Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 22, 201011:53 PM

Small Pieces Disjointly Joined

When was the last time you discovered a new Blog? How did you feel in the first second after you arrived? Confused? Lost? Unsure as to what you were looking at?

That's the problem with Blogs today (ok, it's one of the many problems with Blogs today). In thinking more about the New York Times and their desire to get people to pay for content (see more on that thought here: The Moment Of Truth), a lot of people have commented that they could get their news elsewhere or that they get a lot of their news, commentary and unique perspective from Blogs and specific Bloggers. In pushing that thought even further, why are Blogs not more popular? What's holding them back? If they're free plus they provide so much amazing insight and reading pleasure, why does Blog readership pale in comparison to the more traditional media channels.

Is it possible that Blogs only tell a very small story in a very specific moment in time, and that's confusing to the masses when they first see them?

I love Blogs (no surprise there). Many of the Blogs I love give me the same warmth and content comfort that I used to get from seeing the daily newspaper. Without question, I feel like I know (or that I am even "friends") with some of the Bloggers that I read and follow, but that statement needs context: I'm used to Blogs. I've been following them since the early 2000s. I understand how RSS works, the etiquette behind commenting, and what a trackback and permalink is. While most Blogs cover a general topic, the content within them changes and matures as the Bloggers gain confidence and audience, so when a newbie/first-timer stumbles along, what do they think and feel when they're suddenly thrust into a conversation and flow that has been a long time in the making?

Blogs are not like other print media.

While that's an obvious statement, it is - probably - one of their biggest flaws and hindrances to Blogging's long term success. A Blog can be intimidating at first blush. Whenever you arrive at a Blog, you're suddenly plopped into whatever little story/random thought is on that Blogger's mind at that specific moment in time. This is good for the regular readers, but could pose a major hurdle for those just starting to discover them.

Some have helped to quell this feeling of randomness.

There are some Blogs that have placed a tab in their navigation for first time readers or calls to actions for first-timers at the top of their Blog pages. While this can be helpful, we all know that usability and functionality still has many challenges when it comes really helping users navigate our online environments. Bottom line: it's hard to show a first-time Blog reader where where they should get started to be more comfortable with the platform and not ruin the online experience for those who have been there before.

Maybe being parachuted into this content is a good thing.

Yes, there is a little Digital Darwinism going on here. Many Bloggers (and this includes me from time-to-time) feel like people have to be smart enough to figure out some of this stuff on their own, and be smart enough to click around to discover if the content is relevant to them. If they don't, perhaps this type of publishing/conversation is not for them. It may seem a little elitist, and that's the point. Blogging was (and may very well still be) a wee bit elitist. You have to be at a certain calibre (or level of game play) in online knowledge to engage in this rapid-fire word joust in near-real-time.

It's probably not the best way to grow this media channel. As Bloggers, we need to think more about how to be much more welcoming. We need think more about how to make Blogs easier for people to connect with this type of content at first glance.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Karen
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting and well said. I had never thought about this issue but it is so true. I discover at least one new blog every few days, usually from a link in another blog. I admit that when I start to read beyond the referenced topic, I often feel uncomfortable. And I also admit that the first thing I look for is the 'about me' or 'about us' to gain a sense of who is talking. If I can't find that - I often don't stay with the blog.
    But having said that - I love blogs - seeing what's in my Google Reader is how I start my day. I admit that I feel a sense of connection to this online community that I created. Blogs are but one part of the media and they have a wonderful place but they, like everything else will change as things evolve. Whether or not they have to be inclusionary depends on the blogger's purpose. My blog is a place where I share my thoughts about personal success. I don't write to be read (although I admit there is an ego boost when that happens); I write to force myself to think things through. If the blogger's purpose is business related; then the blog does need to be more user friendly because then instant engagement is the purpose. So as in anything - clarity of purpose is the most important element!

    Reply
  • Posted by Nathan King
    Mitch Joel

    As an owning partner of a retail store, we constantly use blogs to find new products. We're looking at package design blogs for products that are about to launch and the decorating/design blogs are keeping our look fresh. We've paged through decor magazines, but they all feature products that are too pricey for our customers. Blogs have been the way to go!

    We have our own blog for the store as well and need to better utilize that for inbound marketing.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ron De Giusti
    Mitch Joel

    For me, blogs have extended the "opinion pieces" of the newspaper and added interesting voices/perspectives that normally would not get a chance to get heard.

    But I still go to news providers (CBC, BBC) for my general news ... And, hopefully the news that the news providers offer up are straight facts and not just opinions.

    Reply
  • Posted by Elisabeth Bucci
    Mitch Joel

    A little over a year ago, I had no idea what a blog was. I certainly didn't read them. I started with your blog + a few other hobby-related blogs and grew from there. So, I do not agree with your statement that it's hard to jump into the conversation: it's actually very easy! I am living proof of that: my Google Reader will back me up!

    As a newbie, I can add to Karen's comment above that the bloggers that take the time to include an "About Me" and/or "About this Blog" page make it easier for me to stay, unless I know the blogger from a previous experience (book, speech, etc.)
    I can also say that bloggers that start out with one mission and start ranting about something else will quickly lose me. (They should have started another blog.)

    I also agree with Ron: I will never take news or hard cold facts from a blog: I wanted a channel that has some sort of vetting mechanism, such as CTV, CBC, Radio Canada. Ron is right: a blog is an "opinion" place, not a "journalism" place.

    With my recent learning in mind, I have even garnered the courage to launch my own blog.

    All this progress in 14 months.

    In other words, maybe you as a "pro" have forgotten this but it really is not too late to join in the conversation, and even start one of your own.

    Great post by the way...

    Reply
  • Posted by Arie Opps
    Mitch Joel

    I definitely agree that usability is an issue with many blogs. They often don't provide enough context - answering what is this blog about, what does it have to offer me, and who's providing the information. Unfortunately. I'm starting to see some businesses adopting a blog approach to their corporate homepages where a visit to their site is like being plopped into the middle of a conversation rather than receiving a friendly introduction. Blogs are great, done right, in the right context and as part of a broader strategy. They don't work when they're a result of chasing tactics with no guiding strategy.

    Reply
  • Posted by Fraser
    Mitch Joel

    I am new at this and have had a couple of posts-learning as I go. My intent is to invite people to comment on insurance related issues. I want to educate and listen as well as learn myself what people are looking for in my industry whether products or services. I see a blog as an informal chat with like minded people. A great way to gain perspective.

    Reply
  • Posted by Aneeta Parmar
    Aneeta Parmar

    I love blogs as well. I don’t find them intimidating at first look; I get excited when I stumble upon a blogger blogging about a topic I’m interested in.

    Blogs are biased of course. I believe the general public should tune into traditional media to get general information. If preferred visit a blog to get some more insight or perhaps a different point of view.

    I am new at blogging. There are a couple blogs I have been following for some time, however, I have only recently started to add comments. I am now starting to feel comfortable with leaving comments, yet I find myself intimidated thinking about posting my own blogs.

    I also find blogs elitist, however, this will be changing in the near future. Social networking is on the rise allowing users to become more comfortable with sharing their thoughts with each other online.

    Reply
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