A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a NY Times article about the high failure rate of blogs. I couldn’t read the article without registering (so I didn’t), but that won’t stop me from commenting on it! You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.
As I pondered the short life span of the typical blog, I decided that bloggers fall into a few categories, and failure can (usually) be predicted just by identifying what class the blogger is a member of:
- People with nothing to say. Unscientifically, I’d say this is the vast majority of blogs. Many of these blogs might better be described as journals; the content is really meant for the consumption of the writer, not any audience. After a few weeks, anecdotes about the crazy antics of Fluffy the cat get old. After a few months these stories get old even for the blogger and he quits. Some people have a treasury of a few really good stories, and those will keep them going for a while, but when the well runs dry the blog fades away.
- People who lack the skill to say what they want. I suspect that this group is fairly small, as most people who lack language skills probably don’t start blogging in the first place. The exceptions to this rule, I suspect (having done no research) are found in sport blogs and political blogs, where passionately held beliefs are undermined by the complete inability of the writer to express himself.
- Interesting, articulate people with unrealistic expectations. When the blog doesn’t become famous overnight and the blogger realizes she must devote time to it almost every day for months for it to have even a remote chance of catching on, they quit.
- Interesting, articulate people who embrace the medium and do it for the pleasure of doing it. They produce what we in the industry call “good blogs.”
- People who, despite having traits from categories 1-3, continue to blog, rehashing old material and catering to a microscopic audience. Even as readership remains constant for several years these writers delude themselves into thinking that their blog sucks less than most blogs.
On a purely unrelated note, as Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas celebrates its fifth year of contributing to the noise of the blogosphere, the MuddledRamblings.com business cards I designed say at the bottom, “Sucks less than most blogs!”
Fundamentally, I think most bloggers want to be read. A growing audience is the payoff — more people reading, more people commenting, lively discussions triggered by the words of the blogger. It seems obvious, but when it comes right down to it, most blogs are not read. Personally, I don’t read that many blogs, and comment on fewer still. There are just too many of the damn things. Blogs that don’t produce consistently excellent posts, with some thematic connection between posts, are not going to grow big audiences. (The exception to this is the celebrity blog, where people read just for the name.) I’d have a much better chance at a large readership if I wrote a blog strictly about software engineering on a particular platform rather than just posting whatever drivel pops into my head.
I just like writing drivel, is all.