The Pew Research Center's most recent internet study suggests that the popularity of blogging is shifting between generations: declining among Millenials and younger users, and increasing among Gen-Xers and older cohorts.
The rise of microblogging and the incorporation of status sharing features on various social networking sites may account for part of the decline of stand-along blogs for the younger group. But blogging has increased to 16% from Dec. 2008 (10%) among Gen X. And younger groups appear to be reading blogs more than other groups. This information has prompted some to question whether blogging has reached its end (see here and here). But Wired's Ryan Singel has a fantastic post that offers the opinion we may be burying blogging too soon. He argues:
the central vision of blogging — give citizens a nearly cost-free online printing press and let them make media — hasn’t died, even if many people find that it’s too much work for too few readers to write up their trip to Greece or opine at length on Sarah Palin or the indignities of Comcast customer service.
Singel proposes instead that we view this data as evidence of the ways in which communication is shifting, rather than the demise of a platform that is largely defined by methods of sharing.
The Pew report also reveals that overall, users are turning to the web more frequently for news and health information. While micro-blogging and status updates are great for instantaneous information, it's difficult to get the entire story in 140 characters. I think what we'll find is that there has to be a melding of media, and that these shorter bursts will provide the leads to longer blog posts and online articles. It may increase the need for a solid hook. We seem to be processing information and seeking it out at faster rates, so we're more selective about where we go for the big picture.
If the concern is that the younger web users aren't writing as much as older generations are then I have to say that we're perhaps getting ahead of ourselves. I don't suddenly see a society where have to wade through shortened text and slang to find meaning. We're still in the stages of understanding how media is changing and what options that makes available to us. With the immense amount of data at our fingertips, I can see how shortened forms of communication are necessary. We need to pay attention to the ways these changes shape our cognitive abilities, and the impact they have on critical thinking and nuanced understanding. Perhaps we'll see a future where the news is created instead of deployed—that is, generated by the people on-site rather than reporters. Why not crowdsource the news? It may be more accurate! All I'm proposing is that there are possibilities that haven't been realized yet. So let's not box younger Internet users into a particular stereotype that limits them before they've had a chance to figure out how they want to use, save, and share the information available to them.