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The Hype Cycle and Niche Blogging – What They Mean to You in 2009

Today Hendry Lee from BlogBuildingU starts a series on building a blog that grows in 2009 that we’ll feature here at ProBlogger Blog Tips over the coming 2 weeks. Make sure you subscribe to ProBlogger to get the full series.

Just another day, one particular news item caught my eyes again. Every year, I always look for the so called Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies so when it appeared again, I can’t resist but take a look.

I know, the Hype Cycle for 2008 had been released in July 2008, but after looking at the diagram after browsing through my RSS feed items recently, I noticed something particularly interesting. To be exact, there is a technology half-way pass the Trough of Disillusionment phase, labeled as Corporate Blogging.

Although corporate blogging is different from “make money” blogging, I noticed a few similarities in current perception about blogging.

By no means, I am an expert that understands everything in the hype cycle thoroughly, but based on my years of observations in the blogging industry, this post describes some of my thoughts.

At the same time during this time of the year, seems like it is a good idea to get your house in order and prepare a plan to move forward in 2009.

But before that…

What is Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies?

Before I get started, allow me to elaborate quickly about the hype cycle. Basically, this report is a yearly view of current technologies defined in visibility and years to mainstream adoption.

According to Gartner, although this is not always the case, new technologies tend to gain momentum quickly as the result of the excitement involved with them. The sad thing is, as the name of the report implies, part of the growth is due to inflated expectations.

gartner-hype-cycle-2008.jpg

Depends on the technology, it may eventually reach the peak. When this happens, the phase Trough of Disillusionment starts. Adoption slows down tremendously but as the technology proves itself, it becomes more visible again but now at the rate that is much slower than when it was introduced for the first time.

Note: Corporate blogging disappeared from the hype cycle in 2007 — don’t know if it existed in the paid report — but reappeared in 2008. For four years, it has been progressing slowly in the Trough of Disillusionment phase.

If it doesn’t accelerate any time soon, it should get pass that stage on to the Slope of Enlightenment in 2009 or at the latest 2010. Certainly we are in interesting years of blogging, especially corporate blogging.

Corporate Blogging and Niche Blogging

Corporate blogging and niche blogging are two different strategies, although they may share the same tactics. For instance, for corporate who are looking to extend their reach by blogging, they may use search engine optimization to get their content found in search engines.

Some marketers and bloggers claim there is no such thing as corporate blogging. Companies who are going to blog should have made sure they are not speaking to the audience while hiding behind corporate walls. It must be a message from an individual, much like a personal blog. We are not into that discussion in this blog post though.

Most importantly, both of them use the same technology to get the message out and reach readers. For this reason, when blogging at first went from a personal publishing platform to a professional publishing tool for business, at least the hype impacted both side of the blogging applications.

If case studies from the corporate world almost concluded that every company needed a blog, many of the so-called “gurus” in Internet marketing approached blogging as the cure to make money online for everyone, including a newbie.

Due to the fact that a blog lets anyone to get their content up online too easily, they claimed that everybody was able to follow a step-by-step system and just magically make money, even automatically.

Both of these, in my opinion, were in the hyped-up phase — either in the first or second phase.

Let’s Sum up Those Years…

Blogware amazes a lot of web publishers because of its simplicity to get content online. Because this is one of the biggest challenges for people who want to make money online, it sounds like an ideal solution.

No longer would you need to hire webmasters or wait for weeks just to fix a few typos on the web sites. Add to the fact that virtually the cost of getting published was nothing but a few bucks to cover hosting fee.

During those times, early bloggers also bragged about blog software as being search engine magnet. It was like if you blog, magic would happen to your domain and blog in terms of search engine visibility and traffic.

Of course, this is only part of the myths that were circulated around at that time.

Soon, people found out that they could get into search engine index in 24-48 hours by pinging major blog services. That sounded perfect and with a bit of a twist, blog and ping method was born.

Before this, webmasters have to wait for weeks, if not months, just to get their sites in Google. With blog and ping method, the inclusion was like instant.

Also during those years, bloggers may get tons of inbound links by creating splogs on Blogger.com. Several programmer took it to the next level by scraping web content and RSS feeds, scheduling those contents, and making the entire blog publishing process automatic (auto-blogging).

No wonder, people actually believed that a blog was the be-all and end-all solution to web publishing and making money online. With so much traffic, they could just slap up AdSense — I mentioned it to represent all ad networks — and made crazy amount of money without lifting a finger. It truly happened for a few lucky “publishers.”

Note: It is not my intention to make the story lengthy, but I’d think it should be obvious right now how the industry was stirred up with misconceptions about blogging.

On to the Next Phase…

But the above situation didn’t last… because ad networks are smarter. They have to be. Advertisers didn’t want to waste money on unproven sources of traffic. As the customers of those ad networks, they deserved better services.

Now AdSense advertisers are able to pick web sites in the content network (with site targeting) to display their ads. Just one example of features that change the scene big time.

Also according to Gartner, technologies are moving at different speed and not necessarily always to the right side of the diagram. But for blogging, this was true, at least so far.

As bloggers realize they could not build business around uncertainty, some of the smarter ones changed direction. At last, the basic principle of making money had been proven once again. In order for money to exchange hand, bloggers have to provide value.

People who get it decided to stick with the technology. After all, a blog is just a tool. I like to use the analogy of hanging a picture on the wall to illustrate the point.

Unless you know what to do (hang a picture) and where to hang it, you should not hold a hammer yet. If you want to cook, hammer is not the right tool to do it.

A blog also is not an answer to every publishing and marketing problem.

Blog evangelists are real bloggers who understand the tool thoroughly. As they continue to discover new things, the entire make money blogging industry soon will enter the Slope of Enlightenment phase. In fact, looking at the amount of quality content published, I think it has already entered the early phase, which in this case is faster than corporate blogging.

What Does It Mean to You

If you heard from people in forums or other places that making money is no longer possible right now or in near future — with a blog or any other means, avoid them. Certainly they distract you more than they help.

Being around these individuals may be unhealthy financially. They also kill your dreams.

It is true that in 2009 and beyond everything will become harder. If all you’d do is quoting a few sentences from other blogs and add one short paragraph of comment, that no longer works. Bloggers who add little or no substance are forced to give up and quit, but that doesn’t mean it is too late to make money blogging.

In the future, not only more people will use Internet frequently, they will also spend more money online rather than offline.

Yes, even during the so called hard times. Although not every site is doing better, online sales generally are going strong despite the economy. A lot of people still spend money and they are shifting the trend from offline to online shopping to save on gas and to avoid the queue.

In the next posts in the article series, I’m going to do my best to show you the strategy you could use in the upcoming years to achieve your blogging goal. My intention is two-fold:

  1. Describe actionable and doable plan that allows you to start, build traffic and turn your blog into a real business.
  2. Help you create a plan that is recession proof so instead of nosediving, your business actually thrives.

Two big things to chew on at the same time, I admit. But the results hopefully will benefit some readers who are just getting started, or plan to take their blogging business to the next level.

Don’t forget to subscribe to ProBlogger to get upcoming posts in this series.

Hendry Lee helps bloggers overcome strategic and technological challenges in starting and growing their blogs. He also writes about make money blogging on his blog Blog Tips for a Better Blog – Blog Building University. While you are there, download your free eBook and subscribe to his blogging e-course where he reveals his secret about blogging and content writing!

Follow Hendry on Twitter (@hendrylee).

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Will Lowrey says:

    Henry,

    I have to admit – as informative as the top portion of the post was, I found myself drifting off. I felt that the actual value of your post was lost in the technical jargon of the hype cycle and that it offered little value to your main point.

    The ‘What Does It Mean For You’ part was helpful. I agree completely that being around the wrong people is never good. And yes – blogging can be successful, but you have to provide original content of value.

    I hope the next posts in this series focus more on the practical and less on ‘Too Much Information’ side of things.

  2. Great details and insight… I guess the key for a niche non-corporate blog is to be consistent and maybe it will create the opportunity to make some money!

  3. WOMWON says:

    Thing is, the bloggers who do give up were the ones who were only in it for one thing. It filteres itself out.

    Those who are in it for much deeper reasons, will never give up. Because they enjoy it. And will be around for a long time.

    A very insightful post, and well put, Hendry. Thank you.

    PS. Ever since Darren launched TwiTip he hardly posts on ProBlogger anymore.

  4. Derek says:

    I am going to borrow this idea from Peter Drucker when he said, “there is no such thing as business ethics. There is just ethics.”

    Well, there is no such thing as “Corporating blogging.” There is just blogging.

    One of the main reasons most corporate blogs fail is because they treat it as if they’re standing on a stage with a megaphone. The truly successful blogs will be sitting in the audience and pass the megaphone around.

  5. Tom Young says:

    The Hype Cycle curve looks strikingly similar to Seth Godin’s “Dip.”

  6. Hendry Lee says:

    @WOMWON: Part of the equation is to adopt the right mindset first in order to save time. If I saw those abandoned blogs that I started years ago, I can’t help but realize how much time I wasted. But perhaps not, things learned, although the hard way.

    @Derek: I can’t say it anyway better. That’s what I mean exactly. Thanks.

  7. Gert Mellak says:

    I agree, the term ‘corporate blogging’ should just be understood as “a corporate is the blog’s owner” – it’s the individual employees’ task to use their company’s blog like every other blogger to really use its full potential.

  8. Donny Gamble says:

    This is a powerful post that will help you strategize your business for the long term. If you want to create a business that will last for the next 10 years, now is the time to be setting it up for the future

  9. Very Evolved says:

    Hendry – If people get nothing else from reading this they should take note when you used the word business instead of blog in the 5th last paragraph.

    Even if your site is for fun, unless you treat your site with as much respect as a business it’s hard to succeed.

    I think you’d be interested in this analysis of how people behave in a herd like manner in crowds and now especially through social media online. Seems relevant to the way the trends of popularity flow through the Gartner graph you show.

    Patrick

  10. Writer Dad says:

    Part II sounds fantastic. I really like the ideas you laid out in part I. It’s true, not everyone is equipped to make money blogging, and by believing they are, they set themselves up for horrible failure.

  11. Derek says:

    @Hendry Thanks. It’s so true though. I’ll never forget one of these corporate audience rooms i went to where the CEO walked off the stage and walked amongst the crowd. It was one of the most memorable speeches I have seen and I realized it wasn’t because of what he talked about. It was because he came down to the audience’s level and made them feel “part of the team.”

  12. Ellen Weber says:

    Thanks for the refreshing look at wider horizons and where carefully crafted sites could lead bloggers. Thanks also for the spaces you leave for people’s innovative directions that defy predictions and offer ongoing improvements to the wider networks along the way. As you often imply – it seems both can act together as dynamic tools forward.

    No blogs are wasted as I see it – not even a blog that starts with erroneous agendas. That’s because blogs help people to pick and post their way to better positioning for their future, as they develop and grow in art and science of the craft.

    I started blogging at the invitation of KMM and when they fell into hard times, and gave up the network I had to start completely over again – after building a terrific readership community. Yet, even that huge step back gave valuable time to re-evaluate why I blog and what my site means to my work with brain based leaders and learners. So it gave me gems to take into current work:-)

    All to say MANY thanks for blog leadership you offer, and for raising issues that help people to rethink their work and tweak it to be a more effective player in the world of blogging. Timing is perfect for this innovative post, with encouragement for bloggers, with new opportunities highlighted for blogging advantages:-)

  13. To me, this post demonstrates what we should already know. In the short term, there will always be ways to make quick money without offering any real value. This is what blogging was for awhile. However, in the long term, it’s a losing strategy. If you want to succeed in the long term in any business, you have to provide real value. End of Story.

    Thanks for the great post.

    - Dave

  14. Gennaro says:

    Advertisers are going to be a step ahead because their partnered with Google. No blogger can afford to out-maneuver them with tricks and gimmicks. It will take blogs that have the best content and a loyal audience to continue making or start making money in a tough economy

  15. Very informative and thorough post. It’s encouraging to hear that online markets are still somewhat strong.

    I’m looking forward to more from this series! Thanks!

  16. Hendry Lee says:

    Thanks all for your kind words.

    @Ellen, I can certainly relate to that. You make me flash back to a few years agfo when all I did was posting 3-5 posts per day and paid almost zero attention to comments and networking.

    If nothing else, those lessons taught me a lot. People may say that my experience can be smoother if someone had told me about the importance of networking and building relationship with the audience, but I sometimes believe, due to one reason or another, that a few things can only be learned the hard way.

    And for me, blogging is one of them.

    An example when rereading some of the business and marketing books again, almost always we pick up new ideas that are as if not there when we read them. Not that the author didn’t tell us, but we just can’t see or hear it.

    So yes, everything has its own lessons to learn from. And if education is part of your goal in blogging, you are all set. The first few failures are expected — not necessary though — but I always learn more from failure than success.

  17. The corporate blog can be matched to specific niches even within the same company.

    Nothing prevents you from creating blogs for individual business areas (marketing, sales, service, etc.).

  18. Roman says:

    Great post. Its hard to tell where exactly on that line blogging is right now, but as you say, I think its somewhere after the hype.

    The standard business model applies. At the beginning there is little competition so the few that exist can relax and let the money flow in. But once the competition starts to arrive then getting money out of it becomes harder.

    But on the whole more people benefit with the increased competition. Because blogs will have to be better and better to compete for the discriminating visitor who has a lot to choose from.

  19. Sounds like an exciting series! I keep trying to tell my employer that we need to start blogging (non-profit) but I don’t have the time to start it and there is no one else that knows how to do it. Or I guess no one else cares. They want our website to be dynamic and I keep telling them how better than to have a blog!

  20. I love your explanation of the Hyped up Phase, and internet “gurus” touting blogging as the easy way to make money on line.

    I have witnessed people spending thousands to buy the latest gimmick.

    We may be entering into a new phase of blogging, but giving good value has always been the underlying factor, and always will be.

    No matter what product we get we want value, a car, a bike, a burger.

    Now I can get different values for different prices. I can stop at the local fast food restaurant and spend a buck for a burger, I get burger that is worth a buck. Or I can take the time to buy all of the ingredients and go home and grill my burger. Now that is a BURGER.

    Each burger has it’s own value, I just happen to like things to
    be great! So I am willing to go the extra mile!

    I also like things that make my life easier. I am cooking that burger on a gas grill. So it is tempting and sometimes hard to pick through what will really work.

    I am afraid we will never get rid of those who want to make a quick buck.

    Looking forward to your next post.

    Congratulations to Darren on TwiTip. I know it will go gang busters. I have enjoyed the guest posts. Like always I learn a lot from this blog.

  21. Kayla says:

    I’ve been sort of looking for something like this for awhile. Thank you for this detailed view of long-term blogging. Even though I’m not a corporate blogger by any means, it still gives me a great insight for what I can look forward too.

  22. On the corporate blogging point. I am now running the odesk.com corporate blog (click my name to see it) and it is a question of writing for the audience and not for yourself. If your corporate blog is there to sell your services as opposed to engage your blog visitors, forget it, waste of time.

    Write for the audience and do it good and you will have success.

    Content, content, content

  23. Hmmm Gartner, I used to work in corporate IT and the CIO would not move without Gartners say so.

    They tend to lag behind the real developments by 6 – 12 months making their predictions not particularly viable, look at the position of wikis just emerging from the dip.

    I take gartners information with a pinch of salt

  24. jhay says:

    This is interesting, a lot of bloggers that I know of personally are a bit concerned about prospects of 2009 and what it holds for making money online.

    I hope to learn a lot from this series.

  25. I usually love posts on ProBlogger. This wasn’t one of them. It seemed like a bunch of academic theorizing with little actionable content. I had to go through lots of paragraphs before I got to “What Does It Mean to You” which should be the most important part of a blog post.

    I truly hope this series is extremely short and we can get back to great ProBlogger content;

  26. Hendry Lee says:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate that.

    @Sheila, People who are into this for quick buck will never go away, but overall will plummet. Some of them have to go through the pain before realizing the fact, but hopefully one or two new bloggers learn from ProBlogger, and specifically this post, about the reality.

    @Neil, I understand what you’re saying but this post doesn’t try to go into in depth about the report. In fact, I didn’t read the report at all, just taking what’s freely available and based on that perspective, match it to current situation. Without the hype cycle, this post is still relevant. It is about the history and where the whole industry is going toward.

    @Jason, the sole purpose of this is to tell readers about the state of the industry. As others have agreed, it is about viewing blogging from the right perspective and adopt it as a mindset. This plays a large part in success in any venture. Without it, actions don’t matter at all. In the next posts in the series, I go deep into actionable and doable plan. Obviously you miss the last few paragraphs when I mentioned about it. Perhaps you’ll change your mind after reading the next posts.

  27. CS-Weekly says:

    Is anyone concerned about the hype of blogging itself? I mean, is the blogging industry peaking or still in stage 2 of a 5-stage bubble?

    To tell the truth, when I start to do something, I started right at the bubble top. Oh, you know what I’m talking about :( and now I just started a blog.

  28. Frank Carr says:

    “Build it and they will come” only worked in cheesy Kevin Costner movie.

    Targeted niche blogging works very well. Believe it or not there’s a big world out there where real people who use the Internet haven’t heard of Digg, StumbleUpon and Twitter. And, amazingly enough, they actually buy stuff online.

  29. uwak says:

    I am not sure…….. be optimism, dream will come true

  30. TechMata says:

    @Frank Carr – I am surprised with the “…buy stuff online…”. Poor people. tsk tsk tsk…

  31. Fantastic insights. Very well put and nicely illustrated. The key is patience and the rest follows :)

  32. Jim Gray says:

    Me brain hurteth…will go back and readeth again later.

  33. David Risley says:

    I think this guy understands the power of blogging as a business. Look forward to the next couple posts.

    CS-Weekly, no blogging hasn’t peaked. Realize that it is a communications tool. Communication will never become obsolete. If it isn’t called blogging, it’ll be called something else.

  34. Here in Australia when the first Apple store was launched it was totally “over hyped” launch. In th end of the day it is only a tech store, still the hype was an important part of the launch.

  35. J.D. Meier says:

    Inflated expectations is a great frame.

    I like to think in terms of intrinsic value vs. market value.

    When something’s undervalued by the market, you got a deal. When something’s way overpriced compared to it’s intrinsic value, you got a bubble waiting to bust.

  36. Great info. I’m working on getting the company I work for to start a corporate blog and to get into social media.

    This article will help in a major way.

  37. I keep up with a few corporate blogs – those that are hosted by a company and generally the bloggers are either employees of that company or are payed by that company to blog there. Early on most of these blogs were boring, there is a big difference between a niche blog where the author is passionate about a topic and a corporate blog where the author feels obliged to write. Early corporate blogs were boring, sparse, inconsistent and poorly designed.

    Things are starting to loosen up a bit, some of the corporate blogs are better designed, they are turning more into conversations and less sales talk. The worst corporate blogs run for 6 months and get 10 reads and no comments and are shut down so we are seeing mostly well written blogs surviving.

    I don’t think a corporate blog will reach the same quality of writing (or stickiness or personality) as the best niche blogs until they make the writer feel they own the blog – bonus payments for traffic and click throughs, person profile page, internal promotion of blog posts through newsletters and emails and some customisation of look and feel are some ways to help a blogger feel like they part own a corporate blog.

  38. Matthew says:

    Before launching my blog, I already had my business plan laid out. The plan revolves around me creating value, whether it is in the form of useful posts, valuable resources I provide in downloads, or other services that I provide. If I cannot create value, I expect to fail… both in reader numbers and income created.

  39. Anastasia says:

    The very first comment stated that there was too much technical speak – may I disagree? It is one thing to be “told” what it means for me / us and another – to come up with “what it means” yourself! Whatever is said about the implications of the cycle by Darren may not be aplicble to you and presenting the “theoretical” part first allows you to have your own oppinion and not to rely on an assumption that Darren is right …

    Though I think he IS:-)

  40. Bud Bilanich says:

    Great post.

    I have found that planning is the key to successful blogging.

    In my book, “Straight Talk for Success,” I lay out five keys to success: 1) self confidence, 2) positive personal impact, 3) outstanding performance, 4) dynamic communication skills, and 5) interpersonal competence.

    I blog about one of these every day. Monday is always self confidence day; Tuesday, positive personal impact; Wednesday, outstanding performance; Thursday, dynamic communication; Friday, interpersonal competence.

    In this way, I can look for current events that relate to the points i want to emphasize. On Tuesday, January 20, inauguration day in the USA, I blogged about Barack Obama’s ability to create positive personal impact. On Thursday, January 22, I blogged about the lessons we can learn about making presentations by watching President Obama’s inaugural address.

    You can see these posts at http://www.SuccessCommonSense.com.

    Thanks again for a great post,

    Bud Bilanich
    The Common Sense Guy

  41. John says:

    I appreciate the intent here, but like the first person to comment above, I found the writing tedious and the numerous grammatical mistakes distracting. Is English Hendry Lee’s second language?

    Nor can I quite escape the notion that this is a long-winded way of affirming a fundamental truth: there’s no substitute for quality.

    What a concept.

  42. Girish says:

    Hello,

    Even the descrption gives a clear picture certain things could have been removed. Atleast I got destracted. I feel a blog should be very simple and something which can be understood for a common man also. Then only we will be able to get much inputs.

  43. Kenney says:

    @ Will: I do agree that at the beginning it was a little slow with tech jargon, but was needed for us to really understand the rest of the article and post to come. Thank for the info. It really was great.

    Kenney
    The Work From Home Secret

  44. Jon Griffith says:

    In any business, providing value is the key. If you provide me with value, I’ll provide you with content. That’s why I comment. The article is valuable. Of course, there’s the risk that the content is not representative. After all, I don’t know who the author is and I haven’t been able to prove their theories, but at first glance, it all sounds great.

    What drives me up a wall are bloggers who have nothing to say, nothing to offer, who expect their sites to provide them with the hard earned revenues of the advertising budgets of the companies who choose to use their channel for advertising. Shame on them, and well, shame on them too.

    The articles that bring the most value to my readers are articles to which I have dedicated some time to write. Without evidence, like photos, it’s tough to validate that someone’s article is being written first-hand.

  45. Interesting description of the life cycle of a internet phenom. Is this patterned off the life cycle of mate approval? Oh wait, once mate approval rating starts to decline it is a steep downhill cycle.

    Max