The Real Reason Blogging is Hard

We’ve talked about the gatekeeper thing.

We’ve talked about rules for good blogging.

And some of us have tried to add more voices to the conversation via “affirmative traction.”

slogBut I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about the main reason blogging is so hard. We’ve talked around it. Others have probably addressed it in one form or another. But let’s just put it out there on the table and look at it for a bit.

Blogging is hard because of the grind required to stay interesting and relevant.

Day in and day out, day after day, night after night, you have to keep working. Read, write, comment. Over and over. A lot of the time, it comes natural and it’s fun, but sometimes it doesn’t and it isn’t.

Courting the Fickle Eyeballs

Fraser Kelton and I kicked ideas around about traffic and RSS subscriber numbers the other day. I did a little of the same with Doc Searls via email. My new conclusions are the same as my old conclusions. Readers are fickle and you have to work to stay relevant.

Yes, you can build a blog. I have sort of (though not entirely) disproved my own theory in that regard. If you write long and hard and interesting and funny enough, you can and will get links from Scoble, Om, Doc, etc. And those links will lead to readers.

If you build it, they will come.

But Will They Stay?

Some of your readers will become your friends. This part of blogging is really a cross-blog social networking thing that is, as I have said before, the natural evolution of the internet message board. We trade ideas, comment on each other’s post and generally carry on a conversation.

That’s a wonderful thing and it’s one of the main reasons I keep doing this.

But the other 98% of your readers don’t know you from Adam’s housecat. To them you are just a name in an RSS reader with a post or two to be scanned. They won’t keep reading because they like you. To the contrary, they may stop by once or twice, but if they don’t affirmatively like what they see, they’ll move on. It’s the same with blogs as it is with restaurants. You’ve got one or two chances to turn a visitor into a customer.

Going Up is Hard, Going Down is Easy

And just like any other upward climb, it’s not just about moving up the hill. It’s also about trying not to fall back down the hill, due to exhaustion, boredom or both.

Take Steve Rubel for example. He’s built a one-man blogging empire, because he follows his Four P’s. He’s a good writer, with demonstrated expertise in his area, and he seems like a nice guy. That and a ton of hard work on his part turned his blog into the destination site that it is today.

But what if he got lazy and stopped writing or decided to write only about his dog or something? Would he stay on top of bloggers hill? Almost certainly not. Over time, his thousands and thousands of readers would lose interest and move on to the next trendy spot. Of course he’d have a few dog lovers to take their place, but his blog would be a very different and a much less populated place.

And he’s at the top of bloggers hill. The exodus from this blog or another one still on the slope would be even faster.

Is the fact that my dog’s photo is at the top of this page the thing that’s keeping me out of the Technorati 100?

The Downward Spiral

The grind is exactly why so many blogs are abandoned after only a few weeks or months. It’s why even many of the blogs in Scoble’s feeds have fallen into the downward spiral of neglect.

It’s hard to have something interesting and relevant to say every day, much less several times a day. And if you’re still climbing up bloggers hill, the path is steep and if you aren’t moving forward, you’re probably losing ground.

So What Does It Mean?

It just means that like a lot of things, blogging is hard. It’s hard for all the reasons we’ve talked about over the past few months: because of the gatekeepers, because of the people who whine about the gatekeepers, because someone didn’t answer our email, because somebody else sent us an email, because of the blog networks, in spite of the blog networks, because some of our posts are boring, because the RIAA is suing dead grannies.

But mostly it’s hard because of the grind.

0 responses to “The Real Reason Blogging is Hard

  1. When I started blogging, I was afraid I would run out of subjects soon … the opposite happened. I now have over a dozen half-written posts that I don’t find the time to finish. In the meantime everyday something happens that triggers the ” I need to blog this” rush:-). So for me it’s the other way around. .lack of time. I often find myself posting “stupid little things” because those are quick, while the longer articles sit back waiting to be finished.. like homework :-)

  2. I am actually here just to see the dog. ;-) What’s his/her name?

  3. That one’s my good old boy Virgil, who died a couple of years ago. Our current dog Lucky is about a year and a half old.He hasn’t made it to the top of the page yet, but here’s a photo of him.I can probably get you an interview for your new dog blog if you want :)

  4. Rihgt – but look at the implications. The people who prosper are a small subset – those who don’t need to work for a living, those who have frequent writing *as* their living, etc. This then creates a set of gatekeepers, as has been extensively discussed. Anyone not in this small set needs to beg gatekeepers for attention to get material widely distributed, and can’t defend effectively against attack. It’s a very frustrating and disappointing system in practice, with a lot of Let-them-eat-cake nastiness.

  5. Nice read. It is in fact hard staying relevent and sometimes when you write what you feel is your most relevent post of all nobody else comes to the party. Blogging is indeed an endurance sport — but good voices and good writers usually do end up with some readers no matter what the topic. Certainly there are lots of tools for the news junkie to stay on top of subject matter.By the way, for whatever reason you can’t comment on this post via the permalink, only via your main page.Don’t listen to what they say, keep the dog at the top. I’ve had people telling me to only write about tech and quit posting so many photos on my blog all the time. I love photography, it’s a passion of mine and I know other of my readers do as well. While certainly all dog all the time would lose readers a little dog some of the time adds character.Cheers.

  6. Kent, this post so well captures the ongoing wrestling match with to blog or not to blog, and with how much enthusiasm, particularly after looking back over a span of a couple of years. I’ll be re-reading and linking to this post from my own blog soon.btw, I saw you’re listening to Ryan Adams. His song “desire” was featured on Fox’s House show this week. My first exposure to Adams. I’m not much of an alternative country guy, but I loved that song.

  7. I’ve always said: If traffic/readership is important to you, then you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not blogging on your schedule, but on your audience’s schedule. That means you can’t post once in a while, or in irregular spurts, and expect to build a following. Same applies to content. This might seem like a burden for some, but that’s how it works.As far as running out of things to write: I wish I could empathize. Some days are definitely lighter than others, but I never find myself as a loss.

  8. Hi. My first time here. Good article. The other challenge for me is remembering the things that happen during the day when I’m not at my computer that I think will be blog worthy. When I sit down to write latter on I become a big “duh”.I’ve tried to utilize the “draft” feature more. Maybe I’ll write bits at a time and then finish it off later if needed. This, along with using the ‘post time stamp’ when I do have more than one post in the running, allows me a vacation day every once in awhile.Blog on!Sam

  9. Thanks for all the great conversation everyone.And Thomas, great post today about Flickr. I look at your photostream 3-4 times a week. Great stuff.Dave, Ryan Adams is often less alt. country than others. Many of his records shortly after Whiskeytown broke up are barely country, if at all.CT, I think you’re right about the schedule thing. I certainly find myself writing on a de facto schedule. It’s a lot like songwriting (which I know more about than blogging)- there are periods of great productivity followed by periods of utter nothing. Sam’s right that about the only way to work around that is via drafts. I actually try to have around 10 posts in draft form. That’s easy to do with record reviews and serial stuff, but current events don’t lend themselves to that very well.Seth, I absolutely have not come to grips with the gatekeeper thing yet. It’s certainly an issue. I’ve just tried to focus on opening the gates a little (via my second opinion initiative). And, candidly, I have had some proverbial A-Listers reach out and help me some, which has shown me that maybe what I thought was a wall was only a hill- thus my metaphor transition from wall to hill.About the commenting problem: I’m trying to comment from the post page now to see what the problem is.I’m trying to move over to WP which should help make things run a bit more smoothly.

  10. Yeah, I check my stats everyday and think “Gee, I wish I had more regular readers.” (And more AdSense hits, of course.) But I know since I only post at the most 3 times a week and at the least every 7-10 days, I’m never going to ever get “regular” readers.I’ve always just felt compelled to write since I got involved with comic zines (the old school print kind) in high school. At least the couple dozen hits I get per day are more than the 2 or 3 people who used to buy my mini-comics. Self-publishing has always been hard for the twenty odd years I’ve been doing it, whether in print, an HTML site or a blog. But I find it satisfying even if nobody knows I’m doing it…badMike

  11. This is completely right–and as a blogger you have to figure out *why* you’re blogging. For example, I realized that I can’t keep up with the regular schedule of interesting observations for people to actively subscribe, but I try to put up content that “fills in the gaps” of information that I looked for but couldn’t find. Mix this with random personal stuff that’s “just for me,” and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with blogging. (Especially given my history of past failures.)In the end, we just need good content on the Web. When I used to write reviews for Amazon, we always looked for “timelessness.” I think that’s a good guideline to use when creating your content. If it’s “for the moment,” then you may have to admit that other people do it just as well or better. Then concentrate on creating more “timeless” content.

  12. I have to agree that blogging does become a grind at times

  13. Like other people have said: Sometimes you don’t have anything to say. I work around this by saving stuff ahead of time. Flickr images, jokes, and witty observations are good stuff to save for later. If I have a day where I just can’t stop writing, I take the ones that aren’t time sensitive and store them.When I have a drought I start posting from my reserve. I ight miss the hot topics of the day, but at least I avoid the ghosttown effect, which is a traffic killer.

  14. I’m with Zoli, minus the fear part.

  15. I’ve been up and down and sideways with my blog since I started it (gasp!) nearly 2 years ago now. First I thought that changing from Blogspot to WordPress would kill it. Then I thought I had run out of anything original to say. Then I tried Podcasting. And as of right now, I’m realizing that I still have a use for the forum. I just need to relax and enjoy the process… and who cares if I get one comment or one-hundred?

  16. as rcktman rick says, “who cares if I get one comment or one-hundred?” i have so much more fun blogging when i’m not worried about my readership. of course, i have a lot of fun when i see lots of people have found me, but the hits become like a drug. the more you get, the more you need. i would like to think that i blog for me and some friends and that hopefully i’ll say something along the way that will strike a chord with some of y’all out there. cheers!

  17. Ok, I’m late to comment on this post but I think the whole problem might be the dog. My readers tell me cats are better than dogs!But, I have a very sexy photograph of a dog – guaranteed sexier than you’ve seen of a dog. Let me clarify…it’s not crude, not obscene – just beautiful. I’m a photographer and artist and this photo is one of my favorites. You can find it on this page – it’s called “sexy.” Thanks for the tips, I just found the site and see you’ve written a few other articles that are related – and that I plan to read. By the way, WordPress 2.0 almost made me forgo blogging because it was so difficult to code and there are so many bugs. I basically rolled my existing website to a blog and it was very painful! You didn’t mention the technical reasons (at least in this post) that a blogger might quit blogging, so I thought I’d mention that angle.

  18. Ooh, yeah — the grind.I definitely face moments of grind; but when I do, it’s because I’ve lost sight of what my work is all about.It forces clarity, that’s for sure. From clarity, comes inspiration.

  19. Pingback: The Grind « The Agonist