When I think of blogging in the olden days I think of LiveJournal or Blogger. Some era around 2002-2007 when blogs were just a daily journal entry and you were lucky if they even had a digital camera to post a photo along with it. A friend of mine from art school even had an account at DeadJournal which was invite only. (Heads up it's still alive and well as a paid service.)
These were the days of using forums to find out how to replace the headlight on your 98 Accord because there was no YouTube or wiki's yet. People would blog about things they discovered or did that would seem like something easily googled these days but would end up as the top hit later for someone else trying to find out that info.
I think that's when the shift from personal blog to side hustle began. When blogs began to pop up in search results the users noticed the traffic increase, and during this time one could actually put one or two google ads in the sidebar and make some spare cash on an old post about replacing a headlight.
From about 2005-2009 I had a free WordPress account that I wrote in nearly daily. I would read other friends blogs and link to them in something known as a blogroll over in the sidebar. Actually I used this blogroll as a makeshift bookmarking tool and would simply go to my page first to check everyone else's blogs from one location. Before WP I used a small LiveJournal account but that never told me things like how many clicks a post got or where the readers came from. Once I knew that some posts would “do better” than others there was a not quite subconscious shift from writing personal notes to writing “for the reader”.
That's when I noticed every other website had ads in the sidebar, ads in the header, the footer, everywhere. Posts changed from an interesting daily habit to the writers top ten flavors of pop-tart. You noticed more posts that were overwritten, that took the whole page to get to the point just to keep you on the site for X minutes to reduce bounce rate. Then the inevitable happened, sponsorship. Companies sent bloggers free stuff in return for an “honest review”. We now see that mostly on YouTube/Instagram/Tiktok etc since video is now king. It turned the humble blog into a free advertising program.
At this point the ads don't really net returns anymore. You can place them on a site but good luck getting anyone to click on them these days and most folks use adblockers. Better to not have them at all and link to a tip jar at best. I see pro-blogger type sites out there still like Medium or Substack which rely on the reach of newsletters, social media, and news sites to gain readers. When researching how to market my novel 99% of the marketing schemes were start a blog, build an email list, and change your writing format from normal human mode to keyword salad and click-bait headlines. Oh and bonus if you start a podcast to go with it like you have that kind of time on your hands.
All this when in the end I just want to log in to a blank screen and talk for a few paragraphs. No themes, no agenda, no promotions, no like and subscribe. (Yes, I know there is a subscribe link at the bottom of this but you know what I'm referencing.) A blog should be a blog, not advertising. Now I'm wondering if I can code up a blogroll on this site...