Monday, December 22, 2008

Blogging Art in 2008 - A Review (Part 1)

At the end of 2006 and again in 2007 I did a review of blogging art in the previous 12 months. This post is the beginning of my Review of Art in 2008 which comprises:
  • Part 1 (this post) which focuses on the specific blogging practices of artists and illustrators in 2008
  • Part 2 which this year changes to being more about the current economic context for the online artist and the wider perspective of art on the internet.
As before I'm going to try and divide my observations into three parts:
  • what has stayed the same in 2008
  • what has changed in 2008
  • the scope for improvement in 2009
  • a few predictions about blogging art in 2009
In doing so I'll be also be highlighting and checking back on my predictions for 2008.

BLOGGING ART IN 2008: What has stayed the same?

Blogs are pervasive and influential - The main message is that blogging continues to be pervasive and the art and illustrated blog continues to be an important channel of communication for the online artist.

Despite any amount of twittering to the contrary, blogging has not died although blogs continue to start and die-off on a regular basis as they always have done. Besides being pervasive, blogging is also influential. Blogging after all probably changed the course of the American Election!

In June 2008, Technorati was indexing 112.8 million blogs, compared to the 30 million blogs which were around when I started 3 years ago. However both numbers contain a lot of 'archived' blogs.

It's more relevant to look at the numbers relating to recent posts - see the graphic (right) produced by Technorati for its report on the State of the Blogosphere / 2008. (see the end for more links to the rest of the report)

(I'm pleased to say that this blog now has a Technorati authority of 187 and is ranked at no. 20,478 in the world!)


It's very difficult to work out how many art blogs there are out there, not least because there are so many blogs out there which categorise themselves as art when they're not.

Ongoing themes As one might expect, a number of previously identified 'themes' are still current
  • Art blogs are still started with good intentions and/or a 'good idea' and are then abandoned within the first 3 months of life. However my impression is that this is now happening much less often than in the past. Maybe because those who are impulsive have been and gone and/or because blogging is no longer the latest craze - those following what is fashionable have moved on to other things?
  • New art and illustrated blogs don't find it easy to get noticed by potential readers. In the past, this related to the lack of good quality directories. However to really get noticed, you still can't beat getting out and reading and commenting on other people's art blogs. I always take a look at a blog if I get a comment from somebody who is new to me. Plus, of course....
  • If you like the art, chances are you’ll like the contents of the blogroll -self-explanatory really. Plus the next best way to get noticed is to appear in somebody else's blogroll. Share the blogs you like to read and the art you like to look at.
  • Blogging art = improved art - the more you practice the better you get. One doesn't need to look far to see stories about the benefits of daily painting for example.
BLOGGING ART in 2008: What has changed?

This section highlights my perspective on what changed in 2008. Those which involved my predictions are prefaced by '2008 PREDICTION'. Even if I say so myself, the majority of them were accurate! I've commented below on what transpired. Also included below are other major changes in 2008

Generic - Reading blogs is now more popular. As the Internet becomes much more part of normal life for many people, there are more and more people now reading blogs. There are also many more blog readers than there are bloggers. In March this year, it was estimated that 77% of active internet users read blogs.

The implication for artists is all about content. Thinking about what you are saying is as important as thinking about what you are displaying. How do you add value to people's lives? How does your content help you to relate to your readers? I know I greatly appreciate the comments I get that suggest that my 'who's made a mark this week' post each Sunday is looked forward to as much as the Sunday Papers!

Generic - The definition of what is "a blog" is beginning to blur. As Seth Godin noted (see Death of the personal blog?), independent author bloggers are getting squeezed out of the lists of 'top blogs' as blogging has become a business and high ranking is only achieved through frequent posts produced by a team of bloggers.

In generic terms and other sectors, blogs and blog authors are linking up and/or amalgamating in order to syndicate their content and attract advertising revenue. Some blogs also recruit and pay additional authors to spread the load as monetisation permits. Blogs on corporate sites are actually run by the staff (only) and may or may not represent independent views. In overall terms some blogs are beginning to 'morph' into something that looks much more like a newspaper or magazine or mainstream corporate website. This means they now look much less like the original concept of a blog. Most of these developments have had a very limited impact on art blogs to date although there are signs of creeping corporatism and monetisation.

I guess at the end of the day it's all a question of taste and whether you prefer a multi-author journal type of approach or the output of a single independent artist/author.

As Seth suggests, there's probably room for both approaches - but there is a need for separate lists, otherwise as he suggests it's like comparing newspapers and books! Just for the record, I anticipate this blog remaining entirely independent and advertisement free for the foreseeable future!

Generic - Microblogging platforms - like Twitter - proliferated in 2008. Twitter is the most popular and yet it has still to identify a long-run business model to support its continued existence. I'm not yet persuaded that micro-blogging is of critical importance to online art and for me the jury is out on the cost-effectiveness of social messaging. But then I'm not a great user of mobile phones either!

Generic - podcasts aligned with blogs became more popular in 2008. Podcasts have been around longer and are now pretty universal in relation to a number of topic areas. Again I'm not persuaded that they are of critical importance to the art blogger - although I've very much enjoyed podcasts created by major art galleries in relation to art exhibitions.

2008 PREDICTION: Fewer new art blogs than in the past. I think I was right about this prediction. My notion was that the sort of person who starts blogging and then gives up quickly was more likely to participate in the interactive communities in 2008. It's not possible to do any sort of count but my impression is that there have been fewer new art blogs in 2008 compared to 2006 and 2007. However, I didn't anticipate what sort of impact the credit crunch might have on new blogs....

2008 PREDICTION: The credit crunch will have a significant impact on the art market and what gets blogged by those marketing their art online. There was some considerable debate back in January 2008 when I started writing about how the state of the economy and the coming recession were was going to impact on the art market. Mostly, it was about people not thinking that a recession would happen to them. As we now know we have got a global recession. More about this tomorrow. The interesting aspect for blogging has been that it has generated more blogs by artists who have realised that they need to diversify and strengthen all their channels of communication in order to address the rigours of the current marketplace.

2008 PREDICTION: More experienced bloggers giving up on blogging as blog fatigue sets in. Fewer people gave up than I thought might do. Instead, what we've seen are some long term bloggers beginning to ratchet back on their frequency of posting and/or now have people helping them out with their blogs.

The issue of pacing oneself still seems to be one that taxes us - and that applies to the production of art as much as it does to blogging. For some people, fewer blog posts were associated with times when they needed to take a break from their art. However I think other projects and in particular other ways of using the internet for art have also represented a positive diversion from blogging.

Overall, I think more experienced artists who are using blogs as part of their art business marketing now understand that they are an important channel of communication and that blog output can usefully be planned, paced and managed in a business-like way.

2008 PREDICTION: Art/illustration communities on places like Flickr becoming more active. This was based on the notion that this would happen as more and more people realise that Flickr now accepts images of artwork as well as reference photos. It's certainly the case that group art blogs are now emerging out of galleries and communities of interest on Flickr. For a number of people they prefer the communities on places like Flickr to the more conventional art forums and/or other social networks.

Art Directories are improving - at long last. My complaint for the last two years has been that blog attrition, spam activity and poor categorisation seriously affected the quality of directories of art and illustrated blogs. The most impressive Art Directory I came across in 2008 is Blogged mainly because it is moderated by people and also provides scope for individuals to write reviews of and rate different blogs. It still could do with a 'weed' to exclude more general blogs but it's getting there.

Tagging is now more or less universal - with more artists understanding how tags/labels/categories help people find their work. However there is scope for improvement - see below.

Blogging around communities of interest has emerged as an important new dynamic in 2008. What follows are examples of ways in which blogs are being used for communities of interest.
Communities of interest are people who are linking together to create sites which provide:
  • a joint focus for their efforts,
  • a chance to talk with like-minded people or people with a similar interest
  • an increased chance of getting a profile for their art and for people to get to know about their blogs, and
  • for some, a better chance of selling their art.
Making art and selling art - communities of interest for artists
Team blogging has emerged as a popular form of blogging in the latter half of 2008. It's a very useful way of blogging about a specific subject and/or group projects which are also becoming much more prevalent. In a way this is the voluntary and co-operative version of the corporate and commercial team approaches to blogging highlighted above.

What's interesting about collaborative team blogging is how members are chosen and how boundaries for activities get defined. I'll continue to return to this theme tomorrow and in 2009 as I'm expecting it to be an important aspect to online art and blogging in 2009

2008 PREDICTION: More art societies embracing blogging in place of or as well as regular newsletters. The notion I had was that art societies would realise that they could enhance their green' credentials (never a bad thing) and more importantly save both money and volunteer time stuffing/stamping envelopes if they used the internet more. While it's true that more art societies (and branches/chapters of art societies) have now got blogs it's still the case that this is an area where many art societies lack knowledge, skills and capacity.

The critical question which art societies will need to be address in what will be a very challenging and difficult year is whether art societies now need to review their role and revise their overall approach towards supporting the activities of their members. More about this tomorrow.

2008 PREDICTION: More art tutors will begin to use blogs to communicate effectively about their art holidays and workshops. This continues to develop - although it's not taken off in the way I anticipated. Interestingly those tutors who have been doing this for a while are getting better at it. Photos are being used to display both the sorts of places visited and painted and also the sort of people who attend such workshops. It all helps with the buying decision!

Even more interesting for the tutors is that the workshop students are also doing rather well if not better than the tutors at explaining about the workshops they've been on! While it's great when you have a satisfied student, tutors need to beware the disenchanted student! I've read at least one account by a very dissatisfied student this year - which will probably crop up every time somebody searches on that tutor's name.

BLOGGING ART in 2008: What did not change?

Some of my predictions were less accurate in terms of the pace of change. Or maybe I was just too optimistic about the time needed to make changes?

Continued development of video-blogging

Use of video is now extensive across the internet. There has been some further development in relation to art but I've seen fewer videos on art blogs than I was expecting. This has resulted in fewer "who's made a mark his week" weekly posts that include links to good quality videos. Most of the really good ones were made by museums and art galleries. My guess is that this is an area where more bloggers need to some specific 'how to' advice and guidance before they start posting stages of a work in progress for example. I have to confess my new mini tripod for table top videos has stayed in its box!

However I've seen a lot of simple but good slideshows this year! Maybe that's the way forward for the static picture.

New corporate blogs introduced by companies marketing art materials to artists and illustrators.

Interestingly, blogging has not taken off at all in the art supplies world - which I find really surprising. There's lots of scope for supplies companies to use the artists they sponsor to illustrate how new products can be used.

However within the corporate art journal community, American Artist has now joined the F&W blogs which set up in 2007 and all of seem excited about video-blogging and new ways to try and sell training DVDs/downloads!

BLOGGING ART in 2009: Room for improvement

For those bloggers who see their blog as an important part of their marketing activities in 2009, area where bloggers could improve their approach and enhance the impact of their blog include:
  • a more managed approach to content delivery How you approach this really depends on what you want your blog to do. If you want to use it to relate to potential customers and/or galleries then it's probably a very good idea think about what you say and how you say it in terms of your blog being the virtual equivalent of a Private View or an interview with a Gallery owner. Similarly, writing just a few words about what a painting is about or how it came about is always much appreciated.
  • Smart marketing There are lots of indications that people don't think too much about how their tags 'fit' with keywords relating to their art. Those who are getting smarter at marketing their art are also getting better at tagging/labelling their art so that it fits with keywords they'd like to become associated with. Tags are also useful for 'branding' if your site has a clear identity. Words in blog post titles are a bit like 'meta tags' - they're very important to browser searches.
BLOGGING ART in 2009: a few predictions

I'm going to be writing more about art on the internet and within the economy tomorrow and a number my prediction relate to that and my analysis of how things will change.

Here's a taster. I'm expecting that:
  • The concept of collaboration will be very influential in 2009. The trend towards blogging around communities of artistic interest will expand. I'm expecting the self-help agenda to be influential in 2009. When the going gets tough, company brings comfort. Art societies, artists within a locality, artists selling art within a genre and others will begin to appreciate the value of working together in a co-operative fashion. I'm expecting that will include appreciating the value of blogging together to raise artists' profiles and sell art.
  • Corporate commercial blogging related to art will ultimately depend on finances. Paying somebody to blog ultimately depends on the cost/benefit analysis. Commercial operations will find they have to adjust their cost profiles as the recession hits home. Artists, like everybody else, will be cutting back on their retail spend. Advertising in print publications is already drying up. Advertising on the internet is bound to take a hit as well and major internet companies are already cutting costs. Hence corporate blogging will need to become very slick and beneficial to artists or it will also face a cut.
  • Art blogs will see an emphasis on sharing experiences. I'd expect to see lots of sharing of experience between bloggers as we have seen already. Life is going to be very tough in 2009 and free tips will be very welcome.
  • Professional artists will lick their art blogs into the best shape possible. Those who generate income from their art will want to maximise the potential of their blogs and the way it can generate traffic for their stores, galleries and places where they are selling art.
_______________

So - what do YOU think about my review of art blogging in 2008. Do you agree or disagree with my analysis or conclusions?

TOMORROW
- I review what's happened to art online and how the overall economy is having an impact on the online artist and art blogger.

Links: Past Reviews of Blogging Art on Making A Mark

17 comments:

Parka said...

Wow. This is a very comprehensive entry.

I think to promote art, especially individual art, is a bit hard on blogs. It's just not the right place to find art.

Just like when people look for photos, they go to Google Images or Flickr. Artwork, they go to deviantart. These are the specialized websites where these bloggers should probably do their internet marketing.

Art doesn't get search by search engines also because it's not text.

I've an art blog too, sort of, but I don't market it on blog directories. I go to where people who normally hang out, for my type of content.

Paulette said...

Hi Katherine,
Great post, sounds like you have it wrapped up. Loved seeing the numbers in the circle diagram.

Jo said...

Congratulations on your high Technorati ranking, Katherine. Your blog is different from the usual art blog in that you are generous with good valuable information that is helpful to your artist readers... so it's no wonder that you have huge numbers of readers. We all respond to generousity.
I'm one of those bloggers who started out with the intent to blog at least once a week but I failed miserably, perhaps because I need response from readers to motivate me to continue. Most of my readers don't comment at all. Thanks for encouraging us to leave comments; I'm starting now.
http://joreimer.com

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Excellent post, Katherine. You've squeezed a lot of data into a neat and digestible entry. I'll be forwarding a link to a handful of artists today. Thanks for putting it together.

Linda Blondheim said...

Excellent as always Katherine,

I think Seth Godin's tribe concept is alive and well on some blogs, especially mine. I'm not sure it's necessary to have team blogs to accomplish this. My readers regularly assist me in my marketing and painting ideas. I feel we are a tribe at Art Notes. It is their blog as well as mine.

I just got started a few weeks ago on the separate collector blog, and I think having one blog for artists and one for collectors is a pretty good way to go. The key as always is consistent posting of content that is useful or interesting. It takes a year or two to catch on, so patience is important. Art Notes is 2 1/2 years old and it took a long time to attract artists to it. I consider it a gift to other artists.
Love,
Linda

Miki Willa said...

Thanks for this very informative post. I can sympathize with Jo about visitors to a blog not leaving a comment, but I have been very guilty of the same thing.
I was interested in your comments about creating more blogging communities of interest and the corporate blogs. I really like the first idea.
One of my goals for 2009 is to improve the visibililty of my blog by going back to posting more frequently, sharing more information about art, artists, and art history, as well as expanding the "and More" part. Thanks for all you posts on these subjects. I as said about a year ago, your blog was my inspiration to start mine.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Parka - I think you'll find quite a few artist bloggers who'd disagree with you about blogs being the wrong place to promote art.

Deviantart attracts people of a certain age looking for a certain type of art - but there are many, many online artists who are not members of deviantart.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Jo - you got it - to get comments, you need to give comments! :)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Belinda - thanks for this - and there's more tomorrow!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Linda - I think you're right. Some blogs grow a community around them and you don't need a team blog to have a sense of community.

I think this blog has done the same thing and I know a number of other blogs who have their own particular communities.

You're certainly right that they don't arrive overnight - but the longer we stick around and continue to contribute, then the bigger the audience becomes and the more the sense of community grows.

Jeanette said...

Great post Katherine. Blogs do tend to be karmic - the more you put in through research, informative posts and interaction with other bloggers, the more the blog grows and gives back to you.

bonnieluria said...

There's so much you've covered so well here. Attrition is inevitable as blogging becomes a very time consuming adjunct to creating although it is a marketing means on its' own.
And like the creative process itself, some artists/bloggers are prolific and others fit in what they can.

No question that blogs have become a marvelous outreach for those wanting to advance their knowledge.
Thanks in large part to very generous writers/artists like yourself and Linda Blondheim.

We're all lucky recipients.

( I've put a link to your blog in my current post, Katherine )

Michelle (artscapes) said...

Fantastic review... I am hoping to convince my local art organization to consider a blog. I'll certainly get them to look here! Thanks!

Casey Klahn said...

I am another one of those low tech guys, but one who has had some success with art blogging. Blogs are easy to run, so it is an open venue.

When I get to handle i-phones on very odd occasion, I see the relative merit of media for those. Like you, Katherine, I don't see the path to anywhere through twitter, but the video is an interesting tool. Seems like a lot of curve to overcome in order to make a good art video, but I have been seeing a few good ones.

Technorati (true to your feelings, I think) has become an enormous disappointment to me - with almost no sense to the link method or "grammar". OTOH, the Follow Me tool within Blogger has become a good, organic tool with merit. I have yet to make it a focus of mine.

Is there room in the art blog world for a technology adviser? Someone to scourge us of the few really poorly laid out web sites; to make sense of the universe of technology to us old timers?

Laureline said...

This has been a fascinating post, Katherine. I like having this sort of uber overview once a year. I'd thought, with you, that there would be a perceptible drop off rate among art bloggers, but, like you, I haven't seen that happen. I DID notice, last spring, that many of us longterm art bloggers were experiencing burn out, and took several days to a couple of weeks away from blogging to try to recharge. It apparently helped.(It helped me, for example!) I agree that many of us have fallen into a pace of production that is sustainable. I now find that I get even greater satisfaction from my art blogging than I've ever had. Who'd a thunk it?
I look forward to the rest of your posts on this topic---and, of course, I'm one of the 'Making- a- Mark- is- my Sunday Newspaper' bunch! Splendid job on all fronts, Katherine!

Astrid Volquardsen said...

Hi Katherine,
I read your last entry with great interest. To me it seems that blogging and commenting is a most common practice in the USA but in other countries it isn't used very often.
I'm a painter from Germany and could hardly find any blogs of German artists. And if I have found them, most of them are in English.
I wonder what artist do in Norway, France, Italy or anywhere else in the world. Do they blog in their native language or in English in order to be part of the "big art community."?

Casey Klahn said...

In regards to Astrid's question about international blogs, I did a series on pastel bloggers from different countries. I have a map filled in to that effect, and the posts are here.

It has proven very difficult to root out this group, even with different google language services. So, my assessment is that blogging is centered around English to a large extent, and that art blogging has lots of room for growth!

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