Is Mobile Enough to Blog?

There’s been an explosion in the mobile blogging app marketplace. WordPress, Posterous, Blogger, SquareSpace…the list of providers rushing to push out a mobile-friendly app is sizeable, and growing. But is the platform still relevant to bloggers who tend to contribute extended posts? Does a mobile app framework encourage us to turn our blogs into Twitter-esque scrapbooks of impulsive one-line thinking? In this extended hands-on test, we’ll examining blogging on mobiles and whether it really impacts on the quality of the posts.

Day One. Average post length: 353 words. Average posts/day: 0.6.

Desktop blogging is the standard. A physical keyboard, a full operating system: it all makes for a traditional, multi-window experience. It’s quick to switch between running apps, keeping both on-screen – something that makes accessing multiple sources to integrate information in a post, easy. Tomorrow, we will give up the PC for an Android smartphone and will report back.

Day Seven. Average post length: 118 words. Average posts/day: 1.8.

As we expected, we’ve made more posts, but these are of fewer characters. And there’s a difference in how we’re drawing on sources: the level referenced per hundred words has remained constant, but the shorter average post length leaves content a little thin. There’s a lot of it: three times as much as a week ago, but it doesn’t seem as engaging, substantial, or creative.

Moving into moblogging

Clearly, standard desktop-style blogging doesn’t transition wholesale to mobile blogging. Luckily, there are a few other avenues to pursue. The first of these is ‘moblogging’: a camera-centric blogging site that draws some inspiration from Instagram. Images are the prime candidate for blog entries, and there’s precious little text to be found. Some argue this is all too similar to Twitter and Apple’s Photo Stream facility, as moblogging doesn’t contain the analytical or commentary pieces that constitute the more popular kinds of posts from traditional blogging communities. But the move to mobile does require a rethink: are images enough? Do we need extended analytical pieces? Does a picture not say a thousand words?

No, it’s not enough

While some blog platform apps are quite happy to suggest you continue to post content to you blog entirely from a smartphone, our experience is that this requires too broad a redefinition of ‘blogging’. At best, we end up with ‘microblogging’. At worst, we end up with a stream of pseudo-status updates to no-one in particular.

No, we believe if you mean to blog effectively you need to be properly kitted-out. That means at minimum a solid tablet, or if you’re more of a physical keyboard person, a well-priced laptop. Using a modern machine will help bridge the gap between mobile and desktop blogging further: the advantage to mobile blogging is the immediacy and spontaneity of posting (a recent Gartner report suggests we have our phones within three feet of ourselves 91% of the time), and much of this can be made up by a good processor, long battery life and instant-on Solid State Drive (SSD).

So what good is mobile blogging?

Both WordPress and SquareSpace have value-added features to their mobile blogging apps. We found the most useful of these to be tailored towards statistics, analytics and site management (including the approval and moderation of comments).These helped us to keep the boring administrative stuff separate from the actual blog writing: a division of labour that allowed us to focus more on content when in front of a keyboard, but keeping the blog trim when located further afield. We don’t think we’ll see mobile blogging rocketing into hyperspace just yet, but keep your eyes out in the future for mobile analytics apps for online content management.