One Bite At A Time
Not very many people sit down with an apple pie, a fork and knife, a napkin stuffed in their shirt and proceed to eat the entire thing. No, they slice it up and have a piece after dinner. Maybe one as a midnight snack. Possibly for breakfast if they are feeling a bit on the adventurous side. And even when they have that single piece of pie on the plate in front of them, it’s not like they shove it all into their mouths at once. They take that small piece and cut it up into smaller, bite-sized chunks to eat. And after a week, the entire pie is gone. And now, there is a growing trend in terms of the way people interact online that is quite similar.
I read an article a few weeks ago about how, by the end of 2012, more people will search the term Tumblr instead of blog. This means when the average person sits down in front of his or her computer and begins searching for something blog-like, the search term will now more often be Tumblr. Is this a case of Xerox replacing the term photocopy or Kleenex replacing the term tissue? Probably not, but it is interesting nonetheless. Tumblr isn’t another word for blog; it’s the brand name of a, wait for it, Tumblelog which is just a different kind of blog. Tumblr is essentially a blogging platform that allows users to showcase images, videos quotes and such in a minimalized blog format. Small, bite-sized chunks.
So before we get too far ahead of ourselves about the repercussions of this change in search behavior and what it means for you, let’s take a step back in time. Stop thinking about pie and get some perspective on origins because you really can’t look to the future without knowing where you’ve been.
The term weblog was coined by Jorn Bargeron. The word, blog, was coined by Peter Merholz, who seperated the word weblog into the phrase “we blog” in the sidebar of his blog. The term blog was then used as both a noun and verb by Evan Williams–“to blog,” meaning “to edit one’s weblog or to post to one’s weblog.” In a nutshell, a blog was an online diary. People had a personal site that they updated as a running account of their personal lives with text and pictures and even videos. That was 1997.
The following year Open Diary was launched and soon grew to thousands of online diaries. But what was even more important was the innovation of the ability to add comments to a blog entry. Now you could join in the conversation instead of it being a one-sided billboard. That’s what makes social media so social, after all. The following year, blogger.com was launched. Setting up the world, and the word, for easy-to-use blogs.
Fast forward to today, and there are blogs for everything and everyone. Personal blogs. Corporate blogs. Organization blogs. Mommy blogs. Vlogs. Linklogs. Sketchblogs. Photoblogs. Typecasts. Travlogs. Blawgs. Phlogs. Moblogs. Reverse blogs. And yes, Tumblelogs. It seems like you could throw a rock in any direction on the internet and hit some sort of “-log.” or at least something built on a blogging platform such as WordPress or Joomla. But I digress, what I’d like to talk about is a tumblelog.
Take A Tumble
The term tumblelog was coined by Jonathan Gillette in a blog post on April 12, 2005. But what exactly is a tumblelog? In 2005, it was described by Jack Kotke as an old style weblog “With minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing…really just a way to quickly publish the ‘stuff’ that you run across every day on the web.” Almost like a running stream of whatever for whatever’s sake. Here’s a funny .gif of a cat I found. Here’s a video of me eating my cereal. Here’s my favorite quote from a movie. And so on and so forth. For the most part, they could have no rhyme or reason to them if they didn’t desire. That’s what makes them so wonderful and perplexing.
By 2007, the term “tumblelog” seemed to fall out of favor and the name was replaced with a new breed of blogging that would forever change the way we share ideas. And thus, the microblog was born. And so was Tumblr.
A World Within A World
A microblog? It’s pretty easy to guess by the name just what it is. That’s right, a shorter form version of your typical blog. A microblog differs from a traditional blog just in terms of the size of the content. With a microblog, users share small bits of information like pictures, links, videos, etc. Now it can be said, and has been said, that the world needs another blog like it needs a hole in the head. I’m not sure if that is true, but chances are you are already microblogging, you just don’t know it.
Have you ever updated your status or your organization’s status on Facebook? How about your status on LinkedIn? Ever posted something on Twitter? Well, guess what, in the case of all 3, you are microblogging. You are sharing short snippets of information about you or your organization. In other words, you are taking said apple pie, cutting it up into slices and then taking a small bite. And yes, Tumblr is another microblog. It is just typically more visual, rather verbal. It is also more popular with teens and college students and even boasts a higher retention rate of users than Twitter. That’s not exactly the audience a Professional Services firm needs to be worrying about, but what Tumblr and Twitter is, is something we need to take into consideration. Which is keeping it short.
Smaller and Smaller
I wanted to share a short history of blogs and the term blog so you can see the progression of information sharing and so we get back to the matter at hand-the fact that soon more people will be searching the term Tumblr, instead of blog. Or, in other words, people are looking for a microblog instead of your traditional blog. If you break it down even farther, people are looking for snippets of visual information, as opposed to long form information. On the surface, this sounds like a “less-is-more” kind of thing, but I don’t believe that is the case. If you don’t mind another dessert related metaphor, I think it’s a matter of people wanting their cake and also wanting to eat it one bite (byte?) at a time.
What Does It All Mean?
It’s the next evolution of the blog. People are going to want it all. Long form content. Short form posts. Small bits of information. Visual energy. Multimedia. The whole sha-bang. Blogs will need to include some aspects of microblogging. But instead of random pictures or sentences strung together haphazardly, they will need focus. If we are learning anything at the moment, it is that people don’t always have the time to sit and read 500 words. They sometimes only have the time to read 140 characters at a time. It’s not that they won’t read longer posts, because they definitely will when time allows. It is that they will want both. Or at least the access to both.
I also believe it means that people want more personality. There has been an inundation of corporate speak and facts and figures in the world of blogs, and sometimes I think people want to know that the person on the other end is a real human. Because it’s not just about the content itself, it’s who it is coming from. There is a reason the term “social” appears in the widely accepted term social media. At its heart, it is about people sharing. It’s about personality as well as content. I believe that moving forward, if your blog lacks that human quality, readership will diminish. If you are continually writing 1000-word posts, people will stop following you. It’s going to be a matter of keeping your content fresh, exciting, personal, short and sometimes, super-short. Because when you can keep things super-short, you can keep them coming at a faster pace. And when you can keep things coming faster, you keep things more fresh. While I spent days writing this article, or could spend 5 hours writing a post, it would only take me minutes to update a status. And the quicker you can get something out, the more relevant it is. The more “in the now” it is. And again, that is also something people find very attractive. I originally read about the tumblr/blog term article way back in April. It is now the end of May and I am just now able to share my thoughts on it. That’s a lot of wasted time.
People don’t say “a picture is worth a thousand words” because it isn’t true. That’s why the visual aspect of your posts is just as important as the verbal. It’s one of the main things we can take away from the tumblr rise in popularity. Sometimes everything you need to say can be said with a nice infographic or photograph. Add a little descriptor and you are done. Again, just something quick for people to register, learn a little bit and say, “I wonder what they’ll post tomorrow or even later today.”
In the end, I don’t think the corporate world is going to go running towards the “Tumblr Hills” (Although some have certainly embraced the idea). I think it’s about stepping back, learning from what microbloggers and microblog platforms are doing, and incorporating some of that thinking within your content-based blog. Because that is really what it is all about – content. Not the size of your content.