The end of Metblogs

image from Metblogs was a national network of local blogs. The idea was that in each of many metro regions, someone or some set of people would be recruited to write local content, largely for free. The whole network would be run on advertising revenue, and user generated content would fill pages with fresh, relevant, hyperlocal content.

From Metblogs series finale:

[U]ltimately the downturns in advertising and dwindling interest in blogs in favor of social networks and twitter have made the business unsustainable and we’re closing the doors at the end of May.

The metblogs network never intersected with my world, so I don't know whether this is just the passing of time or some kind of deep-seated, widely felt loss. Their stats:

Detroit Metblogs: 2,218 posts / 3,722 comments

which I have to compare with Vacuum, just to give some sense of scale and scope (since 2003 when I started on Typepad):

2229 Total Posts, 2033 Total Comments

There's all kinds of business models that have to change with time. I can only say that because I lived through the era when modems ruled the Internet, and then after that when they didn't. So it's no failing to have started something that was a good idea at the time and then discover that times have changed and your idea doesn't have a neat transition to the current day.

Some parts of the Metblogs network died a bit earlier. This 2008 post on the situation in Portland signals what happens when founders intent, advertiser interest, and core contributor passions don't line up:

There could still be hope for Metblogs. My suggestions of public journalism, open comments and revenue sharing to attract quality writers were met with hostility when I floated them before. Metblogs could be a voice in the Portland digital media milieu. But most likely it will quietly fade further into irrelevance.

Here's their official going out of business notice.  Here's a feature about them from WordPress, the platform that they had used.

Noted on Twitter by Valdis Krebs, who asks

starting to see the end of the "blog phase" of the Web? Or just the assimilation of another "form" into the whole?

If blogs are being assimilated, what are they being assimilated into?  If they go into newspapers, you get editors and deadlines and a hesitance to be interested in everything in favor of something narrower and more marketable. If the blogger becomes a diarist, then the novelty is writing for the world but not the form itself. Perhaps some bloggers are just frustrated talk radio hosts?  There are lots of possibilities to be assimilated into another established media form and not to create some new art form.

Another relevant touchpoint is the end of Arbor Update, which closed down after a 6 year run.  In my requiem for Arbor Update, I note that it gave up the ghost after many of its contributors who were also regular bloggers stopped blogging regularly.  This suggests a life cycle for blogging that matches what used to happen on Usenet; a cadre would form, start writing together, and then at some point their lives got busy or they got out of grad school or their public writing style needed to be formal and they left en masse.

I'm sure there's some epidemic model of when blogging stops, which would say something similar to the Framingham obesity study – when your friends stop blogging, you are likely to stop blogging.  It's not that any one thing got in the way; it's just that the cool kids had a million followers on Twitter, and the eyeballs of the media buyers were diverted toward how you could be more like them.  Or it may be as simple as not seeing eye to eye with a handful of people who are core to your effort and not being able to restart once they leave.


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