Thursday, July 02, 2009

Things I've Learned about Blogging

I'm coming up on some anniversaries here--I've got a birthday around the corner, I just had a wedding anniversary and then I've been blogging for four years now which kind of puts me in the running for bloggers' social security.

So being all introspective and everything I'm compiling a few things I've picked up over the past four years. Because four years in blogging time is pretty much close to an eternity and what good is all that time if you can't share a bit of it?

1. Bloggers are usually very nice people. In fact, surprisingly so. They're usually willing to answer questions and help out others in the medium and considering that we're talking pretty much total strangers here it kind of puts your faith back in humanity. I mean, if you can get a cross section of the world online and the majority you run across are generally nice and polite then doesn't that say something about the world in total?

2. There are waves of bloggers. When blogging first started you had the Techie Pioneers who blazed the trails followed by the Creative Practical types who figured they'd better give it a try because it seemed fun and it might have a future. Then there were the Me Too's! who heard about blogging on every street corner and finally decided they should see what all the fuss was about followed by the Entrepreneurials who smelled money in the air (though ironically enough to really make that money you had to be at the first or second wave). As more people pick up blogging it changes to mold to the whim of the masses. It sure has been interesting to watch . . .

3. And likewise there are waves of audiences. Or maybe a better way to put it is that audiences rotate. Someone finds your blog and they follow it for a while--how long it is I'm not entirely sure, it's hard to say--then they get to the point where they've seen enough of a blog that they get bored. Then a new set of readers move in and the cycle starts again. You see this with other media as well--magazines, television shows, whatever. There might be a core of hard core fans but generally the majority are a shifting mass that rotate through the cycle of lurking, commenting, devouring, burning out, dropping out.

4. Frequency of posting is more important than you think. In the past I thought that however often you post really doesn't matter--you decide it for yourself and follow your own pace. But now I'm not so sure it's not one of the more critical choices a blogger can make. First, if you're in blogging to improve your writing your frequency of posting will make a huge difference in how quickly your skills improve. It's the difference between exercising once a week and exercising every day. Conventional wisdom in the blogging world has suggested that more is better--up to a certain point at least--and that keeping readers happy with a steady stream of material is the key to success (if "success" is what you're after).

However, as I mentioned in point #3, readers can be a fickle group. They come, they sample, they return for another snack but feed them too richly too often and they get lardy and complacent. If your content is the equivalent of three full buffets a day then your readers will begin to take it for granted and expect more and more to satiate their appetites. You always want them to come to you hungry, right?

So my point is, somewhere out there is a scale that says "on this side you're giving them too much, they're getting fat" and "on this side you're starving them" and you've got to figure out where that point is and balance it against your abilities to produce. I'm not sure I've made the right calls when it comes to this issue. In fact, I'm quite sure I've been very selfish and have considered only my own wants and needs and have probably paid the price because of it.

5. There are only three reasons people read blogs. Education, entertainment or friendship. If you want to be a good blogger then you have to provide at least one of these things but preferrably two or three. I have about 200 blogs in my feed list that I read and the ones on the list are there because of one of three reasons: They teach me something (whether it's about food, crafts, parenting or another culture), they entertain me (usually by making me laugh) or they've been able to create a bond with me where I'm interested in what they're going to say simply because I like them as a person and care about their life.

If a blog can't provide one of these things it won't draw readers.

6. There is a blogging life expectancy. I've watched other blogs pretty carefully over the years and it seems there are stages that all bloggers seem to go through. The first is childhood where you're completely unsure of what you're doing, you can hardly find your way around your template, you're making faux pas right and left but don't even realize it.

Then you get past that and you're into adolescence where blogging is completely addicting. You spend too much time on the computer (at least you have that suspicion), you start to realize how big the blogosphere is and how much there is to learn and you're desperate to jump in and find your place. You start telling everyone that you've got a blog and you're having lots of fun.

Then when you hit blogging adulthood you realize how much time it takes to maintain your new hobby. You wonder if there is more to life than just the blog thing and if you shouldn't be focusing on something else. The workload of keeping things up and commenting hits you and you get very tired.

Finally, of course, is senior citizen status where you've been around long enough to generate some respect simply because you haven't succumbed to death yet. You've set rules for yourself and stick to them out of a sense of self-preservation and reality. You wonder how much longer you have left . . .

My point is, a blog's death can occur at any time along this time line but I've seen it commonly hit at about the 1-year mark. Something about blogging a year tends to make people stop and wonder why they're doing it and if it's not time to move on because that's usually when their blog hits adulthood and is fully grown. So if you're coming up on one year and are feeling that burn out it's not just you . . . it's pretty common.

7. The beauty of the medium is immediacy. But the best posts are those that can sit a bit. Back to the feeding-your-audience metaphor: while I can appreciate the wonders of fast food and have spent more than my share of calories on the joys of onion rings and strawberry milk shakes I do get a better meal from restaurants that take their time to let things braise and simmer and roast. Likewise, while blogging is about "now" and "what next?" I consistently find that the best writing happens when posts are allowed to set, solidify and mellow in between edits.

I know it's hip to think that just slapping words on the page and serving them up in their natural, raw, gritty state is the "real" way to write and to show one's true emotions but it's really a bunch of bologne (okay, perhaps I've taken the food thing too far). It's as I've heard time and time again . . . anyone can write but real writers edit.

8. Having a goal is everything. Of course this is true with everything in life, if you want to be successful then you have to have a plan where you want to go. Even if your plan is just to enjoy yourself you won't fully realize this goal unless you first formulate it.

People get into blogging for all sorts of reasons, none of which are necessarily wrong, but if your goal is to make money you are so completely in the wrong line of work. Not only is it highly unrealistic to think that you'll be able to get into the upper echelon that can make a living in such a volatile field (it's too determined by luck and genius to provide even modest incomes to the majority) but if you're in it first for the money then everything you do will have that shadow of motive behind it which cannot be hidden from your audience. They will eventually figure it out and it will turn them off.

Making money from blogging is completely fine--I personally say "Woo hoo!" every time I see a check with my name on it--but you'd better have a goal and it better be something other than that check if you want to find satisfaction in the job.

Sponsored by Pak Naks--decorate your stuff!

78 comments:

janeywan said...

You really nailed this post! I'm still reading after years.

Jolanthe said...

I'm a 'me too' generation blogger. :)

And #4 - lardy and complacent...that's just funny.

But thanks to #7 now I want some onion rings and it's only 6:37am...

Lovely.

Chele said...

Thanks Michelle! This is helpful just as your ebook was!! Have a beautiful day!

patty w said...

I'm still here and checking in on you ! LOL

Thanks for the read...You always have such insight. (some laughs too!)

thediaperdiaries said...

This is a great post and very true. I have found the most surprising and truly the best part about blogging is the community. I stick around more for that than anything else :)

Blog O' Beth said...

You are so right! When I hit the one year mark it make me rethink my goals for my blog and realize that not only was I not doing it for the money, but I no longer wanted to run ads.

I have switched my mentality from the every day posting to the fewer but better posts. Like you said, as a rule, I let my posts sit for at least two days before I publish. I find that this gives me more time to edit and fine tune and makes for better reading. If this costs me readers than it does, but that is the best way for me to write.

And yes I would agree with you that the blogging community is absolute treasure trove of wonderful people.

Kara said...

Thanks, Michelle! Your tips about blogs/blogging have always been very insightful.

At some point, can you go into more detail about setting goals for blogging? As one of those who won't ever get into that top echelon (and I think I'm okay with that), do you have any advice about goals to have that will keep us motivated to continue writing/posting? I've often struggled with the "why am I doing this" question...

Great-Granny Grandma said...

What an nteresting and insightful post. I had never given such things much thought before, but they sure do ring true.

Kathy G said...

I've been questioning my blogging prowess the past few weeks, and thanks to you I now realize that I'm a blogging "adult". Don't know what that means for me, but it's nice to be able to quantify things.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

This is a great post- you are right in every area! I think most of the blogs in my reader are ones that I have bonded with. There is nothing like that bond! I can totally get online dating now that I've made so many close friends on the Interweb!

Steph

Suburban Correspondent said...

Good points, all...

Annette Lyon said...

This is so true, I was snickering all along--I'm approaching my third year anniversary, so I guess I'm a senior citizen too!

angie said...

Loved this today.

I'm full.........but WILL be back tomorrow. :)

Lara said...

This was an excellent post. You have definitely got things all figured out!

I feel that my blog has gone through the aging process several times over now that I've been blogging for 4 years and some. It is interesting to see the waves of readers and the waxing and waning of my own interest.

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

Excellent post!
One thing that drives me batty as a reader is to find a blog you love and then bloguthor doesn't update enough for my likes (daily).

Daisy said...

Great thoughts! I started blogging because it's cheaper than therapy, and I've come to enjoy it so much that I don't plan to give it up. I was a "me too" generation, discovering the blogosphere and wanting in. Now I'm here to stay.

Melanie J said...

I can't believe how dead on this is. At least, in my experience.

Kim said...

You've done it again, Michelle. BRILLIANT.

geneabloggers said...

I could not have said it better and all your points are applicable to blogs in general - I can vouch for the fact that they apply to most of the genealogy and family history blogs out in the blogosphere.

Thomas MacEntee
GeneaBloggers

Maddy said...

Very interesting and insightful. I'm still missing the 'goal' as I haven't a clue what it might be.

I'm definitely past the addictive stage and have slopped over into the elder phase.

Maybe this will be the year that I figure out what the goal really is.
Cheers

MommyTime said...

...anyone can write but real writers edit

This is spot on. And these are the blogs I most often stick around for the long haul, even if the others make me laugh or keep me entertained in other ways for a while.

cndymkr / jean said...

Very well written. So what stage are you at and do you think I could qualify as a hard core reader? No matter, I am here for as long as you are.

Allysha said...

I liked this. Coming up on three years myself. I consider myself a quiet blogger. I do it because I enjoy the writing and the little interactions.

imadramamama said...

Oh my goodness, this post is wonderful. I agreed with every single point you made.

I think I've entered the adulthood phase...

And I've become so bad about commenting. I have about 50 (or so) blogs in my reader, and I rarely comment anymore. It makes me feel bad.

But then I realize that blogging isn't the only thing in my world. And based on the # of people READING my posts vs. the # of people COMMENTING...I know I'm not the only one, LOL!

oh amanda said...

Interesting about the waves of readers. I've noticed that on my blog but wondered if it was just me.

Wonderful list! I love your insight on blogging!

Laura said...

Fantastic post and smack on! My third year anniversary just past in May and it never really occurred to me how much of an achievement that really was until I read your post today. It's not easy sticking around that long that is for sure. I love your food analogies, totally cracked me up!

Amy said...

Well, I am definitely in the senior citizen stage of blogging as I am old and set in my ways about my blogging routines and blogger etiquette. I just sat here nodding my head at all of your points and agree with them so much.

Meeting you in real life was so great- I will never forget the fun we had in California. I am hoping you are attending BlogHer so I can see you again?? Fingers crossed!! I have discovered through trips like that how much fun and how genuinely passionate all of my blogging friends are.

Sam said...

all lot of what yoy said rings true for me!! I first spent ages and ages (and ages) on my blog and then neglected it for a bit. Now that I am coming up on my second anniversary I am hoping that I am a bit more stable now although I do find that I leave just a bit too long between posts and then feel quite guilty!! ;-)

I would say that I am still learning!!

Melissa Stover said...

"There are only three reasons people read blogs. Education, entertainment or friendship."
this is so true! enjoyed this post.

Michelle said...

Thanks for all your kind comments--and here I was thinking this was a weenie post to put up there.

I've been so busy with other things I feel as if I've really neglected the blog and weeds are growing up everywhere :)

As for questions about having goals, check out my ebook (on the sidebar) which has a whole chapter on the subject.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Happy Senior Citizen Blogging Birthday :) !! Do I dare ask how many posts you have published? (And I think I might be hitting the senior citizen status, too. I am coming up on 3 years.)

And as I am reading through your comments, I think it is kind of fun that there are several of us all in the same community who have been at blogging for about the same time :) !!

This post was spot on. Thanks for taking the time to digest it for us and tell us like it is.

Oh yeah, and Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary :) !! (And a Happy Fourth of July!)

Heart2Heart said...

Michelle,

Since I began my blog a year ago it's been challenging. You've have become my biggest mentor and thanks so much for not only your blogging emagazine, but for all your tips and helpful hints along the way as well.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

jacjewelry said...

Congratulations on all the anniversaries! Great tips. Thanks for sharing!

To Think is to Create said...

Love, adore, admire this post. Brava.

To Think is to Create said...

P.S. I guess since I'm going on 5 years of bloggging I'm officially a granny in these parts. Don't mind it. Like to simmer in my space.

Neil said...

I hate when people comment and say this is exactly what I say if I was more clever and on the ball, but this captured so many of my own thoughts about blogging, and this is probably true for many bloggers out there.

Terresa said...

Good thoughts. The blogging for $$ bit makes me uncomfortable, I don't know why. It makes me, the reader, feel a little sold out. But, while making $$ on your blog, you blog with heart and positive intent, and like Frost taking the divergent road, that makes all the difference.

So maybe blog advertisements and sponsors, etc., aren't all that bad. And maybe someday I'll go over to the dark side. ;)

I'm an aspiring writer. One of my daily writing exercises is to come up with something fresh for my blog. I have several short essays I'm working on and after editing them, I toss one up to my blog. When blog burn out hits, there's always my WIP to play with or my 4 kids. Both are a lot of fun.

MoziEsmé said...

loved this post! And I've gone through the full life cycle several times in the past two years. Right now I'm getting close to retirement again... Must be time to rethink goals!

Your blog is one of the primary ones responsible for me seeing blogging as more than a mass distribution system to family/friends for updates on my baby. It's a wonderful world here.

Summer said...

I love how you described the stages of blogging. It's so true! I'm in the senior citizen stage now, following my own time line and rules, feeling content with it but wondering how much longer I'll keep on. I just hit my two year mark.

Littlemummy said...

Great post, I definitely feel like a senior citizen, just past the three year mark, no plans to give up yet, lots of new ideas mostly completely seperate to mummy blogging though.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Interesting...I really felt that on the year mark - "why do I do this" kinda thing. Of course, now we are at year two, and like you said I have more "rules" for myself about time in this crazy blog world, but I still find myself here :)

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Oh, I enjoyed this so much Michelle! As a fellow "senior citizen", I've noticed many of the same patterns.

I do think one of the keys to blogging is simply sticking it out through those inevitable valleys. Many times I would have quit had there not been obligations to other bloggers I had to keep.

Also, thanks again for your great guide to blogging for women. I send the link to anyone who writes me asking for advice!

Gray Matters said...

You've been the first and a handful of the only blogs I've been reading for a couple of years now. I've always appreciated your honesty and humor!

Lani said...

Stopping by for the first time- this article was really interesting! I also downloaded your e-book, thank you so much for offering it for free!

Leslie said...

This is an interesting post! I'm just realizing that I've been reading you for the past three of your four years. Wow.

Motherboard said...

DEAD ON!

I think I'm hitting the afterlife stage... I have been blogging for 5 years now. I do what I want, when I want. I comment on blogs that I have relationships with and I edit. A lot.

I have heard a lot recently, about a new trend in blogging called "Slow blogging" and how people write stuff and then let it sit and age. I do that sometimes... and I have found those are some of my best posts.

Melissa-Mc said...

I love blogging mostly for the friendship. And finding long lost college friends like you! :)

charrette said...

You are certainly a veteran in the blogosphere. I always learn something from you. And I'm stunned that you read 200 blogs. Wow. I have about 15 or 20 I visit regularly...and I feel guilty about that!

Jane Hamilton said...

Hey, I am a hard core fan of your blog!

You should start a course on blogging, I think. Congrats on four years of blogging - you're my role model.

Great post! and Have a great day, Michelle...

Tracy M said...

Excellent post, Michelle. I still love your blog- but you are right- the waves come and go. I've been looking at my stats, and my numbers have plateaued- but I'm also coming up on my 4th (!) anniversary. Maybe I've hit my peak. Maybe I'm an old fogie now!

I always enjoy your point of view- and your practicality.

Suzanne said...

What a great post Michelle! I'm about 5 months into my first blog and I can see how true all of those things are! I hope to make my 1 yr.- then I can sign relief!
I just downloaded your eBook too - what a wonderful tool!

Thanks for a wonderful post!
Suzanne

Laurie said...

very insightful. I used to be more of the entertainment type. Now I am moving more toward educating my readers about Honduran culture.
My best friend in Honduras is anxious to start blogging, as she is very passionate about just about everything. I will pass this on to her. BTW, cancel your trips to Honduras, as the State Dept. says "nay" to your travels to the land of bananas and coffee.

diana said...

this post was very insightful. confirmed some things and shed light on others.

#3 was especially helpful. i now know i was naive to think that my first 20 (or so) faithful followers would always be there. they started dwindling and i felt hurt and abandoned, even though most of these bloggers dropped off the grid completely. i started realizing, and you confirmed it, that the waves of readers are normal and i really shouldn't expect much more than that. thanks for this post.

luckyzmom said...

If you want visitors you have to answer the door, invite them in and entertain them. Devoted fans dwindle fast when you stop opening your door.

Ria said...

Great list!! I'd say I'm a tween blogger. Just started in April this year and lovin' it! And I agree...anyone can write, real writers edit. I like that.

OHmommy said...

#6... love the analogy. You nailed it.

beth - total mom haircut said...

Can I raise my hand if I'm in the adulthood group? This was a very timely post for me as I've been wondering about the life expectancy of my little ol' blog. How many years do I need before I can be considered one of the elderly?!

jubilee said...

There is definitely an ebb and flow to blogging and blog reading. Thanks for your insight.

Beverlydru said...

Facinating information. Thanks for being a mentor to those like me who are doing it for fun and figuring things out as we go.

michelle | bleeding espresso said...

Great list! I cut back on posting frequency for me and my readers (at least I think so); my freelance writing work has taken off, and I just don't have the time to create quality posts every day...plus I think even posting every day gives some readers just too much to digest. I know I can't keep up with reading daily posters, and that means I often give up on them because I always feel terribly behind, which is sad because they're giving so much to the blogging world.

I'll also add that the more popular your blog gets, the less time you have to read others'...and that is truly sad :(

Courtney said...

what a fabulous list. I am coming up on a year and not burned out, so I guess that is a good sign. I do enjoying blogging and more so reading blogs. But I really do not post frequently. I am more a lot one week, not so much the next week kind of blogger. oh well :)

happy 4th of july!

Meg said...

You really did hit the nail on the head like janeywan said.
I'm just over the year mark and starting to feel the burn. I have no plans to quit but I'm starting to see that I need to find a nice writing balance.

Thanks for making me realize I'm not the only one.

CountessLaurie said...

Wait, who you calling lardy??

:-)

Heather said...

I definitely read for the friendships mostly. I very rarely unsubscribe from a blog because I want to know what's going on with all my friends!

katef said...

Loved this post.... interesting, inciteful and not your usual 'stuff I know about blogging' post. I learnt heaps from this one post - that doesn't happen often

Loukia said...

Great post, I loved reading this!

Monkey's Momma said...

Thanks for the great post!

Monica@DailyDwelling said...

That was so informative and true...Thanks for the post!

Kim Moldofsky said...

Great post!

I'm coming up on my 4 year anniversary, so I'm an oldie, too.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I've always been flattered when you leave me a comment. Wow...I am one of 200! Pretty good.

I bet you come to my blog for the great education, huh? he he

You have almost inspired me to post more often. It's too bad I have a newborn that doesn't want to be put down.

Alice Wills Gold said...

And seriously, I have been blogging longer than you have???? What the heck?

That's what I get for skipping a whole year of posts...what phase was that...the summer before middle school...scared out of my mind.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

For a change, you're right on, lady. I'm coming up on three-and-a-half years and still loving it, although some days, I think that people must look at me and go, "Doesn't she do ANYthing else?" and other days, I think they're saying, "Ahh. I always know what to expect from you, Susan. Thanks."

I'm not sure. But I'm not dead yet!

Mum in Bloom said...

Thank you for compiling this list as it's very helpful. I'm a newbie and appreciate any advice I can get.

The best tips I'm taking with me are to slow down, pace myself, make my blogs interesting, edit and not be afraid to reevaluate why I'm doing this every so often.

Thanks again.

farmlanebooks said...

I have only just discovered your blog via this post and I really admire your thoughts and observations.

Congratulations on having such a long blogging career!

pussreboots said...

I'm somewhere between #1 and #2. I've had my website since 1997 but I've only been blogging with it since 2004. Between 1997 and 2004 I did a number of other things with the same spot.

I've been reading your blog for so long I can't remember when I subscribed. It's been at least 3 years.

JanMary said...

I love this post - and was trying to identify myself in the various categories.

I have been blogging now 2 and a half years, and am trying to get the balance of life / blogging.

Loved the points you mention about what blogs provide to keep you coming back for more, but not too much.

One of the most remarkable things about your blog though, is your commitment to reply to comments. It is a reason I love to follow you blog - I may not comment often, but when I do, I know you have read it, and taken time to acknowledge it.

Thanks :)

shannon said...

Thanks for the info. I heard bout blogging but I spend alot of time just surfing the internet.

Molly Marie Photo said...

stumbled on your blog from a photographers forum - great entry! I will def have to subscribe :)