Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reviewing art in 2009 (#1) - the art blog

When I started blogging four years there were about 30 million blogs. in 2008 there were well over 100 million blogs. However a lot of these were spam blogs and blogs which had stopped posting and were of archive only status. In 2009, it's really difficult to say how many blogs there are which are both legitimate and practising blogs.

This post comes in three parts
  • what stayed the same in 2009
  • what changed in 2009
  • my predictions for 2010
I'm not going to reiterate everything I said last year (in Blogging Art in 2008 - A Review (Part 1) - although much of this still holds true. If you're relatively new to blogging or this blog you might like to take a peek at that post.

BLOGGING ART IN 2009: What has stayed the same?

In relation to blogging art the perennial themes are
  • Blogging art = improved art - many artists have now testified to the fact that simply producing art for regular blog posts has been the main reason why their art has improved - practice makes perfect etc!
  • Good intentions and/or a 'good idea' still lead to people creating art blogs - most of which get abandoned within the first 3 months of life. This used to be a huge problem. However impetuous early adoption has more or less disappeared and what we're seeing now are the cautious people dipping their toes in the water. Although blogs which have expired early are still a problem I'm seeing fewer and fewer of these.
  • New art and/or illustrated blogs still don't find it easy to get noticed by potential readers. Directories are now better than they used to be but no blog will ever get noticed simply because it exists. Networking and commenting on other blogs is what gets you noticed. Commenting on blogs read by a lot of people gets you noticed faster!
  • 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.
  • Blogrolls with dead links are stagnant - How many times have you tried systematically clicking in a person's blogroll only to find that a lot of the blogs are dead (ie they've stopped posting)? I'm as guilty as the next person in forgetting to overhaul my blogroll. The difference is I know I forget and when i remember I do make a point of having a systematic "weed"! My own personal opinion is blogs which don't post often have no place in a blogroll. They're taking up real estate but offering little value. They're certainly wasting the time of those of use who do click through a blogroll if there are too many. You might like to try my solution. I limit the number of blogs which show up in a category to less than the number in the blogroll. That way blogs which have not posted recently don't show up.
  • Bloggers still struggle with blogging fatigure - Some of us have now been blogging for 3-4 years. I think we're the ones who are in it for the long run. However I've noticed blogs continue to be casualties of blogging fatigue. The trick is to (1) find a frequency which works for you and (2) take regular breaks.
BLOGGING ART in 2009: What has changed?

Here's a summary of what I think changed amongst people blogging about art in 2009. It also includes a reflection on my predictions for 2008 and 2009 - what I got right and what I totally missed.

A year ago the conventional wisdom was that blogging was dead and microblogging was where all the action would be in future. I didn't see it quite like that. The main reason being there's a limit to what you can do with 140 characters!

A massive expansion in social networking - and use of Twitter and Facebook.

Chart by Silicon Valley Insider
based on WebProNews data and Number of New Twitterers Declines
The percentage of bloggers using Twitter grew from 40% last year to more than 80% this year – and their number one use of Twitter is to promote their blogs.
Bulletproof Blog
In February the year on year growth in the use of Twitter was measured at 1384% - since then growth has slowed a little!

I totally missed this one - perhaps because I wasn't an early adopter? My initial feeling was to avoid potential time wasting activities - however I'm now participating in both and leaning much more towards Twitter. The reality is that the majority of the people using Twitter are Bloggers! My one reservation is about following back. I've found I simply can't manage with the vast amount of "noise" - the garbage and/or high velocity twittering which goes on. Consequently there is no automatic follow back from me, Instead I review their content of their tweets and frequency and then follow those who are personable and have good quality content and (important!) don't twitter incessantly! I try to be the person I like to follow - but I think that's still a bit hit and miss!

The bottom line is
  • Most of the people now using Twitter were not using it at the beginning of 2009
  • Most of the people who twitter are existing bloggers with between 70 and 90% of them using Twitter to promote their blog
  • Twitter is growing at a faster pace at the end of 2009 than it was at the beginning
  • however the rate of increase in growth has flattened for the last four months - which is exactly what happened to blogging
  • the very fast rate of growth is now in the Twitter ecosystem - in applications like Seesmic and Tweetdeck which make life nice and simple for the consumer!
Facebook fan pages have proved to a big hit and are also now generating sales for artists when used to market artwork being made available for sale. It's a bit like having a mini website which isn't static.

The big challenge for artists using Facebook and/or Twitter in 2010 is how best to deal with the sheer quantity of "noise" that they both generate.

2009 PREDICTION - The concept of collaboration will be very influential in 2009. The trend towards blogging around communities of artistic interest will expand. I was expecting to see rather more co-operation in relation to tackling a difficult economy than I think I've seen in reality. I also expected to see more development around localities. I'm not really sure why this collaboration failed to emerge in a significant way. Maybe I was calling itt too early - as this continues to be an expectation around future development. Or did I miss important new developments?

2009 PREDICTION - Art blogs will see an emphasis on sharing experiences. I expected to see more sharing of experiences between bloggers than I think we've seen. On the whole, it seems to me that those who were finding it tough going have tended to try and focus all their efforts on finding a way through. Saying how tough it's been and what has/has not worked has tended to come after the event rather than in the middle. However this recession is now yet over whatever the pundits say and life is going to be very tough in 2009 and free tips are always very welcome.

2009 PREDICTION - Professional artists will lick their art blogs into the best shape possible. I anticipated that those who generate income from their art would want to maximise the potential of their blog and how it generates traffic for their stores, galleries and places where they are selling art. I've seen some makeovers and also people switching software and domain names. However I still see an awful lot of basic mistakes being made in terms of how blogs are configured and coded.

2009 PREDICTION - Corporate commercial blogging related to art will ultimately depend on finances. The art business - in all its different guises is getting into blogging. However not all have yet seen the light. This particular prediction was predicated around an assumption that the income streams for advertising were going to change significantly during 2009 - with more going online. I was right! I therefore assumed that those with commercial art blogs would need to get very good or would find it difficult to justify costs. What I've noticed is a number of things:
  • some of the art journals are becoming very slick at maintaining blogs and posting useful articles. The one which stands out for me is the Artist Daily blogging operation run by American Artist which has come on in leaps and bounds during 2009.
  • corporate art blogs which work well employ artists who can write to deliver blog posts rather than asking one of their journalists to fit it in while doing their existing day job
  • the major art supply houses are getting into blogging - but there's still some way to go on this front. I'm just amazed that Dick Blick hasn't yet got a proper blog.
  • art societies are beginning to realise the need to improve their websites but the majority have still not decided to create their own blog.
  • I've seen gallery blogs this year - but not many
  • there's an increasing number of blogs which act as digests of art news - a number of which appear to be infringing the copyright of the original authors in a very major way!
  • there's still an awful lot of art businesses which simply don't "get it".
What art businesses need to "get" is that both consumers and funding for advertisements for products are both moving online and their existing business model might be undermined in a significant way if they don't get to grips with going digital and networking media.

A rating of art blogs in the UK - It was nice to see this being done in a relatively scientific manner rather than on the basis of how many people you can persuade to be your "friends". Using a formula which didn't rely on one indicator gave it more credibility - and I'm not saying that just because Making A Mark got rated #3" in the Top Art Blogs in the UK!

BLOGGING ART in 2010: a few predictions

Generic predictions

My generic predictions - which act as a context and background all changes in art blogging - are that:
  • people are beginning to expect that the internet will be available to them everywhere and all the time
  • ... except at work where more and more employers are adopting policies which ban the use of social media networks while at work
  • the pace of change will continue to be exponential
  • some existing developments will move towards the mature part of their life cycle - before they get replaced altogether
  • "noise" is beginning to become a major issue - it needs to be filtered out
  • webware is now normal and will continue to be normal
  • producers must remain alert to the fact a lot of digital delivery needs be capable of fitting three screens - the phone, the computer and the TV screen - all of which are a very different size, offering very different resolutions
  • more people buy online than ever before - and the proportion who do will continue to increase
  • ...which is why more of a focus on the local dimension is anticipated in 2010
  • ...which means that blogs will become more important as the advertising revenue shifts online more and more
  • ...which leads to professional bloggers becoming more important and more numerous
The rise of the professional blogger continues. Part-Timers, Pros, and Self-Employeds are blogging as much as or more than ever (73%, 76% and 80%, respectively), while Hobbyists are blogging somewhat less.
Techcrunch October 2009
In relation to art, I'm expecting that:
  • if 2009 is anything to go by, as purchasing and advertising increasingly shifts online, leading artists / art bloggers will be asked more and more to review and/or endorse products. Promotion has been opaque in the extreme until now. It's quite simple - mentioning a product on your blog means needing to be aware of the RULES! See my post about New Federal rules for product reviews/endorsements by bloggers which came into play at the beginning of this month. They represent a major shift aimed at keeping things simple for the cosnumer. Interestingly I was approached by a firm recently with an explicit request which to my mind went completely against these rules. The firm concerned got short shrift from me. However I have no doubt that they'd like to get other artists to do the same thing. My advice - take a careful look at any invitations - and don't sell your soul or your integrity and be transparent about what you are doing at all times!
  • more mini blogs will be created for marketing art. In 2009 a small number of bloggers started art blogs dedicated to marketing art. It's not surprising. As more and more people with the cash to spend switch to iphones and the like, there's going to be more need for blogs which are marketing art AND optimised for smaller screens and ease of viewing. I expect this trend to to continue
  • social networking will become more niche oriented - this harks back to my point about how I can't read Twitter when it's full of clutter. I need to be able to filter. It seems like lots of other people agree and it's expected that filters and lists which create mash-ups which are highly targeted are likely to become the new focus for software - which leads neatly to....
  • delivering alerts to the availability of new blog posts/artwork is vital and will become a bit of a science! I don't know about anybody else but I love the software which announces my blog posts for me to all the different ways in which people follow me using social networks. I've just got to decide which is the one which works best. Expect to see more reviews about blogging/networking widgets on Making A Mark reviews...... as I begin to try and work out what works best for art producers and art consumers
  • niche networks which target high income consumers will become more exclusive - and go behind paywalls. Murdoch is being pushed into this approach for News International publications because his newspaper empire is being crucified by the loss of advertising. However the 'pull factor' behind paywalls is that it means what's being shared is not being shared with anybody and everybody. Think of it as being a bit like the invite to an artist's or a gallery's Private View.
  • there will be an increased need to optimise blogs for all browsers given the change in fortunes for IE. Internet Explorer now only has two thirds of market share which is a massive drop on where it used to be two years ago. Checking out how your blog looks on different browsers and different size screens will become much more important than hitherto.

Click the link to see the timetable for the rest of the end of year Making A Mark Review.

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

PS Don't forget you've now got less than 24 hours to nominate for The Making A Mark Awards - nomination links

Links: If you like reading about what the past year look like in previous years try checking out the following:


  1. Thank you Katherine for such a well informed round up.
    Perhaps I should make a bit more effort with Twitter after reading your post.

  2. Katherine - this is a great post, thanks. I started blogging in June and what really interests me is the connections between my blog, website, facebook and weekly emails. Blogs and websites have a passive quality about them (meaning they wait for visitors, they don't go to people who aren't thinking about seeing your stuff.) To increase views and thus sales as a new blogger, I've had success in placing the images in front of my list & network.

  3. Excellent post, Katharine. It'll be interesting to see how your predictions pan out!

  4. In the past, I had a boss who recognised my talents at predicting the future and always used to use me in a "seer" role in relation to strategic planning! Don't ask me why but I tend to be very good at getting it right about change over a 5-10 year time horizon. However I also sometimes think people will move faster towards the inevitable then in fact they do! To summarise - direction is excellent but timing is a bit off at times.

    My track record to date on past predictions on this blog have proved to pretty accurate - but some of them are moving more slowly than others! :)

  5. Hi Katherine - Thanks for posting this, it was a great read! Just wanted to let you know that Dick Blick does in fact currently have a blog called Events at Blick (http://events.dickblick.com/). This blog is dedicated to keeping readers up to date on store, corporate, and community events relating to the arts. Blick also sponsors a second blog called Art Ally: A Voice for Art (http://www.artally.org/) which is focused on sharing information about the importance of art and art education.

  6. Thanks for the response.

    I guess I meant a blog which was a bit more to do with all the products you sell and artists' experience of these rather than events or education per se. I guess I'm thinking of something like the new Daniel Smith Blog which is a bit more than just an events listing blog. http://danielsmithblog.com/

    Of course the problem with blogs which list events for a country as big as the USA is that the majority of listings will be irrelevant for the majority of readers. I can well understand why Utrecht decided to go with store oriented blogs.

    I've also been confused by the ArtAlly site. Given the Dick Blick name and logo are limited to the 'about' page, I could never quite work out whether it was your site or whether you were just the sponsor - or some other explanation.

    Is there any particular reason why you separate them out?

    Maybe it's time to ask your customers what sort of blog they would like to see?

  7. Katherine – Thank you for your feedback! We are actually in the process of re-working our Events blog to make it more relevant and user friendly. Keep your eyes open for these changes in 2010.

  8. Nomination for the Moose Award -- I would like to nominate Mona Majorowicz's blog on Word Press, "Fur in the Paint" and her piece, "Spanish Gold - Andalusian Stallion" at http://mona.myartbliss.com/post/spanish-gold-andulasian-stallion-painting-finished#comments
    Mona does many beautiful animal art pieces in a unique style. Her blog is beautiful, humorous, informative and inspiring to animal lovers and artists alike.

  9. Nomination for the Moose Award, I just posted this nomination, but would like to include this link: thishttp://mona.myartbliss.com/post/spanish-gold-andalusian-horse-painting-start-to-finish.

    I nominate Mona Majorowicz's "Spanish Gold - Andalusian Stallion" for the Moose Award. This is the latest animal painting of many done in a beautiful and unique style. Mona's blog on Word Press, "Fur in the Paint" is beautiful, humorous, informative and inspiring to animal lovers and artists alike.

  10. Thank you for your extensive review and forecast of art blogging. It's very much appreciated.

  11. Thanks Katherine I really found this post helpful and very interesting. I'm pretty new to social networking and have been trying to integrate blog, facebook and twitter.


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