Gini Dietrich

Is the Age of the Independent Blogger Really Over?

By: Gini Dietrich | May 22, 2014 | 
67

Is the Age of the Independent Blogger Really Over?By Gini Dietrich

Yesterday we hosted Steve McKee, the author of both “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding,” for our live author Q&A.

If you missed it, I highly recommend you go back and read the transcript (which you can find here). He talks about everything from building your brand, evolving with the changing times, and how small companies can compete with big.

One of the most striking parts of the conversation is when he related small vs. big in the blogosphere.

You see, there is a conversation happening right now about the age of the independent blogger being over and about missing the old blogosphere.

Sure, things have changed.

The Age of the Independent Blogger

When we started blogging in September of 2006, there were just a handful of bloggers. We had room to make mistakes because no one was watching.

There wasn’t anyone talking about how to blog, what kinds of content to create, or how to use search engine optimization.

We had to go it alone.

In fact, independent bloggers were the norm. Brand blogs didn’t exist. There was no such thing as brand journalism.

Most blogs were online journals. There were no editorial calendars, no monthly themes, no guest bloggers, no staff to support, and no constant data analysis.

That isn’t the case today.

Sure, we can sit back and reminisce about the good ‘ol days, but today it’s better.

The Blogosphere Today

Today brands have the opportunity to take extremely talented people and create extremely compelling content.

People who, like me, got degrees in the liberal arts and realized they couldn’t do anything with them and make any sort of real money.

People who, without the blogosphere, would likely be out of a job…or would be fighting for the few editorial positions that still exist.

They have the opportunity to build businesses out of the time they’re spending online.

Today a blog can help sell, build awareness, drive revenue, and convert customers.

Your customers want the kinds of information you can give them, as long as it’s valuable to them and not self-serving to you.

David vs. Goliath

And, there is still a place for the independent blogger.

Which goes back to the point Steve made yesterday. Small can still beat big. Small is more flexible and nimble. Small doesn’t have guidelines or rules. Small is more innovative and creative.

The independent blogger can still compete.

It makes me laugh to read about how Spin Sucks is this huge blog that no one can compete with. While I like the attitude that we can’t be taken down by an independent blogger, I disagree.

Yes, we have a team of people – both on staff and off – who contribute to this blog. But it’s not the job of one single person. We all contribute to it.

Lindsay Bell, as our content director, leads the charge. Jess Ostroff works with guest bloggers and does the technical behind-the-scenes work. Every, single Arment Dietrich employee contributes a couple of times each month. I write five times a week.

It’s a team effort, but one that is led by a group of people who have full-time jobs.

Every Blog Starts with An Idea

We certainly didn’t start out this way.

Just like FleishmanHillard and Golin-Harris and Edelman and Coca-Cola and Facebook and Apple and Google, we started out with just one person and an idea.

We started as an independent blogger (me) who set out to single-handedly change the perception of the PR industry.

As the readership grew, we drew some notoriety. No one else was supporting the PR industry in this way.

Because of that – and some accidental, but effective search engine optimization – we began to get business for the communications side of the business. It earned us speaking engagements and two book deals. It’s a really good revenue generator.

And it started out with just me, an idea, and a good two years of really bad mistakes (including getting involved in the flame throwing that was so popular four years ago).

Paralyzation Equals the Death of the Blogger

Maybe it feels like the age of the independent blogger is over.

Maybe it feels like there are large, well-established blogs out there and you are already behind.

Maybe it feels like you’ll never catch up, let alone compete.

If you let that thinking paralyze you, you’re right…you won’t win.

But if you have a great idea, a passion, and a willingness to slog through the days when content creation is not a priority, you can build something that people will eventually envy.

It’s hard work. It takes a lot of long hours. You’ll go it alone for a very long time.

And then something magical will happen and you’ll have other bloggers writing about how they can’t compete with you.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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67 Comments on "Is the Age of the Independent Blogger Really Over?"

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biggreenpen
2 years 9 days ago

And I’m not sure there’s anything quite as effective for building community (at least not one like this) than a well-tended, deliberately planned blog. I’m glad this one is here!

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

biggreenpen  Well, you know I agree wholeheartedly! That’s why I’m sad so many bloggers have closed their comments.

Word Ninja
2 years 9 days ago

Thank you!

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

Word Ninja  You are welcome!

annelizhannan
2 years 9 days ago
What did I miss? I was all set to comment in the Livefyre community comment section on a paragraph “It makes me laugh to read about how http://spinsucks.com/ is this huge blog that no one can compete with…” but alas they have disappeared.  I believe that a sustaining factor for your deserved success is that you do not ‘rest on your laurels’  but are always are implementing ways to expand the the family tree, knowing when to cut your branches (The Three Things and perhaps Livefyre community comments) so that there is room for new, and hopefully viable growth rather than being… Read more »
Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago
While I did not agree with everything yesterday’s guest had to say this was a good topic. I think people are more likely to read content created by people they know and have an interest in. They are funny. smart. expert. unique perspective. etc. These people could be solo or part of a big company. When it is a big company blogging the question is why, what, where, who. If it is just a sales message or strictly for SEO no one wants to read it. But if a big company is smart they can blow away the independent blogger… Read more »
Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago

Word Ninja no thank you!

Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago

ginidietrich biggreenpen when you close comments you lose even readers who don’t comment. You appear arrogant. And usually they are closed because your content is suspect, fragile, fraudulent, smoke and mirrors, or hocus pocus and you don’t want to be called out for it.

Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago

ginidietrich biggreenpenI like to comment on the http://www.americanthinker.com website articles. They have already blocked two of my disqus/twitter handles only because I disagree politely with their viewpoint. Mashable is like this. They only want comments supporting the content and the author in a positive light. If you disagree their Commenting Policy says ‘privately email the editor’.
My point is just because you allow comments doesn’t mean you are truly open to comments. I am pretty sure I have disagreed with Gini at least twice here.

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

Howie Goldfarb No, thank YOU!

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

Howie Goldfarb Not all bloggers who close their comments have crappy content. Mitch Joel did it and his content is always very good.

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

Howie Goldfarb The guest yesterday didn’t comment on that because it’s not his expertise nor what he was there to talk about. If you had asked me, I wouldn’t have commented on it, either. Because I just don’t know.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

If you are not willing to treat blogging as a marathon and not a sprint you won’t get very far.

JohnMTrader
JohnMTrader
2 years 9 days ago

How soon before Spin Sucks removes comments from the blog? I just shake my head at this philosophy and still can’t seem to figure out the rationale behind it. Thanks for the post Gini!

Danny Brown
2 years 9 days ago
It’s an interesting discussion, and one that I think will continue for a while. While I don’t believe the independent blogger is “dead” (gotta love these “death of” titles!), I do feel they might feel under more pressure from content machines, or multi-author blogs. There’s only so much content someone can produce – even less so, if you want it to maintain a high quality, as opposed to the crud many blogs churn out because the blogger feels they’ve reached a certain plateau. However, this isn’t looking at the bigger picture. Many multi-author blogs have to fall within a certain… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

TimPio I don’t think it is!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

TimPio I don’t think it is!

belllindsay
2 years 9 days ago
It’s a lot of work getting this blog out every day, week after week, and it cracks me up the number of people out there (based on things I’ve read and comments I’ve seen) who think there’s the huge team who works on the blog and nothing else for 40 hours a week! Oh, a girl could dream! LOL Definitely a team effort, from *everyone* on the team, starting with yourself. I will agree with Danny Brown though (ack! did I just say that!?) – the indy blogger has the thing we all have when we’re just starting out – freedom. And… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

JohnMTrader  It’ll never happen! It goes against every fiber in my body. I understand why some have done it. It’s not a good strategy for us.

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes BINGO!

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago
Danny Brown  I don’t think it’s bunkum and here’s where I see the advantage: You recently announced you’re going to be writing about things that fuel your passion, which may include less about marketing-type things. That’s incredible…and it will continue to build your loyal readers. We’ve taken a different tact and don’t have the ability to do that (nor is it part of our strategy). Independent bloggers can absolutely build their blogs into multi-author, content machines IF that’s what they want to do. What makes me crazy is all the comparisons. We have a very specific goal. To achieve it,… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

belllindsay It makes me laugh, too. I wish we could all spend all day on Spin Sucks. That’s actually my dream. And maybe we’ll get there someday. But this blog started with one person and one vision…and today has grown to what it is. We all have to start somewhere.

Danny Brown
2 years 9 days ago

belllindsay See? I KNEW you’d see sense eventually – welcome to my world!! 😉

Danny Brown
2 years 9 days ago

ginidietrich Agreed, the comparisons are a bit misguided – what would be closer to compare is how agency blogs compare with corporate blogs in the same industry, and whether educational beats lead-generation only content, or community-focused blogs outshine company-focused ones. That would be a telling comparison, I think.
Looking forward to hearing about your big news, too!

belllindsay
2 years 9 days ago

Danny Brown I’m sick. My resistance is down. 😉

Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago

belllindsay Danny Brownginidietrichi thought this blog was on autopilot

Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago

ginidietrich Danny Brownwell moving to scotch and food recipes is danny’s calling

Danny Brown
2 years 9 days ago

belllindsay That’s what happens when you work through a  firing!!

RobBiesenbach
2 years 9 days ago
I am not a blogger. There, I said it. My blog is not going to knock the industry titans off their perches. It’s not going to be a major part of my marketing “funnel.” It’s not going to be the center of a community of like-minded enthusiasts.  My blog is one of tons of blogs by otherwise smart people that does not generate tons of traffic and comments and shares. There are probably many reasons for that. It could be I don’t have a strong enough voice or a well-targeted audience or I don’t optimize it well or the market… Read more »
Howie Goldfarb
2 years 9 days ago
ginidietrich not sure i agree. anyone who discusses employees being advocates or projecting their employer’s brand has to look at the people they are talking about or its hot air. you might expect the subway employee to know the brand message and help project it. But they that employee makes $8.50 an hour with no benefits. I might say what does subway’s brand represent they can say cheap meat and cheese loaded with hormones and gmos. Why shouldn’t they. Thus it is a huge part of the discussion. Most jobs in the US are like that so it’s the blanket… Read more »
JoeCardillo
2 years 9 days ago
ginidietrich Danny Brown Do you know Mark Aaron Murnahan? (https://twitter.com/murnahan)  I was just thinking about how I met him in ’08 – he is literally the first blog I commented on and the person who got me into Twitter. At that time he was (maybe still is) one of the nicest and smartest SEOs around. He shifted gears a couple of years ago to co-run a bakery with his wife and spend more time with this kids….I really admire and respect when people do things that are good for them, and it seems to me that creating value through blogging is and… Read more »
JoeCardillo
2 years 9 days ago

ginidietrich Danny Brown  And now we’re all in suspense for the next few months…

JoeCardillo
2 years 9 days ago
There will always be a next big thing – and tactically if you’re good you’ll get ahead of the curve and have that opportunity to blow it up but there will always be a tradeoff. Always.  The way I deal with it is to ask myself “what kind of human do I want to be?” I’m encouraged by the fact that brands like Red Bull actually want the people they sponsor to be creative, to be inspired, to try, to fail, to be silly, to be serious, to be human. But that is in direct opposition to the culture of… Read more »
Danny Brown
2 years 9 days ago

JoeCardillo ginidietrich Ironically, we had a minor “run in” about a post (can’t recall if it was mine or his” and we discussed, worked it out, and agreed mutual respect for each other’s point. Try that nowadays with all the “haters gonna hate” crud. 😉

JoeCardillo
2 years 9 days ago

Oh! Want to clarify one other thing….more isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s also not necessarily good, either.

Communic8nHowe
2 years 9 days ago

Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich I thought Danny Brown was an expert on lambs or was it sheep?

ecokaren
2 years 9 days ago

RIght on. Gini. With no organic search on FB, it’s making it harder to engage people socially (irony?) G+ is still struggling and Twitter is still being ‘Twitter”. I my opinion, blogging is becoming sexy again. We need bloggers to get the reach we (briefly) had with social media. Who’s going to get all the good content out there to people to talk about? Smart people can sift through the “noise” and read what they want.

PeterJ42
2 years 9 days ago
The killer app for the internet is not digital – it is that we are all connected. No need for media between us and company, us and news, us and eachother. People buy people. They like or dislike. Then they ask “Can they deliver what they say they can”. There is no better way to show that you have the ideas, the humanity and the ability to deliver than a blog. It covers why you think as you do and gathers people to your cause. It differentiates. Shows you think below the surface. Care, even! And it gives snippets of… Read more »
corinamanea
2 years 9 days ago
Excellent post Gini, but you already knew that :). We like to look into yesterday and talk about “good ol´days”, but we forget that we are here, today because of “good ol´ days”. It´s called evolution, it´s called moving forward. I always say these are the best times to live in. We have access like never before to information, we can connect to people at the other end of the world and feel like we´ve known each other forever.  Independent blogger is not dead, it evolves, just like everything around us. Like you said: if you are passionate and have… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

coledouglas7 Thank you, sir!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

coledouglas7 Thank you, sir!

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

JoeCardillo  This is precisely why I have a problem with human beings that compare themselves to one another. I’m certainly not immune to it. I do it, too. But circumstances are different. Goals are different. Life is different. So why not figure out what YOU want and go get it?

ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

ecokaren  Ohhhhhh. I like the way you think!

MikeSchaffer
2 years 9 days ago
1) Look at blogging like TV. In the beginning, there were just a few channels. And their ratings were massive. Then cable TV came in and lowered the barrier of entry into the TV world. It was new and shiny and memorable. ESPN, MTV — a totally new way to think of television. As the bandwidth grew, channels started to pop up everywhere…about everything.  I only have a limited amount of time to watch TV every day…so I watch the shows I like…and add in a new one every now and then. Sometimes there are shows I WANT to watch,… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 9 days ago

PeterJ42  I am completely and wholeheartedly on the same side as you. I also believe a blog starts a conversation, which is why I keep the comments here open and will never close them. It gives the blogger a chance to throw out an idea and get feedback. And, like you said, it gives the opportunity for people to see how that person thinks. I cannot tell you how many of our new business meetings today begin with, “I’ve been reading your blog and I love what you do.”

biggreenpen
2 years 9 days ago

Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich biggreenpen  twice in one post or twice ever?

KateNolan
KateNolan
2 years 9 days ago

JoeCardillo ginidietrich Danny Brown  Right? What a tease…

webby2001
webby2001
2 years 9 days ago
I would never stop writing my blog, or turn off comments. But I don’t think you can get past the fact that it is much, much harder for the independent blogger were they to start right now than it was several years ago. Things have changed, and the velocity required to have an effective, well-read blog is simply greater today than it was when we started. No, it isn’t impossible–and no one should be daunted from trying, because there are way too many benefits to blogging even for small audiences. But it is difficult enough, and comparatively less effective for… Read more »
ArikHanson1
ArikHanson1
2 years 9 days ago
Good thoughts, Gini, as usual. A few things on my end, as I know I’m one of the people responsible for starting this conversation (sorry?).  1) “Today brands have the opportunity to take extremely talented people and create extremely compelling content.” I’m not sure I 100% agree with this. Sure, they have the opportunity, but this is kinda my point–they don’t. Your blog is a great example–you do take the opportunity. But other folks? Not so much. They’re pumping out drivel by the foot-pound (that doesn’t even make sense, does it?).  2) Frequency. To Tom’s point in his post today,… Read more »
JoeCardillo
2 years 9 days ago

ginidietrich JoeCardillo  Absolutely. And those things change, too. You can’t get Tesla level ideas and innovation without being independent and valuing free thought.

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