An Open Letter to the Blogosphere

Dear Bloggers, - We have the privilege of living in one of the greatest times in human history. No longer does it take millions of dollars to make our voices heard around the world. With the advent of the Internet, people are now connected in ways they never could have been before. With over 25,000 new blogs created every day, it is easy to get bombarded by the sheer amount of information. Sadly, the majority of blogs are cranking out nothing more than repetitive weblog rhetoric and worthless content.

Don't get me wrong - I think that the opportunities the Internet has provided for bloggers is wonderful. But along with these opportunities comes a lot of abuse. It is easy for people to get caught up in the numbers and traffic, and forget what quality content is all about. Unfortunately, we live in a society where quality is not valued like it used to be. Instead, traffic is valued, and blogs quickly lose the vital connection between the author and the readers. There are some blogs out there that value this interaction between the author and their readers, but they are in an overwhelming minority.

Why is it that the vast majority of bloggers believe that the pumping out of repetitive content is what blogging is all about? Let me tell you something - it's not. As bloggers, we have to stop treating blogs as mainstream journalism. Blogs operate on a much higher level than the mainstream media, because there is direct connection between the author and the reader. Whether through comments, a forum, or email, good blogs encourage interaction and feedback from the readers. This takes a blogging from a mere "speech" to a "conversation".

Quality > Quantity

Many bloggers, including myself, have fallen into the trap of blogging too much. There is only so much content that a reader can digest and appreciate. Instead of posting once or twice a day, and feeling the pressure of a deadline, take the time to write one perfect blog post, that covers the entire topic in detail. Remember, the more detail you put into your work, the more people will read and subscribe to your content. Why is that? When people stumble across your blog, they are not going to look at how consistent your posting schedule is - they are going to look at how detailed your content is compared to the countless others in the blogosphere.

Never post something to your blog that you are not completely happy and satisfied with. It is better to delete it and start again. The content on your blog will not just go away in a week or two. It will remain on the Internet for as long as you have your blog up. Most people that find your blog through search engines or links on other websites don't enter from the home page. Any content that you publish can be the first impression the readers have of your blog. Don't let your first impression be a post that you rushed to publish.

Be you. Be different.

When you blog, don't hide behind your keyboard. Don't pretend that you are some super-high and mighty blogger that doesn't show emotions or have opinions. Many bloggers like to differentiate themselves from their writing. On the contrary, let your writing reflect who you are. A blog is really an online journal. Don't be afraid to show your personality when you write. Don't be afraid to develop your own style.

With so much content freely available on the Internet, you need some way to make your content stand out from the others. Be different in your approach to covering articles. Chances are, people have skimmed through the news on all the other blogs. Don't just cover the stories like everyone else. Do something different. Give your opinion on the matter. Explain what a news story means for the future. One of the best examples is Microsoft's recent attempt to acquire Yahoo!. The news was everywhere - on the TV, radio, and all over the Internet. Everyone knew what had happened, but very few people were talking about why, how this deal would play out. When I stumbled across Gruber's analysis of the acquisition, I was relieved. Finally a different approach. Finally a different look at the Yahoo/Microsoft deal. I read through his post throughly, as I'm sure many other did, because it was a different and stood out from all the other coverage of the same story.

Ignore the numbers

Another common problem that new bloggers run into is looking at the stats for their blog. If you are a numbers guy like myself, you like to track how many people came to your website, and what they clicked on and where they came from. And with services like Feedburner and Mint, it couldn't be easier.

The problem with looking at all these numbers, is that they can easily become what is driving your blog. For the first couple months, don't look at any stats. Develop your blog, and be happy with what you are creating. Some may even leave the comments off. Don't write for your readers. Don't write to get more subscribers. Write to create good quality content. After you have defined what your blog is, and have developed a reader base, look at the numbers to see how you can get your content available to more people. But never let the numbers define what your blog is.

Forget the money

If you are starting a blog for the sole purpose of making money, stop right now. You have to forget about ads and making money for the first couple months. The amount of time spent on getting advertisers will not be worth it. Instead, focus your efforts on your content, and defining the market for your blog. After you have established a dedicated audience, advertisers will naturally be attracted to you.

Even when you do decide to monetize your blog with ads or affiliate links, never compromise your blog posts in order to make money. Participating in services that make you blog on a certain topic will only drive away readers, and make your blog appear fake.

Don't Diggvertise

Sometimes bloggers feel they need to write their content to get traffic. One of the most popular ways to get traffic is to get on the front page of Digg - a giant social networking site. I found a post on Seth Godin's blog that really sums Digg up.

"Many bloggers seem to be on a perpetual hunt for the front page of Digg. Sure, it brings you hordes of eyeballs, but then they turn around and leave. What's the point of that, really?

I think that are plenty of tips you can follow to optimize your offering for this fickle mass group. But it's still a crap shoot. Doesn't it make more sense to incrementally earn the attention of a smaller, less glitzy but far more valuable group of people who actually engage with you? And the best part is, your odds of success are a lot better."

Whenever you write content for the masses, your quality will always be compromised. However, if you continually pump out great content, people will take notice.

Interact

It's good just to stand back and remember that the people reading your blog are not just numbers - they are living human beings with their own thoughts, opinions, and interests. Create some way for your readers to interact with you after your blog post. Don't just make it a one-way conversation. Encourage comments, emails, and links. Create a community around your blog, that makes it an appealing place for readers to have their voices heard as well.

Also, make sure to leave a trail around the Internet. Networking with your readers, either through Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or any other of the popular social networks, will allow them to feel connected to you in a more personal way. Social networks are not only great for promoting your content, but also your brand or reputation that defines who you are.

Keep Going

No matter how talented and opinionated you are, becoming a popular blogger is not going to happen overnight. It's just not possible. It may take six months or even a year to develop a significant readership. The biggest problem among new bloggers is that they give up after a few weeks or months. They don't think it's working, because they are not getting loads of traffic, or being linked to by high-profile people.

The most important thing that a blogger has to remember is that if you write good quality content, people will find you. It will take time. It will take hard work. But people will notice your work in time. Just don't give up.

..........................

Today, blogs are a dime a dozen. There are blogs about anything and everything. However, only few blogs really stand out. A few really rise above the rest. The authors are passionate about their blogs, and it shows in their writing. They make their writing a living expression of who they are. When I read these blogs, I am not reading just empty words. I am reading into who they are.

Blogging takes time. It takes persistence. It takes a lot of thought and goal-setting. It takes you, as a blogger, to rise above the status quo, interacting and engaging with your readers. It takes the consistent creating of good-quality content. That is what blogging is all about.

A fellow blogger,

Michael Mistretta


“Whenever you find you’re on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.” -Mark Twain

Comments

THANK YOU for writing this! Very well said. It is so frustrating seeing bloggers so single-minded with getting on Digg. It's sort of like a bunch of kids lined up, trying to ask out the popular girl in high school. Blog for the love of blogging and expression, not to score higher in the rankings.

Hi, I post daily on my blog, as the name implies (www.onepostperday.com). But I only post textual content if I feel I have something to say. Quality over quantity is certainly one of the main rules of my blog. Yet a blog is often very personal (mine is) so the only quality surveying that is done is my own. So it follows that the quality can never be higher than my own high water mark. I do agree that you should always stay true to yourself, however strong the pull of temptation can sometimes be to follow the numbers and the chest of gold. We all know the end of the rainbow doesn't exist. Only a really personal blog can become engaging I think. If I write about a well covered news story it is always from my point of view which is often quite left field. There are so many major news outlets in so many fields that it is totally useless to add another mainstream blog. So I agree with that as well. Let's make the internet more interesting for more people by posting truly original stuff. Good call! Henk http://www.onepostperday.com

Michael, Thank you for your "open letter" which I received this morning via Google Alert. I agree that people who stumble across your blog won't be looking at how consistent your posting schedule is--they'll be looking at the detail and quality of your content. There's a lot of good content out there, and you know it when you come across it, because content and good writing takes not only time and commitment but passion. Passion isn't something that can be mass-produced. It's unique. I can hear the voice of the passionate blogger. Those are the voices that I want to read. Your open letter is a passionate one. Thanks for the post. --Debbie Hemley www.impressionsthroughmedia.com