If video killed the radio star, will Facebook & Twitter kill the blogging star?

There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about the impact that the very recent mass adoption & use rate of Facebook and Twitter is having – or will have – on “old school” blogs, like this one.

Since I’ve been blogging regularly at the same domain (two, actually, but they both point here) for about seven years now, I think I have a pretty good body of anecdotal data with which to consider the ramifications to traditional blogs and bloggers from the social media tipping point that arrived in the past 18 months, you know, when seemingly EVERYBODY IN AMERICA  suddenly joined Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

Here are my observations, from my own blogging experience, as well of from my actual blog analytics, which I’ve observed over the years:

  • Post Facebook/Twitter tipping point, I find that I am more likely to take an interesting idea and use it as a pithy, quick hit on Facebook or Twitter rather than turn it into an actual blog post.  As a result, my blog is now less  “sparkly,” for lack of a better way to put it.  My personality, humor and day-to-day activities now seem to end up in my Facebook and Twitter status udates  (friend me on both!), while my actual blog posts these days tend to be more like short form essays, dealing with more high-concept topics and issues.  And that’s not necessarily a good thing in terms of my blog being the primary platform where people actually get to know me.  However, to be fair, that shift over time in the tone and content of my blogging here isn’t entirely due to Twitter and Facebook.   In my own case, as a very early-adopter “mommyblogger” who has been doing this a long time,  some of that evolution away from so much “here’s the funny thing or the really painful thing that happened with Katie and her kids today” blogging has come as H, J and E – the “blogged about” –  have gotten older.  They now have vetting power over any blogging I ever do that references them in any way.  And although they have generally enjoyed having a mom who is a writer/blogger (or at least they have enjoyed the food and shoes that the writing has paid for over the years), they are no longer okay much/most of the time with me relating some specific, funny thing  that one of them says at the dinner table.   At age 4 or 7, they didn’t care.  As middle schoolers and teenagers, they do.  And I totally understand that.  So as the big kids in the family have gotten older, I have also become more cognizant of the fact that at a certain point, their childhood stories are THEIRS to tell, in whatever way and to whomever THEY choose.  If I am the only one telling these stories – via my blog or through essays published elsewhere – and I do it before they ever get a chance to run their own memories  of our family life through the sepia sieve of hindsight, they will never get a chance to remember things, or tell things in their own way.  I want all four of my children to one day sit around a table together, laughing and sharing memories of their childhoods and our home life,  debating who is remembering this Christmas morning mishap or that day at the beach correctly.  I don’t want my blogging to replace their memories to such a degree that they don’t have those wonderful, “remember when” conversations that adult siblings have together. Of course, C is still young enough that I can exploit her for commercial gain for a good long time yet before she objects (I kid! I kid!) While I do believe that all of the writing I have done (and will still do) about our lives together will one day offer a wonderful adjunct for their own memories – a sort of digital scrapbook or diary – I never want it to replace what they remember and believe and want to talk or write about.  So yeah, Twitter and Facebook HAVE changed my blog’s content, but they aren’t the whole impetus behind those changes over time.
  • In the past 18 months – since Twitter and Facebook hit the big time – my blog’s traffic (meaning how many visitors I get and how often they visit) has remained steady or grown, but my comments have dropped DRASTICALLY.  This is the biggest impact that Facebook in particular has had on my blog. I used to routinely get dozens of comments on most blog posts.  Lately, I am lucky if I get 5-10.  I can see from my analytics that more people are visiting my blog year over year, and are hanging around and reading multiple posts, and then returning for more on a regular basis. But my blog readers are now much more silent.  Very few comments.  I believe that this is almost entirely due to Facebook. The people who used to chat with others or debate things or talk about what I’d blogged that day in the comments below each of my blog posts now have those conversations on Facebook instead.  In fact, when I publish a new post here at this blog, a link to it automatically goes to my Facebook wall (I use Networked Blogs for this).  I can see from my traffic stats that lots  of people are indeed following the Facebook link and coming here to the blog to read the post.  That’s the good part of Facebook’s impact on my blog; the bad part is that they then wait until they get back to Facebook to talk about the post, and they do it in the comments below the link to my blog post…on Facebook.  I love hearing from people about what I write – whether that’s here on the blog or over at Facebook.  But I do really miss having a volume of comments here that made my blog feel more like a real community than it does currently.  With all of the comments on my content happening over at Facebook,  my blog – which is very dear to me after years of sharing my life here with readers who have held my hand through good times and bad – feels a little dead, a little empty. And that really does bother me.  It’s not that I want more comments for the pageviews they generate – I am getting plenty of pageviews  – but post-Facebook tipping point, my readers are sort of silent here at the blog.  They come and go without saying hello,  sharing their own stories,  or telling me who they are and how they found the blog. I even miss some of the “heated” (that’s one way to put it!) disagreements among readers that were a common occurrence back in the day (the day being all of the years I blogged up until 2009.  And yes, I do blame Facebook  for that. Damn you, Facebook, and your comment-sucking ways!
  • Traffic growth for my blog in the past 8 months-12 months in particular has been primarily driven by Twitter and Facebook,  rather than by search engines.  I used to get A WHOLE LOT more blog traffic from search engine queries, some of them very bizarre (You don’t want to know some of them. Ick. So disturbing to look at one’s blog analytics and realize what people are out there searching for.)  In fact, some of my favorite longtime readers/commenters originally found me when they typed something into Google or Yahoo or even AskJeeves (yes, I have been blogging for THAT LONG!)  that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Example: What do I do when my child’s pet Python escapes and is loose in the house?”  But the search query somehow landed them here, at this blog. And then they stayed, and then they came back again and again.  And then many of them started joining in the conversation in the comments below my posts.  But lately, my search engine traffic is down precipitously, while my referrals from Twitter and Facebook status updates and wall posts – my own and those from other people referencing me or my blog – are up to a huge degree.  When I get some free time (ha!), I need to sit down, and with Jon’s help, try to figure out what’s going on with the SEO issue on my blog, because the change has been incredibly dramatic over the past year.  I want to figure out if there is any clear correlation between Facebook’s explosion and the fact that it appears to me that fewer people are searching for topics that used to be the bread and butter of my search engine traffic – things like breastfeeding advice, co-sleeping stories, etc – the kinds of search queries that used to be a huge driver of women and moms to my blog.  My suspicion is that women are now simply asking these sorts of questions in their status updates, and then letting the info come to them via their network of friends and friends-of-friends on Facebook.  Instead of going out to find the info, they are attracting the info they need directly to them from people they already trust and “know,” at least to some degree. That sort of high-influence information carries much more weight with a woman wanting to know what high chair she should buy than some blog post that I – a complete stranger – wrote about my preferred high chair brand, and which she then found with a totally impersonal Google search.

So those are a few of my observations regarding how Facebook and Twitter are impacting my blog and my blogging.  I’d be really interested to hear from other bloggers – particularly those of you who have been at it for more than two or three years.

You can leave your thoughts, ideas and observations in…..the comments below 😉

Jon & Kate Gosselin: TV stars tailor made for the age of mommyblogging

From my essay at Babble today on Jon and Kate Gosselin, and the ways their TV show mirrors the online popularity of momblogs:

The “it could happen to me” factor means that, despite our protestations, we are now even more enthralled with the Gosselins’ ordinary lives writ large than we were back when all they had to entertain us was a demonstration of how they sorted their weekly recycling.

johnandkategosselintwins

And I suspect we would have the same perversely heightened fascination combined with public condemnation if the world’s most popular mommy blogger, Heather Armstrong of Dooce suddenly stopped blogging about Leta’s favorite breakfast cereal, and instead starting publishing pictures of herself sunbathing in a bikini in her front yard, or writing about how she and her husband had decided to take up swinging.

You can read the whole essay RIGHT HERE.

Do I get a cape? Or at least a coupon for a half-off mojito?

This is kind of neat.

Babble.com, where I am one of the featured, front page bloggers, made Nielsen’s “Power Mom 50” list of highest influence parenting blogs & portals.

I feel so very lucky to get to write for Babble, with its incredibly smart & super nice editors who make my work better every time. And I love reading Babble’s great, provocative writing from a wide variety of voices and points of view. Last I heard (not sure if my essay made the final cut), one of my pieces for them will be included in a soon-to-be released Babble anthology.

My relationship with this fabuloso publication continues to be a highlight of my writing career thus far. Thanks, Ada, Gwynne, April, and everybody else at Babble, and congrats on your continued success! (Also, I can’t wait to read Babble Editrix in Chief Ada Calhoun’s forthcoming book on Gen-X parenting.)

And congrats to all the other awesome bloggers who made the Nielsen list. My personal favorites among the group are BusyMom and FinSlippy. Of course, some of the very best parenting writing in the country – writing in general, actually – takes place every day on the tens of thousands of “mom blogs” that aren’t on that list. There are so many incredibly talented women writers blogging out there. They may not make any sort of media list, but these bloggers attract lots of readers and commenters and community around their fantastic voices and sensibilities. And this reminds me; I really need to get cracking on getting my blogroll repopulated with all of my favorite blogs. My complete list got eaten when I moved to this new blog template and domain, but you can see some of my favorite parenting bloggers over there in the list to your left. Check ’em out.

What’s it like for kids whose mothers write about them?

People ask my kids all the time whether they mind having me write about them. I ask them that myself on a regular basis, and over time we have renegotiated what topics are okay for me to write about, and which ones are off limits. But overall, I think they like the fact that their mama is a writer, and that they basically have a narrative history of their lives as children that they can keep forever. And sometimes they like to do things like E did this week – taking two books to school for show and tell – books with essays in them written by me, about him. That’s pretty neat for him.

But anyway, this week, my friend Ayun Halliday’s daughter India had an essay published about what it’s like to be the daughter of a writer who has closely chronicled her kids’ lives in print and online. You should check it out; India is a pretty clever cookie (and super cute, too!).