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February 22nd, 2013

The Rise of Unowned “Middle” Blogging

A couple weeks ago Quora, the question-and-answer platform that has made a number of shifts to increase its relevancy to a broad audience, launched a blog platform. The company pitched the blogs to people who don’t have an established online identity and want to have their writing easily surfaced to potential readers. It specifically called out how what people write will be quickly discovered so they can build an audience and even made an appeal to those who do already have a primary online home, positioning their platform as a further distribution point.

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But here’s my question: What’s the long term value of the audience that’s eventually built?

Let’s table that for a moment and look at how Quora appears to fit into a trend that’s emerging in the online space that I’m calling “middle blogging.” Other players in this area include Medium, Svbtle and LinkedIn and even includes Tumblr and Branch to some extent.

Quora, along with those other players, is looking to satisfy a craving for people to share longer-form thoughts with their networks but in a way that, to the outside eye, is fairly transient. By that I mean the people who are gravitating toward these platforms don’t seem to be interested in putting any sort of customization effort into their online presence and don’t really seem to have a desire to plant a flag and say “This is me, bask in it.”

So these platforms, then, make the value proposition based on on-domain engagement, that you can build up a network there and get meaningful feedback and interactions with other members of that community. The question then remains of how you go about building up that network. If you start to work on one platform, find it’s not your cup of tea then it’s on to the next to see what that offers. Unfortunately that often means starting from scratch and leaving behind a dead, withering profile since export functionality isn’t something that’s offered by most of these tools.

Hunter Walk has called them a new form of content farm, though he points out that instead this latest iteration of that concept seems to be focused more on quality than it is on making a quick buck, a mantle that in my opinion has been taken up by a handful of other sites that I won’t go into here. Mathew Ingram at PaidContent comes to much the same conclusion on that point.

I’m still left wondering what is behind this shift toward tools that are unowned and which offer little in the way of profile management. Is it that, with so many new platforms emerging all the time, it’s more important for them to follow their network from place to place instead of settling down and owning their online presence? Is it that they’re not thinking long-term about having a central hub as their primary online outpost?

Whatever the answer might be, this is a trend that only seems to be increasing and so is absolutely worth watching over time. But what also needs to be kept in mind is how, as some studies have shown, people eventually graduate from some of these platforms to something more fully-featured like WordPress. It often seems to be the case that these social-focuesed platforms act as a proving ground, allowing people to test out what they like, what they don’t and figure out what they want to do. Then, when they’re ready, they often move up to a site that gives them more control over their publishing and allows them to build more value.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging

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