Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lemming Tracks: The Continuing 'Death' of Blogging, Hula Hoops, and Getting a Grip

"Gawker and 7 Other Formerly Popular Sites That Are Dead or Dying"
John Brandon, Technology, (August 25, 2011)

"Sunny days sometimes turn dark and dismal. A shirt that looked good on the rack at Target now sits in the bargain bin at Staples. And, that new car with the Hemi engine and the third-row back-seat? It now drives like a crusty tank.

"The same is true of web sites. What seemed so fresh when you first registered now seems like a ghost town. What happened? According to Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg, site visitors routinely check the door to see if anyone else is leaving for better services. Like lemmings, they can pull up stakes and leave in a heartbeat. (Facebook, are you listening?) All you can hear are the crickets...."

The article - op-ed? - is an entertaining read, and informative. But the Lemming suggests not swallowing its conclusions whole. A little mental chewing might help prevent intellectual indigestion. Enough with that metaphor.

John Brandon lists eight websites that are on the decline:
  7. Blogger/Typepad
He could be right.

A lot depends on how growth or decline gets measured: and how that data is interpreted. The Lemming will get back to that.

Here's what Mr. John Brandon has to say about Blogger, and blogging in general:

"...7. Blogger/Typepad

"Blogging is dead – or at least it has shifted to another medium. Now, instead of typing several pages worth of material, most Web users just tap in a 140-character sentiment on Twitter. 'Long-form' blogging is not as popular, and we all know the jokes about the blogger in his parent's basement. Sites like and have declined considerably of late, dropping about 25-30 percent in user visits per Granted, some have discovered the streamlined blogging tool, which has enjoyed steady growth the past few years...."

"Blogging is dead"??

The phrase has a dramatic ring to it. If it sounds familiar, you follow the news. And maybe this blog:

Data, Change, and Hula Hoops

Change happens. It's one of the few things people experience that doesn't change:

"Nothing endures but change."
(Heraclitus, 540 BC - 480 BC)

Get a data set about something that covers a span of time, it'll be odd if something doesn't change. Sometimes the change is seasonal, or periodic in some other way: like breathing. Inhaling, exhaling, and repeating the cycle is normal: a vital, literally, part of the human experience. And that's another topic.

Growth, or lack thereof, is important to Americans. It's a cultural thing, the Lemming suspects.

For products and services, growth and decline can be seasonal: seriously, how many folks are likely to buy a snowmobile in the middle of summer? That's why you'll hear "seasonally adjusted" in business news now and then.

Sometimes growth is fairly fast, like sales figures for pet rocks back in the '70s. Sometimes a fad turns into a part of the culture, like the Hula Hoop.

The Hula Hoop is 'dead,' in the sense that production probably isn't at the 20,000-a-day peak Wham-O had, to keep up with demand back in the '50s. They sold about 25,000,000 in two months.

Folks just don't buy that many Hula Hoops these days. But they're still sold. The Lemming found Wham-O Original Hula Hoop in a Google Product Search, and has seen similar products in stores most summers.

Sugar Spikes, Fads, and Getting a Grip

Fads are fine, fun, and fraught with fortuity: also peril.

It's great news for a company, when their product becomes a fad. The 'sugar spike' of demand makes it possible for them to build factories, buy material, and hire folks to make enough troll dolls to keep up with demand.

That's the good news. The bad news is that if someone goofs, the company can end up with tons of custom-made equipment, loan payments coming due, and warehouses full of troll dolls - or whatever - that nobody wants to buy. Not at the a price that's enough to cover the company's expenses.

Turns out, blogging is a fad. Blogger, anyway. CNET put Blogger (1999) at #9 in its list of top Web fads:The list includes Hampsterdance (1998) at #1, and All your Base are Belong to Us (1998 - 2001) at #3.

Okay - Blogger may be a fad. Arguably, blogging is a fad: One that's peaked. That doesn't mean that either is 'dead.' The Lemming's been over this before:

"...The article hit, in the Lemming's opinion, on an important point with this: That folks may have discovered that blogging is '...too much work for too few readers....'

"Considering how much work writing is, it's amazing that so many folks stayed at blogging for so long. Blogging - any sort of writing - is work for the Lemming, too....

"...It's unlikely, in the Lemming's opinion, that blogging is 'dead.' Changing, yes.

"As for fearing that 'nuanced' communication is done for? The Lemming remembers quite a few of the 'good old days.' And, as I've said a few times recently: they weren't."
(December 16, 2010)

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