I’ve been trying to write this post for a while, and I don’t know why it’s been so difficult to get pen to paper or fingers to keys (and yes, I did both to write this – I’ve always preferred writing with pen and paper…even sketching out then hand writing HTML back in 2000/1 when I wanted to design a new layout)
The earliest version of my first self hosted blog on archive.org is from late 2000, but I know that there was at least one or two versions before that, back when you changed your layout more often than you switched out handbags and gave each version a number and name. (I was the queen of layouts with an iframe to contain the blog content but sadly [or perhaps not] the images didn’t save in archive.org so they’re not very interesting to look at)
One of the things that’s lovely about blogging about whatever’s been going on in your life for so long is all the stuff you forgot about. While writing this post, I kept going to archive.org to look at old posts which is probably why it took me so long to write this! I started blogging when I was 16, just before my GCSE’s so my blog posts span those awkward teen years, the uni years and onwards. There are posts like when we bought a melon on a whim in sixth form and hacked it up with a Dremmel in the common room, or posts which detail an average day at school which feel like a million years ago now, or the many many drunken shenanigans we got up to in my first year of university.
I started blogging because I’ve always written about my life. So many diaries were stopped and destroyed, but writing online just felt right.
Something that always seems to come up when talking about blogging and influencing is the idea that blogging is going to go away. Honestly, if you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ve been hearing this for the past 5 or so years – at least! A large part of this problem is because we are encouraged so much to focus on platforms that we don’t own – Instagram in particular. Many people are writing these long essays on Instagram which would have posted previously on a blog, and all this extra content that people work so hard on for various social media places means that by the time they get to a blog, to the space that they own, they’re burnt out.
Whenever someone asks me about why they should blog, my first answer is always “because what if Instagram/Twitter/your preferred social media platform went away tomorrow? What if the owner of that site decided “nah, can’t be arsed anymore” and just turned it off without warning?” but perhaps I should be talking about the personal archive you’re building for yourself. Things like the “On This Day” feature on Instagram and “Memories” on Facebook are popular, yet we don’t consider having a more long lasting version that’s easily accessible and searchable!
I always recommend a self hosted WordPress set up when someone is looking to set up a blog and have some funds to invest – Blogger, in my opinion, is a little limited, but it’s a good place to start if you only have £20 to spare (the most important thing in my opinion is to buy a domain, you can always upgrade to WordPress or another platform later!) Squarespace is a terrible option for someone wanting to start a blog, and it drives me crazy when people ask about where to set up a blog in the various groups I’m in on Facebook and people recommend it. (A few reasons: It’s mad expensive, it’s restricted to being hosted in one place, and they all look the same)
Thoughts for the future?
If you had asked me this a few weeks ago, I would have concentrated more on the general influencing side of things – prior to quarantine, I think things would have just carried on bumbling along and evolving slowly. With quarantine, I think we all have been online too much which meant that things accelerated – newsletters like Please Like Me have taken more of a look at the weird things that influencers do like the loop giveaways. The more recent events going on around the Black Lives Matter protests mean that a lot of people have taken a good look at their influencing and what they can personally do to use that power – and this is a wonderful thing! As I write this, it’s still early days but I hope that this is a long lasting change. I can’t think of another time that there has been such a wide spread movement in these circles.
I have always said that the UK blogging/influencing scene is about 3 years behind the US (and that’s not a negative thing, I just feel like people generally take it a little more seriously here. Bloggers and influencers are more likely to create a legal entity for their blog/influencing business than they are in the UK which could be more because of the way taxes work here) and I would love to see the UK catch up a little bit. I really would love to see the ASA do better at dealing with influencers who break their rules around disclosure – it is so frustrating to see the same offenders keep breaking the rules and getting away with it.
The combination of all the events that have gone on this year (and we’re only half way through! It feels like so much has been crammed into the last three months!) has meant that it feels like things have been shaken up – it’s no longer enough to just be conventionally pretty and stand in a nice location, people are having to get much more creative to create content in quarantine as well as choosing to diversify their feeds (which could influence further content creation)
I don’t love the reasons for these changes, but I am glad that things are being mixed up!
Dan Q says
Congratulations! I celebrated 20 years of blogging the other year and I do so in the ways I do for many of the same reasons as you! Like you, I have blog posts going back into my teenage years, and yeah, they’re awkward… but they’re a part of the ongoing story of “me” and it would seem disingenuous to self-censor at this point: better to own it and learn from it and keep moving forwards.
And bleeding hell, it drives me nuts when people willingly give their content away to third-party platforms for which they’re the product, not the customer (Instagram, Facebook, etc.), locking themselves into the walled gardens. How short our memories must be if we think that this provides any kind of long-term control or permanence. When people say that whichever locked-in platform they’re publishing on will be around forever, I point them to this list of silos that probably once looked like they’d be around forever, too.
Anyway: congratulations again, and here’s to the next two decades!