I began writing my blog mainly as an update for friends and family. I have been writing for a few months and have gravitated more towards how our family is trying to live a "greener" life. I enjoy the flexibility blogging offers and there are other topics I sprinkle in from time to time. A lot of tips/suggestions I read say it is better to stick to writing about one topic. Do you agree? Do you think it is better to have a couple of different themed blogs?
This terrific question came from Gray Matters. How focused should your blog be? What is your niche and how loyal should you be to it? You'll get a variety of opinions--some say know your place and never deviate therefrom and some say write whatever you darn well please and if it's wrong to write posts regarding Communist gardeners and their snowboarding chihuahuas then you shouldn't care to be right.
But let's start at the beginning: why are you blogging? Gray Matters, like many of us, started her blog as a journal/newsletter. Are you writing to keep grandma supplied with stories and pictures of the grandkids? Are you writing to attract outside readers? Are you writing to start up a dialog or build a community of friends? Are you writing to earn money? Your answers will determine the focus of your blog.
The bottom line is: if you're blogging for yourself or for grandma, you can write whatever you please. Who cares if people come and read it, if you're writing what you like and posting on topics you enjoy the rest of the blogosphere be hanged.
However, if you're writing for an audience outside of your immediate friends and family (those who love you unconditionally and have no choice but to read) then you're subject to the absolute, number one rule of communication. Not just blogging, not just journalism, not just writing but communication in all its varied forms which is KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
Know Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? Who are you trying to appeal to? What are they like? What are their interests? What do they do for fun? What do they eat for breakfast? To be able to effectively communicate you have to have some idea of who's on the other end of your sentences so you can package them in the most attractive, most intelligible, most enduring way.
My audience here at Scribbit is pretty specific (and pardon me for generalizations here) my readers are mostly women, predominantly wives and mothers, 85% are from the United States, most have some education beyond high school, most are Caucasian, most are middle class and most don't blog (please don't send me email if you're a single Asian male who's a high school drop-out that's made millions blogging--as I said these are just generalizations).
What does that mean? Well for me, I blog because I love--make that have--to write, it's been in my blood since I was a kid. I love sharing ideas, love the blogging community and I love creating something that others enjoy. But if I were being honest I'd also admit that I'm terribly ambitious and would be very happy if Scribbit were read by every man, woman and child on the planet--world domination, that's the ultimate goal--so I'm constantly trying to ascertain and meet my audience's needs to build a better blog.
So I'm aware that blogging posts like this, though popular among bloggers, are not popular among the non-blogging majority of my readers. So why do I write them? Because they help other bloggers, they're fun to write, they give me material to post and they're excellent link bait--posts on blogging get linked to from other blogs. However, I only do them every once in a while, maybe every six weeks or so, for fear of turning off my regular non-blogging readers. (Are any of you still here at this point? Have you already clicked out?) And when I do write a blogging post I will often do a short second post the same day designed to appeal to the non-blogging readers.
There really isn't any debate on this, anyone who writes well enough to make money off of their skill will tell you the same thing: know your audience. The debate comes in when you start to wonder how tightly you should focus your content for your audience. For example, among the myriad of blogs by women there are blogs about parenting, food, crafts, religion, politics, books, homekeeping, pets, gardening, environmentalism and regional interests. How tightly should you focus your subject matter? Instead of posting tips, recipes, crafts, commentaries and travel-in-Alaska stories should I stick with just one of these areas? If I feel compelled to write posts about blogging should I start another blog for that topic?
I say no (obviously). Why? Well first of all, right behind that massive "know thy audience" commandment is the second which is like unto it: "know thyself." I LIKE all of those subjects related to parenting and homemaking and Alaska and enjoy writing about them. Happy writers mean better writers--yes, yes, I know the image of the tortured writer lurking like Raskolnikov in the corner but the reality is, you'll write better posts if you're writing about things that you like that bring out your emotions. So know your audience and give 'em what they want, but don't feel that you have to give them the same thing every day if you don't want to. Not only will you get bored, your audience will too.
For example, I like to cook, garden, do the occasional craft and parent. I like to laugh and I like to learn and I'm betting that among all my visitors that fit into the same demographics as I do there are a few others who like the same things. Not maybe the exact combination but some of the same things. So I post things that I find interesting, that make me laugh, that I've learned from and hope that others have the same reaction I do.
To me Scribbit is my online magazine and just as you'd find in an offline magazine there are a range of topics designed to appeal to a certain segment of the population. I'll hear from readers who say, "I love your lists," or "I love your recipes," or "I love your stories about your kids" it seems that everyone has something different that they like but if I'm able to provide them with one thing that they like about once a week they'll keep coming back (hopefully).
With all my different interests some would suggest having different blogs to address each new topic I write about. There is some benefit to this--if you want to make more money and can drive traffic from one successful blog to a new blog, creating more revenue, this might be an attractive option (Blogging Basics 101 has been able to do this with the firepower of Rocks in My Dryer behind it) but it will depend on how well you are able to handle the increased work load a second or third blog presents. Know yourself--can you handle another blog or writing gig?
If you fragment yourself by writing at multiple sites you run the risk (and it's a big one) of decreasing the quality of your writing. I mentioned how much time Scribbit takes to maintain and I can tell you there's NO WAY I could write at a second blog--not without a staff. Which might not be a bad idea down the road when that world domination plan takes effect but right now that means one blog and only one blog for me.
It's common for bloggers to start a second blog to handle a specific topic such as product reviews (Island Reviews, Does Mommy Love It? and Lookit! I Spy are examples) this is often because of the restrictions advertising networks place on content. If you join the Blogher ad network, for example, they will not let you review a product worth more than $40. So bloggers set up a second site without Blogher ads where they do their reviews. Me? I resent anyone telling me what I can or can't post so I turned down Blogher and set up my own ads--and do my reviews anyway. So there. But it's all a matter of choice and balance--just be aware that a second blog means more work and the risk of decreasing your content quality. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
So know your audience and know yourself. If you don't know who your audience is, maybe you should ask. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you'd want to read and if it's something you'd like too--write about it. You'll enjoy blogging more, your posts will be better and your readers will thank you by coming back for more.
Technorati tags: blogging, writing
Monday, March 24, 2008