Sorry to ruin your Thanksgiving, but a crash is coming. I'm not talking about a stock market crash -- though that could be coming too. I'm talking about a crash in blogs.
So eat that turkey, and be thankful for what you've got. I know that I am, and I'm in the blog business, too.
Predicting a "blog crash" may be ironic coming from an Internet blog site, but to be clear, I'm not talking the end of blogging, or professional business-to-business publishing models. I'm talking about a crisis in the commercialization of hobby blogs which have gone pro. After all, not a lot of them had business models in the first place.
The whole "blog" concept started as a hobby. It was supposed to be people typing on the computer in their pajamas late at night. Then it became a sort of business, fueled by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) AdWords.
As I've said before, the problem with hobby/personality blogs is they are a low-CPM (cost per thousand impressions) consumer publishing model. So, that's fine, if you can find a few million page views. If you're really good, you might be able to earn a living typing in your pajamas, attract a good following, and earn a paycheck with some ads. But hiring people and scaling beyond that is really difficult.
Recent chatter I've heard from folks in the blogosphere says times are getting tough. It starts with traffic. You see, apparently traffic is peaking out -- or even disappearing -- from many popular blogs.
To see an indication of this, take a look at some sites on Alexa, which isn't a highly accurate measure of traffic but can certainly give you a picture of the general trend.
It looks to me like the traffic on TechCrunch is flat, according to Alexa. GigaOM appears to be declining as well. And the controversial Techmeme, whose influence in the blogosphere is vastly overrated, isn't exactly growing like gangbusters, at least according to Alexa. And take a look at what Alexa says is happening to traffic at Paidcontent.org during a time at which it received venture funding and increased staff! Holy cow, I had no idea. What about us here at IE? Well, hey, we're really new, but this graph looks a bit better.
There's other evidence of growing discontent in bloggerdom. Even the famously protective "blogger club" -- that sycophantic mob of suck-ups that perpetuate the cycle by linking back and forth to one another -- is starting to get a little testy with one another.
Another simultaneous trend I've noticed from the many dashboards and data that I look at on a daily basis is the yields from Google AdWords campaigns appear to be declining -- or they're at least becoming more volatile and unreliable. It's all connected. Many people buy traffic from Google. Many people make money from AdWords. If the Google AdWords business gets tougher, everybody suffers.
Could it mean that the influence of Google might be topping out? (Gasp.) Yes, I think so. Check out the growth of Facebook.com. Clearly, social networking sites are a threat to Google's dominance. People, after all, are much better at conveying ideas than machines are.
What I think is happening is that the proliferation of blogs and social networks means that there are more and more places to go on the Internet in general. That generates more competition for people's time.
What's it all mean? I believe that we are in the early stages of a rationalization of the blogger business model, as they all come back to Earth and try to figure out how to make money, especially if they are subsisting on low CPM ads that require unsustainable traffic growth.
The great blog correction has begun.
— R. Scott Raynovich, Editor in Chief, Light Reading