After 15 years of blogging, building a readership of a million, a paid subscriber base of about three percent (30,000), revenue of one million dollars, and a paid staff of (slightly less than) 10, Andrew Sullivan (AndrewSullivan.com) stopped blogging on Feb. 6, 2015. He's giving it up to first, rest, because he's close to burn-out, and then pursue other forms of writing where he can take a longer view.
After working so hard to build a business, he seemingly walks away from a million dollars in revenue, and a loyal online community. I certainly don't blame him for wanting to escape the daily, or hourly grind. As one of his paid subscribers, I thought he was mainly guilty of over-producing: few readers who have a real life off-line had time to read everything his blog produced.
Sullivan, to me, represented the high-water mark of achievement for a personal blog. One now sees the toll it took on him personally. He was producing 40 posts a day, or one post every 20 minutes, seven days a week. He described himself to CNN Money in April 2015 as "in detox."
The experience, Sullivan said, was often dehumanizing.
"Here's what I would say: I spent a decade of my life, spending around seven hours a day in intimate conversation with around 70,000 to 100,000 people every day, " Sullivan said. "And inevitably, for those seven hours or more, I was not spending time with any actual human being, with a face and a body and a mind and a soul."
Sullivan said the job resulted in lost friendships and minimal contact with his family. He said his husband, whom Sullivan married in 2007, called himself a "blog widow."
No longer tethered to his computer, Sullivan said he's resolved to exercise and meditate each day, and to get eight hours of sleep. He expressed relief that he wasn't forced to cover the recent controversy over Hillary Clinton's emails.
"I couldn't imagine blogging the next election," he said. "I will not spend another minute of my time writing about the Clintons. Period. Or the Bushes."
Another blogging pioneer, Ed Cone of Greensboro, NC, who started daily blogging in 2002, stopped in 2014, though he continues to post occasionally. He wrote: "I still use this blog to store some things and (hopefully, eventually) will write or post some longer things here. On things that are well covered elsewhere and to which I have nothing of substance to add...I'm done. The zeitgeist does not need me, and I do not need it."
A once thriving online community of bloggers in the Greensboro area -- dubbed "Blogsboro" in 2005 -- has essentially dispersed. Some of them can be found on Facebook, in "Greater Greensboro Politics: A Forum for Civil Discourse." But many seem to have disappeared.
The early passion for blogging, for creating an online community on one's own platform, and for heated political debate, have clearly dissipated across the Internet. Certainly the tendency to divide into hyper-partisan, warring tribes and to simply score ideological points got tiresome. While I don't miss the vitriol, I do sometimes miss asking penetrating questions, and the challenge of answering others' penetrating questions.
The aggregation function of blogs like Sullivan's and Cone's has been displaced by the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, where anyone can post links to articles they find interesting; others can "like," or comment, and a viral meme spreads almost automatically.
Some have called recent developments "the end of blogging." What do you think?
- End of an Era (The Guardian)
- "I'm kinda depressed by journalism right now." Interview with Sullivan in Fall, 2014.
- Requiem for Blogging (Mashable.com). "Personal blogging for a mass audience has pretty much gone the way of the dodo...These days, if you have something to say and it won't fit in a single tweet (or a tweetstorm), you have so many more compelling options than blogging. You can post on Facebook if it's just for friends, or Tumblr if it's image-based, or on Medium if you want a think piece shared more widely, or LinkedIn, or any one of a hundred other sites and services that are thirsty for content."
- The Online Conversation That's Dying Out, by Ezra Klein. "Blogging, for better or worse, is proving resistant to scale...the bigger the site gets, and the bigger the business gets, the harder it is to retain the original voice...The cost of being unedited is too high."
- My observations here since 2004 on the Blogging Phenomenon.
- What's surprising, and a little depressing, as I move the best of my blog content since 2004 to thematic blogs on Wordpress, is the number of broken links. You may think that the best of what you read online will always be there, but most online content seems to disappear after just a few years. Some of it can still be found at archive.org.