We've hit the most recent low in the blogosphere's manic
depression, and people are upset about it.
Nicholas Carr throws more wood on the fire with
Who killed the blogosphere?, which explores the
despair and futility of bloggers and blogging. This is
the blogging meme of late, but I think nothing points to its transience
more than Carr linking to another article he wrote,
The Great Unread, in 2006 which delivers a variant of the same
story of woe1. This isn't blogging
midlife's crisis, this isn't a new development, this is
just the next imagined symptom of an attention-starved
One of the core complaints is that blogging isn't the straight path
to success that it used to be, but let's just go ahead and
admit that blogging was never a straight path anywhere, especially
if--like the vast majority of bloggers--you refuse to plan the roadtrip.
We look at the successful bloggers of yesteryear and notice they tended
to follow similar patterns to their present success. Write frequently,
write well, tie in their own experiences, specialize in a key niche.
Then we think we can apply an identical blueprint to our own blogs and
reach the same destination.
But we can't. It's absurd to think we could for the same reason that
it's absurd to mimick Microsoft's or Apple's initial business plans from
two decades ago and assume that we'd acchieve the same ludicrous success.
In the blogosphere where freshness is measured by hours and days,
we need to recognize that we must innovate, not just imitate those
who have succeeded before us.
There is an unacknowledged irony in bloggers lamenting
that their readership is too small or who are dissatisfied with their reach
as a public intellectual.
The only venue they have to complain is their blogs.
To whatever extent that we are the victims of our delusions of blog
grandeur, it's still the most accessible forum for sharing and
exchanging ideas. There is no financial barrier to entry: you
can start blogs for free on half a dozen platforms, you can throw
$6 a month into Dreamhost's gaping maw for a hosted Wordpress
deployment, or you can write your own blogging software and host it
for $20-$40 per month on a VPS. If you have a voice, then your
voice will be heard to the exact extent that people are interested in
listening to it.
In the end, that's what it comes down to. Many bloggers
reach a awkward place where they're unsatisfied with the size of
their audience, but aren't interested in changing the style, focus
or quality of their writing. You can have guest series, link
exchanges, pretend your Twitter followers need triple-redundency
for their RSS readers, or religiously submit your content to social
news aggregation sites, but people still won't read material they find uninteresting.
Whatever the readership market
conditions may have been five years ago, today it's a buyers market, and you
need to make sure you're selling something people want to buy, rather
than focusing exclusively on what you want sell.
The good news--and there is always good news--is that you can still
be a successful blogger, you just have to be deliberate about it.
A few months before graduating from college I realized that I had no
work experience in the field I wanted to work in, and needed to create
a paper trail of proficiency. I started writing with that agenda,
and despite a very modest readership, my blog has allowed me to break
into contract programming
starting from a resume without any relevant experience.
Like writing software, being a contractor, being an author or
starting a business, you can't always throw spagetti at the wall and
just watch what sticks: you have to concentrate your efforts to
acchieve your goals. Some will read that and decry
"No, blogging is supposed to be fun and spontaneous!"
Of course it can be, just like writing a novel can be fun and spontaneous,
starting a business can be fun and spontaneous, and programming
can be fun and spontaneous. But that's much more about your perspective
than it's about blogging.
Since four years ago there are many more blogs, and breaking into
the top tier is a daunting. But if you focus on absolute goals
instead of relative ones, then you'll find that you can still be
just as successful in absolute terms as the bloggers of yore.
Why? Because readership has expanded as well, and finding new blogs
has never been easier. Yes, it's still hot in the kitchen, and maybe the clientele got
pissed that you were serving them grade D ingredients, but if
as long as the stew is tasty, sales are as good as they've ever
It's painful to see and read bloggers who feel
they have been abandoned or deceived by the
blogging movement. Not in a judgemental hahh suckers sense, but
it's genuinely painful to see people who have devoted
time towards blogging and quit in anger.
It's like watching an athlete who spends their first
twenty years playing basketball and then quits to get
a 9-5 because his couch tells him he'll never make it
at the next level. Dreams crumble everyday, but that
doesn't make it any more pleasant to witness.↩