Today’s culture values, no, expects immediacy. And the latest technology is only strengthening the psychosis of now. What we see with Twitter and the “real-time” web is a world where information is old in minutes instead of hours (as if hours were so terrible). Like the blog, tools like Twitter have shattered the traditional channels that information traveled. In some ways, the real-time web has even challenged the importance of the blog or at least the way many have used it.
For more than several years, early adopters have relied heavily on RSS and aggregators (machine and human driven) to act as their sources for news and information. Lately, however, these sites contain stale content compared to the trove of links and breaking news in the stream of micro-blogging updates. As a result, the stream for early adopters has for the most part, replaced those sources. People don’t want to read today’s news tomorrow. More apt is that they don’t want to read this morning’s news at lunch.
Bloggers have felt this change and adapted accordingly. Many simply spend more time on Twitter. Others have changed their cadences to put out shorter, more timely posts. The big blogs have soaked up larger and larger numbers of writers to keep their content fresh and relevant. But that’s just throwing people and processes at a larger issue — most blogging platforms aren’t built for the real-time web.
Most but not all. Posterous, for example, is gaining significant traction because of how quickly and easily it facilitates getting content to the web. And like Tumblr, it deals with different types of content very well, be it text, photos, videos, or MP3s.
Perhaps the important difference with these systems though, is that overall, they encourage a blogger to be less constrained. For example, not only can posts of all types of content be created by email, each content category is presented in a unique way. Posting an excerpt to an article feels OK because it looks different than a full blog entry. The same goes for photo or video updates. Ultimately, bloggers can more quickly get up content and feel more comfortable posting shorter amounts and different types of content, knowing that an entry won’t look empty even if it doesn’t have all the trimmings of a “traditional” blog post.
Whether faster and shorter posting is a positive change, is a question for another time. The point now is that these new entrants are powering an evolved sense of blogging. But not everyone can play. Most particularly, while Posterous, Tumblr, Amplify, and other platforms are emerging, the existing tools, such as WordPress, TypePad, and Blogger are not adapting quickly enough to the real-time web.
There are two larger implications to this situation. The first is that new bloggers have a very attractive, lightweight, up-to-date, and media-friendly alternative when determining what platform to use. For someone who is not tech savvy, the simplicity offered in a choice like Posterous is a no brainer. Secondly, some established bloggers are making the switch. Steve Rubel is probably the best example, leaving his Micro Persuasion blog for his lifestream on Posterous, all in the name of staying agile, relevant, and keeping up with the stream.
Comparatively, the tried and true blogging systems look bloated next to these upstarts. They are beginning to feel outdated, as was using Dreamweaver or HTML to manage a website, during the rise of content management systems.
- Faster and more ways to post: Provide simpler and more ways to get content on the web. Think Posterous for emailing any type of content to create a new entry, Tumblr’s iPhone app, or Amplify’s Firefox add-on to excerpt an article.
- Better native media support: Handle all types of media better. For example, these platforms should have built-in media players for MP3’s or videos.
- New content types and presentation styles: On the real-time web, not all entries are going to look like this one. In fact, most won’t. Bloggers need to be able to specify the type of entry they are creating (e.g., article excerpt). The blogging system should subsequently have a styling element that corresponds to it.
- Simplified, lightweight versions: Time to get back to the basics. The navigation and dashboards for WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger, and other platforms have become complicated. There are way too many options, especially when compared to the new entrants.
While the established blogging players decide if they want to adapt to these changes, the new entrants have the opportunity to continue to lure the digerati to their systems. Posterous, for example, offers the ability to import an existing blog from WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and other popular systems. To reach the more stubborn bloggers, there’s also a strategy for these upstarts to try and somehow integrate into the existing platforms through plugins and widgets. In this case, they can offer a taste of their real-time features without the commitment of migration or having content completely outside their domains.
The web is changing (again). Blogs will either adapt to the speed and mobility of the real-time web or become another feature of website management software.