Monday, 13 December 2010

Is the iPad culture killing blogging?

ipad culture

I’ve been quite vocal about the decline in the UK blawgopshere in the last couple of years, but I’ve suddenly started noticing a few worrying signs about our counterparts in the US. They’re starting to drop off the map, too.

It’s not just the half-hearted hobbyist bloggers though. Suddenly some of the heavy-hitters who have been lynchpins in the ‘sphere for several years have decided it’s time to reserve their energies for more meritorious ends. So what’s driving this sudden exodus?

For me, the biggest question is what has happened to the stream of new blood that was flooding in a couple of years ago. New law students are still enrolling each year, so where are the fresh-faced upstarts ready to pick up the slack? Granted, only a tiny proportion would have ever become bloggers, but when those that would have done so 3 years ago, no longer regard blogging as a worthwhile activity, we’re suddenly on a one-way street towards extinction.

So, what’s causing the well-established regulars to wind up, as well as discouraging newbies from trying it in the first place? Has the ‘blogging may prove harmful to your career’ message frightened off the few that would have otherwise laid claim to a small piece of the blogosphere? Given the huge amount of potentially embarrassing material people freely serve on up on their Facebook accounts, I don’t think that quite cuts it as an explanation.

Perhaps, it’s simply blogging itself. Have law students on both sides of the Atlantic suddenly decided that blogging is just a bit too ‘2007’ to be worthy of their time. Maybe they’re too busy updating their Facebook or Twitter statuses or harvesting crops on Farmville to even care.

But maybe there’s another phenomenon at play here. Something I’ve witnessed increasingly over the last 12 months which has seriously impacted web use and how the web is regarded. For want of a better term, I’ve dubbed it the ‘iPad culture’.

What I mean by this is that web-users, engulfed in a universe of social media, are content to consume web content and participate in social media rather than produce content themselves. Sure, they’re tweeting their thumbs off on a regular basis as well as checking their Facebook account every couple of minutes. They’re more than happy to inanely point their camera phone at a mislabelled item in a supermarket or at their latest culinary concoction and share it with the world. But sit down and write a blog post? No – that’s too much like hard work.

I guess we’ve been on that trajectory for a while now with the social media explosion. But the upsurge has resulted in the line between participation and content creation being blurred beyond distinction. Creativity is curtailed by participating in more instantaneous, shorter and superficial channels of communication via Twitter and Facebook for instance. Put simply, it just aint blogging.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone from law students, graduates and academics right through to seasoned practicing lawyers can all benefit from blogging. Blogging still has an important place in the social media family. It’s not entirely without risk, and it does involve a time commitment but the benefits have always outweighed the downsides.

Quite what the future holds for blawgging is anyone’s guess right now. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this current downturn and I am left wondering whether this is the beginning of the end – if only for student blawgs.

I really hope it’s not.


  1. I don't know if that's necessarily true, although a number of well established US blawgers have indicated they feel the same way. I'll be done with law school in 3 days (yay!) and have been keeping a blawg for 6 months now. I've managed to find a 4-5 really solid law school blawgers during this time as well.

    If you are ever looking for law school blawgers, I's suggest looking here:

    The question is how many will stick with it once the become practicing lawyers? I'd say the majority of law school student blawgers remain anonymous out of fears that it will hurt their job interviews, so they die once they graduate. Further, much of the professional blawgosphere has largely moved away from personal voices and into corporate blah, managed by social media consultants and marketers. For me at least, it has been difficult to find blawgers who I feel are using their authentic voice, and aren't just maintaining a blawg for marketing purposes.

  2. AM - Thanks for the feedback! :-)

    I'm habitually pretty gloomy and I've prophesied a slow, painful death for the UK student blawgosphere for a couple of years now. Thankfully, we seem to have plateaued a bit this year!

    I've been (relatively) active in the UK blawgosphere for nearly 4 years and I've been following around 25-30 US blawgs for about 18 months now; the 'sphere is definitely evolving but I guess that's to be expected.

    Teasingly Diverse recently decided to wind up, along with a couple of others, which largely triggered this post. Given that the US 'sphere has been pretty stable (compared to the UK's) I have wondered whether it was the start of a mass exodus. But my main concern is tied into the lack of new law student / graduate bloggers coming forward - particularly in the UK blawgopshere.

    I was playing devil's advocate a bit in the post, but I do think the way web use is evolving means that sitting down and writing a blog post is on the decline and blogs are struggling to find relevance a bit against the backdrop of Facebook, Twitter etc.

    And btw, thanks for the link. I'll check it out and see if there are any great ones I'm missing! :-)

  3. I always remember that Scott Adams (of Dilbert) complained that he found himself writing much less on his phone when he got an iphone — consumption rather than creation — because he thought that the keyboard was rubbish. I think it must be the case that people will do less long form writing if they're using things that make long form writing harder.

  4. Touch screens aren't great... but they're 100 times better than texting on a numeric keypad! :-)

  5. True, that's just a special kind of hell. There was a bizarre trend a while ago for "mobile novels" which was people who would write books on their phones and then sell them to be read on other phones. I was impressed they had hands left.

  6. Wow, I've never heard of mobile novels, but imagine the RSIs / carpal tunnel problems lurking for the 'authors'? I guess they brought it on themselves!

    I was always an embarrassingly slow texter with a numeric keypad... just didn't have the knack I guess! :-(

    It's a bit like the self service ticket machines at stations when you have to punch the code in... why they don't use querty keyboards rather than alphabetical is beyond me. Each user has to circle the screen with their finger 'looking' for the right letter like a 90 year old sitting down at a PC for the first time!

  7. I think I saw a feature on them in the Metro a few years back, I may have even been in school at the time. They were in Japan which is big on phones rather than computers. The keypad was what moved me onto Blackberry - I could tell mobile email was really handy but it was so awful to use.

    I never understood the decision to have a to z keyboards on those machines. I can't believe the designers have really decided to cater for the massive audience that hasn't seen a keyboard before. They should at least give you the option to switch to qwerty etc.

  8. I'm a few days behind the times on reading this post so most of what I was gonna say was already said in the back-and-forth comments >_<

    I did think it was interesting you pitched the newfound ease of consuming social media as a reason for the stagnating blogosphere. My instinctive reaction was that the ease of access would bring in *more* producers than we'd have otherwise, since folks who wouldn't even know blogs existed pre-iPad now are becoming connoisseurs.

    I agree with Keith (the Associate's Mind guy) -- my money's on the paranoia you mentioned about it hurting a career. Blogging is open to the world, but the fact people have to log in to Facebook gives folks a false sense of privacy.

  9. I'm going to lay the blame squarely at Twitter. I know for a fact Twitter has affected my blogging. You're too right Michael that tweeting is quicker, lazier, and therefore more convenient.

    I think as well these days, people are less willing to sit at a computer for longer than they absolutely need to.

  10. Adam - thanks for your comment. It's an easy trap to fall into I think, and I'm guilty of it to a certain extent myself.

    Btw, I not forgotten that site you flagged up a while ago and have a couple of posts planned around it for sometime in the new year.