This is Why I Read Your Blog
I want you to understand why I read your blog.
By which I mean, the active, continuous reason why I read your blog. Of course I came over in the first place because something piqued my interest. You had a similar situation to mine. Or you had a thought-provoking post that someone linked to. Or you had an interesting blog name that made me click over for a moment. There are plenty of reasons I could catalogue that make me give a blog a first look.
But what makes me keep reading a blog and add it to my blog reader? Because there are lots of blogs that I visit once or twice.
There is really only one reason why I would keep reading a blog, and that is because I connected in some way with the writer and his/her voice.
I like the way the person writes — their choice of phrasing, similar to why I like certain book authors — or I feel like there is something in the voice or ideas presented that makes me think that if the person lived in my town, we’d be friends. So I add their blog to my reader because I respect them as a writer, and as long as their writing style doesn’t stray too far from why I originally liked them, I’ll keep reading. I expect their subject matter to change, after all, we are all in flux and have different aspects of our life come to the forefront at various times. Some topics resonate with me more than others, but there is no one I read who writes solely about one thing and one thing only. By which I mean, they may think they write about one thing, but really, they write about their life. Or they write about cooking, but they throw in a lot of stories about their dog. Or they have an adoption blog, but they also sometimes get a little political.
Yes, I will admit that I sometimes skim a post if the subject matter doesn’t hold my interest, but overall, my continued reading of a blog is directly tied to the voice. The only constant I need is whatever drew me to your personality in the first place.
There have been a lot of posts lately worrying about changes in the blogosphere and whether or not to keep writing and whether readers have floated away. These are all legitimate thoughts, but they’re sort of touching-the-elephant musings. We all have our personal observations, but they’re coloured by our own personal experiences, and that includes what we are doing or not doing.
The first thing I always ask when someone comments that the blogosphere has changed is “has your writing and reading habits changed?” That usually points to the issue: they’ve become self-conscious in their subject matter and stopped writing, they’ve felt uninspired for topic ideas, they’ve run out of time to write, they’ve stopped commenting as much because they’re reading from a phone. Actions have consequences: if you change the way you blog, you will see a change in the way people read.
And those actions are what you are feeling when you’re touching the elephant. It’s easy to feel that trunk or tail or tusk and use it to describe the whole animal. But elephants and the blogosphere are both huge. You can’t really get a sense of them if you only look at your own experience or that of a few people around you.
If you stop writing, people will stop reading. If they suspect that you’re not comfortable in your own space, they will not be comfortable in your space. (Have you ever been to a party where the hosts have obviously fought right before you arrived? And they’re sitting around in frosty silence? It affects the party; it has to. And the same goes for writers who don’t feel comfortable with what or where or to whom they’re writing.) If you stop commenting, new readers will stop finding you and your readership will drop.
Luckily, there are answers too: Write. Build a space where you are comfortable. Read other blogs and comment; regularly.
And also, along the way, recognize that even if your blog has changed with age, underneath it all, regardless of whatever feelings you have to the aging process, it’s still your story. Just your life; in word form. We’re all like that too: I may have more grey hair than when I started writing in this space, crinkles around my eyes and lines in my forehead. I look older. But I’m still me. And this blog is still an extension of me, a receptacle for my thoughts. So no, nothing really looks like how it looked back in 2006. But that’s okay because the important things — the spirit of this blog and the readership at the core — hasn’t changed all that much.
And all of this is to say that I don’t think that blogging has changed as much as people fear. Has it changed? Of course. Again, everything — including blogging — is in flux. But anyone who fears that the end of blogging is nigh needs to ask themselves if they’ve done anything to change their blog or the way they interact with the blogosphere. And as a test, go back — for an extended period of time since change always takes time — to reading and writing as you used to read and write, and see if blogging now resembles blogging of yesteryear. I’m willing to bet that at its core, it does.
I’m writing this in case you need reassurance to find your voice again. Your voice is why your loyal core readership reads you. Are there people who come to blogs when a person is experiencing something difficult because they thrive off the drama? Yes. But those aren’t the people you want to cater to or worry about because they aren’t sustainable or retainable. They will float away to the next blog and feed off the drama there like a mosquito drinks blood. And just as you wouldn’t work to actively keep mosquitoes biting you, there is no reason to attempt to keep that sort of blog reader.
Do you know how every person has a base weight that your body strives to return to; a happy weight that is easy to maintain? Your blog has a base readership. The numbers may go higher or lower based on external factors such as people linking to a post or getting a lot of Google juice or taking a blogging break, but overall, there is a base readership your blog strives to maintain. That is your core. When you push too hard to try to get that readership to go up, the core pulls you back down. If you go away for a long time, starving your blog, your core pipes up when you return to remind you that your blog has gotten too thin.
Every blog has a core, even if that core only consists of five people. And they read you because you are… YOU. Isn’t that a powerful thought? That there are people out there who care what you have to say.
Think of all the people you meet in your life that you don’t retain as a friend. All the hundreds of people around you that you don’t connect with. The same goes for blogs. There are hundreds of blogs out there written by Jewish women or vegetarian women or mothers of twins or those experiencing infertility: all topics which resonate with me. But I don’t read them. Because for whatever reason, I didn’t connect with the voice.
So if you ever believe that people only read you for your situation, think again to all the people around you who share your interests and yet aren’t your close friend. We don’t connect solely over shared experience because there are way too many people out there who share our experiences. We connect over shared experience coupled with something else, a je ne sais quoi, that tells us that we like this person; we like their voice.
I like your voice.