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Blogs: Not dead, yet!

If you're a blogger, you might find this essay, recently shared to YCombinator's Hacker News from a blog, to be of interest. It's perhaps a little pessimistic, but has some fair observations about the state of affairs in the #blogosphere. 

It's almost impossible now to find a blog that's not on a focused theme because that's what search engines focus on and how websites profit. But you want the opposite, a blog that never tried to focus or even thought about it. 
The observations about the role of the only search engine that presently matters, Google, in the state of the blogosphere are worthy of consideration. In the discussion at Hacker News, the author was criticized a bit for saying that Google Blogger was "dead" —which itself seems a pretty fair criticism if not strictly accurate in a pedantic sense. Google basically abandoned Blogger in place years ago. Sure, our own illumineX blog is hosted here but we're not in denial about the fact that Google is at best indifferent to their Blogger platform. 

So Many More Choices!

The rise of social media "walled garden" platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and recently TikTok, have brought more options for self-expression and communication to an audience. Similarly the rise of podcasting and "vlogging" (video blogging, mostly at Google YouTube) have become more popular as more people have access to broadband. 

Connecting With Your Audience

On the other hand, there have been writers on the Internet since people started connecting from home, and there are still lots of great bloggers writing thought-provoking essays, poignant heartwarming diaries, short stories, and fan fiction, as well as documenting news. 

Some of the most interesting small businesses connect with their audiences by writing long-form blog posts, as well as short-form or microblogging via social media. 

In Missoula, one of our favorite local catering companies pivoted their business model when they realized a potentially serious global #COVID19 pandemic was on the horizon, and created a gourmet prepared-meal CSA featuring locally produced, organic and sustainable ingredients. 

Part of the True Food Missoula strategy to let their customers know about their new business is the Weekly Wellness blog where writers including Katharine Roggeveen write about their weekly menu (this one included lamb borscht and a wild morel mushroom and grilled asparagus soup!), local organic produce suppliers, and various health aspects of ingredients and other food choices.

New blogs created by interesting people every day, all around the world. People still find it worth doing, even though it's harder to reach their audience than it was when the Google Search algorithm was friendlier, and Google Reader existed to help readers keep track of things they wanted to read later, or had read and liked and might want to share, later. 

It's all about connecting with your audience. The rise of both closed-ecosystem social media and the profit-maximizing algorithm has definitely altered the blogosphere, but other things have, too. 

Not everything is bad news. 

Carefully crafted, platform-specific use of social media can help bloggers reach a larger audience, faster, by cross-promoting their long-form blog essay. The blog platforms which have survived, like WordPress, are better than ever before at creating a good-looking, reader-friendly, mobile-friendly  blog. Even Google Blogger updated some templates to allow a friendlier mobile experience for bloggers, like us, who have stayed with that decaying Hollywood mansion of a blog platform. 

Let me tell one other small bit of good news in the blogging world.

iBlogger is back.

iBlogger 2 is dead! Long live iBlogger 3! 

illumineX loves blogs and bloggers. 

Our specialized editor for blogs, iBlogger, was one of the first apps on the iPhone App Store in 2008. Our last update was in November of 2017 — two and a half years ago.

That's a long time between updates, we know. There's a whole long sad saga of why we weren't able to continue updating iBlogger 2, while building iBlogger 3 in parallel. It involves a near-death experience of one of our colleagues, a key iBlogger developer at the time. Really, though, the interesting part is that we remained profoundly interested in blogging over the years, even though it has never been a money maker. 

The Internet Wants to Be Free (or at least try-before-you-buy!)

Most bloggers, you see, wanted their blogging tools to be free, or a least be able to try them out for free to make sure they worked, first. For the longest and very frustrating time, there just wasn't a good way to do that, on the iPhone App store. 

illumineX was a pioneer in the free internet download. We created what may have been the first secure and truly seamless In-App Purchase system on Mac OS X (maybe on any platform) in our labs in 1999 and delivery to market in 2000, iXRegistrar / iXLicenser was a feature of our Infinity Game PaX for Mac OS X from the very earliest days. (Those internal component names were never public. It was just the "Purchase a license" button.)

We understood the value to our customers of the try-before-you-buy model. But Apple didn't. Developers and customers complained for years, to no avail. 

The Weird Intersection of Supply & Demand

Meanwhile, we had discovered an unfortunate quirk of the supply and demand intersection of the blogging community and the App Store marketplace. 

Revenue for our product was flat, regardless of price point. 

This is an odd phenomenon. In most markets, if you lower the price of a product which customers like, more customers will buy it. This was true, for iBlogger, too. But in most markets, you get lots more customers at lower price points, and revenue increases. The minimum price point is usually limited by the cost of production. You can't really lose a little on every sale, and stay in business due to volume.

Weirdly, though, the slope of the curve at prices between $0.99 and $9.99 was such that we would get almost exactly the number of new customers at a lower price to make revenue flat. 

Above $9.99 and sales dropped to zero. 

Below $0.99 (the Free price tier) we would get hundreds of new users a day. Many of them used the product for years. 

Over a million posts were created with iBlogger 2 within about 18 months of its initial release.

But from $0.99 to $9.99 we would see a completely flat revenue. 

Non-zero Tech Support Costs vs. Free Products 

That might not have been too bad. Ordinarily the right response to this situation for software is to just put the price point at $0.99 and let it fly! 

Unfortunately, iBlogger was an exception. It's not a stand-alone software system. In order to be useful to the customer, it needs to connect to their blog. 

Bloggers sometimes wanted help making the product work with their blog (even if we gave it away for free.) This meant that we had a non-zero tech support cost.

So, in order to be able to help bloggers get going, we had to limit sales by keeping the price at $9.99, where it stayed for most of the decade that it was available on the App Store (before iPad interface requirements forced us to temporarily remove the product from the App Store about 18 months ago.)

Sometimes I would dedicate a weekend to tech support, and have a $0.99 sale, or even give away iBlogger for free, to get more people using it. That's why we build it, after all. The more people use it the happier we are. 

Then on Monday morning, I would put the price back up to $9.99, which didn't affect the product revenue at all, but meant that we had only 10% as many technical support requests (usually bad passwords and misconfigured blogs, which were not caused by our product, but which stood in the way of the customer's ability to use our product). 

Occasionally we would test different price points in between. Revenue was always flat. 

New World Order

So, it's a bit of a challenge to make good blogging tools in a world that accidentally conspires for those projects to lose money at all scales, from the blogger to the platforms to the toolmakers. 

But things are looking up, for blogs, I think. 

There are more people thinking about the importance to free societies of independent voices like blogs and podcasts.

Apple became convinced that the try-before-you-buy model was good for consumers. 

illumineX is bringing back iBlogger this week.

We have an all new iBlogger ready for TestFlight in a few days. 

We hope that you'll try it, if you have a WordPress blog and an iPhone or iPad (iOS 13). Let us know what other blog platforms are important to you, and what features you would like to see.

We have great ideas for how to make iBlogger even better than the product that thousands of bloggers  loved for a decade, and we've invested heavily in making a solid foundation for the future in Swift and modern Cocoa frameworks. 

The core text blogging features are free and will always be. We hope you like the product well enough to subscribe. 

We think blogs have a bright future, and we want to help make that happen, with iBlogger 3.

purple and black iBlogger icon
iBlogger 3 for iOS


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