Guest post: plan the end of your blog with the same care that you plan its beginning

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It’s not the beginning of a blog you need to worry about, argues guest blogger Peter Moore, it’s how to end one that matters.

And just relax about closing it down. It may well give life to another, more vibrant project online.

You just need to know when to give a blog the red, amber or green light.

This is Peter’s second guest post for this blog. Peter blogs himself at My Digital Notebook.

In the beginning

At the time of writing this, the Internet is 27 years, two months, two weeks, four days, 10 hours and 26 minutes old, which is pretty much the same age that Kurt Cobain was when he shot himself, and more than old enough for us to start analysing some digital lifespans.

In this post I want to look at two things: firstly how long a blog (be it a personal one, a work one or of any other type) might last and, secondly, how long one should last.

Blogging (statistics)

In September 2008, Calson.com argued that ‘most blogs are abandoned soon after creation’  – with between 60% and 80% ‘abandoned within one month.’  Therefore it is fair to state that the majority have the lifespan of somewhere between that of an adult mayfly (one day) and a Greek Firefly (two months).

These figures are notoriously difficult to measure but they do give an impression of the speed at which new blogs are launched. And, if anything, their tiny lifespans reflect the ease with which one can be set up.

At the other end of the spectrum, only a very slender number of blogs have been going for around a decade and most of those which emerged as the most popular arrived on the shoulders of Web 2.0 in the five years that followed the Dot Com Crash in 2000.

A measured approach

This leaves us with a good few million blogs that are left in the middle: those that continue for more than just a few months but are unlikely to survive for, say, three or more years. With this in mind, a month or so ago I wrote that:

When it comes to blogs, it seems, far too many are launched with the assured expectation that they are going to roll gloriously onwards into infinity. Therefore many evolve to the same familiar rhythm – which often means beginning in an explosion of energy before generally trailing off into obscurity.

There is, of course, an alternative to this, and that is to plan the end of a blog with the same care that you plan its beginning. Better than being wedded to a single domain for evermore is having the freedom to progress from one digital project to the next: it helps to keep things fresh and to ensure that the content remains niche.

To demonstrate this, here are three of my old blogs: one stopped after five months, one paused after a year and a half and another, still rolling on.

Camervroom (September 2009 – January 2010)

For me, Camervroom is a good example of how a blog can be used to document an intense project over a short period of time. It lasted just five months and was comprised of around 80, often short, Posterous posts – all of which charted the preparation for, and the completion of, the Africa Rally at the end of last year.

A similar short term approach could be used for a business blog documenting a project, a journalist working on a particular story, a band on tour or for an academic journal. Always keep the end in sight.

El Villano (May 2008 – February 2010)

Many people will have something similar. El Villano was a first attempt that evolved in unexpected directions and served as my introduction to social media. In the end it became little more than an online home for magazine articles and now it is lying dormant like Mount Etna, with about the same chances of producing anything over the next couple of years.

My Digital Notebook (March 2010 – Present)

My Digital Notebook accompanies my job at a search agency in London and my role as a part time lecturer at City University. Good for recording new technologies, the occasional social media spat, ideas on the future (and observations on the past) of journalism and useful online tools.

Just like the two above, My Digital Notebook will run its course. And when the times comes, it will be just a matter of writing an explanatory post, gathering up my tools and going to try something a little different elsewhere.

POSTSCRIPT: Ourman in…
A great example of how a strong digital narrative and identity can be expertly constructed over time and across a number of different sites is with Steve Jackson.

He began blogging in 2004 with the Space Hardware Blog, before writing successive accounts of his travels (and subsequent settling down) in Hanoi, Nicaragua and Cameroon.

All told, these blogs form a cumulative digital autobiography that isn’t constrained by the boundaries of a single domain name or identity. For me it is a good example of where others might well get to as the Internet evolves and digital footprints become more vibrant and varied.

Photos: “Traffic lights in peppers” by buddhiko, “Red light” by lorentey, “steady” by polandeze, “Go” by tristanf.

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3 thoughts on “Guest post: plan the end of your blog with the same care that you plan its beginning

  1. Nice post Peter. Amidst all the top tips on how to keep blogging, this is an oasis of good sense. Keep blogging when it makes sense to; gracefully retire when it doesn’t. Simple, but suprisingly obscure.

    I think a lot of projects that fizzle out would have more vim to them during their lifespan if that lifespan was prelimited. And think of all the new projects that don’t happen because you’re still flogging away on something that should have been put out of its misery years ago.

    Right, I’m off to stop blogging somewhere…

  2. Thanks Charlie.

    The first point in your second paragraph is a great one and beautifully put. It’s not that everyone should stop blogging, it’s just that we’ve all got a limit to our creative capacities – and we should be careful not to spend too much of it flogging dead horses.

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