One of my favorite writers who covers the societal implications of technology, Seth Finkelstein, is shutting down his blog after 11 years. The closure of Google Reader this morning, which will cost bloggers a huge chunk of readers who follow them over RSS, was the final straw:
It's been clear for a long time I've considered blogging to have been a failure, for me. I'll skip reciting again my delusion. In sum, while I treasure the occasional indication that someone has enjoyed something I've written, the practical matter is overall, the net effect on my life is that I have much more to lose than I have to gain. I'm reaching the same tiny audience over and over, and squeaking in a basement does nothing against those who shout from the rooftops. More importantly, protesting from below has been sadly useless when being trashed from the top.
Finkelstein's a much-needed voice in tech because he's allergic to BS. As an admirer of his writing I hate to see his site close, but I can't argue with his premise that the rewards of running a personal blog with moderate traffic aren't high enough to justify the effort. Blogs don't receive as many comments as they used to, and the amount of conversation a blog post attracts elsewhere seems to be dropping as well. Now that millions of people have social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, they have a place they can comment with home field advantage. They don't need to play on the road and respond on your blog.
With low comment counts and low reach on other sites, if you aren't making money on ads or promoting a business, the only reason left to blog is the joy of writing. There are other ways to scratch that itch.
(I'm still publishing Workbench because I enjoy having it around. I've convinced myself there's still a sizable quiet audience here, just like political activists who always think there's a silent majority out there that shares their beliefs.)
Finkelstein was a terrific columnist for The Guardian from 2006 to 2009, and I'm hoping he finds a new platform for his thoughts that's more rewarding.
To give you one perspective on how costly the loss of Reader will be to bloggers, here's how many of my current RSS readers on three sites are coming from Google Feedfetcher:
- Drudge Retort: 11,861 of 15,449 subscribers (76.8 percent)
- Workbench: 780 of 1,242 subscribers (62.8 percent)
- SportsFilter: 245 of 687 subscribers (35.7 percent)
Feedfetcher includes both Reader and iGoogle users. I could just have lost half my RSS readership. I hope none of them are the silent readers who keep me going.