Are blogrolls bound for the scrapheap?

A blogroll is the list of links to other weblogs which you typically find down the side of a blog. The idea is that these are the blogger’s friends and influencers, so the topics discussed on those blogs are relevant to the central blog’s theme. You can reasonably expect a blogger to read the blogs in his or her blogroll. If you want to know what’s on a blogger’s mind – just read what’s being said in the linked blogs too.

For the newcomer, blogrolls are a good way to get to grips with the ecosystem discussing a particular topic and to find new blogs.

Except that’s not really the case anymore. I’d be surprised if bloggers restrict their consumption to just those sources listed on their blogroll. Blogroll maintenance is often sporadic and doesn’t keep pace with the creation of new relevant information sources. As a result, blogrolls are now being merged with RSS aggregators to provide a more accurate view of what a blogger is reading (using a format called OPML). Some bloggers make their RSS aggregator OPML file public for just this reason.

And for the newcomer, there’s really no need to read through blogrolls to find relevant information. Blog search engines like Ice Rocket, and the system of tagging posts has made it much easier to find information about a particular topic. In fact, there’s too much information rather than too little.

In the world of bloggers, the blogroll used to be a way of giving some link love to each other. And that’s still true to an extent. But it’s far more common now for bloggers to link to a particular post if they like it, rather than generically link to an entire weblog. To give more Google juice, you just link to more posts. It’s also more useful for the reader if a blogger links to a specific post than to say – there’s some good stuff ‘over there somewhere’.

So will we see the end of blogrolls? Are they now a dated practice from the early days of blogging? Is it rude to delete your blogroll? Should we publish what’s in our RSS aggregators instead? Is there even much point in that given search technologies and the massive proliferation of info sources anyway?

As with any social medium the norms are changing. Blogrolls are probably a throwback now and taking up space which can be used more valuably. We’ll probably see them relegated to the bottom of sidebars, and then gently shuffled off into the ether as they get out of date. RIP Blogroll – and thanks for all the links.

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  • I think it depends on the level of “blog awareness” of your readers. I’ve been doing some traditional off-line research about blogs – picking up the phone and speaking to people, and sitting in a room with a ‘focus group’ showing them blogs.
    Early indications are that people who actually blog aren’t influenced by blogrolls. They fit your description. People who haven’t seen blogs (still a lot) like the blogrolls as it is an easy way for them to get to grips with it all. Things like Technorati and Icerocket scare them. Looks far to complex compared with the simple Google search page they are familiar with.

  • Interesting point Stuart. I’m surprised your research shows that non-blog aware users would be comfortable with Google, but find Icerocket or Technorati daunting. I guess it’s about familiarity. There’s nothing daunting about a link with someone’s name.
    The trouble is that unless the blogger takes the time to maintain an up-to-date blogroll, then its value will decline even for new readers. And if the blogger doesn’t find the blogroll of much use anymore, it’s not a priority.

  • Down with Blogrolls! (again)

    Michelle Malkin (fangirl of the Right) has a blogroll on her site: Ace of Spades HQ Alarming News Ambra Nykol American Digest American Thinker Amy Ridenour AnalPhilosopher Anchoress Angry in the Great White North Ankle Biting Pundits Anti-Idiotarian Ro…

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