Were blogs ever more than Adsense?

Baldur Bjarnason argues that old-school blogs were always extractive and exploitive:

The blogging economy was filled with bad practices all around. People today don’t appreciate just how rampant these practices were. Most of us didn’t notice because we were in our tiny corner, all reading the same few popular bloggers (an early version of the modern ‘influencer’). But outside of that corner, blogs were done for Google and paid for by Google. After a few years of buying into the hype, advertisers started to push back.

Baldur Bjarnason

This way of thinking about it all is new to me. I can’t dismiss it offhand.

I have always thought of the fall of blogs as being caused by user experience. Centralized social networks have both distribution and better tooling. If I want my writing to be read, I use Twitter. This blog is more like an open journal.

Let Your Blog be Your DeLorean

Before social media giants, there were social bloggers connecting at the scale of Dunbar’s number. Literally, everybody knew everybody, at least in the Internet sense: if you didn’t know them you didn’t connect to them.

It wasn’t just relationships that were decentralized, though, it was also tooling. You used a blogging tool to write and a feed reader to read. It was a lot more work than the social media giants.

To like a post, for example, you would need to either reblog it or create an account and enter a comment – both manual operations that took 100x as long as an in-place Like, Retweet, or Reply button.

That was never necessary. It could always have been the case that blogging tools included the full stack of functionality. It can still be the case now. Back to the future.