Earlier this year came news that blogging, if not dead, was certainly dying. Young people weren’t laboring over long-form posts (or even Twitter); in about 3 years, the percentage of blogging teens and young adults had been slashed in half, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Facebook (no surprise) was the new king of online.
And yet, in a totally different corner of the web, blogging was undergoing a renaissance. The number of older adults blogging crept upward between 2006 and 2009, and — in the area of the blogosphere that I pay particularly close attention to here at WCG, there has been nothing short of a revolution. Blogging — especially science blogging — appears to be the new future of communication. (For a thoughtful discussion of this renaissance by science writers themselves, check out this Facebook/blog conversation about the impact of having more such writing about there.)
There is something about science and medicine that makes blogging an exceptional tool: the field relies heavily on synthesis of past data, meaning that links become hugely important; and writing about science requires often lengthy explanation that makes traditional journalism, with word counts and page limits, seem restrictive. That backdrop, combined with the desire of many in the scientific community to communicate directly to interested audiences, has helped fuel the blog explosion.
It has meant not only the flowering of some superb, science-heavy blog networks — the much-heralded (and now humbled) ScienceBlogs.com and upstarts from the Guardian, PLoS and Sciencetopia — but also a change in the way that traditional media publishes. Forbes is perhaps the best example of this, requiring all reporters to have an online presence that allows them to go deeper than they could in print. (If you haven’t read Bob Langreth’s great back-and-forths on Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, go read ‘em. It’s meaty, thoughtful stuff that wouldn’t be possible in any other medium.)
And Forbes isn’t alone. Publications from Chemical & Engineering News to the New England Journal of Medicine are using blogs in a way that adds to their coverage: not curating what’s already been said or re-publishing print pieces, but using the format to explore themes that are too timely and conversational for the printing press and too deep for Twitter or Facebook.
Let me be clear: blogging isn’t new. A huge number of blog empires have risen and fell in the 8 years I’ve been posting. But unlike other areas of blogosphere, where interest is waning and where a relentless pursuit of speed and eyeballs still rules over more exhaustive reporting, the scienceblogging community is continuing to evolve and grow in a direction that will be, ultimately, beneficial for anyone that takes scientific knowledge seriously.