Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 20, 2008 4:04 PM

The New Secret To Blogging Success - Moving From "I" To "You"

The original intent of a Blog was as an online journal. It was place for you to read about me. All of that has changed.

Now, for a Blog to really be successful, the content has to be all about you. The content needs to be relevant to your life. If all of this is simply one big self-promotional platform where all that's Blogged about is clients Twist Image is working with, events I will be speaking at, conferences I am attending, customer service beefs I have with products or services I have purchased, or what I think about a specific topic or news item, all is lost.

For a Blog to be successful, it needs to be about you.

Suddenly, everything we know about successful magazines and news channels rings true in this platform as well. While the old adage, "if it bleeds, it leads" from the newspaper industry may feel a little antiquated, it still has some resonance in what's working for Blogs in 2008. The headline of a Blog posting has to be exciting and captivating. It has to pop. The content has to be short, spikey and highly valuable to the reader. Valuable to the reader means easy on the self-congratulatory content and heavy on the W.I.I.F.M.? (What's In It For Me?) formula.

There has been in a shift. The successful Blogs have replaced "I" with "You."

Suddenly, having a Blog that acts more like a personal journal and less like journalism isn't all that attractive anymore. What happened to spelling mistakes and poor grammar being a part of this new form of communication?

Do you think differently about a Blog with spelling mistakes, poor grammar or that's too self-involved?

What kind of personal brand is that Blogger developing? 

It's not a criticism on Blogging and it's not a slight against traditional journalism. Blogging is evolving, changing and becoming its own media channel. The audience, the readers, the community have many choices, so they're going (and commenting) where the most value is for them. If you're wondering what it takes to run a successful Blog in 2008, it's way more about providing insights and information that is going to change and help the reader be a better person - be it a personal or professional Blog.

This is a huge and often unspoken of shift in what works for Blogging. Anecdotally, you hear the same things I do, "all they do is Blog about themselves," or "it's all about them," or "blah, blah, blah, me, me, me."

That was the original intent of Blogging. It has shifted. It has changed.

What do you think makes a successful Blog in this day and age?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by collin
    Mitch Joel

    click! ;-)

    Reply
  • Posted by Rick Wolff
    Mitch Joel

    When you speak of the present, it usually means the day after tomorrow. (That's a good thing.)
    I've just taken up the trade of blogging, of sorts, at a regional niche site, DutchNewYork.com. It will gradually stop resembling a blog as the layout changes, the media gets varied (video, audio), and more authors besides myself contribute. Until then, while bluster and promise fill the spaces meant for content, I can't help but relate a little of my own aspirations and personal history as I achieve it in pursuit of current news of the Dutch colonies. It's a dramatic change of life for me, or I wouldn't bother with it. I know that aspect will dwindle as business picks up, but I hope it never goes away completely. To the extent that a subscription is a personal relationship, readers (it seems to me) should still get a glimpse of the real human on the other side of the keyboard.
    How much longer will that be an added value? When will we all discard it as a cliché? To hear you tell it, pretty soon. I better hurry up and hit it big!

    Reply
  • Posted by Nicky
    Mitch Joel

    I don't know that all of that has changed. Here's my take. First of all if a blog is about "oneself" and they are clear about it and readers like it, that's cool.

    Dooced was exactly that. All about the writer and her life. People loved it.

    I think it depends on the blog and the author and the audience, and the niche. F/ex I have written a personal blog for over 3 years. It's not "about me" per se, but it IS about my experiences and thoughts about a particular area of my life and how that relates to everything else. I say what I think, I give my own particular take on certain issues and then I throw it open to my audience to share their thoughts. It's a "me, them and us" result. It's controversial and it works. People happen by and they tell me they love my blog. That's because they find validity, community, news, good old fashion talk-back and thought provoking discussion. But it's always been about me writing from the heart... it just connects with other like-minded (and some not so like-minded). It's hard to describe it, but it's certainly not "all about you" vs "all about me." I think many people read blogs to get a sense of the personality of the author as well as info. Take that away and all you have is a static talking site. I don't seek to make people better, but if they can find something supportive, helpful or something that gives them an "aha" moment, or even learn something new then I've contributed something.

    Now, a business blog may be different. On my business blog I still offer my take on things - except they are marketing/business related and so much less personal. And yes, punch headlines work every time.

    This one is more about informing my audience, giving tips etc. More about what may help them, but since it's my blog I retain the right to rant and do "me posts" should I choose to.

    I think it will be sad if blogging loses the one thing that makes them different from magazines and mainstream "press release" types et al.. their personality. With all "top 10 successful blogs" and so on, I fear blogs are being commoditized with no difference between them and a news site and everyone racing to be "the best blog." I think that's a waste of energy... be the best for yourself and your readers.

    I do believe that, depending on the blog the author should try and have a balance, and let their love of sharing themselves and their news shine through.

    p.s. I don't worry about the odd spelling mistake in others' blogs...it happens I hate finding them in my own ;)

    Reply
  • I don't think it's about not giving a Blogger's perspective... that's core to having a great Blog. There's no doubt that what makes Blogs so compelling in the first place are the unique perspectives.

    I also think Blogs must be personal.

    Overall, I do see a big trend in the Blogs that focus more on the reader's needs and less on their own "look at me" type of posts. Just lately, these seem to me to be the ones with the most comments, the most respect... and traffic.

    I also don't think that makes it better than a more personal Blog.

    I also get that sense from readers. Them seem less interested in the Blogger and more into what they pull out of it.

    Reply
  • Posted by Randy Belham
    Mitch Joel

    Personally when I read blogs I tend to look for the content that suits my needs the most. Such as this one! Great job Mitch in keeping me tuned in ;)

    That being said, I also do read and respond to blogs where the writer talks mostly in the 1st person and all about themself. I find these blogs interesting because I can relate and/or live vicariously through that person.

    The greatest thing about bloging is there is no editor reviewing the writers material and choosing what goes in and what goes out. However the blog will cater to that particular audience only and perhaps not so mainstream.

    To answer the main question, I think that the success will happen if the writer stays true to their message. This way the reader will know exactly the type of content they are going to read and keep returning to get a new fix.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mariana Gerzanych
    Mitch Joel

    Same as with magazines, bloggers have to find their niche and stick to it. People follow blogs concerning their interests: if a fishing blog starts posting about the market crash they'll loose their readers. I left many blogs because they started deviating too much from their original topic.
    Oh... the pain of withdrawal...

    Reply
  • Posted by Adam Singer
    Mitch Joel

    I disagree...I think the beauty of the platform is it can be whatever you want it to. I know successful bloggers who write about themselves, have errors and are rough around the edges and are highly successful.

    I also read blogs that are long winded and not necessarily write titles that pop and are great...

    The platform is dynamic and long tail enough for everything to exist.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ryan Stephens
    Mitch Joel

    For the vast majority of us, this definitely rings true. I would say that 90% of the blogs I read are about the value they provide me with respect to things I'm interested in (i.e. social media, community management, interactive strategy, spots, etc.).

    Then there's the 5% that the author focuses primarily on themselves, but I relate to them and the things they're going through so again (albeit in a very different way) it's still about the value in my life.

    Finally, there's the Penelope Trunk's where I'm going to read just because there's no telling what she's going to say next.

    Reply
  • Posted by theWeir
    Mitch Joel

    Hey Mitch, good post.

    I think there's a tension - some people find their blog cathartic, like feeling that by opening their soul up they can feel more at ease with who they are.

    Randy has a great point tho - sometimes you read someone's chat because you love to know what they are up to, how they see the world. It helps you frame your world better.

    Your points about what's in it for me are cool - but maybe that's for people trying to build *community* around their site, or to get followers. Which is fine with me, as long as we don't try and set up rules for what a blog *must* be.

    We'll continue to see people tracking blogs that they connect with for either reason, because we're wired to connect!

    Peace,

    W

    Reply
  • Posted by Nathan Hangen
    Mitch Joel

    Although the article seemed a bit difficult to read, your point is very accurate. Blogging niches are becoming oversaturated and if you don't offer a service to your readers then you are going to have a difficult time getting them to hang around.

    Reply
  • Posted by Dominique
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with you Mitch. A blog to be successful (I mean that has real value) has to be driven by the "you" perspective rather than the "I". I write but you read me. You read me because you find some insights & values that matter to you.

    Reply
  • I'm not saying that personal Blogs with spelling errors and grammar don't have value. I'm not saying that I don't follow many Blogs where it's all about the individual and what's on their brain. I do like a whole bunch of them.

    As I am in the midst of writing the Six Pixels of Separation book, it became apparent to me that if you had to start a Blog today and wanted it to be "successful," (and I realize that I am using mass media metrics to define success - visitors, visibility, etc...) it would be increasingly more difficult to build up a personal, self-centered one, the way it used to work (Blog saturation?).

    Do you think, if someone started a more self-centered Blog today and they didn't have any kind of footprint (newspaper columns, book deal, etc...) that they would be able to build real readership? Or, do you think they might consider a different type of content play (talking about the readers and not themselves) to really become the "go-to-person" in whatever field they cover as a Blogger?

    That's what this post was all about - me wondering.

    Reply
  • Posted by Etienne Denis
    Mitch Joel

    Nothing has changed since the first mass media. To be successful, a newspaper has to be relevant to his readers. Same for a TV show. Same for the radio station you listen in your car. Same, of course, for a blog. What has changed is that bloggers and other Web professionals now rediscover some of theses old rules that existed long before the "Internet Revolution".

    Reply
  • Posted by hugh
    Mitch Joel

    wired has a silly article about why you shouldn't blog:
    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/magazine/16-11/st_essay

    my response is: don't blog to be known, blog to be knowable.

    Reply
  • Posted by miro slodki
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch

    I think there are two types of blogs (come to think of it have you noticed how there are millions of ways there are two types of things?)

    with regards to personal blogs, the most sensible approach is to write about those things you are passionate about. Spelling/grammar don't hurt - but the motivation should be to do it for yourself, your feelings, insights, passion.
    If that happens to attract an audience - great - but that's the icing on the cake.

    with regards to commercial B2B blogs - I think the platform allows companies to present information less formally than (and in addition to) white papers and creates an opportunity for a discussion.
    the elevator speech, cocktail chat...that creates an invitation to a F2F dialog

    Within the B2C space - I think most blogs have been misunderstood and consequently underutilized. This is the spot for users to congregate, for the brand to share its stories about what its doing and achieving in its good works program, what the brand stands for, what its seeking in terms of input on future direction, things that could be improved etc..

    thxs for the question

    cheers
    Miro

    Reply
  • Posted by Torley
    Mitch Joel

    This is dependent on what you have/want to share. You've got to know yourself before talking about others, and many times, the best examples start "at home".

    I'm more of an AND than an OR person.

    The sensible followup may very well be, then, "Moving From 'You' to "Us".

    Reply
  • Posted by Judy Gombita
    Mitch Joel

    Here's a quote from Anne Hines' recent column in Metro (Toronto free commuter newspaper), "Thoughts to make you think":

    "Originality does not consist of saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you yourself think." James Fitz-James

    When I read it I thought, "More bloggers could stand to do that." Fits with your blogging success philosophy, too, n'est-ce pas?

    Reply
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