The role of your blog

November 17th, 2003 § 2 comments

If there’s one thing that makes bloggers pay attention is the possibility of increasing their blogs’ visibility. Even when we say we only write for ourselves–or for our family–the fact remains that we want an audience. We are necessarily narcissistic–some times, much more than book writers, moviemakers, or people dealing with similar activities. So, the more visitors, the better.

That is hardly news. There are even books written about this very subject, detailing rules and methods to get more people to visit a blog. Be it recognition or the possibility of money, a good flow of visitors is always welcome. Bloggers analyze their logs exhaustively, searching for patterns that will assist them in creating that flow. Others congratulate themselves for their thousands of monthly page views–sometimes forgetting to account for the myriad of bots crawling the web.

Obviously, as we know well, as in every other medium, what matters is content. If there is good content, a public will certainly emerge. The question is: what kind of content is adequate for a blog? Is anything suitable? If there’s an interest in audience, there must be a concern for the proper content. Blogs are sites just as well.

A few weeks ago, in my daily surfing through the blogosphere, I found an interesting post by Dave Pollard, talking about this. Based on a research he conducted on the Salon blogs, he came to the conclusion that people reading blogs want more of:

  1. original research, surveys etc.
  2. original, well-crafted fiction
  3. great finds: resources, blogs, essays, artistic works
  4. news not found anywhere else
  5. category killers: aggregators that capture the best of many blogs/feeds, so they need not be read individually
  6. clever, concise political opinion (most readers prefer these consistent with their own views)
  7. benchmarks, quantitative analysis
  8. personal stories, experiences, lessons learned
  9. first-hand accounts
  10. live reports from events
  11. insight: leading-edge thinking & novel perspectives
  12. short educational pieces
  13. relevant “aha” graphics
  14. great photos
  15. useful tools and checklists
  16. précis, summaries, reviews and other time-savers
  17. fun stuff: quizzes, self-evaluations, other interactive content

This list is not surprising at all. I think it’s the natural result of any research exploring what is expected from the expansion of a written medium to an interactive medium like the Internet. But it’s interesting nonetheless, and offers some food for thought.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the list reveals a fundamental human trait: we are lazy. Content that supports laziness is likely to succeed. I’ve lost count of the times people posted in the comments in my blog, in the reviews of books and movies, asking for analysis, assessments, and similar things. A blog in that area, providing quality content, would certainly be well visited and would probably be able to generate indirect gains. It may seem cynical to say this, but there’s no point in denying reality. The shortest way is the best way for most people.

The list also explains the popularity of blogs that are but mere lists of links or news found in other places: some people are really good in the task of collecting items of interest and passing them ahead in small pieces that can be easily absorbed. As many people like to get information this way, they succeed. That means content doesn’t need to be necessarily original. It only needs to be well placed within a given category, and distributed in a flow regular enough to satisfy its final consumers. Depending on the market, just providing tidbits of news from multiple sources in a centralized place can generate a lot of visitors. Those kinds of lists also tend to perpetuate themselves automatically. Once an initial flow of content is created, readers will also contribute with more items of interest, seeking their own visibility.

Strictly personal blogs, which recounts facts of the life of their owners, also have their niche in the blogosphere. However, they are not as easily maintained. Creating a faithful audience for a strictly personal blog is a difficult talk. People, obviously, are not interested in what a blogger ate for his breakfast; on the other hand, they may be interested in the troubles faced by the wife of that blogger in her high-risk pregnancy. It only takes a look at the list of accesses generated by Google searches in any blog to realize a strong tendency in the kind of information sought after in blogs: it’s practical information. Of course, this is a space where specialization is almost impossible. But the information provided in this way can serve to lure people to other kinds of content.

There are two paths to be followed here: diversification or specialization. It may seem obvious, but the fact is that many blogs stand halfway between those two paths, and, as a result, don’t get anywhere. If the only purpose of a blog is to have fun, that’s not a problem. However, if there is a purpose to it (and almost always there is–I’ve found customers and provided services through my personal blog), a balance must be achieved somewhere. Writing only for family and friends is okay, but, later, there is no point in complaining about a low amount of visitors. At some point, a choice must be made.

There is a market out there. Blogs are a part of this market, in a way or other. In my opinion, the part blogs take in this market is indirect, generating pointers to other parts of the market. A few blogs will succeed on their own, but most of them will just be a lever in the hands of their owners–if well used, that is. If up to each blogger to decide the role his or her own blog will play in this arena.

§ 2 Responses to The role of your blog"

  • PhreakMD says:

    Very insightful thoughts. I’ve noticed this too. People would rather ask me questions about stuff like computers or biology rather than using a search engine to find out for themselves.

  • Ronaldo says:

    Being a programmer, I’d say laziness is a virtue, although it depends how it’s directed. But, I digress… 😛

    Anyway, people are really lazy, and I think many blogs can capitalize on it. I would if I weren’t so lazy. :-)

    Sorry, I coudn’t resist. 😀

What's this?

You are currently reading The role of your blog at Reflective Surface.

meta