Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on October 9, 2023.
You know when a blog about blogging asks the question, “Is blogging dead?” the answer is probably going to be a loud and emphatic “No!“.
But we will also be the first to admit that blogging has changed significantly over the years, so much so that the current landscape of blogging is significantly different from when most of us old-timers started 10, 15, and, in some cases, 20+ years ago (fun fact: the world's first blog turns 30 in 2024!).
So while it may often feel like the rug is about to be pulled out from under us at any moment, with new social networks changing where we can reach potential fans, search algorithm updates throwing everyone for a loop, and decaying reach all around, the simple truth is that blogging has always been an industry in flux.
We will be the first to make the argument that the golden age of blogging has ended, but, for most bloggers who weren't around to experience it, this may also be a good thing.
The Golden Age of Blogging is Over
Let's go back in time a bit to the golden age of blogging. Some may argue the age was in the early aughts, but we'd argue it probably was more around 2010-2015.
The first reason is that blogging, despite being about 20 years old at this point, was still in its infancy by current standards. Very few people had any idea what they were doing, even fewer were blogging in what we now consider a professional manner, and the industry felt a bit like the gold rush.
Social media existed, but networks weren't restricting reach like they do now. Getting listed on Google was more by chance than by design. Conferences, ebooks, and tutorials barely existed at all. And perhaps most importantly, creators simply found each other naturally through mutual passions over any business sense (I found some of what are now my closest friends through, and this is true, Twitter hashtags of all things). Things were coming together, but no one really knew what it was looking like just yet.
We did whatever we wanted, and occasionally someone would stumble upon something that worked simply by chance and start to grow massively- although no one really understood why. There was a lot of bad content (even by today's standards), very few people were making real money, but it was also a fun time to do what you love.
The first comment on my blog was from someone who randomly found me through a Blogspot directory. My first brand call was taken over Skype while I was in a $4/night hostel in Vietnam (I think I spent more on the call than I did my room that night), and they were blown away by “someone doing it!” even though my blog was getting, at most, 100 views a day (a partnership, of course, never materialized). When my blog hit 300 views a day, I remember people freaking out about how famous I was (I was not).
Blogging was fun then, and whenever you made a bit of money on the side, probably doing something a lot of folks now would consider was very bad practice, even better.
All of this began to change around 2015 as the industry moved out of its gold rush mentality and clear leaders in the space were emerging. Guides on how to use WordPress and plugins became more and more prominent. Best practices started getting shared and copied. Content started shifting away from narrative-driven blog posts to incorporating keywords for SEO and targeting what the masses want to read to begin with. General niches started becoming cluttered, and niching down started becoming a necessity. I could go on.
This truly hit home for me when I spoke at a conference around 2019 and a blogger who wrote more narrative-driven posts asked if my recommendation for growth is to write more practical articles with keyword research in mind. When my answer came back as “yes”, I knew the golden age was well and truly over. That blogger could likely have gotten by just fine on narrative-driven posts, if I am to be honest, but only because they already had a large following to begin with. Others without that established following just aren't as lucky anymore.
But you know what? It may be for the best, too, because today's landscape is still quite interesting.
Blogging is Different, Not Dead (The Good Part)
A lot of old-timers look back on the golden age of blogging with a bit of nostalgia for all the good times we had, but the simple truth is that most of us were flat-broke and not earning any real money at all. Good blogs closed as fast as they started, and a lot of them “failed” simply because they were ahead of their time and didn't wait for the industry to catch up.
Today, an established blog can make more money in an hour than some of us made in a day, week, or even a month a decade ago. A single sponsorship on Instagram or TikTok could even pay more than some were making in an entire year- all for one post! Social networks are even paying creators for content they were already creating simply because it generates reach. What!
All of this is possible simply because blogging and content creation is now a defined, and, perhaps more importantly, accepted industry in the digital landscape.
I often like to return to the gold rush example here because it fits nicely for where blogging is today. At the start, someone could roll up to a stream, put a pan in, and hit it big. This was luck, not by design. Once the industry flourished, that became rarer and rarer, companies took control of the active spots, and mega-corporations began to dominate the playing field. They make money by design, not luck. That certainly sounds a lot like today's blogging industry, doesn't it?
Where blogging diverges from this example is that the digital gold we are seeking is not a finite resource. Audiences move as social networks rise and fall out of prominence. New ways to make money appear out of nowhere as old ones disappear. Long-term dominance is never a guarantee but something to fight for. This is, as frustrating as it can be for some, a good thing for the industry.
A few years ago, I made practically no money on affiliates. Now, several companies have created solutions that pay my mortgage every month, and the only work I had to do to make that happen was install a script on my site in just a few minutes. A new blogger may be daunted by the overly competitive scene on Google, but could strike it big on Instagram and start making money almost overnight. Finding an audience, and more importantly, finding the right audience has never been easier, and with that comes the opportunity to make very real money.
But, as with everything, it is important to point out that easier and easy are two different things. Blogging, as always, is a challenge because of competition, the eternal state of flux the industry is in, and so on- and when any one door opens to make things easier, another one likely closes to make things harder. There is no 100% foolproof way to make money in blogging, but it is easier than it has ever been.
The bad part is that the industry is always in flux, and what works for blogs that start today may not be what worked for blogs that started months or years ago. The good part is this also means that there are thousands and thousands of data points out there of what worked for someone at some point in time. Some of these can be repeated by all bloggers. Some may be repeated by select bloggers. Some may no longer work at all. But you know who didn't have any of this when they first started? Those who grew up in the golden age.
So in this respect, despite all the craziness that blogging endures day in, day out, I couldn't ask for a better time to be a part of it as the knowledge that is out there is truly staggering. Most of it is likely irrelevant, but when you find something that works, buckle up for a ride!
Where is Blogging Heading in the Future?
To finish this one, I have to recognize that I am stating all of this from a point of privilege- I've been blogging as a career full-time since 2018 and been in the industry since 2008. I have benefited from many aspects of the industry that are now gone forever to new bloggers.
This industry is, and likely always will be, one in flux. Google could pull the rug out from hundreds of millions of blogs in a single update. Facebook could move fully to pay-to-play and kill many businesses overnight. Instagram and TikTok will, one day, no longer be popular as some new, flashy app inevitably takes over. A competitor could come along and really change the playing field for any given blogger, too. The old saying of “you can only truly own your website and your email list” has been one of the most consistently reliable pieces of advice given in my 15+ years of blogging.
The ever-changing nature of blogging is the only thing that is certain, and anyone who wants to play in the space needs to be keenly aware of this concern.
Do you make all of your money on Instagram Reel sponsorships? You better diversify. Do you get 99% of your traffic from Google? You may want to grow a mailing list. Are you in a precarious niche that could go away with a recession, pandemic, or war? You may want to start another site (I'm waving hello to all my travel blogging friends with our shared pain during the COVID shutdowns!). Is your niche getting too crowded with competitors? You may want to start doing things that aren't as easily copied to stay ahead of the curve.
There are reasons why I run five blogs and chose not to double down on my biggest one. The uncertainty that is our industry is one of those driving factors- variety often provides long-term stability.
I am ever the optimist about the future of blogging, however. Where we go remains to be seen (and likely requires its own dedicated post), but the only thing I can firmly guarantee is that the future is change. Whether any of us are actually prepared for it, on the other hand, we'll just have to wait to find out. But I have to admit I am excited to see what comes next!
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