Is the anime blog dying out?

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Meaningful red herring screenshot

Consider this to be an addendum or a side post to Scamp’s fascinating post on the life-and-death of an aniblog.

The decline of the anime blog

My RSS list is heavily weighted towards older blogs. Blogs that have been around at least a year. That’s partly due to when I started writing and paying more attention. And partly due to the ranking exercise I undertook for the aniblog tourney. But one of the things I do occasionally is troll around on Anime Nano to check up on some of the newer blogs that have entered the fray. When you have 100+ blogs on your list, it makes it harder for new voices to stand out, but a couple of the younger blogs that I like are Visual Violence, an episodic blog that seems heavily influenced by RandomC, but is well written, and Seanver, which is what I guess I’d call a moe/ecchi-appreciation blog, and is unique in that it also summarizes games and books.

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But one of the things I noticed as I’d check up on the list of new blogs is that it seemed like there were less and less new blogs showing up on Anime Nano. So I went back and did a count by month, and lo and behold, my suspicions were confirmed – 2010 was the worst year for new anime blogs since Nano started.

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After the initial aniblog gold rush in the 2006 and pre-2006 era (Nano only came to being in the middle of 2006), 2007 was a bit of a dud, but then came a second gold rush of aniblogs in 2008 and 2009, before interest dropped off a cliff in 2010. Admittedly, Nano isn’t the perfect arbiter of blog birthdates, since they’ve usually been around for at least a couple months before joining, but I think it’s a good measure of the level of activity that’s going on out there.

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And the trend isn’t just on Nano, because we see a similar drop in search activity for “anime blog” on Google Trends, down over a 1/3 since it peaked in 2008 and 2009. This is interesting, because a lot of those 2008 and 2009 blogs are right in the thick of the 2-3 year death mark that Scamp wrote about.

A year of deaths

Many of those 2008 and 2009 blogs have already met their demise. Some like Grand Punk Railroad, Low on Hit Points, Epic Win, Exce7ion and heck even Chartfag suffered slow, drawn-out deaths. Others like Hontou ni died unexpectedly (although Zyl moved to Sea Slugs). Ha Neul Seom pulled a Subculture right at the two year mark. While others like Mikotoism actually did die, before being reborn (proving that sometimes you can’t walk away). And there are still others are just a hiatus explanation/”I’m not dead!” post away from sticking a fork in themselves.

What if this is the real normal?

What if 2007 and 2010 were the norms and 2008 and 2009 were the aberrations? Maybe the better question would be what drove the spikes in 2008 and 2009? Was it the shows? 2008 was the last hurrah of the mecha era apparently, with Code Geass R2, Gundam 00 and Macross Frontier all taking their turns leveling up mechas. Spice and Wolf, Aria the Origination, Soul Eater, Toradora, Clannad Afterstory and DMC rounded a pretty solid year. In 2009, we had the return of Haruhi, the revamp of Brotherhood, and the original K-ON leading the way, while shows like Bakemonogatari, Eden of the East, and Umineko provided a surprising level of diversity. Not nearly as strong as the 2008 lineup, but a good number of genre busters, and a surprisingly trollish year, with Endless Eight pissing off Hitler, the anti-moe crusade waging war against K-ON, Senjougahara Fascination and Ryukishi trolling errbody in sight.

Meanwhile, 2010 can only be considered a disaster in comparison. K-ON 2, Nodame Finale, Angel Beats, Arakawa are probably the only shows that received critical and popular acclaim, and none of them were as big as the 2008/2009 shows. Shiki, Kuragehime and the Tatami Galaxy were all good, but too niche to gain much broad popularity. None of the 2010 hits carried the imagination like the hits from 2008 and 2009. And I don’t think any of the winter 2011 shows, nor the spring shows will reverse the tide. So barren times will probably continue.

What if the next Aniblog gold rush is… Twitter or Tumblr?

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Maybe anime blogging just isn’t sexy anymore. It’s not like people have stopped talking about anime. On the contrary, the discussion has moved to other places. To Twitter and to Tumblr largely. This has its plusses and its minuses.

Twitter is about as close as you can get to liveblogging a show with a roomful of geeks (except for those Skype folks, who actually are in a chatroom together). It’s instant gratification. And when you’re tweeting back and forth with a bunch of people about something that happened on a show, it’s a really cool experience. But the downside of Twitter is that it’s insular, and it’s transient. It’s insular, because you have to be a.) a member and b.) really active on it to get much out of it. It’s only slightly more open than a chat room or an online forum. Unlike reading a blog post, it’s harder to enjoy Twitter passively, because each tweet has so little information. If you only spend a few minutes a day checking it out, it’s like hearing a snippet of a conversation. Or just watching the promo scenes of an anime. You only get so much out of it. Twitter is just too transient. A shelf-life of a blog post is about 3-4 days. That’s when most of the visits and comments come in. But there’s a long tail of readers that will read posts that are years old and occasionally even leave comments on it. In contrast, the shelf life of a Tweet is 3-4 hours. A string of conversations might last an hour. And after 24 hours, consider it all dead and gone, never to be seen by anyone again, except maybe you in your loneliest moments.

But while I see value in Twitter, to me, Tumblr is a wasteland of wannabe anime-themed LOLCATS. Tumblr, in a strictly technological sense, is set up to be more enduring than Twitter. It’s not as full-featured as say WordPress, but there’s a lot of stuff you can do with Tumblr. Unfortunately its turned out to be the most unstructured discussion platforms of them all. It’s become an imageboard home for anime memes, random screenshots and fan art. It’s like if 4chan had user accounts. There are some really amusing Tumblr’s, the bad anime subs tumblr is the funniest blog/twitter/tumblr/thing you’ll ever read and even though it’s not exactly Tumblr, I love all the seiyuu soup.io miniblogs like Cowboybibimbop, Seiyuup and watermelon soup.  But they’re rare. For one good Tumble, there’s 500 Tumbles of utter garbage. And unlike Twitter, Tumblr isn’t ideal for conversation chains. There’s only so many ICanHasAnimeCheezburgers this world can handle. If anyone has good Tumblr examples that are different from the typical aniblog style, and aren’t just imageboards, I’d love to hear about it.

But not every anime blog dies

But even if the number of new anime blogs doesn’t pick up this year, we probably won’t have any shortage of blogs anytime soon. The elder blogs Scamp highlighted: Star CrossedKur­ogane, Sea Slugs THAT, Blog­suki, Omonomono, Baka-Raptor, Karm­aburn, Batezi, Anime Diet, Hashi­hime, are all still going strong, and I would dare say are better now than ever before. Ran­dom Curi­os­ity nearly died, but was saved in the last second by a white knight and even though Omni’s gone, I think Divine and his crew haven’t missed a beat.

And of the 2008 blogs, some of the blogs that successfully crossed the two year threshold and into red alert territory recently include Mono no Aware (edit: 4+ years and in the free and clear if you count its previous incarnation. Thanks to gl and iknight below for the infoWe Remember Love, Eye Sedso and Scamp himself (and I guess myself too).

But there’s hope for those in red alert state. Looking back at the aniblog tourney list I had, there were 22 blogs between 2-3 years old when 2010 started. And over the past year, only 3 of them died, with another 3 I’d classify as dying. Which means more than 70% have successfully escaped red alert territory. Who were some of the blogs that escaped the state of red alert and crossed the threshold into 3+ year land, where boys become cherry boys, girls become fanservice fodder, and anime blogs become immortal? Hanners, Canime, Listless Ink, The Null Set are some of the recent ones. And Baka Raptor’s a month from reaching immortality.

So maybe the 2 year mark isn’t as bad a death knell as I might have thought. I still think it’ll be interesting to see if the number of new aniblogs rebounds this year, but give credit to modern medicine, not only is it extending our lives, it’s extending the lives of anime blogs. Or something like that.