In some contexts, we might call this a midlife crisis. And based on the public reflections and re-evaluations I’ve been seeing for a while, I’d say blogging–at least, blogging as I’ve known it since early 2007–is deep into one. It crosses topical fields and has affected even the most well-established bloggers.
Many of us who consider ourselves “veteran” bloggers recall when it was a smaller world. We were interested in openness and honesty and thoughtful self-expression, no matter what we were expressing ourselves about. And because there weren’t nearly as many of us expressing ourselves, we found each other much more easily, and connections and community grew pretty readily as we did. We were figuring it all out as we went along, and when we did occasionally catch the attention of those outside our realm, they weren’t really sure what to make of us.
But the outside world caught on, eventually, and they saw opportunity–a new market. And in return, they offered opportunity–and when opportunity knocked, many of us answered, eagerly. And the doors of opportunity opened wider, and more bloggers came for the opportunities. Most of the later arrivals shouldn’t be called “opportunists,” in all fairness; plenty still came for the self-expression and stayed for the community. But still, opportunity expanded all around, and the balance of give-and-take began to shift back and forth at increasing speed. A free-for-all began to sort itself into winners and losers–and although it’s never been entirely clear how the cuts are made, the marketers (and the self-marketers) seem to come up on the winning side more often than not.
Certain events can crystallize the feeling that it’s all gotten out of hand, and few events do that like an off-line gathering of bloggers. The aftermath of BlogHer 2012–attended by 5000 bloggers–brought on the customary round of post-conference reflections, and one of the recurring themes was long-term bloggers questioning whether the conference–and by extension, the world of blogging as it is now–is a place where they still have a place. I’ve collected some of those reflections into a Readlist I’ve titled “Blogging vets and the midlife reassessment.” (The link still works, but I can’t confirm that all of the links within it are still alive.) (And BlogHer’14 is capping attendance at 2500, by the way.)
The book-blogger sector went through this self-assessment after the first BEA Bloggers Conference in May 2012. There was a strong sense that the conference (officially run by BEA for the first time that year) offered very little to veteran book bloggers for whom being the object of marketing has lost its allure; we’ve learned that “free books” do have a cost. We’ve also learned that “working with” publishers and PR folks (and trying not to work directly with authors, because that can get overly personal and awkward) leaves us less time to do things with each other. But there are so many of us now, fragmented into ever-more-specialized niches, that there are times when it’s very difficult to see us as one single “book-blogger community” doing things together any more.
And there are times I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The whole community may be too much for one individual blogger to navigate, but within that whole, most of us manage to find our tribes–and once we do, it’s the tribal bonds with other bloggers that keep us doing what we do.