RealTime IT News

Google's Take on the Future of Blogging

Don't tell Google that blogging is dead or passé. The company continues to invest in Blogger, its popular blogging service and sees a bright future ahead.

Earlier this month, Blogger marked its tenth anniversary and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced some upgrades and new features today as part of a birthday celebration.

"Blogger's done quite well, but we want to reinforce to the community how vibrant it is," Rick Klau, product manager for Blogger, told InternetNews.com.

Among the additions being announced today are an iPhone application from InfoThinker. The company plans to release a free "lite" version of its BlogPress app in the next few days specifically for Blogger and the iPhone.

Also specific to Blogger is a new "After the Jump" feature that lets authors split posts into teaser sections for the home page and full posts on permalink pages. Finally, Google announced a SocialVibe gadget for bloggers to facilitate support of charities.

Users of Blogger can make money participating in Google's AdSense ad distribution network. Klau said Blogger users make tens of millions of dollars per year through AdSense, and more than that through other monetization programs (Amazon Associates, affiliate programs, etc.).

He hinted of new partnerships to be announced in the next few months that will expand the revenue opportunities for Blogger users.

The news come at a time of growing interest in social networks like Facebook and real-time information sources like Twitter. In fact, the growth of those services has left blogs, in some observers' view, as more an old school form of Web communications fading in popularity.

Klau strongly disagrees and has some numbers to back up the claim.

"We see services like Twitter as complementary to Blogger," he said. "You can build a presence on Twitter, but there are times you can't communicate what you want to in [Twitter's] 140-character limit."

Ironically, Twitter might never have been created without Blogger. Blogger was originally created by a startup called Pyra Labs in 1999, which was purchased by Google in 2002. Evan Williams, a co-founder of Pyra, went on to become a co-founder of Twitter.

A new blog every second

Google has just released some figures on Blogger use that does show impressive growth. As of this month, Blogger has over 300 million active readers versus just over a quarter of million at the end of 2003 when it was purchased by Google.

Klau says Blogger is the leading blog platform (Movable Type and TypePad are two other popular ones) with hundreds of millions of pageviews per day. "There are more blogs today than ever," he said. "On average, there's a new one created every second of every day."

Joseph Turow, associate dean for graduate studies at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks blogs have a distinct appeal, as do micro-blogging services like Twitter. "They are both incredibly useful," he told InternetNews.com.

Turow uses Twitter to communicate unusual or breaking media-related news that the follows. He also writes a blog that is aimed at people who use his textbooks.

"What's happened is blogs have become institutionalized to where we don't always look at them as this separate thing called a 'blog.' Is the Huffington Post a blog? Or the New York Times Bits? Yes, but I don't think most people think about them as blogs."

Charlene Li, founder of the online strategy firm Altimeter Group, has written about social media in her own blog for over five years.

"What we've learned about blogging in the past ten years is that a lot of people can do it, but that doesn't mean they're all very good," Li told InternetNews.com.

That said, Li thinks blogs are an important communications medium.

"There is something very special about a blog, particularly when you're trying to reach a specific audience," she said. "A blog is not a status update, it's a considered work. And they've evolved where you can have photos and video or a combination. There's an editorial process that goes on in creating a blog that makes the good ones compelling."

Li agrees that blogs and services like Twitter are complementary. And as social networks evolve she says what we think of as blogging might be subsumed.

"Will we call it blogging in the future? I don't know. When people say blogging or e-mail is passé those are things people still use that's actually growing. There's more interest in the newest shiny object. But what blogging did was start a culture of sharing we see in the social networks that's going to continue. "