Blogging: easy? No. Fun? Yeeees!

Heather ArmstrongHeather Armstrong Queen of the Mother BloggersImage via Wikipedia
Not everybody can be Heather Armstrong, Queen of the Mother Bloggers. Let's face it, Armstrong  is an exception. Forbes rates her as the 26th most powerful woman in the United States after Oprah and right behind famed Daily Beast Newsweek manager Tina Brown. Armstrong makes a ton of money with her reported 100,000 visitors to her site, dooce.com, every day. Actually her husband quit his job to help out in the management of what became in the course of ten short, hectic years a real booming business. And all of this, of course, while remaining an at home mother with two kids and a dog.

How did she do it? Bottomline, she found an audience eager to follow her life trials and tribulations: readership jumped when she shared her post-partum depression.  Then she went on sharing all the troubles and challenges of an at-home mother, finding a huge audience. I guess we are all voyeurs...

Then she did a very clever thing: she turned the blog into a fantastic money-making proposition. That aspect of her adventure as a blogger may have been hard to manage at times but in the end, it came naturally, given the prevalent marketing/advertising culture in America. I'm not so sure the equivalent can be reproduced in a European environment.

More interesting is the question of why her blog has attracted such a huge following? Good writing, of course. She has a catchy voice, she makes you feel she's right in the room with you: it must be the way she actually talks to her hubby and friends. As I've said before: all of us harbour a little bit of a voyeur in ourselves.

Then there's the next important thing: in her posts, she tries to bring up a piece of information. Whether it concerns a washing machine or an experience with her child or dog, it's always something "new" or at least something you can learn from. Or nearly always:  when she doesn't, her captive audience can forgive her that. Because she's done it often enough in the past so that she's built up a faithful following.

So, if I may, draw the conclusions from Heather Armstrong's experience.  A major element in a successful blog is surely the ability to add a new dimension to whatever is said anywhere else in the printed press or other websites. You've got to make the reader feel he/she's not wasting her time with you - either because s/he's learned something from you or because s/he's laughed at something along with you. Some bloggers try to make you cry along with them. Personally, I don't think that's a very good idea, but I can readily understand that people who have suffered a death in the family or gone through a traumatizing illness will flock to sites and blogs that offer compassion and consolation.

So there are all sorts of areas one can blog in, from parenting to health care, from cooking to religion. But in every case, to succeed you need a special slant. Otherwise you won't catch anybody's attention, much less maintain it.

The rest - like pictures and links to related articles - is largely make-up. It makes your blog look better and Zemanta is probably the best tool for that. But the substance is still yours and yours alone.

And this is where I have doubts and questions. Bloggers appear to decide early on what the profile of their blog should be (say, it is focussed on all things literary, or political, or economic or whatever area of life strikes your fancy). And then they resolutely stick to it. They never talk about something else - never deviate from their main line of argument. These guys are focussed and determined to build up their "brand". And quite rightly they join a community of bloggers or like-minded writers and comment on each other's blog and site. Because, as Jeremy Myers points out in his excellent post (see link below), commenting on other people's blogs and responding to comments on your own blog is the "blood" that drives traffic to your blog (if I may be allowed the simile).

I suspect they're right to do that, but I don't like it. All sorts of things interest me, and I like to hop like a busy bee from one to the next. Why stop with one series of arguments? How boring! My blog is my own to do what I like with. No editorial policy here. Nothing but utter intellectual freedom!

I've tried to "clean up" my blog, sticking  my short stories and cooking recipes in linked blogs (see the right hand side).  I did that because someone (rightly) told me that stuff was too different from the rest and got lost in what I guess is a mish mash of economics, politics, art and sheer pig-headed opinions... As to commenting on other websites and blogs, I do as much as I can, but being so widely spread out, I fear I don't do a very good job of it. I'd need a 48 hour day to do justice to all the great stuff that's written out there!

So the way I go about it is probably not the best way to build up a brand.

Am I wrong? Should I give up all my flitting about and concentrate on one thing and one thing only? As a fiction writer, I find that nearly impossible to envisage: everything human interests me continually...What do you think I should do? Keep at it the way my blog is now, exploring ideas and events left and right, or stick doggedly to one single path?

Do tell me!
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