Having been blogging (and loving it) for over a year, I asked myself recently when reading some tweets discussing how to maximise readership, at what point does blogging lose its innocence? When does the thrill of self-publishing, of sharing questions, ideas and views and generating a response from others – often people we don’t even know (yet) – make way for the addrenalin rush associated with sport, and the competitive urge?
When does blogging become sport?
Bloggers want influence. We want to know what we are saying is read, and to provoke thought and response. We want to be a source of reference, even to be quoted. Deep within the mix of excitement and nervousness at releasing a new post, our vanity desires a reaction.
Yet we (as in so many areas of life and work) are riders of the normal distribution – albeit refreshingly it is an ever-shifting population. It may not quite be a case of you only being as good as your last post, but a run of inspiring – or pointless – posts will shift your appeal.
As most who blog know, it is hard work. Garnering a readership takes time, thought, effort and persistence. We are often limited by the size and maturity of the field we are in or the subjects we cover, or of the composition of the network we have created. When we break out to other fields we are strangers, and it takes time once again to earn readership. “Here I am barbarian for men understand me not” as Ovid said.
But those stats packages are transfixing. So much rich detail. They look like a powerpoint slide the finance team create. Our mood and emotions react when we process what we find. We check them regularly after each post is released. And regularly thereafter.
Nietzsche, essentially a philologist, stated that “we think because we have named something that we have described it”. In the same way, from data on the number of times a post has been viewed we have no measure of influence, and the extent to which our writing has reached deeply into our readership. We don’t know how many read the first two lines and gave up. Or got there by accident.
It’s the same with Twitter and followers – it’s not about the number, it’s about who they are, how they engage with you, and how they can add to the richness of your network – and you can add to theirs. It’s about the social relationship created. But you can see that for some, its sport too.
So when blogging is all about messaging tailored for the purpose of boosting readership , is it no longer genuine? Has it become in its own (generally non-remunerated) way just like the shallow business of music, authorship or the “popular press” – “blogsport”? Can the blogosphere, as a self-regulating, self-balancing community, detect this, and somehow correct it?
For those souls tortured by their data, when will the first stats-induced nervous breakdown occur, and when will blogsport counsellors emerge, to re-build the shattered egos?
As a contribution to the body of counselling that will undoubtedly emerge, I am reminded of Rick Wakeman’s response to a journalist who (quite rightly, at the time) savaged his latest offering – “it’s my f—ing album, isn’t it?”
I think these questions are important – so will be checking my stats later. And tomorrow. And comparing them to last week. OK, breathe, and relax…..do you have that counsellor’s number?
Never lose that innocence.