Why Blogs Matter

I admit it, I’m spoiled. I’ve been reading news feeds in one form or another for more than 10 years now. Starting with a customized My Yahoo! page and moving on to newsreader platforms like Bloglines, Google Reader and now feedly, I’ve been able to follow my choice of authors and news sources covering an eclectic range of topics that I find interesting.

The big news organizations have created gorgeous news and magazine apps, but I’m not interested in the latest misadventures of some spoiled celebrity nor am I a big sports fan. The topics I find interesting are often things the media ignores. As a result I have turned to blogs for a lot of my news. Through blogs, I got war news from the Soldiers who are fighting it, how-to instructions from the developers who created the app and research tips from experts in their field. I also get local news that even my local paper doesn’t print. Few of the people I follow would be considered “objective” reporters. Instead, they have a passion for their causes.

Until the iPad came along, my biggest concern was the ability to “process” a large number of news items quickly to find and read the interesting articles. Now I combine Twitter, tumblr and feedly with apps like Flipboard to create a delightful reading experience that’s always ready for me when my schedule allows me to relax and enjoy some pleasure reading.

What I get out of all this is an informative and interesting reading experience customized just for me. Why? Because of a simple and inexpensive online writing platform called a blog.

Blogs are so easy to use that anyone can be up and running in a matter of minutes. There’s little to learn so writers can focus on their story and not how to build it. Yes, learning a few blog basics will improve the look and feel of an article, but even those lessons are quickly learned. As a result, the story tellers can tell their stories, the knowledge experts can share their expertise and the newsmakers can keep us updated in real time.

The next best thing about blogs is their construction. Blogs are designed to travel.

Travel?

Blog platforms were built with syndication – as in RSS – in mind. This means anyone can subscribe to any blog using their news-reading platform of choice and each time a new article is published, it is automatically delivered to that reader.

Using newsreader platforms like feedly and the WordPress app, I can organize and manage any number of subscriptions to create a customized reading experience that matches my interests. And, like I said earlier, a whole new collection of devices and applications are now making my reading experience as beautiful as it is informative.

It’s not just readers finding blogs either. Search engines and news aggregators are finding them too. Once again, the structure of the blog platform makes them very search-friendly and when authors add keyword tags to their posts it increases their visibility even more. This gives unknown writers opportunities they might never have otherwise. Family historians have found blogging is a great way to attract cousins. With blogs and news reading apps, there aren’t any gatekeepers limiting access to content. The reader now makes that choice.

The information junkie in me is lovin’ every minute of it!

Reprinted with permission from Moultrie Creek Gazette.

Are Blogs Declining?

Blog traffic dropping? Are social networks the cause?

Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, has some thoughts on why so many blogs are seeing declining traffic.

The dominance of mobile usage, social networks, and YouTube, plus attention-competition from apps, are the real problems for web publishers and blog writers.

The social and app revolutions haven’t been purely additive — much of the time people spend on those now has come at the expense of…

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Are Blogs Declining?

Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, has some thoughts on why so many blogs are seeing declining traffic.

The dominance of mobile usage, social networks, and YouTube, plus attention-competition from apps, are the real problems for web publishers and blog writers.

The social and app revolutions haven’t been purely additive — much of the time people spend on those now has come at the expense of search, RSS, and bookmarks.

Every hour we spend on Twitter or Facebook instead of reading and writing elsewhere is just making this worse — and I’m as guilty as anyone.

Social networks have powerful benefits and are here to stay. But like any trend, we’ve swung too far in that direction for our own good, as both producers and consumers. I hope the pendulum starts to swing back soon, because it hasn’t yet. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, if it ever does.

If we want it to get better, we need to start pushing back against the trend, modernizing blogs, and building what we want to come next.

Absolutely! I recently read where Google’s search results will soon include tweets. You can’t tell me that won’t reduce blog stats even more.

I think one good step in that direction is installing Disqus on your blog as your commenting system. That way we can build a social network puts the focus on our blogs yet lets us carry on conversations across them all.

Are your blog stats declining? Do you think social networks are the cause?

Family Tree Magazine’s Hit Parade

Best Genealogy Blogs badgeFamily Tree Magazine was the first “mainstream” genealogy entity to recognize the potential of genealogy blogging when they included bloggers in their  101 Winning Web Sites article back in September 2007. Soon bloggers got their own list – the Top 40 – and Family Tree Magazine has spotlighted bloggers in many other ways too. Genealogy blogging has become a force in the genealogy community and Family Tree Magazine has done a lot to “raise the volume” of our voices. Thank you for that.

It was a great honor to have my Family Matters blog recognized in that first group and over the years Family Tree Magazine has introduced me to a number of other fascinating and informative bloggers. I am no less honored that Moultrie Creek is included in this year’s Top 40. Even better, I see a lot of friends on the list and several blogs that are new to me. I look forward to including them in my daily reading list.