Back in 2005, Blogs were king. I remember talking to a number of people in the offline world who were starting to wonder if they should start a Blog. I got to know Mike Arrington, of TechCrunch, before he got serious traction and his blog became the goto source of information for all startups in the Silicon Valley. Blogging was becoming a profession — with Arrington, Rafat Ali, Henry Blodget and Ariana Huffington having 8 and 9 figure exits for creating essentially “destination blogs”.
But while some celebrities were emerging as information hubs in the blogging universe, most everybody else was left in the dust. Despite better and better (and free) blogging Software (first six apart, then Wordpress), the average person was getting zero traffic on their Blogs. You would launch a Blog, create a dozen or so clever posts, tell your friends, and they would all come exactly once and forget about you.
The reason was there was no really good subscription mechanism. There was RSS (which stands for “Real Simple Syndication” and which nobody except a minority of techies figured out), but for the most part, people just went to a few web addresses like techcrunch.com that they had bookmarked, and that was that. Information delivery was handled by a few middlemen. TechCrunch was the new CNET, Huffington Post was the new New York Times. It was a world where Mike Arrington and a few key bloggers held the keys to distribution.
At the same time, general business websites were going through the same growing pains. As companies built up their online presence, they spent big $$$ on their own “web presence” — designing fancy websites and online stores, each more slick than the previous one. Like bloggers, these websites started employing designers, bloggers, and “content specialists” at a high cost — even though there was very little evidence that people were coming back.
Then in 2008 things started to change. With Twitter and Facebook, more or less simultaneously, it now became very easy for a company to maintain a feed of content not as a website — but simply as a feed that could be subscribed to. Design took a back burner to pure Information delivery. Most ordinary people noticed that there was no need to create a Blog — the audience was on Facebook and Twitter — not on your blog that nobody ever went back to.
The same thing became clear a few years later for brand websites. While brands still needed to have a website online (in case people search for it on Google), most companies started to realize that where the real action was was on the social feeds. The website itself became much more of a call to “follow us on Facebook / Twitter etc..” than a real hub of content.
At the same time, a number of new DIY tools started to emerge to build graphically rich websites — distinct from pure CMS systems like Wordpress and Tumblr. Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace are just three tools that finally, by about 2012, were able to compete with more costly designer websites. This happened simultaneously with the entire category of website builders losing their raison d’etre.
This leaves us in an interesting position today. Graphical Drag and Drop websites seem like something from another era. Even pure CMS systems like Wordpress seem quaint, threatened by the world of social media. Who, in 2016, really needs a new Wordpress blog? The world of domains, where I spent a good 7 years — is also largely becoming irrelevant. Without the need for websites, what is the need for domains? That ship has sailed.
The smart money has moved on. The VCs behind WiX have cashed out in the public markets. David Karp of Tumblr hit the bid from Yahoo. I personally exited the domain space two years ago.
In my opinion things are now changing. Content will move to a different kind of CMS — one that is more flexible, less blog oriented and more re-usable. Something that is card orriented. Something more like Troop. Content will get published on multiple places: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Medium.