Once a month FBC’s Managing Editor, Melissa Hartfiel, weighs in on the latest trends in food blogging and digs into some of the bigger questions.
There has been much made about "the death of blogging" over the last year in the on-line media world. Is blogging still worth it? Does anyone read blogs anymore? Has social media replaced the blog?
There are stories of companies getting rid of their blogs to only write on Medium or fashion bloggers who don't have blogs - just Instagram profiles.
A blogger can start to feel like an out-of-date dinosaur if they're not careful!
And then ... Instagram made an announcement last month. They were going to be testing a dreaded algorithm.
That's right — they would be choosing where images appear in your feed. This came hot on the heels of Twitter making a similar announcement and Pinterest letting users know that they would also be making changes (not long after stripping affiliate links from pins without warning and introducing the "smart" feed that has taken the joy out of browsing Pinterest).
Regular users, who just enjoy the platforms as a fun place to hang out, and bloggers and brands who use the platforms to build traffic and increase sales, all let out a howl. Some Instagrammers even went so far as to implore their followers to subscribe to their accounts on Instagram's notification service
The Curse of Success
As frustrating as these announcements are to us all, we can't, for a moment, be surprised by them. Facebook has been keeping marketers and users on their toes for years now with changes to feeds — all, according to many, designed to "sneakily" force us to pay to ensure our content shows up. When Facebook purchased Instagram that should have been the first warning shot that changes would be coming. When Instagram rolled out paid ads, that should have been the second.
But no, instead we happily kept working away, building our audiences and social reach on the platform - sometimes at the expense of our other channels.
But the reality is, Twitter and Facebook are publicly traded companies; they have to earn a profit to keep shareholders happy. Apps and websites like Pinterest and Instagram are shockingly expensive to build and maintain. Monetization has to happen to ensure survival.
Don't Build Your House on Somebody Else's Land
The lesson here that we never seem to learn is that building your business on somebody else's real estate is a risk. Especially when you don't pay any rent! At some point, the landlord is going to have pay the utility bill and come looking for some cash from the people who are leaving the lights on all hours of the day.
As bloggers, we should sympathize more than the average user. We're up in arms the moment somebody asks us to work for free. And yet when Facebook says "Can we have $5 to promote that post for you so that you can get lots of traffic and max out your ad revenue and up your sponsored post price?" we all say "How dare they! They tricked us into building this big following on their platform and then took it away!"
There's no point in crying — nobody owes us anything in this situation. We knowingly built our audiences up on these platforms, used them for marketing and built our businesses around that. For free.
Let me repeat that: for free.
But nothing is really free. We got the opportunity to build up our audiences and increase our social reach without paying a dime so that these social platforms could increase their sign-up numbers to the point where they have a user base big enough to be interesting to investors and advertisers.
Remind yourself of this every time you sign up for a new platform. We're not saying you shouldn't sign up. We're not saying you shouldn't build up your audience. In fact, we encourage it; it can result in some healthy revenue. But it comes with risk — the risk of having limited access to that audience at some point — unless you're willing to pay for that. You must appreciate that fact as you build your business.
So Is Blogging Dead?
All of this leads us back to the first line of this post. I don't think blogging is dead, or even close to dying. Transforming, yes. Dying, no.
Building your business with social media can be very successful, but it should never be the only place people can find you. Because as we've just talked about, you don't own that real estate. But you do own your blog, especially if you self-host it. Your blog should be your base of operations, your home, the place to steer people back to if at any time one of your social channels dries up. Want to host a dinner party without worrying the lights are going to go out? Host it on your blog.
And if earning an income from your efforts is your primary goal, you should never limit yourself to one stream of revenue. Even if you have multiple streams that are all based on a rented platform, you're still putting yourself at risk.
So, own your real estate. Create a home that only belongs to you, and protect yourself, your content and your income. It's your insurance policy in a volatile rental market.