Blogospheric Implosion?

by Scott McLemee on December 15, 2006

Last night I mentioned to my wife — a reference librarian at the Library of Congress whose areas of concentration include e-commerce and information technology — that the BBC website had just run a story headlined “Blogging ‘set to peak next year.”” Here it is.

Her response to this was a sound (one I cannot quite transcribe) conveying a subtle blend of disbelief, disgust, and world-weariness. It was not at all a matter of pro-blog parti pris; rather, it reflected a deeply informed disdain for the methods and presumptions usually involved in making such predictions. As usual, I payed close attention to her opinion in the matter. (Reference librarians have amazing powers.)

Some of the rationale offered by the futurologists at Gartner, according to the BBC:

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs…..

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the reason for the levelling off in blogging was due to the fact that most people who would ever start a web blog had already done so.

He said those who loved blogging were committed to keeping it up, while others had become bored and moved on.

“A lot of people have been in and out of this thing,” Mr Plummer said.

“Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they’re put on stage and asked to say it.”

Last month blog tracking firm Technorati reported that 100,000 new blogs were being created every day, and 1.3 million blog posts were written.

Technorati is tracking more than 57 million blogs, of which it believes around 55% are “active” and updated at least every three months.

Okay. But turning to Information Week, I read:

Dave Sifry, the author of that report, said he believed the slowdown detected by Technorati may have been due to a decrease in the number of spam blogs, or splogs. Technorati has been tracking. Either way, the rate at which the number of blogs doubles did slow in the third quarter compared to previous quarters.

In October, Sifry said that Technorati was tracking about 57 million blogs and that about 3 million new blogs were being added every month. According to Sifry’s calculations, that is about 100,000 new blogs a day, compared to about 160,000 new blogs a day in June. The blogosphere was doubling every 236 days, he said. From the second quarter of 2004 until the second quarter of 2006, the blogosphere doubled every five to seven months, he said.

“This change is primarily due to Technorati’s aggressive splog control measures,” Sifry wrote.

All of which serves as a reminder that (as the saying goes) it is very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.

Be that as it may….I predict that word of the Gartner forecast will circulate among print-media folk next week (so far, no sign of it at Romenesko yet) with a giddy sense of vindication that could never be translated into anything like a coherent analysis of why this will stop the hemoragging already well underway.

It won’t be rational. And the notion of causality involved (if only blogs would go away, all the ad revenue would come back!) will resemble that of cargo-cult members standing on their heads.

But what the hell else is there to do? So….throw your feet in the air, wave ’em like you really do care.

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Blogospheric Implosion? « Librarian’s place
12.28.06 at 2:43 pm



stuart 12.15.06 at 12:38 pm

Does that make you a “Peak Blog” denialist? Although I generally agree that its very early to be making such predictions, IT and the web seem to be spreading to a wider demographic all the time, so it wouldnt be much of a surprise to see a new rush at some point, rather than a peak in the next year or so.


John Emerson 12.15.06 at 1:03 pm

I don’t see the problem with the number of blogs doubling every three months indefinitely into the future. That’s just “Moore’s Law” all over again. E-reality is different than finite linear reality, and is unintelligible for minds trapped in the archaic failed pre-singularity paradigms.


Quo Vadis 12.15.06 at 1:48 pm

A more telling statistic for the future of print media would be trends in blog readership, not authorship. There is no problem with supply; there are more worthwhile blogs than I have time to read regularly.


John Holbo 12.15.06 at 2:23 pm

For my part, I have resolved not to start any more blogs for the time being. That should do something to slow growth overall.


rea 12.15.06 at 2:49 pm

“I don’t see the problem with the number of blogs doubling every three months indefinitely into the future.”

If there are really now 100 million blogs, and the number of blogs doubles every three months, then the number of blogs in 6 months will exceed the planet’s population. Other than than, though, no problem!


rea 12.15.06 at 2:50 pm

“then the number of blogs in 6 months”

Well, my math is wrong, but you get the basic principal . . .


Scott Eric Kaufman 12.15.06 at 3:02 pm

4: and are still available. Why not start your own empire?


John Emerson 12.15.06 at 5:16 pm

There’s really no problem with there being, say, a hundred billion billion billion blogs, or even many times more. They wouldn’t all have a big readership, of course, but most blogs don’t. With further developments in AI it should soon be possible for a bot to be designed which can read and comment on thousands or even millions of blogs every second.


Seth Finkelstein 12.15.06 at 7:41 pm

One should approach Technorati’s numbers with a salt mine. As far as I know, there is no independent validation of them. Not to say there are deliberately misleading. But unreviewed data should be regarded with suspicion.

One factor to consider in the discussion is possible confusion between “blogs in English” and “blog in the world”. It may be that the English-speaking world is much closer to saturation than, e.g. China.

Further, the “number created” statistic can be very misleading. With blogs being hyped so much, it’s going to take in everyone who decided to see what the noise is about, every academic who thinks it’s cool, every marketing person who slaps it on their website like a bad HTML tag. There’s a certain amount of self-feeding faddishness that can’t last forever.

Note blogs reaching saturation would not mean that print media’s problems are leveling off. It could be just the opposite. A phase of consolidation in online media could be even more trouble for print media.


derek 12.16.06 at 5:32 pm

agree with seth. To me, blogs as a phenomenon will get bigger if more people spend time reading blogs, not if more people spend time writing them. There are already a sufficiently large number of blogs that, if no one creates any new ones, but the number of readers the existing ones get doubles every three months, then the print media have more trouble than if new blogs with tiny readerships were being created.

They should pray that more new little blogs carry on being churned out.


Bruce Wilder 12.16.06 at 6:05 pm

I wonder how they classify the pages set up in connection with all kinds of social networking sites: myspace and youtube and flickr among them.

My sense is that blogging’s evolution still involves a lot of speciation, as the niches are not yet defined well.


Alex 12.16.06 at 7:20 pm

Technorati is another word for wrong. I have a RSS feed off’em that shows either: recent links to my blog, old links to my blog, Typepad/MT blogs that link to me as one link for each postpage, or none.

Anyway, even if the export of blogs hasn’t collapsed yet, it’s the moment at which HUMANITY and CIVILISATION! realises the END OF BLOG that matters, so I’m stockpiling fisk.


SLJ 12.17.06 at 9:21 am

Yet another Gartner report reaching a provactive conclusion that (surprise!) reassures paying customers and puts the Gartner name in the paper.

Yet another overpaid MBA quant-jock who confuses the map for the territory. They’re putting too much faith in numbers without paying attention to reality.

Fundamental error: it’s about blogging not blogs. The raw number of blogs may level off (or not) but the amount of blogging will continue to grow. It may be in group blogs, in places like myspace, or in other more sociable forms than the lone “me on my page.” Whatever the form, blogging is alive and well.


John Emerson 12.17.06 at 12:37 pm

Fisk require refrigeration and will start to smell once the power goes out.


Doug K 12.18.06 at 2:09 pm

I’ve been reading Gartner reports for over a decade now, and I cannot offhand recall a single instance of their predictions being realised. slj has the right response I think..

Gartner reports are best viewed as an elaborate quadrille between Gartner, PR, vendors, and journalists. Reality, that sad wallflower, wasn’t invited.

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