To Blog or Not To Blog

Blogging concept

Sometime in the late 80s, I was watching one of those daytime talk shows. I don’t remember the hosts or much about the guests. But, I do remember an exchange between two of the guests that bothered me then and still does. The exchange wouldn’t happen today, but I do think it message is relevant to blogging: No matter who you are, if you can blog, you can be heard.

“But, who are you?”

At some point during the talk show, the first guest, an everyday person, sat beside a second guest who had achieved a certain level of celebrity. The host commented about a book being promoted on the show to which the first guest commented “I would like to write a book someday.”

The second guest was perturbed and retorted “But, who are you? And, why would anyone want to read what you have to say.” The first guest was visibly hurt.

As I said, the exchange wouldn’t happen today—it couldn’t. The Internet has made it possible for virtually anyone to build an audience.

Audience Pull vs. Audience Push

What the second guest couldn’t fathom is that an everyday person could possibly draw an audience, let alone have something important to say.

Blogging has enabled us mere mortals to pull an audience, unlike traditional media channels that require pushing content (like books) out to audiences.

David Weinberger in his exchange with Andrew Keen on Web 2.0 (http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118460229729267677) put it this way:

“So, traditional distribution makes it look like talent is a you-got-it-or-you-don’t proposition—you’re an artist or you’re a monkey. …With the Web, we can still listen to the world’s greatest, but we can find others who touch us even though their technique isn’t perfect.”

In other words, traditional media channels push content out to the market for a known, established audience. Blogging lets you pull audience in by providing content the audience is interested in.

Three Types of Content

In my estimation, audiences are interested three types of content (from bloggers):

  • Content that says something. You have an opinion and you want to express it. Blogging can help you do that.
  • Content that shares something. A colleague asked me recently to help him plan a keynote address. He showed me some significant research he had done on his topic. At one moment while we were pouring over the data and he was becoming quite excited about its implications to his field, I blurted out “Yes, but none of this means anything until you communicate it.” We both sat stunned by what I had just said. We literally didn’t move or say anything for a few moments; we were both thinking it through. Blogging is a great place to share your ideas.
  • Content that explores something. Not unlike this post, you have a topic that you want to explore. Blogging can provide a way for you explore such a topic. Through commenting, you readers can help you explore too.

What’s in a Name?

Okay, okay, that’s one too many Shakespearian references. Contrary to the talk show guest who criticized the other guest for wanting to write book, you don’t need a name (celebrity) to say, share, or explore something.

Blogs give you the opportunity to pull an audience and readers seem to care little who you are—at first. If you do happen to build a name for yourself, then readers seem to care very much: http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/world/worlds-10-top-earning-bloggers/. Until then, keep in mind these words from David Weinberger:

“With the Web, we can still listen to the world’s greatest, but we can find other who touch us even though their technique isn’t perfect.”f

Bonus Content: Two Alternatives to Blogging

Maybe you have something to say, share, or explore, but it’s limited—you have no interest in committing to your own blog. Here are two alternatives to consider:

  • Comment on blogs of interest. As you read posts of interest, take time to comment. Well-crafted comments can generate as much interest as the original post.
  • Post on an existing blog as a guest. If you build rapport with a bloggers (say, by thoughtfully commenting on their blogs), consider asking if you can write a guest post. Pitch something that fits in with their editorial needs.

Posted on September 20, 2015, in Blogs, Social Media, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. natashajmceachin

    Hello Aaron,

    This was a really nice post, and though I was blessed to never consciously exist in a world without the internet, I understand your concept. I couldn’t imagine living in expressional confinement because I’m not worthy or important enough for anyone to care to listen to. I’m used to getting 150 likes on every selfie I post, 40 comments on my status updates, and all of my contacts viewing my snaps until I physically need to scroll through the list.

    This constant validation does give me an extra boost of confidence, I know I have a reliable audience that is genuinely interested in everything I have to say. I would never hesitate to write a book if I got an idea, I am not afraid to publicly announce my opinions on contemporary issues, and I know every picture I take is meaningful even if it isn’t professional quality. I have hundreds of people to congratulate me on even silly accomplishments, and everyone I’ve ever met takes the time to wish me a happy birthday every single year.

    I’m also pretty sure if I planned to publish work, invent a product, or start a business; this exposure I already have would be my initial market. I’m certain they would support me, and I’d do the same for them. I love this connection we have, and I’m grateful the internet has made it easier to be someone worth listening to.

  2. I agree with Natasha that this was a great post, especially as a straightforward start to the semester and the blogging assignment. The push/pull theme works well as do your bullet-ed lists of advice and alternatives. My undergrads also mentioned the need for “content that says something” in our discussion of when businesses can benefit from social media. If an Instagram account makes more sense, do that, because there are too many blogs that are created and don’t say/do anything.

    Instead of money, I like to search for influential bloggers. The lists vary, so instead I’m sharing http://time.com/3732203/the-30-most-influential-people-on-the-internet/. Yes, many are celebrities, but at least when they do rally behind a worthwhile cause, many people who otherwise wouldn’t have been aware can learn about it.

  3. Aaron: I think you made some great points about the validity of everyone having the right to use their voice. We all have unique ideas, perspectives, and interests. The value of my content, is subjective to the audience. And, in a case like blogging, I can target that audience to some degree.

    You discussed the panel member on the TV show that asked the “amatuer” writer:” Who are you? I would argue that we are all “someone of importance,” even if it is only in the eyes of our social circle, family or co-workers. We (and our voice) are just as important to them, as a scholarly writer my be to do a different group of people, seeking different content.

    My “mommy friends” who share many commonalities with me, are even more likely to value my opinion (versus a parenting expert or a magazine) when I describe the process I used to successfully potty train my child or start teaching her Spanish. My unique perspective is more valued in light of what they have in common with me already and that, at least in that small targeted community, I have their confidence. I wouldn’t expect a professor to read those same posts and walk away dazzled. They aren’t my target though.

    You summarized your ideas beautifully when you wrote: “..traditional media channels push content out to the market for a known, established audience. Blogging lets you pull (an) audience in by providing content the audience is interested in.” That “push” versus “pull component of your audience, is where the difference lies. Sometimes, “pulling” is what we want we aren’t expressing ourselves.

  4. Thank you all for the comments and additional insights — not to mention encouragement.

    In particular, I think rebeccab2828 and natashajmceachin’s comments show how things have changed. The ideas that everyone has something to say and there is always someone who will listen is without a doubt an easier concept to support than in generations past. That’s not a bad thing.

    I appreciate the link profpignetti. There are certainly some interesting people on the list and some I wish who weren’t! Charlie McDonnell once put out on his vlog a social media concept that rated vloggers not just on how many views or likes they got, but by audience engagement. He was looking for investors to help him get that started. I don’t know if he found them and he is working on it, but that would be a terrific way to ascertain influence (over money or influence).

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