Alongside the reputable blogs, the work of writers, academics and specialists, the new medium gave a much neglected but vociferously opinionated demographic a voice. Step forward the bigots, the ill informed, the deluded. Publish and be damned.
The number of blogs is mind boggling. China alone has over 78 million (see: How Many Blogs Are There? Is Someone Still Counting?) but it looks like there has been a sea change in this last 6 months. A kind of evolution has been in operation and if nature is famously “red in tooth and claw” then the virtual word is equally unforgiving. It transpires that of the countless millions of blogs started, the vast majority are now, like digital Marie Celestes (albeit with a cargo of Britney Spears videos, cut price Viagra and Nazi memorabilia), hopelessly adrift and abandoned.
Put simply the number of live (ie updated) blogs is decreasing rapidly. The New York Times noticed this trend, with a piece on 9 June about "Blogs Falling In An Empty Forest", which highlighted Technorati’s 2008 survey of the state of the blogosphere, which found that only 7.4m out of the 133m blogs it tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. As the New York Times put it, "that translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned".
What is happening though, is not really the death of the blog. It is the sorting out of the wheat from the chaff, a kind of natural selection. As the Guardian put it, it is not blogs but “The long tail of blogging (that ) is dying”. In essence, the best blogs, the most informative, the most well written, the most popular, will carry on, but the enormous number of blogs started on a whim will not.
So what is this 95%, this vast number of ex-bloggers now doing? Anecdote says they are on Facebook and twittering. Twitter is, as you will doubtless know, the latest social networking story and the social network of choice now for millions of new twitterers. Almost every zoo, theme park and visitor attraction is now twittering as are thousands of celebrities. Twitter has become so all consuming in the last year that a British newspaper ran a (worryingly plausible) Aprils fool joke about it being finished with print and moving its news to Twitter.
However, after 18 months, will people be tweeted out? Will they lose interest in Twitter as they did blogging? Will there be millions of dead Twitters as there are dead blogs?
The important thing is that visitor attractions keep pace with their customers. If the public wants to tweet then tweet with them. Next year it will probably be something different. The individual brands are in a sense irrelevant, (MySpace anyone?) as the social networking landscape changes so rapidly. As Holiday World’s Paula Werne said in our recent feature Attractions Marketing and the Power of Mommybloggers, “you cant do ‘em all" (although Paula is industrious and keeps Holiday World on the crest of the wave, running 4 accounts on Twitter alone!)
Furthermore, bearing in mind Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to replace text books with E learning in the state of California will a similar thing happen in the future at theme parks and zoos? Do these developments point the way to the entirely paper free attraction without paper leaflets, plans, guides and the like? Will we all be fiddling with our phones as we walk the park? I think not. PCs were supposed to herald a paperless office. In fact they have done quite the opposite. Perhaps the paperless park will appear with the paperless office?