Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How Blogs (Don't) Work; Or, The Great Blog Shake-Out

I do agree that shake-out is here and it's only going to continue. Not due to any blogging bubble being burst, but for the very reason blogging is popular: people want connection points (not drivel).

There are many blogs, with more being started every day. The reason that many fail is that many blogs do not offer conversations. A blog ~ a real blog or at least the kind of blogs I am referring to when I write here ~ is a place to publish ideas and to discuss those ideas.

It's the power of people to connect and discuss. Unlike passive or cold forms of communication, blogging is participatory. Receivers of communication are not just receivers but have the ability to become instant senders of messages of their own. I don't think this desire to connect is going to diminish anytime ~ the means by which we do it may, but the desire remains.

The shake-out I refer to is the process by which blogs survive. With so many choices, which blogs will people continue to read and (this is the really important part) carry out discussions in?

Here are some blogging 'styles' which do not foster conversations:

A) A business blog which just states press release info in a more casual tone without official formatting is not a blog ~ it's a listing of pitches from most recent to last. Ditto with authors, film makers etc. who announce their latest releases.

B) Having a blog which points to the latest news isn't necessarily a conversation. Your selection of news on a topic may be a service, for which you may have many readers, but it's not a conversation. In order to have a conversation you need to put more than the idea out there as a link or a sentence or two. You need to discuss it, not just present it. (Or consider yourself offering a service, not a conversation, and look at your stats and marketing accordingly.)

C) Having a blog which consists of pointing out all the ad campaigns which do not work or otherwise mocking others may be entertaining, but it's not a conversation.

D) Have a blog which is all photos and no talk is not a conversation. If it's porn, it's a masturbation session; if art, it's a gallery exhibition; but neither is a conversation.

In the adult industry this last one is the most prevalent problem. There are countless boring blogs which offer nothing that a pay site tour gallery doesn't. These folks just copy & post an image, stick in a link to their own site or an affiliate link, and call it a blog. "Look at naked Betty Sue" is rarely a discussion.

In fact, sex for all its popularity is one of those least likely to get a conversation; I know this from years with Sex-Kitten. It's difficult to get people, even anonymous ones, to talk about something so private. It's much easier to get someone to look at photos or a movie than it is to get a conversation going. Columns, reviews and op-ed pieces on sex tend to be 'just read' rather than discussed. Your traffic (as in visitors and readers) may be huge, but your conversations? Not-so-much.

This is why so many erotica authors I know resort/return to blogging about the business of being an author. When they blog about problems with publishing, publishers and other industry information they are far more likely to get others engaged in the conversation. But in doing so, they lose the interest of readers of erotica, who really aren't interested in this uglier (or more boring) side of books; erotica readers read erotica for arousal and entertainment, not for author bitch sessions. When authors (and others) do this, they've switched target audiences and no longer reach readers (potential buyers).

I know that this higher volume of comments makes you feel as if you're meeting your goal, but you're not. Sometimes you just have to satisfy yourself with your stats (traffic and page views) rather than your comments. (And don't think I'm backtracking on my statement about blogs being conversations ~ I'm not! But we'll get to that later; I don't want to get too far off-track now.)

Those who blog in these styles are likely the ones whining that the blog bubble has burst ~ or that blogging never was big anyway. Or, they soon will be. Because blogs like these will suffer in the shake-out.

At best what these bloggers are really doing is offering a conversation elsewhere ~ like passing a note in school. And like anything else in business, consumers like to cut-out the middle-man. They'll just go directly to the source instead.

As people pick and choose from the ala cart experience which is the blogosphere, there will be shake-out. But that's just the stuff of a competitive market. Even if it's for free, people select what's the best and toss the rest aside.

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