice a week, I visit a handful of blogs that somehow I remember I should visit.

    Increasingly, we seem to find ourselves with less uninterrupted time to engage ourselves in some extensive reading about a particular subject or another. As a society, we’ve become too jumpy, too unfocused, or so it seems sometime, even for going through the routines of visiting our favorite blogs and RSS feeds.

    Daily face2face and social media interaction with colleagues, friends and family, along with my personal wide spectrum of interests, influence what I read every day, be it on Twitter, blogs, Web pages, Alexa’s readings, HigherEd, EdTech, Teaching & e-Learning and emerging technologies portals, e-zines, magazines, reports, journal articles and books.

    Social platforms I read Andre/or interact with everyday: Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube; LinkedIn almost daily; all-time favorite: Google+ not so much any more.

  6. Chris L says:

    I’ll just leave my usual note that Inoreader is, for my money, by *far* the best RSS reader for power users (and I’m pretty sure I’ve tried them all).

  7. Aaron Davis says:

    I recently moved from Feedly to Inoreader as I liked the ability to subscribe to an OPML file that I can store on my blog. I actually find my of me reading in my feeds, as opposed to social media streams.

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