Commentary, or a little bit of deconstruction

Let’s do a deconstruction.

I found a post on blogging by a professional from the marketing-world. Funny enough I found it by searching for mp3’s of James Chance and the Contortions, namely here: http://somevelvetblog.blogspot.com/.

The piece originally was posted here: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/ and comes from here: http://h20325.www2.hp.com/blogs/kintz/, exactly: http://h20325.www2.hp.com/blogs/kintz/archive/0001/01/01/1120.html?jumpid=reg_R1002_USEN.

I’d like to deconstruct some of the assumptions in this post to bring into perspective how much the view of the marketing-world, and their idea of corporate blogging is rooted in an idea of publishing that is superseded by blogging. The funny thing is that the conlusions of the research and the advises taken from it, do correspond quite well with my own view on/feeling about blogging. But I’d say those things should’ve been clear from the start…

I will quote the whole text Why Blog Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore from Eric Kintz — in italics — and add my commentary.

“Thou shall post every day” is the most fundamental and most well known principle of blogging….

— It never was. Only marketeers who’d like to reach out to an audience and have that audience stay with their blog, want this. Why would you like an audience to stay? The only real reason I can think of is: Google-ad revenue. Power? Having people read what you scribbled? My god, there are millions like you… Conversation? That comes from putting up good content. Not from blogging daily.

Every new blogger is warned about “the” ultimate rule and is confronted with the pressure of a day going by with no new post. Every one has in mind the examples of successful bloggers, like Robert Scoble at Microsoft, who post several times a day. Daily posting shows that you are serious about blogging, generates traffic and drives reader loyalty, as readers come back daily to check your new posts. You cannot be successful if you do not go by the rule, right? RIGHT?

— No. See above. Who wants to be like Robert Scoble?

Wrong. Daily posts are a legacy of a Web 1.0 mindset and early Web 2.0 days (meaning 12 months ago!). The pressure around posting frequency will ultimately become a significant barrier to the maturity of blogging. Here are 10 reasons why.

— Well, you have my attention now.

#1- Traffic is generated by participating in the community; not daily posting – The blogosphere doubles in size every 6 months and cutting through the clutter will become ever more difficult with a new blog emerging every second. Daily posting deals with the clutter by adding more clutter.

— Who cares about traffic? Only the ones who have (Google-)ads going? Participating in a community is important, but not because it generates traffic. (Want traffic? Write a bot that visits). But the next sentence is really troubling, it actually states that the idea is that the ideal is that we should go through the whole blogosphere every day… As if there is one blogosphere where everybody talks about the same subjects, a blogosphere that one can keep an eye on, in its whole. That idea is wrong. At least since Bacon and Locke discovered that there were more books around than they could ever read in a whole lifetime, it has been impossible to keep track of everything going on. The fact that the amount of postings doubles in size every 6 months is meaningless in this respect. One can only follow a fracture of it — indeed a few “communities”-of-interests that one participates in. “Daily posting deals with the clutter by adding more clutter” is exactly what blogging is about, and has always been about. Is that a paradox? It is what writes have always done. Bacon and Locke dealt with “information overload” by adding to it: making summaries, indexes, their own notes and commentaries.

Although this strategy made sense 12 months ago and still makes sense for the top bloggers, its effectiveness diminishes with every new blog created. Traffic is generated by successful bloggers linking to you either in their posts or in their blogroll. Mack at Viral Garden has a series of great posts on the importance of joining the community.

— Again: who cares about traffic? 99,9% of bloggers will never receive links from the top-bloggers (who are not characteristic of blogging at all, I think). Blogging goes on, and blooms in the realm of 1 to 30 visitors a day.

#2 – Traffic is irrelevant to your blog’s success anyway– Unless you specifically target bloggers like Bruce, are a blogging consultant or blog about your latest book, traffic is irrelevant to you. What matters most is whether you are reaching your target audience (which may be narrow and focused), not necessarily how many people read your posts. Engaging with the audience you want to have a relationship with is a much smarter strategy than posting frequently.

— Ah, now we’re talking. “Traffic is irrelevant. Engage with your audience!” True. Better still would be “Traffic is irrelevant. Write about what you are passionate. Don’t think about an audience.” Actually that’s already what Rebecca Blood advised years ago.

#3- Loyal readers coming back daily to check your posts is so Web 1.0 – As the blogosphere matures, the number of new readers and bloggers will decrease and loyal readers are going to matter more. I have heard many bloggers tell me that they will lose reader loyalty if these readers come back daily and do not see any new posts. This perception is still very strong although irrelevant. Loyal readers subscribe to your blog via RSS feeds and have new content pushed to them. They will remain loyal because they have subscribed, not because you post frequently.

— Now it starts to be interesting. Loyal readers subscribe through RSS. (Is that true? I subscribe to over a hundred feeds, yet prefer to visit the blogs themselves. Going through feeds is what I do when I’m offline). Actually the whole idea of loyal readers is I think much more “under threat” because most internet-users will find a blog thanks to a Google-search, and then migth explore that particular niche by clicking a few links (for instance from the linkslist or blogroll of that blog.) Or they might — technorati-style — follow a certain subject (technically a ‘tag’), being fed with bits and pieces from different blogs that are ‘tagged’ as that subject. In that way people read much more through different blogs than follow the blogs they are loyal to.

#4 – Frequent posting is actually starting to have a negative impact on loyalty: Seth Godin (a frequent blogger) has a very interesting theory.According to him, RSS fatigue is already setting in. With too many posts, you run the risk of losing loyal readers, overwhelmed by the clutter you generate. Readers will start to tune off if your blog takes up too much of their time.

— Well, what is the problem there? The only rule is: write what you are passionate about even if that means putting up enormous amounts of texts daily. If your text is a good one, you will be read, maybe not today or tomorrow, but in a few weeks time, or even later on. Is there a problem with newspapers, thousands daily writing about sometimes the exact same subjects? (A good style of writing is often one that uses words economically, that is true, and something else).

#5: Frequent posting keeps key senior executives and thought leaders out of the blogosphere – My colleagues and industry peers cite bandwidth constraints as the number one reason for not blogging. They are absolutely right: frequent posting is not very compatible with a high pressure job. As an example, not one single blog is authored by a senior corporate marketing blogger in the top 25 marketing blogs listed by Mack. Not only does the blogosphere lose valuable thought leadership, it runs the risk of being overlooked by these very same marketers.

— Ha ha. Those marketeers, concerned about the senior executives and ‘thought leaders’ –, the thought leaders are publishing on the web. (Okay, this text is about corporate blogging). And yes, blogging is time consuming. Did anyone ever say something else? Did anyone ever say that everyone should blog? Of course the senior executives are not blogging. Of course we hardly have fulltime nurses blogging. Is that a problem? Is it a problem that senior executives are not writing novels, shooting movies, uploading their favorite recipes?

A recent study by Forrester found a reluctance among marketers to shift from more tried-and-true online channels like search and e-mail marketing. Just 13 percent reported using blogs or social networks in marketing, and 49 percent said they had no plans to do so in the next year. If the blogosphere wants to become more mainstream (vs. being the latest hype), frequent posting and required bandwidth are undoubtedly a major barrier to adoption.

— Good. The less marketeers use the blogosphere, the better; also blogging might be exactly the opposite of marketing. But this sentence is troublesome: ” If the blogosphere wants to become more mainstream (vs. being the latest hype)”. Hmm, if almost everybody is blogging — 75 year old retired managers, 15 year olds from the MySpace-generation, and everybody in between — how to become, well, more ‘mainstream’ than that? The problem is here: blogging (and the internet in general) has shown that there is exactly no reason whatsoever to know who Madonna is, it has shown that ‘mainstream’ is an invention of mass-media — or at least a mass-media-phenomenon.

#6: Frequent posting drives poor content quality – The pressure of daily posting drives many bloggers to re-purpose other bloggers’ content or give quick un-insightful comments on the news. Few bloggers have enough time (or expertise) to write daily thought leadership pieces, thus adding to the clutter. Ben at the Church of the Customer Blog explores the 1% rule and cites the Wikipedia example: 25 million readers visit Wikipedia every month, but the number of people who actually contribute content to Wikipedia is about 1-2 percent of total site visitors. I would argue that the same is valid for the blogosphere as a whole where most of the original high value content is driven by 1% of the bloggers. Some of the most insightful –and most quoted- marketing thought blogging leaders are actually infrequent posters, from Sam Decker to Charlene Li or Randi Baseler.

— Good. Point taken. I think this is largely true as long as bloggers think they have to write about ‘what goes on in the media’. But the 1% original content sounds too pessimistic. It does not take into account that a lot of blogging exactly consists — not of putting up ‘original content’ — but in constructing a distributed conversation on a certain subject. Bloggers who ‘live’ in the same niche, react to each other. That is blogging. What is original content anyway?

#7: Frequent posting threatens the credibility of the blogosphere – as many bloggers re-purpose existing content under the pressure of daily posting, they do not take the time to do any sort of due diligence and conduct effective research. Errors snowball in the blogosphere as they spread from one blogger to the other. The collective wisdom of user generated content was supposed to provide an alternative to biased traditional media content – it is instead echoing the thoughts and biases of a few.

— Blogging is not journalism. Yet I agree that, if one takes blogging seriously, one should try to check sources, give the right references, et cetera. But I know I do not always do that. It’s the ‘freedom’ of blogging — in opposition to journalism — to be inexact, and say “it is inexact, sorry, but that’s how I felt”. An important part of our media literacy should be our competence of checking sources, being able to ascertain the credibility of a text.

#8 – Frequent posting will push corporate bloggers into the hands of PR agencies – As they struggle with bandwidth constraints as well as peer pressure to join the blogosphere, more and more companies will resort to partnering with their PR agencies to create blogs. The blogosphere will in turn lose some of its effectiveness and value.

— Yes. I think that is true. But do I care? I do not read those blogs. They hardly exist in my world. Btw: PR and blogging are very closely connected, at least in the Netherlands, and at least ever since financial minister Gerrit Zalm started a blog. Again: we readers should be able to tell what the interests are that are represented by a certain blog.

#9 – Frequent posting creates the equivalent of a blogging landfill – According to Technorati, only 55% of bloggers post after 3 months of existence. The pressure of the first months to write frequently certainly contributes to people abandoning their blogs. Is that in the blogosphere’s best interest to have a third of its participants frustrated by their initial efforts?

— Does the blogosphere care? Again I do not see what the problem is. A third of the people who start a blog find out that it is quite an effort to blog. It is not everybodies idea of a pasttime, apparently not everybodies idea of a way of dealing with the sheer amount of interesting stuff available. I agree that nobody should say that one should blog every day. (Whoever said that to begin with?)

#10 – I love my family too much – Ann pointed out to me this cool blog that highlights the challenges of blogging addiction – Bloggers Anonymous. Very funny…..

If you want to be a top 50 Technorati blogger, you will most probably still need to post several times a day. But for the rest of us, we should think seriously about the added value of frequent blogging. Actually, according to Technorati, only 11% of all blogs update weekly or more. What will matter more and more is what you write and how you engage, not how often you write.

— If you want to become a top 50 Technorati-blogger you are either ultra-american (culturally speaking) or you have a very strange idea of the world. It is as if you take up cycling as a pasttime with the ambition to win the Tour of France. So I agree whole-hearted with “What will matter more and more is what you write and how you engage, not how often you write”. But I think it has never been different.

As the blogosphere matures, the measure of success will shift from traffic to reader loyalty. As Seth Godin says in his post, “blogging with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that’s a long way of saying “making every word count”) will use attention more efficiently and ought to win.” As for me, I will continue to post only when I have something to say.

— Well, I on the contrary sometimes blabber on. Also because I never know what will turn out the be important… not beforehand.

blogging,en,quotations,research,ubiscribe,writing | October 24, 2006 | 15:09 | comments (0) |

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