Up until around a decade ago it seemed to many of us as if virtually everyone was a blogger of some ilk, and hobby blogs far outnumbered professional, corporate and highly monetised blogs by a huge proportion.
However, we don’t hear so much about hobby blogging these days and whilst businesses of every size are more or less expected to keep a blog and many individuals (including influencers and celebrities) operate large-scale, slick and often very profitable blogs of their own, far fewer people today consider starting a blog for their own enjoyment.
Blogging reached its peak in terms of popularity between 2006-2008, and has followed a gradual downwards curve of decline ever since; so I’ve set out to investigate the hobby blogging phenomenon, its rise to prominence, and later decline.
In this article, I have set out to answer the question “is hobby blogging still relevant” once and for all, and I’ll also examine whether or not hobby blogging is still a worthwhile pursuit for those interested in it, and take a look at what the future holds for hobbyist bloggers today.
The hobby blogging phenomenon
Let’s begin with a short explanation of what hobby blogging is, and how hobby blogs differ from other types of blogs.
A hobby blog is essentially a blog that is set up and populated with content for the blogger’s personal enjoyment as a hobby, rather than to promote goods or services, or as a moneymaking endeavour to earn a meaningful income from the blog itself.
Hobby blogs can of course be monetised too, and many are – but the main purpose of a hobby blog is to provide a platform for the blog’s author to talk about whatever is of interest to them, the things that they find important, or news that they want to share.
The topic of different hobby blogs can be as wide and diverse as those of any other type of blog – some are concerned with actual hobbies or interests such as crafting or travel, whilst others may serve as an online diary for the blogger in question to share their insights and thoughts on whatever is on their mind at the time.
This means that not all hobby blogs have a theme or defined content type, so what you will find on any one hobby blog might be vastly different from any other.
It is not the size or volume of content within a blog, nor its number of readers and followers that differentiates a hobby blog from a professional blog, but rather, the intent behind it. Many hobby blogs have large audiences of regular readers who share the author’s interests or find their content engaging.
What really differentiates a hobby blog from a professional blog is the fact that a hobby blog is designed to provide an outlet for its author to talk about what they want to and in the way that they choose, rather than written to serve and engage its audience or to make money as its main goal.
Hobby blogs may earn a certain level of revenue for their owners by accepting hosted ads or posting sponsored or promoted content, but this income is largely incidental and often minimal. If a blog begins earning serious cash for its creator, it usually crosses the divide into professional territory.
For successful hobby bloggers who find themselves with a large audience of readers and a waiting stream of advertisers hoping to use the blog’s reach to target them, hobby blogs may of course eventually become professionally monetised blogs further down the line.
However, the intent of beginning a hobby blog is to keep the blog as a personal interest or hobby, rather than to make money or to promote a brand or specific products.
Is hobby blogging still relevant?
Whilst a wide and diverse range of people start a new blog every year in the UK, far fewer of them make it past the one-year mark and continue displaying the same level of interest in their blogs as they did at the outset, ultimately archiving their blogs or simply abandoning them and no longer posting new content to them very early on.
In fact, the lifespan of the average blog in terms of how long its author continues to post content to it is just 100 days, and a blogger survey undertaken by Blog Tyrant indicates that 34.4% of the 350 surveyed bloggers, the largest proportion of the total, had been blogging for just one year or less.
However, blogs are still hugely popular as a whole and statistics published by WordPress, one of the largest and busiest blogging platforms of them all, indicate that 409 million people view a total of 20 billion blog pages every month, and that represents the figures for just one of many popular blogging platforms.
Few of us that use the internet regularly don’t read or at least check out one or more blogs in the course of the average month. However, the blogs that are easiest to find and that rank well on Google and within their blog platforms’ own internal search portals tend to be professional, corporate or highly monetised blogs written to achieve a specific purpose, rather than for the author’s own personal use.
This means that unless a hobby blog is already well-publicised, easy to find, and has a lot of followers (or unless someone lets you know about their blog and shares a direct link to it) simply finding a specific hobby blog to read in the first place can be a challenge, resulting in low search engine performance and a small or non-existent audience of regular readers.
Those of us that do follow personal or hobby blogs tend to follow those belonging to friends or family, or people who are interested in a specific niche topic that is not widely covered within other types of blogs.
This is not necessarily because we consciously prefer professional and corporate blog content to personal blogs, but potentially because personal and hobby blogs are harder to find, have so much competition, and sometimes, are simply not worth it due to high abandonment levels and erratic posting of new content generating frustration in would-be regular readers.
Additionally, many hobby bloggers are competing with a huge range of other bloggers (both fellow hobbyists and professionals) within their chosen niche, such as in areas like travel, beauty, tech and gadgets, or environmental issues. The sheer number of blogs of these types to be found online makes the chances of a prospect finding and perusing any given small-scale hobby blog very low.
However, for hobby bloggers who get the formula right in terms of the type of content they post and the angle that they take to doing so, it is always possible to build up a large number of readers over time, which becomes self-perpetuating to a certain degree for as long as the blogger continues to post new content.
Tartan Brunette’s sustainable fashion and lifestyle blog is a nice example of a very well-presented hobby blog that has resisted the urge to over-monetise or change its approach to appeal to advertisers, although like most larger hobby blogs, she does offer a limited and very closely controlled range of options for advertisers seeking to piggyback her success.
Another popular personal blog that has built up a regular audience of fans and followers is “A Cup of Jo,” in which the titular Jo talks about a wide range of different topics pertaining to motherhood, fashion, beauty, current events, and random thoughts, again, with monetisation kept firmly low-key despite the blog’s success.
Miss Thrifty’s blog hosts paid-for ads along its sidebar, but still remains very much a personal or hobby blog, and one that covers a wide range of finance and moneysaving topics in an accessible, friendly and engaging style that helps to bring in readers and keep them coming back for more.
One trait that all three of these successful hobby blogs share is that they have all been established for several years, and took a significant amount of time and effort on the part of their creators before they even started to gain any traction.
Why do so many hobby blogs fail during their first year?
With blog posters spending an average of three hours and twenty minutes creating each blog post they share, keeping a hobby blog up to date with regularly posted new content can fairly be described as a time consuming endeavour. It is easy to see why a commitment of this type can soon prove to be onerous, even for bloggers who start off full of enthusiasm and plans to share new content every week or so.
This is something that few hobby bloggers realise from the outset, and something that can result in blog abandonment early on.
Simply finding ideas and topics for new posts is often challenging for bloggers of all types, but particularly hobby bloggers who are not following a content calendar or working with an end goal to provide inspiration and motivation to continue.
Additionally, whilst the point of a hobby blog is to provide an outlet for the author to talk about whatever they want to talk about without limitations, spending a lot of time creating content that nobody reads soon becomes very disheartening for bloggers. This is often particularly true for those who want to talk about something that is important to them, or spread the word about a topic or cause.
The lack of a catalyst or incentive to post new content – such as promoting a business or making money – can also mean that for many hobby bloggers, the inspiration and motivation to create new posts isn’t there after the first couple of months. This in turn helps to ensure that readers don’t bother to check back regularly, and feeds back into the cycle of blog abandonment caused by a lack of regular readers.
Real life is apt to get in the way too, and hobby bloggers by their nature don’t usually earn much (if any) money from their blogs, and the need to earn a living and the day-to-day challenges of everyday life and other time drains often take precedence over creating new content.
To continue hobby blogging past the one-year mark, bloggers need to be committed to maintaining their blog, posting new content, and keeping readers coming back for more, even though that first year (and beyond) can be a lonely one in terms of feedback and engagement.
However, few blogs begin to gain any meaningful traction during their first year unless they already have a large, waiting audience or are heavily promoted externally (such as is the case for many business and professional blogs) and even when that one-year mile marker has passed, achieving success is by no means a given.
What constitutes success for any hobby blogger is of course very different from individual to individual, and long-term hobby bloggers who never seek to profit from or seriously monetise their blogs do it for the love of their craft. But for many hobby bloggers, achieving a reasonable number of readers and engaging with them via the blog itself is a large part of how they determine success, and find a reason to continue creating new content.
Finally, a lot of hobby blogs that do prove to be very successful for their authors in terms of gaining a large readership and lots of engagement often segue largely naturally into becoming professional or profitably monetised blogs, as advertisers and promoters are very proactive about finding and approaching successful blog owners to host their ads or sponsored content.
Even hobby bloggers that start out simply wishing to keep a personal blog tend to find the call of a potentially lucrative revenue stream that requires little to no effort other than that which they are already making appealing, and quite understandably too.
Many will soon find themselves making a gradual transition to professional blogging, or even turning the blog itself into a profitable website, even if that was never their original intention.
The social media effect
One of the most pivotal causes for the declining prominence of and interest in hobby blogs compared to monetised or professional/corporate blogs is our increasing reliance upon social media, and the market dominance of the big players in the social media arena – like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, to name just a few.
Whilst social media portals differ from traditional blogs and of course, from each other too, there is a lot of crossover in terms of their applications and usage. The ever-increasing popularity of social media and the amount of time that internet users spend using their social media platforms of choice have both helped to tempt readers away from perusing blogs regularly, and provided an alternative for would-be hobby bloggers to say their piece.
If you want to talk about things that interest you or that you care about – or simply share your random thoughts with anyone who comes across them – social media is often the easiest, most obvious option, and the one with the highest chances of achieving engagement.
Twitter was originally described as a micro-blogging platform, and Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram alike all offer options to share stories and individual posts to a public or private audience with a lot of freedom of expression and variety in terms of the types of content that can be used.
Whilst today, most of us that want to say something or share something take to our preferred social media portals to do so, a decade or so ago this was rather less common. The social media portals that were available to us at the time were less widely known and utilised, and only just really beginning to gain traction and popularity.
People looking for information, entertainment or things to do also tend to browse social media as the default, both to see content posted by friends and family and also, the public at large.
This meant that hobby blogging was previously a more obvious choice than social media for individuals with something to say, or that wished to spread news to others, something that is much less the case today.
Is hobby blogging still a worthwhile pursuit?
So, is it still worth starting a hobby blog today, or a simple waste of time and energy? The answer to that depends on why you are interested in hobby blogging in the first place.
If you proactively want to make money from a blog then everything from its design, layout, monetisation options and the type of content you post need to be developed with this in mind. Whether or not you ultimately make any money or not, approaching things in this way still constitutes professional blogging, as the end goal is something other than blogging simply for its own sake.
If your sole intention for starting a blog is to provide yourself with a platform and outlet to share your views and talk about anything you want to regardless of whether or not other people read or care about your content, then hobby blogging is evergreen and will provide value for you for as long as your interest in blogging just for the love of it continues.
However, if your interest in hobby blogging is dependent on engagement, interactions and achieving a large readership of followers, you may find that the novelty soon wears off, or you become disheartened early on when you don’t receive a lot of blog traffic.
How much time you are willing to dedicate to your blog is another factor to consider; if you just love to write (or create other forms of content such as videos) and express your creative talents, then hobby blogging can provide a great outlet for your interests.
Hobby blogging can also help you to improve and fine-tune your skills as a writer or content creator, learn about what engages people online and why, and provide you with a sense of personal achievement – or enable you to get things off your chest or laid down in a format that you can refer back to later on, much as keeping an offline diary can.
This means that keeping a hobby blog can also serve as a project or interest to help you to improve some of your skills, pass the time, and feel rewarded by the tangible results of your endeavour, offering a sense of satisfaction that for many hobby bloggers, is its own reward.
In order to answer the question of whether or not hobby blogging is still worthwhile, you need to consider carefully your own reasons for getting started, or continuing with your existing blog – and whether those reasons will still motivate and inspire you several months or even years down the line.
An alternative to hobby blogging if you feel that the potential rewards aren’t worth the work is to use social media instead, which offers many of the same benefits as blogging, with less of the work and effort, and no driving need to maintain a consistent schedule of new content.
Social media offers a waiting audience of potential readers and followers, a one-stop platform for discussion and debate, and of course, a much faster and easier way to get started and post future content than hobby blogging does.
What does the future hold for hobby bloggers?
Competition for readers and a slice of the relevant market share for blogs is higher today than it has ever been, and there is something of a glass ceiling for hobby bloggers and other start-up bloggers seeking to gain their own audience and get their voices heard.
As I mentioned earlier on, small, standalone and start-up blogs aren’t usually easy to find via Google, blog portal searches and by means of external link backs and promotions, which means that they can easily get lost in the crowd. Professional blogs, well publicised blogs and those that are already doing well are by design easier to find in the first instance than small and new blogs, due to the ways in which Google and other search portals rank the importance and relevance of search results.
To create a hobby blog that holds relevance for readers, it needs to serve an underutilised niche, and/or offer something different in terms of the content posted to it, or even its tone and style. It is entirely possible to find a new angle to covering an old topic or busy niche interest, such as by injecting a specific brand of humour or finding a new take on a popular subject.
However, if you are simply seeking to create a blog that holds relevance for you personally, and if gaining a following and engagement across your posts is unimportant or incidental, the ease with which bloggers can get started and the lack of pressure in terms of how and when posts are added to the blog can be sufficient to provide a suitable reward in and of itself.
Additionally, whilst I have hopefully got the point across that few hobby bloggers out of the total that start blogging each year continue to blog long term or gain a large volume of readers, some certainly do.
These bloggers may effectively monetise their success to profit from their blog as a nice incidental bonus, or simply enjoy the intangible rewards and satisfaction that this can bring. To find out more about starting a blog take a look at this online step-by-step guide.