Visual Growth: A Look Into the Rise of Blogging

This is trend story was written for Arts & Entertainment Reporting.

By Kitty Williams

Lifestyle and fashion blogger Carly Heitlinger began The College Prepster back in 2008 when she was a freshman in college. “It was like a little group of online friends back then,” said Heitlinger in an e-mail.

These blogs she was surrounded by in the beginning have faded out, and while The College Prepster began as a creative outlet, running it is now a full-time job for Heitlinger.

Photo: Pixabay

Blogging has been around for many years, but has recently shown tremendous growth with help from social media platforms. Blogging has been made easy, and now anyone can share his or her personality with the Internet world, and that is exactly what readers like.

The last two years have shown growth in blogging activity on WordPress alone. According to a study published in 2014 by ManageWP, a website management service, the average number of blog posts published on WordPress each day was 20,000.

More current research from ManageWP concludes that there were nearly two million posts published on WordPress each day in 2015. That means that every second, there were over one thousand unique posts published on WordPress. These same statistics indicate that more than 500 blogs were created on WordPress alone every day that same year.

According to “A Brief History of Blogging” from Webdesigner Depot, the first blog was created in 1994, though it wouldn’t be until 1999 that it would be commonly referred to as a “blog.”

As blogging developed over the years, so did the platforms on which people could participate. Web sites like WordPress, Blogger, and even Tumblr are popular blogging platforms. Many bloggers also are also active on various other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. When bloggers can be accessed on multiple platforms, the audience grows and it encourages interaction.

Blogging has developed with the increased use of social media. Most people have multiple personal social media accounts that they use to connect with people on. These accounts can be more business-oriented, but blogging accounts typically serve as more of a personal look into their lives, just as any other person’s accounts would be.

The appeal of blogs, according to Heitlinger, is that there is a blog out there for everyone, no matter the reader’s interests. “It’s not like watching television where you’re stuck with whatever a network has decided will be popular,” said Heitlinger.

Heitlinger’s blog is a personal one in which she talks about her own life and also provides resources for readers including gift guides, style tips, and studying advice. Just as it was in the beginning, she is still connecting with others through blogging. Her “About” page on her site reads, “Anything that I’d share with my close friends, I share here.”

However, much has changed over time. Having been in the blogging community for eight years, Heitlinger has been around to notice some trends in popularity. “There were definitely shifts of growth followed by plateaus and then more shifts of growth,” said Heitlinger. She attributes this rise, punctuated by periods of stagnation, to visual social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

Photo: Pixabay

Instagram and Pinterest are very visual social media platforms that bloggers use to make their content seen. Instagram is a photo sharing Web site, and Pinterest allows users to organize images onto different “boards.” These platforms may either echo a blog post or supplement it. Heitlinger herself has a “vlog” or “video blog” that she maintains on YouTube. She is also active on Twitter and Instagram, with over 31 thousand and 192 thousand followers respectively.

The visuals found in Heitlinger’s blog have evolved over the years. Pictures in early blog posts were taken on phone cameras, while her current posts feature professional level photos.

Andrea McHugh, the blogger behind The Newport Stylephile, also notes that recently it has been more important to have good visuals with online content. She notices that people have shifted their tendencies in what they interact with online. People are looking for concise articles with engaging captions and standout visuals. “I love a good New Yorker article, but it’s not often that people are reading three to four thousand word pieces,” says McHugh.

Given that it is a creative outlet that provides a person with the tools needed to connect with the world through his or her ideas and interests, blogging is ideal for writers. McHugh used her background as a freelance writer when starting her blog.

Looking back on when she decided to take the leap into the blogosphere, McHugh says, “It was kind of a reaction to having other writers advise that it would be a good method to keep fresh and get your ideas out there.”

“The social channels are very supportive of the blogs,” says McHugh. In addition, she notices that in years past, the visuals have been secondary to the writing, but now they have all been put on the same level of importance and influence.

McHugh’s lifestyle blog is not so much personal, but about Newport life. Its focus is less on her as the blogger behind the scenes and more on the reader she is connecting with. Her priority is “doing stories that are both relevant to Newport and my audience.”

Her blog is a resource for the Newport community. She may post about a local clothing store, business, or community event. McHugh is also a correspondent for the Rhode Show, a local television program. Her appearances there result in people’s going to her blog for more information about the products she talked about. Her readership growth has been very natural in this way.

McHugh also is part of a group of Rhode Island-based bloggers. In this group, the bloggers make connections and support one another. It is a “rising-tide-floats-all-boats community,” says McHugh. “We all try and help each other.”

Photo: Pixabay

Blogs, depending on the format and purpose, can be personal projects. Oftentimes, people start a blog as a creative outlet and it is easy to do so. The Web sites that offer blogging tools make it easy for someone without knowledge of web coding or graphic design to make a beautiful and well-run site.

Nothing is there to hold someone back from running a blog, and that draws a lot of people in. People love to talk about what makes them happy and readers like when they find a kindred spirit.

“People are inherently nosey; who wouldn’t want to know what someone else is doing throughout the day?” said Heitlinger. “Bloggers peel back the curtain for at least a part of their life.”

Through blogging, writers get to share opinions that would have been less welcome had they written them for a publication. The blogs have become a more personal publication, a feature that is attractive to many.

This aspect of blogging is what makes experts argue that it will continue to thrive. According to “No, Blogs Are Not Dead” from Zocalo Public Square, “Blogs are well positioned to survive, in part because a blog is about an individual, not an institution, in an era when individuals matter more than institutions.”

McHugh believes social media will play a part in blogging’s future. Social media platforms affect blogging intensely, and they are also ever changing. “There’s always going to be a new channel,” she says. “I’m curious to watch how it shakes out.”

Heitlinger believes that the future of blogging will present what she calls a “hockey-stick model.” This means that blogging will continue to grow, but that the growth will present itself in different ways for different blogs.

“The big blogs and bloggers are going to continue to grow, but the number of blogs on the ‘tail’ are also going to continue,” said Heitlinger. “The big blogs will be the ones making money and the other blogs are just going to keep multiplying without gaining traction.”

She believes that the evolution of blogging will be a reflection of the evolution of social media.

Though Heitlinger’s blog has benefitted from the changes in the blogging world over the years, she looks back fondly on the early days of blogging when she used cell phone pictures and had a small community of friendly bloggers surrounding her. “It was so much fun back in the day,” she reflects.