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Random Thoughts: Changes in the Blogosphere

RT

When I first discovered that there was such a thing as a book blogosphere it felt like a very tight-knit group of bloggers, one that I very much wanted to be a part of. I put in my time, I spoke in my voice, I shared my thoughts about the books I read or wanted to read. I interacted with other bloggers, I made bookish friends.

At some point the community expanded and I discovered that I didn’t know – or know of – most of the bloggers that had joined the community. And I tried, but it got to the point where there were too many new bloggers joining, so I clung tightly to the group of bloggers that I did know. It was easier.

I also continued to follow those “celebrity” bloggers who started long before I did. Some with admiration and respect, some with awe, some with a mix of both.

But as time passed it was harder and harder to stay in touch with those blogs that weren’t in my immediate sphere. It was harder to visit even those popular bloggers as my blog(s) demanded so much of my time.

And as time passed I started to notice that some of those blogs that I used to follow, bloggers I used to interact with, had disappeared. Some found blogging to be not all it was cracked up to be. Some found the drama to be too much. Some found that real life took precedence over a virtual one.

Some started families, some fell out of love with blogging, some just up and disappeared without a word.

So one day when I looked around I realized there were less than a dozen of those original bloggers I got to know that were actively blogging. And of those original few, there was only one blogger I was still in touch with – a fact which has made me just a bit melancholy.

In the past almost-three years since I started this blog the book blogosphere has grown in leaps and bound. In the last year it seems to have exploded. There are tons of new blogs looking to make their presence known. Some strive for originality. Some are looking for popularity. Some want it all.

But with so many new blogs in the blogosphere it’s become harder and harder to distinguish one blog from another. It’s harder to find those blogs that offer up a unique voice, bloggers that do this for the sheer love of talking about books. It’s harder to sift through the blasts, blitzes, promotions to find those “must read” posts.

And it’s harder to find a blog to read without wondering what the agenda is.

While at one point the big question was, “Are they blogging for ARCs?” in today’s blogosphere the biggest question seems to be, “Are they blogging to make money?”

Ads fill more sidebars and post footers than ever before. Social media stats seem to be more prominent. Even traditional blog design has changed as more and more blogs incorporate featured image slideshows into their design to promote their posts and more and more blogs structure their sites like commercial blogs or websites.

As the focus shifts away from the love of books to the promotion of book and blog, the idea of community has begun to take a back seat. What was once at the core of the book blogosphere is now “take it or leave it.” And many choose to leave it.

With the chance to earn income through publicity and promotion, the not-always-friendly competition has gotten more cutthroat. When it’s dollars on the table versus merely books, the concept of community is left by the wayside in favor of every man for himself.

But is it a bad thing or is it just different?

While change is often hard to accept, not all change is bad.

A book blogosphere that can quantify its worth to publishers and booksellers is a good thing. Competition is good, when it’s healthy, that is. A blog that will allow bloggers to earn income so that they have a vested interest in continuing to blog is a good thing. And a larger pool of resources available to the growing number of authors is also a plus.

But the sheer numbers of bloggers, the vastness of the blogosphere, the number of “copy and paste” posts have taken away some of its soul in much the same way that chain bookstores did with independent booksellers. And those bloggers who put community at the top of their list of reasons for blogging are left wondering whether it’s still worth it.

It’s a question at the forefront of my mind a lot these days along with a few others, such as:

Am I an extraneous cog in a machine, one whose existence is irrelevant?

Am I clinging to an idea of blogging that I should just let go of?

Does my lack of interest in generating a profit from my efforts make me a sideshow freak?

And, as ever, does my single voice, in blogosphere packed full of voices, matter?

In my almost-three years as a book blogger there have been a lot of changes both good and bad. I’ve had many highs and quite a few lows. And it’s always been the community that has kept me going when I thought I couldn’t continue.

So, as I near that three-year mark, I find myself wondering what it is that will keep me going when I’m faced with the next obstacle. In such a changed blogosphere is there anything left to cling to?

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