13 September 2008

Blogging: it's starting to work

It was a few years ago that I was hanging with a friend of mine (basically the only one who reads this blog, props, Edge) and he was introducing me to the blogosphere and related technologies. He said that "because of google adsense, anyone who can write will never have to work another day in their lives", or something like that, and I got starry-eyed. Freedom! I love writing about as much as I love beer. But I had to acquire a taste for beer, whereas playing with words is hard-wired in me. This should illustrate the power of my passion for writng. If not, lets go for pints and I'll explain demonstrate.

So here I am: a wage-slave, prostitute, employee, worker bee--however you want to say it, it's all the same. I must work because I have massive student debts, and because I must eat, drink, and live. So I need cash. I love to write. Can those two things solve each other some way? Blogging! So I quickly set up 3 different blogs: one on Landscape Architecture  (my current profession), one on Stained Glass  (my parents profession), and this one on... whatever. So I wrote. I spent saturdays tweaking layouts and colours, and dreaming up ideas for posts. I scoured the blogosphere for articles and advice. I was glued to my rrs reader keeping my finger on the pulse of tech and the web two point oh. And then, like most other blogs, the money did not roll in, I got busy with other interesting webby things, and the blogs sat fallow.

But since then, I've been reading a lot of marketing books (esp. Seth Godin) and blogs, business, SEO, and generally learning about the internet and various web technologies. After many months of doing almost no blogging at all, I suddenly found a renewed interest. I'm still in it for the money, but have come to understand why content is king, and that having a blog is not the same as having a blog that actually gets read.

In the beginning, I naiviely thought family and friends would react with, "he's writing a blog now, cool I can't wait to read it." Ha ha! I dont' know where I got that idea from, but to all you bloggers out there, people don't really care.  People generally fall into three categories:

  • other bloggers who understand your blogging hobby and share your interests. They might actually visit your site, leave a comment now and then, and even subscribe in a reader
  • friends and family who might discover your blog and lurk it once during a slow day at the office
  • people who have no idea what a blog is, couldn't care less about the internet except once in a while remembering they can "ask the google", and think RRS feed is something used to fatten cattle
So it's an uphill battle since many people fall into the latter category, and even your best blog post is lucky to get a finger-painting's fridge treatment from your dearly beloved who don't understand that the internet is a part of the "real world". Which totally makes sense. We're all strapped for time. Really. Who's got time to read your creative writing projects?

After reading Seth Godin's 'The Dip', I realized that the trouble was lack of focus. A blog about everything is the same as a blog about nothing, but not in a good Seinfeld way. The internet is so vast that what people really need when they arrive at a page is an instantly clear idea of what it is they are looking at (note: this blog is still a dear failure in that respect, which I might address someday). If the subject matter isn't directed right to a reader, or isn't something they can relate too, they don't care. They will click 'back' and regret visiting. It's just the way the web works.

People need filters and guides. In other media these filters and guides are the radio dj, the newspaper editor, the waiter, the purchaser of fashions for a clothing store, the journalist, etc. It's actually very rare that we are ever confronted with an un-filtered array of choice.

So, I re-focused my Landscape Architecture blog. And with a better understanding of SEO, linking, and pagerank, it worked. At least it's starting to work! I now get an average of almost 100 pageviews a day at The Landscape Architecture Resource. It's not much, but a good start.

The other obstacle to your blog being appreciated, is that many people find it hard to comprehend what a blog really is. We have historically been so immersed in a one-way, non-interactive, push media, that most people have trouble grasping the concept that a blog is a conversation. "You mean the editor would allow me to publish a comment on his writing? I'm not a 'writer'. Why would they listen to me?" Dudes. That's so 1996 that I get nostalgic for Curt Cobain interviews on television. It's not just a bunch of drunken rambling typed into a laptop. It's a manuscript posted globally for all to see, use, and reply to. It usually feels like screaming silently from a mountain top. But every now and then... it screams back.


  1. Heh - thanks for the props. That's probably, what, 2-3 years ago?


    Anyways - focus is key. Step back and look at the blogs you read religiously, or even the ones that your less-techy friends read.

    They're blogs like:
    www.wowinsider.com (well, thats me)

    They all have a ridiculous amount of focus. Even the personal ones like cuban and maroon - readers read them because we get insight into the mind of a successful entrepreneur.

    But you raise a good point - blogs, in many cases, *are* the filter.

    On to another point, however. Take a look through the technorati top 100 blogs - they all have multiple authors... What if you had some profs/students/etc post to your blog?

  2. Thanks, Edge. Great idea. Since your suggestion I've found two contributors for my Landscape blog and am in the process of setting up two others. I had a contributor about 8 months ago but wasn't looking at it in a 'grow the blog' kind of way. I was trying to build authority (in that case on recruiters and hiring in the architecture space).
    Now my focus is to diversify the kind of content I'm posting by gather experts in other areas, as well as free up some time by having others do some of my writing.


Recent eratics:

There's a lot of gold here and it's updated often.
Come back soon or subscribe