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The blogospheric bubble

May 2, 2007

Every “revolutionary” new technology or fad has  a defineable lifecycle, often most clearly discernible in hindsight.    Oversimplified, these all probably chart out as forms of a bell curve with variations of ramp and perhaps a pronounced plateau which in some cases may lie below the one time peak.

Let’s consider some examples briefly of how new technology enters and changes the scene, rises in prominence, shifts to more of a niche or limited use, or fades into obsolescence in some cases.  

Consider transatlantic transportation.   People and cargo used to cross the ocean by sea, first in sailing, then powered ships.    Then, with the advent of air travel,  virtually only bulk cargo travels by sea.  While cruise lines still exist, they have evolved into a niche – they are a recreational activity instead of a mode of transportation or a way of business life.   Contemplate communication, which evolved from written correspondence carried by hand over sea and land, to that dispatched bywire, first by telegraph, and later phone, and now wirelessly by radio.  As each new technology emerges, connection becomes more pervasive, immediate, and rich in content. 

Now consider how these waves of change affect our society’s thinking, the way we conduct business, and live ourlives.  How did our thinking about the future chage during the internet fueled stock market run up from 1998-2002.  During the plaeau or saturation stage, everyone was abuzz with “paradigm change” and “new economy”.   Many people really believed in the magic and invested millions into the market, placing bets on just about any company that did something on the web – be it fiber, hosting, middleware, applications, advertising, media.   Then came the downward side of that curve and the sell off as the fog of enamorment of the technology lifted and consideration of fair valuations and realistic profitability returned.

Comparing the lifecycle of ocean liners, the telephone build out, and the dot com bubble must seem like comparing apples to ostriches to jumbo jets, but I’m trying to illustrate that all these technologies, and how people relate to them, and integrate them into lifestyle and the economy have a demonstrable lifecycle.

I think the blogosphere will have a lifecycle as well, and there are a number of ways we could look at this.  We could look at the technology of blogs and how they are published, really as extensions or simplifications of other kinds of web presence.   More importantly, I think we should look at them in terms of a type of media and the influence they create for a time.  As such, perhaps I should have chosen to illustrate the lifecycle of other media forms – the printed page, radio, TV.   Each of those rose to prominence, peaked and then declined to retrench in still prominent but less universally dominant roles within our society.   While the focus on blogging, whether personal, corporate, or media, is still on the rising slope, it is driving change.  New companies are springing up to help businesses understand what is out there, what is being said, and how to get into mix.  Companies are evolving to use this new medium interactively.  I predict that this will peak and plateau when a saturation point is reached.  Newspapers and magazines go online, then add their own blogs.  When do their blogs converge and comingle with the mainline stories?  Who do corporate PR execs target their releases to?  Do they want a headline story or a blog written about it?   It seems to become a blur.   Eventually the novelty will wear off, and so many people will have blogs that the sheer volume will become untenable.  Many of the masses will move on to the next shiny thing, and on the falling slope there will likely be consolidation and retrenchment.    This, will occur in terms of those still blogging, those being read, and those services which remain because they exist.  

Even in eventual volumetric decline, I believe blogs and various permutations will continue to exist just as wired phones do today.   I remain convinced, that like all other technologies, this one too, will have a lifecyle.   There might be value in being able to predict the general shape of that lifecyle, and to understand what the signs are at the onset of the plateau, and the start of the declining slope.  There are prudent business moves to be made at these points.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2007 1:06 am

    Excellent insight, Mark.

    I think you have hit the core of this right on spot. I absolutely agree that the blogosphere will face the cycle you describe, and that the peak might come sooner than later.

    That being said I think blogs hold a quite particular quality in them: they are personal, they are a sharing tool. Yet, as you state, saturation is the main issue. It is impossible to keep up to date with all blogs around, it is even impossible to keep up to date with the ones you have interest in!! Sheer volume might tear this thing apart.

    The other thing is how blogs will evolve. I think “video” will become increasingly popular in the form of Vlog, yet it will never reach the size of “written” blogs (at least for non-corporate and non-media blogs); since most of us don’t have the will or the skills to sit in front of the camera.

    Web is a socializer, and I don’t see that fact changing in the short term (unless governments go berserk and try to block about… everything). If it is social networks, blogs, vlogs or whatever new thing we might see in the future, that shall remain the force behind it all (and what will shape business in the near future) for some time.

    As technology becomes cheaper one of the things to watch is how the net inserts itself in more and more households. The interesting thing is that on the web we all have the same potential, weather you are an individual or a corporation you have the same chances to reach the masses.

    Blogs (and web in general) will evolve, everything does. We’ll have to keep our eyes wide open to identify those things that are on the left corner of that chart, get into them and enjoy the ride on the curve!

  2. July 8, 2007 3:46 pm

    Hi

    I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don’t have anything to say recently.

    G’night

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