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.