Who are we, as bloggers, really writing for? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
The knee-jerk answer, of course, is that different people write for different reasons. Some write for their real world customers. Some write to attract eyeballs attached to fingers that might click on an ad. Some write as a way to market their online products. Some write for themselves. Etc. Etc.
But I am asking the question at a more fundamental level.
Who are the readers of our blogs? Not the intended audience. The actual audience.
Who do we really write for?
My answer: mostly for each other.
I’m just not convinced that blogs have much penetration into the general reading population. Stated another way, I suspect that the large, large majority of readers of any blog, save and except the TechCrunches and Techdirts of the world, are other bloggers and maybe the occasional relative or curious friend.
Even the mega-blogs, whose traffic the rest of us stare at in jealous disbelief, have subscriber numbers in the tens of thousands. TechCrunch has 92,854 subscribers. That’s an incredible number until you consider the fact that there are 300 million people in the US and 6.5 billion worldwide. In context, even TechCrunch’s penetration into the real world is less than insignificant. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have circulation numbers in excess of 2 million, and that doesn’t count tons of people like me who read those papers online or who grab a colleague’s copy after he or she is done with it.
The number of bloggers competing for attention makes it seem like the blogosphere is a huge, chaotic place. But it only seems that way because we have all ended up in a small room at the end of the hall. When people refuse to converse with me or go out of their way to link around me, it hurts a little. Until I remember that while they aren’t listening to me, no one in the real world is listening to them either.
I have been told by a couple of buddies in old media that old media tech writers tend to write for each other as well, so my theory is not limited exclusively to bloggers.
But the more I think about it, I think most bloggers write primarily for each other.
Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy writing. But sometimes it feels vaguely depressing to write something, put it up and wait anxiously for someone to reply via comment or link.
The problem, it seems to me, is that we often overstate the interactive nature of the blogosphere. Sure, blogs are somewhat interactive, but there is still an effort hurdle to be crossed to converse. You have to invest the time and effort to make a comment or write a responsive post. And with everyone talking at once, a lot of things get lost in the static.
And, of course, the rock stars who refuse to have cross-blog conversations with anyone other than other perceived rock stars make blogs seem even less interactive (and more silly) than they really are.
The whole system just seems really inefficient to me.
Which is why we need to ask ourselves why we write and who we are writing for.
So here’s my challenge. Write a paragraph that explains why you write a blog and who you write for. Think about it for a moment first. And be honest. I’ll compile a list (with links), and we’ll see if there are any patterns. Maybe we’ll learn something.
Here’s mine (I trashed and completely rewrote the following paragraph four times):
I write as an outlet for the creative energy that I used to use writing songs, and to initiate conversation with people who share interests of mine that are not generally shared by my real world friends. I write because I like to build things and to see if I can become meaningful in an area other than the one in which I make my living. Fundamentally, I write for the people who will allow me to become part of their conversations, either because they like what I have to say or because they are willing to try to change my mind. And, to be honest, I write to show some of the people who believe they are tech stars that some middle aged ex-farmer from Texas can compete with them on their field, on their terms- and win.