Many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — to build an audience and leave their day job, to land a book deal, or simply to share their genius with the world. Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a little time and inspiration. So why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?
According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.
Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.
Not all fallow blogs die from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, homework and swim practice, or perhaps even housework and parenting. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter and Facebook. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some smidgen of personal privacy.
Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, said that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but “it’s probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views.” He added, “There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”
That’s a serious letdown from the hype that greeted blogs when they first became popular. No longer would writers toil in anonymity or suffer the indignities of the publishing industry, we were told.
Many people who think blogging is a fast path to financial independence also find themselves discouraged. Matt Goodman, an advertising executive in Atlanta, had no trouble attracting an audience to his self-explanatory site, Things My Dog Ate, which included tales of his foxhound, Watson, eating remote controls, a wig and a $400 pair of Prada shoes.
“I did some Craigslist postings to advertise it, and I very quickly got an audience of about 50,000 viewers a month,” he said. That led to some small advertising deals, including one with PetSmart and another with a company that made dog-proof cellphone chargers. Mr. Goodman posted a video of his dog failing to destroy one.
“I guess the charger wasn’t very popular,” he said. “I think I made about $20” from readers clicking on the ads. He last updated the site in November.
Mr. Jalichandra of Technorati — a blogger himself — also points out that some retired bloggers have merely found new platforms. “Some of that activity has gone to Facebook and MySpace, and obviously Twitter is a new phenomenon,” he said.
Others simply tire of telling their stories. “Stephanie,” a semi-anonymous 17-year-old with a precocious knowledge of designers and a sharp sense of humor, abandoned her blog, Fashion Robot, about a week before it got a shoutout in the “blog watch” column of The Wall Street Journal last December. Her final post, simply titled “The End,” said she just didn’t feel like blogging any more. She declined an e-mail request for an interview, saying she was no longer interested in publicity.