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Finding Blogging Focus

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Just as writers write for many different kinds of reasons, bloggers create blogs with all kinds of purposes and goals in mind: from taking the blogosphere by storm by reporting on the latest in Quantum Leap memorabilia shows, to keeping Aunt Tilly and the kids up to date about barbeque shindigs up by the lake; from musing about personal crises and day-to-day events, to raging against the political machine.

Guest blogger Tony Hung over at ProBlogger takes a look at five prerequisites to blogging success. Among them is the need to write and publish consistently and well, the need to publicize the blog far and wide, and to be interesting. The points that I found to be the most interesting had to do with knowing your audience and then creating a blog aimed at this group that is "focused like a laser." Particularly striking is this line: "Blogs that are wishy-washy, who don’t know who they are, who change their kind of writing 'voice' repeatedly, who vascillate [sic] on their opinions, who introduce nonsensical and unrelated topics are blogs that will find it difficult to succeed."

I suppose this hit home for me because focusing on one topic or even subject area is something that I've never had great success in doing. For some time I relegated myself to writing (mostly) about politics, television, and the doings of the Internet world. However, over time I realized that my time was too limited to hope to keep up with even these three subject areas in such a way that I could write about all of them consistently, and with a level of expertise that allowed me to write something unique and compelling and valuable to readers.

I've probably also been influenced by reading some number of marketing-related blogs of late, many of which advise bloggers to come up with your "elevator pitch," the quick answer to the question, "So what's your blog-thing all about then?" Guy Kawasaki has a wonderful elevator (and life) pitch, by the way: empower entrepreneurs.

So there's always an interesting convergence between artistic expression and commerce, creativity and marketing. The Internet is a wonderful place for many things, one of which being that it's a space to ramble on into the electronic night if that's what does you. When you start to try to figure out how to write about something you're passionate about, and that an audience will be able to follow and find interesting, is when the scenario gets far more interesting.

And intriguing. It's a fascinating game, one that boils down to how to do something you love (writing and the online medium) while finding people that will come along for the ride. I've long thought that writing (and all forms of creative expression, really) is an ego-driven form: you must possess the firm belief that the words that you create and get (somehow) in front of another's eyes will be something of value to that other person.

Whether I end up focusing mostly on Internet and "web 2.0" doings, or encounter some mini-revelation down the road (I simply must tell the world about the latest in circus sideshow technologies!)… which, whether I like it or not, seems to happen every so often, I'll endeavor to keep some focus and do whatever it is I do consistently and well.

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  • I know what you’re saying, but I’ve started to feel an urge to diversify my own blog lately; it’s been movie and TV focused for the last few months, and I’ve started to feel a pull towards snappier, more personal posts. And maybe more technology. So many topics, so little time!

    Is the attraction of blogs really to find a knowledgeable voice on a specific topic, or to find someone who has a broad range of similar views to yourself?

    Food for thought, thanks Eric.

  • Interesting piece, EB.

    Focus is definitely what it’s all about on the web, so I would strongly recommend that folk like Daniel start a new blog rather than weaken the focus of an existing one…

  • I wonder how this fits into a place like BC. We’re certainly not focused on a single subject. I guess we beat that theory by having such huge amounts of content coming on a daily basis.

  • It really comes down to why we blog, doesn’t it?

    I think focus is necessary for bloggers who want to carve a niche out for themselves and make money from their blogs, but a lot of us blog in order to be able to write about a variety of our interests without restraint, and it’s a cool bonus that other like-minded people happen to want to come along for the ride.

  • Thanks for the great comments, all!

    Daniel — I ask myself the same questions fairly often. In the end, it comes down to writing about what you enjoy. ProBlogger’s tips talk about achieving “success” but really success is different for everyone and can mean very different things.

    Chris — Your recommendation does seem to align with what works in the blogosphere as far as finding a steady/growing audience of readers.

    Mat — Great question! While writing this piece I was thinking of myself as a writer and of course as blogcritics as a whole. Marketing (that dreaded word!) BC is always a challenge because it covers everything. One move we’ve made with the recent redesign is to allow each section to stand out as more of a standalone community under the BC umbrella. We will likely go further in this direction in the future by broadening out our BC Network of sites.

    Diane — You touch on a key question of all writers: am I writing for myself or for an audience? Finding the right balance is a great and very individualistic challenge!

  • Chris – You think? It did occur to me, I’ll be honest, but I have enough trouble making regular posts to one blog, let alone 3 (I’d need one for movies, one for tech, and one for personal nonsense).

    Given my horrible domain registration addiction, I’ll now be tempted to set one up 😉

  • Yes, absolutely, Daniel. It seems to me that having a functional internet from a user’s point of view is paramount – and Google would seem to agree. Without a really effective taxonomy or other categorisation system, nothing could ever be found.

    As there are so many demands on everybody’s time these days, sites that most usefully address each individual searcher’s needs are bound to be seen as more helpful and rise to the top of the rankings pile. It’s all part of the “long tail” world we live in these days.

  • Wow, Eric–will you get out from inside my head?

    ProBlogger is an awesome site, though i haven’t visited in ages. There was a period of time when I was trying to be a blog-slut (figuratively) by attempting to find ways to get more than a scant amount of traffic–though I already had a decent number of return visitors and commenters.

    So I scoured sites such as PB and The Blog Herald; tried to figure out and exploit the intricacies of Technorati; spent more time adding Technorati tags to my articles than I spent actually writing them; wrote a piece with links to all the major websites; regularly checked my evolutionary status on The Truth Laid Bear, which devolved most folks when they revamped the site; sent my pieces to blog carnivals; and so on.

    But it was to little avail. That’s why when I discovered BC a year ago, it was like a dream come true. Here I could write what I loved to write, and knew that it would reach many many more folks than I could ever hope to do on my hit-anorexic blog–plus some of the best commenters a blogger could hope for. A million thanks!

  • Thank you, Elvira, you help to make BC what it is today! Like you, I saw a tremendous opportunity in getting involved in BC in late 2004 and do feel that it has made an enormous impact on my life. One of the largest benefits is being part of such a wonderful, creative, diverse, and energetic community.

    And yes, ProBlogger is a great site and Darren Rowse (think that’s how you spell it) deserves credit for establishing such a great blog/resource.