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My Favorite Bloggers Are Quitting

2013 blog stats

Andrew Sullivan called it quits.

Dooce is closing her doors.

I’ve read these two bloggers since they began and, in many ways, defined blogging for all of us. But blogging has changed, as noted in an excellent post by Amy Julia Becker at her•meneutics. Becker is also pulling back from blogging to focus on other types of writing.

Writes Becker,

Stepping away from the very platforms that shaped them and popularized their careers, these celebrities raise questions about the future of blogging in particular and of social media in general. In announcing their departures, Whedon, Sullivan, and Armstrong all mention wanting to move away from the barrage of “haters” who leave their reckless disagreements and insults in comment sections and replies.

…Like these celebrity bloggers and tweeters, I found the amount of anonymous vitriol that emerged in my blog’s comment sections personally demoralizing and discouraging.

It cannot be denied that the online atmosphere has become more toxic in the last couple years. I cannot quite put my finger on why that is. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve told me that they used to read blogs all the time, but they don’t anymore. Others have said they still read, but they no longer read comments.

The nature of blogging has changed as well. There’s money to be made blogging, but here’s the truth: not much money. When I left Patheos at the beginning of this year, it had nothing to do with the people there, all of whom I love respect. It had more to do with 1) the ads that were being served on my blog, which I thought degraded my ability to be taken seriously as a theologian and commentator, and 2) the pressure I felt to get more more more traffic.

And what gets traffic? I can tell you that when I was at Patheos, I knew exactly what I needed to write about to get traffic: Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, and gays. Over half of my top posts during my last year at Patheos had to do with those three topics. And, thank God, I left before the listicle fad really took over.

I want to write books. That’s my first love, and one of the reasons I didn’t blog as much in 2014 as I did in 2012 and 2013 is that I was writing a book, the most ambitious book of my career. The irony is that my blogging platform is a big part of what interests  publishers in my books. But they’re not asking me to write books on Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, or gays. Nor would I want to.

Becker concludes,

With the constantly changing and endlessly available content, and the pressure for writers to garner as many “clicks” as possible, the Internet lends itself to a loss of storytelling, and a loss of careful thought.

We need to preserve a place for storytelling that takes time, and thought, and care, storytelling that provides a sense oftelos, of purpose and meaning and not just an ever-changing present reality. Such writing assures us of a moral arc to the universe, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, an arc that is long but leads towards justice, towards peace, towards the kingdom.

I completely agree with her.

I’m hoping to fall back in love with blogging. I’m committed to blogging once again, maybe even five days per week. But I’m going to feel less (no?) pressure about pageviews and monetization.

And I’m also hoping to write more books. A lot more.

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  • Felicity White

    As you mention for yourself, when blogging/platform is such a selling point to agents/houses, how is a new/unknown writer supposed to navigate this shift? Don’t blog and you have no platform. Blog and you have no time for the “good” writing. Lose, lose? : )

  • Felicity White

    Although, to be fair, I don’t feel the pressure to blog so often. I usually put up a long post every couple of weeks – mostly for my mom.

  • I know. It’s a Catch-22. I wish I knew the answer.

  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

    Felicity White. Fancy seeing you here. 🙂

  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

    I’m glad to see you back at blogging. And I think you’re right in following your gut/heart away from page views and monetization and toward what you love.

  • Yours is my favorite comment of 2015!

  • gapaul

    I’m missing blogs too! But what I hoped they might do in the first place is give lay people who don’t have mountains of time to plough through books the chance to read brief, interesting things. I’m not sure that happened as much as some of us hoped. Or maybe there was finally too much of a good thing. I can’t keep up with all the blogs I’d like to, and the kids left facebook for Instagram. More pictures, less print.

  • Dustin

    I initially read the title of this post as, “My favorite bloggers are Quilting.” Quilt, quit. Big difference.
    I was kinda’ disappointed. I wanted to know where you were going with this newfound appreciation for deft needlework.

  • silicon28

    You many not know the “answer” Tony… But there are many of us who think you are absolutely on the right track. I keep wondering if the entire monetization of what many of us were using solely as a communication medium ten years ago isn’t a huge part of the problem. Page views, click troughs took over and there were those who realized that there was money to be made. And the actual communication so many of us looked to this medium back at the turn of the millennium walked away in disgust. Glad to see you forging your own path here… Will definitely be back here. Patheos, on the other hand? Not really sure I want to bother…

  • I really felt the pressure to get clicks and make more money. Now that’s gone, but so is the money.