I know this is a dumb post, but something has been bugging me all morning about the way I approach my blogging and online life, and I will continue to procrastinate all day unless I just type this out. I am seriously going to make a conscious decision not to blog about blogging, since it is so tedious. But if I am really going to be honest about my life, this is now a big part of it, so I write about it.
There are moments in human history where there is a fundamental change of paradigm. First, some guy believes that the world is flat, then he gets on a boat, grasping a compass in his hand, and all of a sudden, he goes, “Holy crap, the world is round! WTF!” and his life is never the same. I had a blogging moment like that two days ago when I read this comment on Twitter —
“Your audience is not just your peers. It’s anyone able to google whatever it is you’re writing about.”
The comment came during a online comparison of blogging with other forms of media, such as magazines, movies, and television. We were talking about the FTC decision to fine bloggers if they weren’t transparent about the freebies they received for review.
“Don’t they do this sort of deceptive product placement in magazines and TV shows too?” someone asked.
I made the observation that blogging is different than movies and magazines because I considered my audience to be my peers. If I direct a movie and it plays in your local theater, I assume the audience is there for entertainment and to eat popcorn. I don’t view my audience as fellow filmmakers, unless this event is an industry screening on the Warner Brothers lot.
But maybe I was wrong? If blogging is nothing more than a writing group or a hobby for me, and industry screening, schmoozing with my peers, than what makes it any different than any hobby, like golf or tennis? I would never waste my time playing golf for hours EACH DAY! Should I start viewing my “audience” in a broader sense, so I can feel that all this “work” has some practical value?
I can honestly say that up until now, I have considered my audience to be a very small group of people. These include old friends, commenters, and those who stop by once in a while from Google Reader or their blogroll. I’m sure there are many who come here who I don’t know personally, but for the most part, I figure that I am already following you on Twitter or Facebook. Why else would you come here? Do you even understand what I am talking about when I mention Sophia’s name? Why would you want to read about this guy living in his mother’s home? I operate under the assumption that 4/5 of my hits each day — the bulk of my “readers” — are porn-seekers, Russian marketers, or those who arrived at my site by mistake and will never come back again. I don’t imagine big-shot tech writers or the editors of The New Yorker are secretly reading my blog. My daily views, according to WordPress stats — in the 1000-1200 range, have remained consistent for at least three and a half years. Perhaps this is the reason I have always been such a stick in the mud over advertising. Who am I trying to advertise to — Schmutzie and Ms. Sizzle and V-Grrrl and Danny from Jew Eat Yet? This is my audience. Other bloggers. Nice bloggers who sometimes leave comments more interesting than my post. Perhaps I should view my blog differently — as a product, like a magazine, in competition with YOUR magazine, battling it out in the marketplace. Maybe a paradigm shift is good for me, as well as all of us. Why believe in Adam and Eve when the facts support evolution? Why not just see blogging as the same as magazine writing, book writing, TV show writing — where the aim is to capture an audience and succeed. Why do so many of us see our blogs as so “small” and personal, even if they are small and personal? When people ask me what my blog is about, I usually mumble, “It’s just a personal blog where I ramble on about stuff.”
I know I am not being very clear here, and I am too lazy today to fully explain the wheels spinning in my brain. I have real work to do, and can’t spend too much time playing golf. I probably just think too much, because whichever paradigm I try to align myself with, I have more questions. If blogging is really about self-expression, why is so much attention given to “the best blogs” or “the best blog posts?” If that is the standard, then blogging is a writing competition.
You send out mixed-messages. Write for yourself. But don’t write too much for yourself, and no one will read it. Write well and you will receive love by others. But try to be popular because that is the only way anyone is going to know you exist. Your audience is your peers. Your audience is the general public and you are in competition with your peers for their attention.
Do you see your blog as a personal journal which you write in public, sharing it with your peers, other talented writers, OR something more akin to product placed on the market, in competition with others?