Sunday, November 26, 2006

Talking About Blogging Shouldn't Equal Talking About Audience

A while ago I published an article called Ten Lesser Known Secrets of Blogging. Jim added a comment that something about the post, and indeed the entire direction of my blog, bothered him. I have thought about this for a while now.

The truth is that something about the post bothered me, too, even as I was posting it. It's not that I don't think it was a good post, or contained some useful points, it's that it was a little ...

The word that popped into my head is "creepy". Why? Because in talking about tips for better blogging, I perforce was delving into the relationship between the blogger and the audience. In other words, I was talking explicitly about how to analyze your readers habits and try to react to their habits - that is creepy, when it is made explicit.

It is also deeply wrong as a primary focus.

When singers and songwriters talk about their craft, they talk about tabs, songs, rhymes, meters, maybe instruments and gigs - very rarely do they talk about how to maximize the audience or select material for the audience. It's not that that's not important, or doesn't get talked about at all. But it really should be well well down on the list of important aspects of the craft. First and foremost should be the craft.

The same applies to authors and film-makers. There's a word for those who spend too much time thinking about their audience and not enough about their craft. It's called "pandering".

It's understandable, on some sense. People want to try to break into the business. To do this, they either have something that can become popular, or something really good that gets heard. It has to get heard. So marketing is important. But for goodness sake, there needs to be something of value. Writing "hits" is bad enough, but writing "hits" and then exposing it as such is simply crass and commercial.

Is that what I'm doing?

When singers, authors, and so on talk about their craft, they talk about the content, the tools, the experience. So how come so many people who talk about blogging talk about audience share?

So many of the blog posts about blogging are about how to get the links, how to break it big, how to get into the A-list, how to make the money, how to get the readers, how to get the comments, and so on and so forth. There's a place for this, but it should be well subservient to how to write well, how to use the right tools, how to format, how to provide content, how to ensure quality, etc.

The fact that the reverse is true is not unsurprising. It is symptomatic of the endless waves of greed and gold-rushes we experience in a capitalist society. One day someone makes it big doing X, so along come a thousand people telling everyone else how they can make it big doing X. Or someone invents a new art form Y, and a thousand of people come along telling everyone else how to market Y, utilize Y, leverage Y, add Y to increase your market share.

Inevitably, the art follows. First comes the breakthrough, then the stories of successes, then the rush and explosion. A while later, as the bubbles begin to settle, you find people, like me in this post, talking about how it's about the art, not the money. The waves recede, people get to work, and so on, until the next wave crashes. It's only after the rush that you find out how sustainable the form is.

The same thing is happening in video games. The rush, the market shares, the target audiences, and so on until you get the reactionary voices who begin to cry about art and creating sustainable works. The bubbles begin to settle and we start taking the media seriously.

Blogging is just another media form, and like every other form, it shouldn't be about leveraging your readership. It should be about the art and the craft. That doesn't mean that leveraging your readership is ever going to be wholly unimportant. But it must be placed in perspective. First and foremost, we need to be creating value.

Jim, I'm trying.



Anonymous said...

Okay, so we've had blogging here, some meta-blogging, and now meta-meta-blogging. See how many levels of abstraction you can manage. We are counting on you! You could think of it as a game.

ekted said...

Hehe. I just write about what I want to at the moment. I only write when I have something to write. I never force myself to write something "because it's Monday" or whatever. I have no target audience. If people like what I do naturally, that's great. I think the only change I have made in past 15 months of blogging is to be more opinionated (ie state my opinion rather than surpress it) in my writing since readers seem to respond to that. I do not broadcast my posts anywhere, I do not have ads (nor will I ever), and I make not a penny from my blog.

Sometimes I go a week or more with nothing useful to say. Sometimes I get 2-3 ideas all at once while playing or talking about a game, and I file a few away for another time.

Yehuda Berlinger said...


Blogging is like writing: some use it for grocery lists or a diary, and some use it to create craft or art.

Using it to create craft or art implies some deliberation and introspection on the part of the creator.

There are great blogs that simply are, and they serve well.