How the Blogging Landscape Has Changed

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away I started writing this blog. Wait, wait, wait. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t in another galaxy, but right here on planet earth and maybe it wasn’t so long ago, but 2006 seems like ancient times doesn’t it? Especially since every FIRE blog I read, says “hey I’ve been here for centuries: this blog is 4 years old”, or some such stuff.

Anyway, way back in the day the world of blogging looked a lot different than it does now. At least it did for me. I began this blog as a journal of sorts. A place to write about anything and everything, because I was stuck at home on short term disability after a long and arduous medical mystery that resulted in a painful surgery that still plagues me to this day.

When I was feeling down about my medical situation and life in general I sat down at my computer to write. In fact, this blog has been a mental escape multiple times in my life. Through that medical crisis, through pregnancy and ultimately as a place to clear my head after the birth of my first child.

After a few months of writing about whatever popped into my head I started focusing more on my relationship with money. If there is one thing I’ve done right in life it’s managing my finances. So I began to document my journey to greater wealth.

In the beginning I wrote a fair amount about frugality, but over the years I’ve moved well beyond that topic. In fact, I have thought about abandoning the name One Frugal Girl many times, because it doesn’t reflect enough about who I am or why I write. Frugality is actually a very small component of my overall content.

In the beginning I wrote for myself. Back then most bloggers didn’t make much money from their blogs; at least not in terms of ad revenue. If you wanted to make it rich from blogging you typically did so by selling your domain and all of the content that went with it. If you don’t believe me ask J.D. Roth who sold GetRichSlowly many moons ago for an undisclosed amount. I don’t know how much he received, but it was enough to allow him to retire for awhile. Other bloggers made money by selling great domain names. They might not have written an ounce of solid content, but they could fall into money if they had a URL another company wanted to buy.

So in the beginning I wrote for myself, but shortly after I started this blog I began to receive comments and realized others were reading my words. Some readers cared about money, but many did not. Some just wandered to my blog from other blogs they were reading and stayed because they liked the way I wrote.

In 2006 almost every blog maintained a blogroll. What’s a blogroll you might ask? It’s a list of favorite blogs that appeared in the sidebar. The problem is they occupied prime side bar real estate, so bloggers began to remove them in place of Google Ads and sponsored links.

For an idea of what one looked like check out the blog roll on BudgetsAreSexy and imagine J. Money’s list appearing right beside his newly written posts rather than a sad, little stand alone page that readers have to find on their own.

These blogrolls were the perfect way to find new blogs. It’s like finding a friend, and that friend says “hey you’d love to meet my friend Jane” and so you meet Jane by clicking the link to her blog and your friend is right you totally love Jane. So you form a friendship with Jane and Jane says “hey you’d love to meet my friend Sam” and so you click on the blogroll link on Jane’s blog that sends you to Sam’s blog and before you know it you’ve found hundreds of new blogs to read. And suddenly you are connected to a huge community of bloggers and readers of blogs.

I became digital friends with a number of bloggers that way. I randomly clicked on someone’s blogroll and ta-da I felt an instant connection to a new blogger. I still correspond with a handful of bloggers and readers from my early days. In fact, a few send Christmas cards every year with pictures of their adorable children.

Some of those readers and bloggers may have written about personal finance, but not all of them did. I connected to some because we were of similar age, were recently married, experienced medical setbacks and on-and-on-and-on. Back then we formed a tight knit community primarily free of trolls.

In fact, in my first decade of blogging I received only two off-color comments. The rest were from people encouraging me to feel better and do better. In response I did the same.

At some point the blogging community changed. First, the blogrolls were removed, which, in my opinion, made it a lot harder to find those bloggers with similar content and voices. Second, mainstream media caught wind of topics, particularly in the personal finance domain, which meant more outsiders and naysayers began to leave comments on blogs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I’ve found it leads to more negativity and the downplay of a blogger’s success. Rather than raising each other up many commenters and fellow bloggers drag each other down.

Third, the monetization of blogs led to writers and bloggers more interested in making money than writing quality content. Some bloggers began filling their blogs with sponsored content. (I myself became guilty of doing that when I took a hiatus from blogging.) As a result it is much more common to read blog posts filled with affiliate links or posts that lead you through infinite loops.

Like “oh you want to learn about writing a million dollar blog.” I can show you how to do that. Then you click on one page with minimal content, that says go to this page for more information, and that page leads you to a third page and on and on until you finally land on an affiliate link for an online program that will cost you $200. All the while you haven’t gathered any information, but you’ve improved that blog’s statistics as you stay glued to a website searching for valuable content.

I can’t speak for everyone who started a blog in 2006, but I can say that for me the blogging community, (those who read and wrote blogs), encouraged success.

In the personal finance community there was less noise about how bloggers achieved their wealth. There were fewer naysayers shouting ‘of course you are wealthy with an income of x’ or ‘of course you are rich you don’t have any kids’ or ‘of course you have a butt load of money because you started saving in your early 20s. I don’t have that much time on my hands!’

Back in the day readers read through the blogs and picked the advice that worked for them. Get Rich Slowly once picked up a very small post I wrote about cooking classes and quality cookware. It was a common sense approach to preparing meals at home, but it set off a light bulb in the minds of many readers. No it wasn’t rock science, but by sharing that one small decision others shared similar thoughts about optimizing their lives in the hopes of better money management.

These days I would expect to find zero comments on such a post or comments like, “How will cooking help me save for retirement. You must be joking?” or “Everyone knows I’m dedicated to increasing my income. I have no time to cook my own dinner.” Of course, I’ve never received those particular comments, but I read similar comments all the time on FIRE blogs out there.

The tone of bloggers and commenters has changed dramatically over the last decade. In the past the blogging community shared successes and provided condolences for failures.

A welcoming community of personal finance bloggers certainly exist, but the passage of time has brought more negativity than ever before. I am grateful for the readers and fellow bloggers I have found over the years who genuinely care about who am I, rather than how many page views I have gathered this month.

I know that time passes and things change, but I guess I don’t like how the momentum is shifting. Yes I feel like the stereotype of an old man, “Get off my grass you young whippersnappers.”

What do you think? If you’ve been reading blogs for awhile have you noticed a change in the tone of bloggers and commenters?

*On a side note I am searching for new blogs to read. If you have a blogroll let me know about it. If you don’t feel free to leave a list of your favorites. Maybe I should start a movement to bring back blogrolls!

10 thoughts on “How the Blogging Landscape Has Changed”

  1. I’ve been blogging since 2006 on my personal blog and I agree wholeheartedly with this post.
    Blogging back then was a community, with no thought of monetisation – at least in the quilting/knitting/veggie growing/handicrafts niche I found myself in.
    The FI space is a vastly different beast.
    Actually, I just went back and checked – my personal blog still has a blogroll page on it. I haven’t looked at it in years. I wonder how many of the blogs on it are still active??

    • Sadly the majority of blogs on my old blog roll have vanished. Very few survived over a decade of blogging. A few sold their websites and a bunch moved on after getting married, having children, etc. They simply didn’t have as much time to write. That’s what happened to me for awhile. I took a hiatus until a few old blogging friends told me how much they missed my stories. Thanks for the comment. I just found your blog and spent nearly an hour looking through it. Great stuff!

  2. I have a very short blogroll, but I do still have one. I hadn’t even noticed how many people don’t until you pointed that out.

    I’ve been blogging since 2008. I think one of the biggest changes has definitely been the affiliate links you mentioned. It seems like a lot of posts are just built around them rather than their being built into the post. But oh well.

    I do the occasional sponsored post, and I have some ads. But mainly I just don’t really make much money at the endeavor. I’ve made my peace with it (mostly). I blog for myself and obviously my readers. Money that I make from it is just gravy.

    • I’ve been torn about the monetization of this blog for years! Part of me thinks oh it’s such easy money and the other part of me hates that I even consider it. I go crazy scrolling through posts skipping over ads. I have ad blockers on my browsers, but I don’t want to drive my readers crazy with that stuff. So I’ve gone back and forth between including them and removing them. In some ways I think sponsored posts are better, because you can read the post or skip it. I mark all sponsored posts as “On Behalf Of” and as “Guest” writers, but I don’t know who pays attention to that. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Very interesting. I am definitely a newbie in the blogging world – I mean, your four-year blogger is still a veteran compared to me. I’ve been around about a year.

    Still, I have seen the negativity. At the same time, though, it seems like it can be isolated. Almost as if there are these toxic digital cliques that form their cloud of negativity over certain blogs. It seems much better if you can avoid that.

    Again, I’m still very new, but that’s what I’ve observed so far.

    • I think that’s true. I see much more camaraderie in blogs written by female bloggers for example, but many negative comments made to female commenters on male owned blogs. That’s not true across the board, but I do think pockets of negative exist and once you spot them you have to decide if you want to speak up (sometimes that just adds more fuel to the fire) or simply unsubscribe. Thanks for the comment!

  4. We’re kicking it old school! I like the blogroll of solitarydiner. Donebyforty has some good links but he’s also got some blogs I would prefer to avoid because the authors are jerks in various privileged ways.

    • I love that you still have a blogroll. I am feeling more inspired to recreate mine! I’ll check out Donebyforty’s too. I’m giddy just looking at all of those links 😉

  5. I’ve probably been reading your blog since ~2009 (lots of breaks in between to be fair). I agree whole heartily with much of what you’ve said. The missing of blog rolls and sense of community it fostered. The ability to hear people’s voice and not just be appreciating specific content. Great post!

    • Yes to this: “The ability to hear people’s voice and not just be appreciating specific content.” I love the blogs that provide a personal touch. When I read blogs I’m not looking for facts. I’m looking for interesting stories. Thanks for the comment. I was so happy to see your name pop up again in my comments.


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