10 Latest trends that should worry every blogger!

Are the good time for blogging over? Do you think or feel the relevance of blogs is on the decline? This post is a thought on this topic. Do read and let us discuss.
I have noticed (through tools like similarweb) that monthly visit for many popular blogs in India are going down, compared to an year ago. I did speak to many bloggers in person recently- many admitted the drop in visitor counts despite the usual activities like regular updates, social sharing and so on, while a few didn't notice any significant change or eve had an improvement. Of course there would be a dozen factors contributing to a blog’s success/failure but I feel the primary cause is the fundamental shift in the way users behave now, compared to how things were 5-10 years ago. Below are some of my observations- shift in internet usage pattern that is adversely affecting bloggers. Do read and share your thoughts.

1. People don’t want to research anymore- they just ask!
A decade ago internet was used extensively for research. People would use browsers, search for what they are looking for, go through multiple websites till they find the information they need. Now a lot has changed. People don’t spend much time researching- they just ask- on Quora or FB etc. For example even for fairly simple and straight forward stuff like- “How much baggage is allowed on Indigo Flight” or “what is the distance between A and B” many users don’t want to check on airline website or on internet for existing answer/info- they would rather add a new question on Quora or put it as a status update and let others respond with an answer. This is very convenient and saves time, so many don’t care to spare a few moments and check if the information they need is already available.

I get many queries from people about travel plans- when the query is generic, I give them the link to my blogpost on that topic and ask them to go through it and revert with specific questions, if any. From what I have observed, most never return. They probably go and ask someone else, who might be willing to give them customized answers.

This "I'll post my question and let the world answer" trend is bad for blogs and websites as organic reach goes down. Plus it adds more repeat content to already overcrowded internet. Of course, I can’t say “Don’t ask questions” but my thought is, with so much content already in internet, we should make an effort not to add duplicate content. Try to make use of existing stuff, add more only if it doesn’t serve a purpose or if you have something unique to add.

2. Too much time spent on facebook: 
All of us are spending most of our internet time on facebook- it has become such an addiction. What this means is people have no time or interest for things happening outside of facebook. A link shared on FB may get lots of likes and few comments within FB, but most won’t care to click, go to external site and read the content fully. Even FB tries various tricks to ensure its users spend maximum time within faecbook. Facebook wants everyone to pay and boost, hence won't give a blogpost shared the organic reach it deserves. Even when we boost, most engagement is a mere 'like'- many like stuff without even reading- to me engagement is if people click and read the post or share it- which is almost negligible even when boosted [Read my FB boost experience] This directly affects bloggers.

This is bad for internet as a whole-allowing one company to dominate our lives is dangerous- it kills other smaller companies/businesses on the internet and allows facebook to control us- what we see, what we read and so on. I believe it is in the general greater interest of internet we should cut down our time on facebook and spend on other things on internet.

3. No one has time to read- it is the zamana of videos and stories.
I think the appetite for reading long content is vanishing. Everyone want it short, crisp, preferably visual. It is convenient to watch a video on mobile while traveling in train, than read a blog post. So this is bad news for bloggers who don’t have a video content. Data cost is no longer a worry as it was 5 years ago.

This is made even worse by thousands of SEO focused, keyword stuffed articles- instead of keeping a post crisp and to the point, most blogs elongate it for 1000s of words, hoping to get better visibility on the search engine. But for a human reader, finding key information he/she might be booking for gets tougher if the article is unnecessarily long. Within first few seconds if they don't get the confidence that this blog is worth reading further, they will close and move on.

4. Google’s reduced importance to blogs
From what I sense, google isn’t crawling blogs as frequently as it used to do earlier. Or it could be that there’re too many blogs now to crawl. Due to exponential surge in number of blogs in recent times, as everyone wanted to be a blogger, be popular and make money, Google is flexing its muscle to deindex poor quality domains and blogs, put in place stricter rules to decide which blogs show up where in a search result and so on. This is a further blow to blogs whose main source of traffic was through search results. Even if a blog shows up in search, patience levels of users is all time low- if the blog doesn’t load within a second or two, or if they can’t find what they are looking for within first few seconds, most will close the page n move on to next result, hurting bounce rate.
  
5. Bloggers harming themselves through poor quality content
Blogs are supposed to be a journal of first hand experiences, high quality contents, reviews and a source of trustworthy information that readers can make use of. Blogs are supposed to provide insights and information often not disclosed in advertisements or not possible to explain in a product brochure. But with too many blogs and too little quality control, many blogs have become dumping yards of guest posts, press releases, sponsored posts, marketing/advertising materials without a personal touch or honest review. Naturally readers don’t find enough substance in such blog posts to warrant their time. This make them rely less n less on blogs and hurts even good blogs and blogging community overall in the process.

6. App controlled life
Today everything happens through app. Food order, taxi booking, movie booking, news and so on. Again this has reduced usage of browser. People don’t search online much- like say best movie in town or how to reach XYZ or hotels in ABC City and so on like it was the practice earlier- instead they open specific apps on their smartphone- this has further reduced discovery of blogs or websites through organic reach.

Should bloggers have their own App? Ami Bhat has an app for her blog. I had created an app for this blog 7 years ago using an API given by Nokia [Details] But not very sure how successful the apps for blog will be- blogs don't offer a transaction or service like taxi booking- a user can't install individual apps of each and every blog he/she may wish to read- that will be too many apps, too may notifications. Do share your thoughts on this...

7. Search engines keeping traffic themselves
  • Google often shows content of a website within its window, claiming original website is slow to load or internet connection is weak
  • People can see and copy google images right from search results, without having to navigate to website that hosts the image.
  • Lots of utilities are now built inside google results- like forex conversion, local time and so on, eliminating need to go to any website for this info
  • Often websites that syndicate content get higher positioning in search results, denying visibility to original site that published the content
  • I’ve often seen facebook making it inconvenient for me to leave FB app and open a URL- asking me to login into facebook on chrome and so on
8. Convenience over savings
Our parents generation- those borne in 50s, 60s were extremely careful with spending- they compromised on lots of comfort, convenience and luxury to save every possible rupee that was spend on giving us best possible education and facilities. Our generation (those born in 80s, 90s) had a taste of internet revolution, access to various products and services and reasonable financial freedom- we did indulge in some spending occasionally on luxury, comfort and experiences but still maintain some vigil as to which one is expensive, which one is worth etc. We do check for some reviews, feedbacks and spend once we’re satisfied that this product/service is worth it at this price. The younger generation- the millennials seem to value comfort and convenience a lot more over savings. Consider this.
  • Swiggy inflates restaurant menus and makes its customers may much more than what it would have cost to walk in and eat. Many are aware of this but are either don’t care as they find it convenient to order on app even if it is expensive or too lazy to do anything about it or find an alternative. [Read more]
  • Amazon n Flipkart regularly hike original price to show increased discount, but most shoppers don’t seem to care
  • Uber/Ola manage to get customers despite 3x/4x surge prices-as many prefer convenience and comfort than finding a cheaper alternative.
  • Even expensive phones costing 30-40k manage to sell in lakhs of units within minutes through the techniques of creating hype and flash sales
Thus a blogger writing extensive detailed reviews may not matter to most younger consumers who simply don’t care to read so much before a purchase decision. May be a short photo/video may have a better impact w.r.t brand recall and many make their decisions based on convenience, 'cool factor' of a product and the image it may give to its owners. Concept of 'value for money', durability, real need/worth etc are secondary.

This means customers today have a different set of needs and priorities, not all of which can be met by conventional blogs.

9. Everyone wants your content, but no one wants you to leave a link to your blog
Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor everyone wants you to contribute by providing photos, reviews, tips from your visit, travel etc. But no one will allow you to leave a link to your blog on that topic. We spend to travel and collect information but are expected to provide everything for free to these sites. A link to blog post that has all the details- photos, videos and so on is often useful to readers of these sites who wish to know more- but most sites have a blanket ban on links in reviews, irrespective of how relevant it is. Countering spam is the official excuse but in reality they don't want their readers to leave their site and go elsewhere.

10. AI powered bots & virtual assistants
More and more Virtual Assistants are being used by individuals, who would use these things to delegate a task- like Order Pizza, Book a movie and so on. These virtual assistants like Etho, Siri, Ok Google don’t care to read any blogs. They do their action-like booking or ordering using their AI algorithm which won’t have any consideration for blogs and would deal directly with websites/apps providing a service- even less audience for your blog posts.

What do you think about all these?
If you’re a blogger, has your traffic been steady or going down or going up over past 1 year?
Do you think blogs will lose their relevance in another 5-10 years?
What can bloggers do to recover? Do share your thoughts.

What can be done?
I don’t have concrete answers, but below is what might help to some extent.

1 Build a secondary profile?- if you were dominant on blog alone, build and nurture another secondary profile- may be quora or Instagram or Zomato etc. This secondary profile would get you some reach, visibility and be able to complement your blog activities. Diversify and reduce dependency on blog.

2. Stay put n wait for better days?- past few years, thousands of people have become bloggers overnight, hoping to gain some publicity and make money. As it dawns upon them that it is not that easy, most of them will abandon blogs and move to more greener pastures. Then hopefully less quality, non serious blogs will make way for more serious, better quality blogs and reliability and interest in blogs may get revived.

3. Build email subscriber base?- I think this is crucial to maintain a regular base of repeat visitors- but too many emails will also annoy users-not every reader is interested in reading all your posts as soon as it is published. So pushing too many emails may also backfire.

4. Support each other?
A good way will be to link to other bloggers, do occasional cross posting on each other’s blogs etc- this will help both bloggers. But I know this is easier said than done.

5. Advertise? This is exactly Facebook n Google want us to do- spend our money to promote our blogs on their platform. FB Ad will get lots of likes but these likes are practically useless as very few people will care to click on the link, read your post. Liking is easy, might even be done by some click farms to give a sense of false engagement to advertisers. Killing organic reach and forcing content owners to spend is core to how FB makes money. I don’t think it is an effective way but I could be wrong- if it works for you great- do share your thoughts.

May be the concept of blogging has reached its peak. Every concept/product will have its ups and downs and things do get irrelevant over time, more so if not adapting to changes. May be there's no immediate danger for blogs but will they continue to have relevance 10 year from now? Something we need to wait n watch and be ready to evolve with the times or adapt to changing social media dynamics.

What do you think? Are there more causes? Do you think these aren’t affecting you and your blog viewership is growing at decent phase? What is the way out?
Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Similar: 12 Years of Blogging * A decade of blogging-SWOT analysis * Relevance of blogging- my talk at LIBA 8 years ago * Sponsored posts- how much to charge *

52 comments:

  1. Very good post! I have decided to put focus on mediums. Insta/Facebook/Stories/Tripoto. I dont know if having an app helps at all. The economy for blog posts has indeed changed. It can be a great document for archiving and thats the expectation we need to have. The mode of research has also changed. The majority of traffic are still package tourists, and the ones who research will go to clickbaity listicles with better SEO or paid traffic. So what's left is a much smaller audience for blogs. People also want information quick, so the way they get it is also throuigh video since cost of bandwith is lesser over time. why blog when you can video is their thouight.

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  2. My page views drop only when I don’t post regularly and I don’t think similar web and google analytics show the same numbers - I see a variation in mine at least . I personally think people have to understand that blogs are like magazines or newspapers or websites - we are all publishers and we need to look how publishers , both digital and traditional stay relevant . Even Times of India or The Hindu have to advertise to boost their circulation or reinforce their brand . You also need to make your content relevant to the audience today while maintaining your brand

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    1. Thanks for commenting. Yes similar web and analytics have different ways, but we can't access everyone's analytics but it is possible to check traffic of a website using similarweb- not accurate but gives an idea/relative view

      Thanks for your opinion and tips

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  3. I haven't been getting as much western reader as I used to get earlier and regular traffic keeps fluctuating. May be all your points are valid or may be I haven't been that consistent in my blog updates

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  4. All valid points that you have raised. For us, a big realisation that things have changed happened with a conversation, not analytics. When we told these guys in their 20s that we were bloggers, their immediate question was, "on Instagram or Youtube?". We were shockedat this response. When we said website, the look we got was what grandparents get when talking of old times!
    Having said that, blogs sure do need to evolve. A blogger needs to know what exactly they are doing, and why. And what added value the reader gets that a social media channel doesn't give.

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    1. Yes, text blogging doesn't excite many these days. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips

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  5. Very true sir. All the points are valid. FB and Google are interested in making more and more money. As you have written, it is better if we cross post in each other's blog

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  6. The attitude of " When there are too many fools around to reply my post when ask for brilliant questions like where can I buy my underwear" why should they waste their time in googling and researching for information? That too when an opposite sex questions.. answers will be more detailed. Cant do anything with this "Tom Will do' attitude.

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  7. nice post... loved point number 4 :P

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  8. Excellent post, Shrinidhi. Can relate to most of the points. It definitely seems a bit worrisome for bloggers.

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  9. Valid concerns there! With the arrival of new media like Instagram and YouTube that enables more visual easy access to information, times are indeed challenging for bloggers who rely solely on their blogs and the content provided there. I feel we need to keep our focus on providing good quality 'unique' content, look out for ways to add value through our content on other popular mediums (I like quora) and remain curious about the entire process of transition and evolution that we are going through.

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  10. Very well written post. Agree with your points.In fact, I many times find out lot much information in Google map reviews of location rather than browsing the internet.

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  11. Very well written post brother. I totally agree here and in fact have been seeing such a decline. Facebook is completely dead unless you boost if I compare it with old odd days. It is very difficult to grow with content. I live to write, I am a shy person who does not like to make a video or get in the frame of the pictures, it feel with videos, stories and insta taking over original concept of blogging is going to be dead. As a part time blogger, I cannot focus more than what I already do with a job to support my family :) ... Yes, apps like Quora are killing the Q&A on blog too as it is convenient to just ask your questions there and lot of people will reply (many of them I see from Travel Agents in terms of travel)

    It is difficult time and more difficult to hold on to continuous hard work, but may be your point on others moving to greener pastures in time to come still provides a ray of hope to keep doing what you love, keep blogging.

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    1. Yes, same with me. With a full time job, there's only so much I can do on blog. Focused on good content all the time- haven't focused much on link building, SEO etc- have to see how this takes shape in future

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  12. Competition has increased multi-fold over the recent years. I have stopped updating most of my blogs because, although the traffic didn't reduce, it didn't increase either - in spite of regular blogging! Getting into the top ten spots of Google is proving more and more difficult, esp. for the posts created over the last few years.

    I am focused on creating a business model where e-commerce/direct selling will be the main source of revenue, instead of advertising. A blog will be used to just spread the word.

    Blogging for passion will always live for anyone who loves to write and connect with similar-minded people! That's why I will continue to update my personal blog :)

    Destination Infinity

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  13. Great Post. With each wordpress update, the robots indicate some problem with the crawl and the ranking reduces for the blog. I have a few things that can be tried as solutions which might work for some bloggers for a few of the issues. 1. Use frequent questions posted on fb/quora as blog post titles (and write about them). Many do a quick google search before posting on these forum, so its better to get them in the beginning. 2. you can create micro content specially for FB and link online publications for readership that FB ranks higher than your organic content. An expert explained this to me once but I am yet to try it out. 3. being a part of communities in your niche and participating in blog hops and challenges gets not only traffic but also has potential for cross linking and partnerships.

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  14. i appreciate with your opinion thanks to sharing your experience with us

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  15. Some pretty solid points you shared. I think blogging is evolving like everything else. Although I am now seeing a slight rise in Google searches after my blog hit the 2 year mark. But the millennial generation is a concern. I think it all boils down to the kind of content a blogger shares. Even though newspapers are out of fashion now, there are still a lot of people who read newspapers. What I don't like what some bloggers do is to use click baits to garner more views. The ethics have come down to a great extent.

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    1. Thanks Johann. Yes it is a wild game and unregulated space, so many have their own shortcut to success.

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  16. Excellently analysed. Yes, I have been on Twitter(anonymously) for long time now(since it was started) and have seen talented commoners evolving into bloggers out of passion and giving a run for money to journalists.I regret starting late as a blogger owing to unavoidable personal issues.
    This said, everything has boiled down to 'projection' and 'marketing'which in turn has seen a rise in vlogs and Insta posts.
    And,I strongly feel that this trend is transitional. Good content backed blog posts will surely last long!

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  17. Very logical points discussed that reflects some truths of virtual world, its very much true that people are much interested in videos and finding the answers in short time, some people really have the notion that blogging can take them to huge earning without much effort and they have go for it...
    Suggestions are very helpful. An well researched post.

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  18. You have discussed very important point in this post, as I am new to this field , I think I would get a chance to learn from my senior fellow.

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  19. This is a very important topic of discussion.People want shortcuts.They think the universe owes them something.As a blogger I think we are in an unique position.Quality will help you standout.Otherwise its bye bye.

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  20. Well thought out post and great points there. It's true that a lot of people are putting their travel questions out there hoping to get easy information from the crowds. Great use of technology and modern day communications, there.
    But then again people who prefer doing research before a trip still go and do their research, don't they? (even with the questions they put up).

    Building up a quora profile is a great idea. (y)

    Point 7 - spot on!!

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  21. One of your best posts. :)

    All valid points that you have raised. Being in the same boat, I also feel so. My two cents here.
    What went wrong? A lot of things.
    People don’t have time and various platforms serve them instantly by replying to their queries. One more reason could be that information they get is the latest.

    Ease of data usage on mobile has made things worse for serious bloggers. Yes, now people are looking for more visuals and readymade stuff. But not everybody is comfortable in front of camera.

    You have nailed it when you say, bloggers are harming themselves. So many bloggers in short time and it looks like there is a rat race and everybody wants to come first. In the melee, the quality is going down. Some have understood that it’s not a rosy path to blog full time and earn livelihood, so they’re selling other stuff to survive. We have seen them selling from coffee to cafĂ©, tours and other stuff. Here, Also they do a lot of sponsored posts for peanuts, hence spoiling the market. Instead of helping the community, they’re actually harming it. If someone is here for quick money, serious blogging is certainly not for them.

    Fully agree on platforms not allowing you to share your links on theirs and the reasons for it. I hear you ! :)

    On virtual assistants, now bloggers have started hiring VAs to write blogposts, comment on their behalf, do their social media and so on. Where’s the personal touch and experience gone?

    Having said all these, I still believe blogging is going to stay though these days it has taken a dive. It’s evolving and going to evolve further. We are going thru tough times. Sharing each other’s contents and helping each other will go a long way. We need to know what more value we can provide the reader at one place that a social media can't.

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    1. Thanks Nisha for the detailed comment. VA hiring by bloggers is new to me.. thanks for the info

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  22. I would like to share my comments in two parts -
    As a blog writer/content creator - Too much glamour-isation of blogs and bloggers has made everyone be wannabes and there is too many posts that are sponsored and give-away oriented. I have been trying to go through some of the Indispire posts on Indiblogger, and I found a lot of them to be total bakwaas, but they got good ratings/rankings due to ring voting and things like that. I did not like it and decided to stop attempting to participate in such topics. Too much fluff and froth is camaflouging the good bloggers out there.

    As a blog reader - The killing of RSS readers killed the sustained subscriber readership and related engagement- I myself was a consumer of so many text blogs, today even if i want to get back to reading/tracking them, there is no easy means to do so, and thereby I have dropped off from those blogs.

    Also, the consumption pattern of readers has undergone a shift with visual content apparently looking more attractive, but the changing demography is hurting the actual 'readership' more because millenials are simply too lazy to 'read' through stuff. Being too used to snapchat and instagram kind of an environment, content without visual component seems bleak to them. That is why page views/blog visit counts are not increasing.

    About what to do - I am sticking to my conviction and writing away as I believe that inspite of visual medium, textual medium has its own strength and that cannot be diminished by a few years of fads. The new platforms are running behind creating the next fad, and the thing about a fad is exactly that - it is born to die out soon.

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    1. Thanks Vatsala. Good points. I think everyone agrees visuals rule. I also hope text stands strong

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  23. Precise analysis. I think this is a general commentary on the times we live in!

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  24. While I agree to your first point that people do not want to search answers for simple questions, I strongly feel that readers now-a-days are more independent while traveling - as in, they are building their own itinerary and planning their own trip as supposed to what it was 10 years back.

    So, if we write content that is tailor made for people who really want solid trip planning content, then there is no turning back - traffic will follow.

    Coming to the point of videos, these are attractive but do not churn out essential travel information which is core to travel planning and execution. It is nice to see videos and learn about new places. But when it comes to real itinerary planning, blogs are what people turn to.

    Again, here, generic blog content like top 10 things to do or an description of a particular place does fairly well. But what makes the blog of today work are - elaborate guides to certain places or itinerary posts. These will definitely help readers who are sitting down in front of their computers to carve out an itinerary and do solid, fool proof plan for their upcoming vacation.

    How do I know this? Coz I am a person who likes detailed planning and literally dig out information from every corner of the internet. So, by sourcing information from various sources, I did not want my research to go waste. So I write elaborate posts essential for trip planning.

    Just by doing so, my traffic grew from 4k pageviews in July 2017 to 25k pageviews in July 2018. (I am a very lousy person who writes max 1-2 posts per month and had I concentrated enough, I could have grown it even more)

    People are certainly looking at blogs, we just have to deliver what they are looking for.

    P.S: Your point about blogging demeaning their own value is up to the point and should have been number 1 in the list. Lots of good bloggers are losing value or not able to claim the respect they deserve due to these poor content walas who bringing down the value of bloggers and blogging industry.

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    1. Thanks for such a detailed comment Ashwini.
      Agree listicles do well in search results. Congrats on your pageviews growth. Best wishes for more. Of course we need to evolve and cater to changing needs of readers.

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  25. This is a good food for thought for all bloggers. You've summed up the changes happening through this decade. FB rules! And what most users are engaged in are videos, presentations and animations, no matter what the subject is. FB allows automatic play of the videos wherein users are not even expected to make a click, making this media highly addictive. However, like how printed books carry its own worth inspite of kindle books and PDFs, blogs shall continue to live, though the percentage of readership is sure to dilute over the years.

    A few of my observations:

    In the last 8 years, the top source of traffic for my blog was organic search. In the last two months, pinterest has overtaken oragnic search with no additional effort to build on Pinterest traffic. Somethings around point # 7 is definitely happening.

    Not all internet users are readers. There are more people who look for information and inspiration than a good read.

    Thanks Shrinidhi, this is the need of the hour discussion for the blogging community.

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  26. Very true, I agree with all what you said in your post, especially with the social media thing. Even after posting good content, good images, while keeping the post timing in mind what we get is nothing, nobody wants to give at least a look to that post if it is not offering something. At last what we see is an notification for boosting our post because efforts done are not enough to reach our target audience.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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