Is Your Blog Holding You Back?
There is a post that keeps coming up in the blogosphere in various incarnations that essentially states that the person is shutting down their blog (and sometimes starting up a new one) because their blog no longer fits them. Perhaps you have written one of these posts either in your head or in published form. People do this daily; close one space and begin a new one, either importing their old posts or starting tabula rasa. And sometimes they don’t begin a new space at all; they either say goodbye or don’t say goodbye and stop blogging altogether. Sometimes they feel as if they’ve outgrown their blog and no longer need it, or the space itself holds too many memories they’d rather not confront on a daily basis. And other times, they’d very much like to keep writing in the same space, but they feel as if they don’t know who their audience is anymore because their old readership no longer fits their current situation. Or maybe they know exactly who their audience is and don’t want to write what is on their mind for fear of offending them.
And when any of those things happen, a space that had once began as a refuge becomes a place of discomfort; what once brought clarity now brings mostly confusion; and what one was an anchor instead becomes a straightjacket.
Welcome to the drawback of niche blogging.
Niche Blogging vs. General Diarying
If you listen to blog experts who write on blogging expert sites, they will tell you that if you want to find an audience for your blog, you should engage in niche blogging, which means essentially that you write about one topic the majority of the time. Communities spring up around common topics, and the best way to find readers for your blog is to find other people who write about the same things and comment on their blog. Then they will find out about your blog and most likely want to read it because you are both interested in the same topic. See — genius idea. I, for example, could be labeled as an infertility blogger.
General diarists have an uphill battle in finding an audience because they write about themselves and until they’re a known entity, many people won’t find it enticing to click over and discover a new blog. Mostly because they have no clue what it’s about. General diarists get to write though about a whole slew of topics — anything that crosses their brain is fair game. I, for example, could be labeled as a general diarist.
Wait, how could I be both a niche blogger and a general diarist at the same time? I mean, it fits right? I wrote about swearing yesterday and family trees the day before that. And once or twice a week, I write about infertility. So I’m definitely a niche blogger and a general diarist at the same time.
And why the hell not?
No, I mean seriously, who is the blogging empress who decreed that you need to be one or the other? I give you full permission to start thinking of yourself as both at the same time, and writing accordingly.
Who Wears the Pants on Your Blog?
Some people are fully in control of their content. They write what they want to write and don’t care if anyone reads it. More people share control of their content. They write what they want to write, but they also take their readers’ feelings into consideration (some more than others). And then there are people who give control of their blog over to their blog. Yes, this inanimate space dictates what they publish. More on that idea below.
You: do you write whatever you feel like writing without anything holding you back? If you feel like writing 15 posts in one week about peesticks, do you write 15 posts about peesticks, even if you get a comment on the 12th one saying, “really? Another post about peesticks?” Do you keep your blog solely as a record for yourself, and while readers are nice, they’re not necessary for you to keep being invested in writing?
Your Readers: these are the people you know and the people you don’t know. While I only know a fraction of the people who read my blog, I can guess my general readership and know what they would and would not want to read. You probably know your readership too. Do you give your readership a lot of thought when posting something? How much thought? Would you post something if you knew it would be unpopular or upset people? Do you worry about alienating or losing readers? Would you stop writing in your current space if there was no one there to read it?
Your Blog: your blog has a personality. It would be totally out of character for me to begin posting daily recipes or haikus. You’re just not going to hear posts about potty training here (by which I mean that I didn’t write those types of posts back when we were going through potty training). So sometimes it’s not the readers who are limiting you, but it’s the blog itself which is holding you back. Maybe you don’t want to publish recipes anymore, but that’s sort of your “thing” so you now feel like you need to continue it. Or maybe you don’t want to write about infertility anymore, but you think that since your blog is called My Big Fat Hairy Uterus, you need to keep posting about said internal organs.
This is a question where I think everyone will have a different answer: in terms of percentages, who determines the direction of your content — you, your readers, or your blog?
As a personal blogger, if you are not writing what you want to write — what you need to write — is your blog serving you? Are you getting enough out of the time investment that comes with writing?
Are you happy with the breakdown of your percentages for what you’re allowing to determine the direction of your content? And if you’re not happy, are you going to do something about it?
Do You Really Have to Move?
You’ve probably noticed that I don’t have a great love for closing up shop on one blog and opening up a new one; at least, not for myself. I continue to live in the same house regardless of how life has changed and our family has grown. Perhaps one day we will move if this house no longer serves us, but for the time being, we’ve made the house change to fit our needs rather than moving ourselves as circumstances change. And I feel the same way about my blogging space; I’ve tweaked it to fit different stages of my life that I’ve gone through in the last six years instead of closing a blog and starting a new one as circumstances change.
I don’t mind when other people do this, though it’s just as pain-in-the-assy as captcha or music autoloaders. When a person changes their blog url, I have to decide whether to delete the old space or keep it in my Reader for old time sake. I have to update feeds, remember a new name. Sometimes I’m successful with moving with the person, other times, I lose them in the shuffle.
So perhaps this post is also self-serving; by encouraging you to stay put, I don’t have to update things on my end.
But I really do hate to see people struggling with that decision to leave behind a space they’ve always loved. To see people wondering where they fit in after a life change. You fit in exactly where you’ve always fit in — you fit in that YOU space that’s created by… you. Wherever you are is where you need to be, and the rest of us will follow you if you lead us. Please know that you are in charge of your blog.
If you’re interested in hearing more on this topic, I’m moderating a panel at BlogHer next week for three other members of the ALI community (Kathy, Lori, and Kir) called “My Blog No Longer Fits Me.” Even if you are not at the conference, you will be able to follow along from home because there will be someone there liveblogging (and I believe taping, at least, audio if not video). And you can participate too by leaving a comment below telling me in terms of percentages, who determines the direction of your content — you, your readers, or your blog? Though please also write your blog name in the body of the comment so I can make sure I mention that if I read it aloud.