The key to blogging for the long haul…

Even though I’m still relatively new to the blogosphere (I’ve been blogging since May 2006 – see my first post!) I have been journaling off and on for quite a few years and blogging and journaling share some similarities in terms of what gives lasting power. Of course, there are pretty significant differences between the two (the primary one being the “public” and journalistic feel of a blog vs. the private and diary feel of a personal journal) but for the purpose of this article I think I can write out of some modicum of experience! Another reason that contributes to a measure of insight found in this article is the fact that even though I haven’t blogged myself until recently, I’ve been an avid reader of other peoples blogs for quite a while – there’s certain things that are common among bloggers with lasting power that stick out to me.
Anyway, the purpose of this article is to answer the question, “What are characteristics that keep someone blogging for the long haul?” According to David Sifry’s, “State of the Blogosphere Report” for August 2006 Technorati tracked it’s 50 millionth blog! Now that’s a lot of writer’s out there – however according to a comment David made in response to Glenn Fannick’s article, “Technorati’s Active Blogs — Perhaps 1.4 Million?“,

55% of all the blogs we track have had at least one post in the last 3 months.

Just over 11% have posted in the last week.

That means that 27.5 million blogs have made a post in the last 3 months and a little over 5 million have made a post in the past week. Now regardless of the debate over how many actual active blogs there are (which also depends on what criteria you use for measuring active!) the point I want to make is that there is a huge number of people who enter the blogosphere who simply create a blog and then never visit it again. So what gives – for the percentage of people who contribute regularly and maintain an “active” blog? The following is my “short-list” of indicators that suggest that a person who blogs will be still blogging 5 years from now:

First on the list is they like writing

It goes without saying that if you don’t like writing (or creating any other sort of content – ergo pictures/audio/video etc. – that have become an increasing new medium for bloggers) then your blog probably won’t last that long.

A pretty important component of this indicator that can’t be overlooked is the subtext, “do they have something to say?” If you start a blog simply to say, “I have a blog” but don’t really have a reason for creating the blog then more than likely you won’t be blogging very long!

Second, they like tweaking their blog

What tweaking am I talking about? Everything from simple things like changing a few colors to the type-face all the way to the more complex which involves getting your hands dirty in the actual code. Now the amount and complexity of tweaking may vary between individual “long-haul” bloggers but nevertheless a common characteristic is that all of them have had some involvement in tweaking their blog to their own liking. How many active bloggers you know have not changed their blog layout/structure/colors in some way in the past 3 months (let alone years…)?

Third, their initial experience with blog-ware

Currently there are a plethora of varying blogging tools available to choose from. Everything from Google’s Blogger, to the much hyped MySpace, and my personal favorite WordPress (both the hosted and self-hosting versions). A bloggers initial experience with the blog-ware he/she chooses will have bearing on whether they become an active blogger. Is the tool easy to use? Does it let them do what they want? Is it a pain to maintain (enter in spam)? Does it “break down” a lot? All of these are examples of some of the factors that play into the initial experience of a baby blogger. I remember my first foray into blogging came in the form of creating a Blogger.com account over a year ago. It looked like a great service but at the time I just didn’t like the restrictions placed on what I could do in terms of overall design (because I’m a heavy “tweaker” personality…and don’t twist that into something else :lol:!) I think I posted one article and then I quit. I didn’t even think about blogging again until I came across WordPress…but that’s another story 😉

Fourth, do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow?

This contribution can come in the form of commenting on other people’s blogs, creating themes and/or plugins for others to use, or providing content that other’s benefit from. Although, personal journaling has it’s benefits and I know some long-haul bloggers often write about things that happen in their lives but people who have long-lasting activity in the blog-world are folks who also contribute in someway to the blogosphere (other than only keeping a daily journal that just themselves and a few family members might enjoy).

Fifth, they don’t worry about posting every single day or sticking to a routine schedule

That’s not to say that having a routine schedule for posting is bad but simply that long-haul bloggers don’t worry if they miss a few days or have a lapse in their schedule for posting. There’s nothing that kills a bloggers enthusiasm more than feeling they just have to post every day to their blog! Of course there are some that enjoy doing that but that’s the point – long-haul bloggers post regularly to their blog but don’t do so out of obligation but because they have something to say!

That’s why nailing down a definition of an active blogger can be so difficult because does someone have to post every day to be considered active? In my opinion, no.

Sixth, they don’t worry about writing “mongo-size” posts everytime they post to their blog!

If a blogger is trying to come up with a change-the-world kind of article every time they post they’ll quickly run out of juice and lose enthusiasm. Not only that but blog-readers, for the most part, have an upper limit of about 5 minutes for tolerance in reading an article. In terms of blogging longevity (from the standpoint of the blogger) it’s better to make frequent small posts interspersed with the odd monster rather than trying to maintain a book writing attitude with every blog entry.

As a side-note – a lot of long-haul bloggers I read write series which is a good way of keeping short posts but at the same time tackling a subject that requires more than a few lines. As a plus, writing something as a series contributes to keeping you blogging!

Finally, the seventh indicator is they aren’t obsessed with whether the world reads their blog or not

At first, this indicator may appear to conflict with what I wrote for the fourth indicator (do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow) but it really doesn’t because the point I’m making here is more about that inane behaviour people have of wanting to be liked by others. On the blogosphere this can be a blog-killer. Long-haul bloggers aren’t consumed with building up the biggest following of readers (not to say that doesn’t interest them – of course it does – but it’s not the driving force behind them blogging) but are more interested in the content they post.

The truth is, the majority of bloggers will not build up any significant following of readers and if the only reason you are blogging is to see how many comments you’ve got that day, or for statistics junkies – seeing how many “hits” you’ve got – then blogging will quickly become boring and at best you’ll abandon your block and at worst you’ll become the anathema of the blogosphere – a splogger – stealing content from other popular blogs to drive your page rank up and satisfy your appetite for recognition (and the spin-off ad money of course you hope to get). Of course this isn’t to say all sploggers start out this way but for people who are obsessed with counting hits (as a primary motivator for blogging) splogging is certainly a real possibility.

There you have it – my short list (ha!) of indicators that I believe point towards someone becoming (or the reason they are) a long-haul blogger. To summarize:

  1. They like writing (and have something to write about!)
  2. They like tweaking their blog.
  3. What their initial experience with blog-ware is like.
  4. Do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow?
  5. They don’t worry about posting every day or sticking to a routine schedule.
  6. They don’t worry about writing mongo-size posts every time they write to their blog.
  7. They aren’t obsessed with whether everyone in the world reads their blog or not.

As usual, I look forward to any feedback you might have to offer!

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Darren

My name is Darren Ethier. I'm the owner of roughsmootheng.in. I'm the father of four children and husband of the most beautiful woman in the world. My passion is technology and it's strategic use in ministry. I also love anything to do with leadership and the wise use of words. I'm also the developer of the popular WordPress plugin Organize Series. Since THAT'S not enough to keep me busy I also work as a core developer for a great plugin called Event Espresso

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