Eric Scalf has a great read on the transition from journaling to blogging.
I find his discussion of finding your target audience especially compelling. For me, the central difference between writing a journal (using the traditional definition) and a blog is the audience. A journal seems more like the online version of a diary (more on that below). Granted, the fact that it’s online indicates that the writer wants someone to read it. But the structure and the initial thought process is the same as the diary under the mattress: to chronicle your experiences for future reflection. In other words, it’s writing from the outside in.
Journaling is a powerful thing. Many years ago, I read two journals every day, written by people I don’t know. The first, The Semi-Existence of Byron, was written by a guy from Denton, Texas. I really got into his stories and the characters he wrote about. It was a really sad day for me when he quit writing. The link is still in my bookmarks, many years later.
The other was by a woman named (at least on the net) Tracy Lee. She was a photographer, wife and mother. I followed her story until she stopped writing it, around the time her husband graduated from law school.
Those were the two that I read consistently for the longest period of time, but I read others as well.
For a while I read the journal of a lady who was fighting cancer. Ultimately, she lost. Bob Clay and I were so touched by her story that we wrote a song about it.
Later I came across and followed another person’s struggle with cancer. I was sad when her son posted that she had lost her battle.
Heck, I even wrote a five day journal about the last time I saw my mother alive.
So I’m all about journals and the beauty of the personal word. Because they are written from the outside in, journals are generally more powerful on a personal level than blogs.
When blogging, you are writing not from the outside in, but from the inside out. You are adding your voice to a series of conversations about the topics that interest you. It is, by definition and by design, a communal experience.
In other words, while it’s possible for one person, with no interaction with others, to write a journal, I don’t think you can say the same about a blog. Blogs require the interaction that comes from links, comments and cross-blog dialog.
Which mean, simply, that blogs require at least some readers.
And that is why defining your audience is so important. To attract readers more effectively, we need to figure out who were are writing to. Maybe it’s just your friends and family, maybe it’s people who share your hobbies and other interests. Maybe it’s both.
The group can be narrow or fairly broad, but once we define who we’re writing for, we can begin to test our ideas for stories and topics against what we know about our target audience. Because blogs are no different that any other product or service, the more you please your customers, the more customers you will have.