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Sunday, April 14, 2013

What do you do when your blogging service fails you?

    It's something of a mantra in the web industry: "You can't compete with free". If your product is a paid offering and your competitor's very similar product is offered at no cost, you're going find it very difficult to succeed. It's a story that has been played out in the arenas of multiple online services.
    Thus as consumers, we've become used to the web as somewhere we get stuff for nothing. It's worked very well for us too, if I were to take a look at the online services I use and count how much they would cost me to replicate for myself on a server of my own, for example, I would be significantly out of pocket.
    Of course, nothing is truly free. The trade-off for the free services we use is that our  data is sold on, we are shown adverts, or we are encouraged to trade up to a paid offering. Some providers make this work very well for themselves, others struggle and their products fall by the wayside
    Google recently announced the impending closure of their Reader product, a move widely seen as an attempt to drive users to their Google+ social network instead. Never a web superstar, Reader nevertheless gained a dedicated following who have been vociferous in their dismay. Attention has now turned to Google's other products, with speculation rife that Blogger might be next for the axe. It's not an unreasonable worry, as users of Yahoo! 360 and Posterous would be happy to tell you it wouldn't be the first time a free blogging service with a large user base has been closed.
    The evidence however does not entirely support an impending Blogger closure. Reader saw a slow decline in Google support in its final years, with features disappearing and no new development. By contrast Blogger has benefited from continuous development, most recently it has received a new template editor for example. It's never possible to entirely second-guess the moves of a company like Google, but Blogger seems better supported than one would expect for a doomed product.
    So for myself I won't be moving from Blogger merely because of a rumour. As any blog owner should I keep a fresh export of my blogs on my backup drive so if I had to I could do it, but why jump because of something that hasn't happened?
    But what if it did happen? If Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress or any other free blogging platform closed its doors for good? It's easy enough to move to any of a host of competitors of course, but given the risk inherent to the free business model described above is that not just a move towards yet another inevitable closure?
    Perhaps it's time to recognise that free rides do sometimes come to an end, and either accept services with a visible revenue model such as advertising, or simply move to a paid service with your own domain name for portability in the event it closes.


  1. Thanks for this post, Jenny. I do hope Blogger stays around.

    The demise of Reader is quite distressing for me. I have years worth of blogs stored in Reader and I often go back into them to review the thoughts of friends from years back, comparing them to mine now and at the time the post was written. I'm not sure if there is any way to save these thoughts.

    I have now set myself up with The Old Reader. It took at least a week for this service to ingest my Google Reader blogs, but the final product has only saved blogs back a few months from the date I exported my Google Reader data.

    Other than that, The Old Reader seems to do the job.

    Calie xx

  2. I've been copying and pasting my Blogger posts twice a month into a growing series of Word documents saved on my PC and tablet - the entire collection of posts from the start, photos and all. It's not much of a chore to copy and paste posts in this way every fifteen days, and nothing can be lost. And if I wanted to, I could set up the entire series again on another site. (Though it's more likely to be a selection of past posts, given the work involved in setting them up!)

    In fact I'm already registered on WordPress, LiveJournal and - not only to make commenting on those sites easy, but to shift my own blog to one of them if need be. I also own (and pay for) the domain, in case I feel inclined to develop my very own website. Now THAT would be getting really serious about blogging!

    Any or all of these options are open to anyone who fears that Google will suddenly pull the plug on Blogger. But like you, I do hope that Blogger survives. Incidentally, I'd have no objection to paying a reasonable annual fee, as I do to retain 'Pro' status on my Flickr site, if it would ensure Blogger's continuance.


  3. Google reader is a great loss, I have been able in the past to rescue entire blogs for people who had deleted their blog or found themselves locked out of their blog. The myth that everything stays on the internet does sound doubtful though reader proved that blogs could last a long time. I doubt that many will be impressed with Google for this move.

    My take on using a free blogging service is that I am also providing a free service, I add she says modestly traffic for the host and that is how they get their income.

    Would I move to a paid service? Probably not, none can provide any guarantee that anything I create will last any longer than until the next payment demand, all that work would vanish if I met a sudden end...

    The UK has just announced that billions of web pages will now be archived for future study because even fairly recent dramatic events have almost vanished from social media sites because so many delete their accounts, bombings in London have lost most of the initial reactions by the public. Perhaps if we want our work to be saved for you it is time for us to move to a blog site...

  4. Hi all, and thanks for your comments,

    I think there will always be widely adopted decent free blogging services so for those who are prepared to move if their chosen one bites the dust there will always be an outlet.

    It's worth remembering that the Internet Archive has been storing blogs for years. I used it a while back to dig out some early posts of someone in this arena who'd lost touch with an earlier them.

    Not for me the cut-n-paste, Blogger allows a complete export. Also handy if you ever need to import to some other service, Wordpress for example makes it a turnkey operation.


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