This post is going to be very postmodern, very meta. Perhaps I am even breaking the fourth wall in a new way. But my question for today is: what is this blog about? What is its purpose? What do I want to get from it?
I have been thinking a lot about this over the past few weeks. These questions are really a stand in for questions about life, aren’t they? After a year and a half on this shake-up-my-life adventure, what am I looking for (in my blog)?
Below is a list of blog types. Obviously a blog is not limited to just one of the following possibilities. Many times a blog will be several (or all) of these things:
1. Blog as journal. My blog is no more and no less than the record of the events of my life and the reflections on those events. In this scenario, I have no “audience”, only a small set of voyeurs. And whether or not anyone is listening is beside the point. It isn’t necessarily about communication other than with myself. In a sense, this is one of the truest or cleanest art forms there is, outside the reach of criticism and commerce.
2. Blog as family and friends newsletter. A lot of the time my blog has functioned thus, keeping friends (new and old) and family up to date on my whereabouts and allowing (via comments) limited conversation with them about topics of interest.
3. Blog as art. Sometimes I will post a photo I took that I particularly like, a short story, or odd idea.
4. Blog as soapbox. Occasionally, I will get up on my high horse to pontificate about this, that, or the other thing. I don’t feel the need to do this nearly as much as when I was younger, but it is satisfying from time to time.
5. Blog as aggregator. On other occasions, I will use the blog to link to some item of interest (to me) that I have found elsewhere on the internet. Commentary may or may not accompany the link.
6. Blog as self-promotion. This is a little more complicated and ties into larger concerns about the direction of my work life. Am I content to continue working in my former field(s)? Am I looking for something new that the blog points the way to, such as journalism, travel writing, photography, or book publishing? How can the blog aid me in this (these) endeavor(s)?
7. Blog as business. A step beyond merely using the blog to self-promote and thus gain (paid) work, the blog itself can be a money making enterprise. With enough traffic, ads on the site could become significant revenue generation. The point here isn’t to make the blog a business as much as it is to be getting paid for what one likes to do. But this leads to an entire field of study concerning blog popularity.
What make a blog popular? What is the definition of blog success? Of course, there are many definitions of success, but if we are considering a blog’s ability to financially support its owner, it is a pretty easy one. A blog is successful if it has a large audience (or I suppose a small but loyal audience with big bucks).
Which blogs are most successful (in the business/audience sense)? The more I look around, the more it seems that the most popular blogs have a narrow focus or point of view. That focus could be politics, humor, current events, technology, gadgets, food etc. The reason that more narrowly focused blogs are generally the most successful is clear: They are always talking about the thing that the audience is interested in. Blogs that cover a wide range of topics will very often lose the interest of certain groups when they talk about things that are not of interest to those groups.
A brief survey among a few readers of my blog has come up with fairly interesting responses about what interests them (and what bores them) in the blog:
1. Some friends find the posts about differences in culture(s) or analysis of a local phenomenon the most interesting.
2. Some find the minutiae of my life (like whether I hurt my foot) interesting, while others find it a bit unseemly and wish I would leave it out.
3. Some find the travel writing and photos the most interesting.
4. Some like the quirky ideas or funny stories.
5. Some like the visual juxtapositions or pics of the day.
6. Some people are interested in the food.
7. Some people are interested in the spiritual journey, and others are turned off by it.
In any event, it is clear that not all readers of my blog necessarily care about (or care for) all the types of things I write about. Such is life. Different people have different interests, and an audience can be composed of many different types of people.
So what kind of people, exactly, is my audience composed of?
1. The number one reason people read my blog is, well, because they know me personally. This gives them an interest in what I might be up to, and they can check the blog without the cost and hassle of getting me on the phone or having a conversation.
2. The second largest group are friends of friends and family. People that I don’t know personally, but who have been referred to the site by people I know.
3. The next largest number of readers are those that find me through a google (or other) search. Since I have been in a lot of places and have written about a ton of things, this happens quite often. Sometimes these people stay and become regular readers. Sometimes they just peruse the info that brought them here and then leave.
One interesting side effect of all the traveling I have done is the geographic diversity of readers. They are mostly concentrated in the places I have been (duh) but are really scattered through the world, on every continent except Antarctica.
So we get to the point of me trying to figure out what I want my blog to be when it grows up. Do I need my blog to grow up? What will I lose by editing out certain things? Is it important to update as often as I do, or does the quality suffer? Would I and my audience be better served by fewer, but higher quality posts? Should I care about a larger audience? Should I just keep doing exactly as I have been?
If you have bothered to read this far, I want your feedback. What do you think about all this? If you are too shy to post a public comment, how about sending me a private email? I would really appreciate it.