Monday, 23 April 2012

Blogging is Dead. Or Maybe It's Just a Little Bit Useless.

From OWNI.eu
By Candy Gourlay

EVERYONE is blogging.

Don't believe all those reports that blogging is in decline because people prefer the ease of Twitter and Facebook. There are a LOT of blogs out there. Especially in the world of writers, aspiring or otherwise.

Even publishers, traditionally Jurassic in their attitudes to new technology, are urging their authors to blog. In fact, several publishers are themselves blogging now. Authors are blogging as their characters, blogging about writing, blogging about getting published. Indy authors are blogging like crazy as part of punishing marketing regimes. And unpublished people are publishing online while waiting to get published (yup, me did that).


Blogging's a no-brainer for writers. We can write, therefore we can blog. I try to keep up with my favourite blogs, and I do my best to support the blogs of my friends, but there are so MANY. And we are an incestuous lot. We all know each other, friended each other on Facebook, tweet to each other. Of late, Facebook's been secretly screening who I see on my stream -  the other day I checked to find my stream made up of people in the same business, all blogging, all promoting, all pushing their books.

Uh oh.

Are we kidding ourselves? Is it building a platform if we are just talking to each other? Is anyone really paying attention out there? By blogging, are we really rising above the dross, building a unique identity, getting NOTICED in the marketing sound and fury? Is there any point blogging at all?

Is the blog dead?

The very first time I addressed a SCBWI conference was not as children's writer but as a web designer.

That was way back in 2007. And my big message to the audience was this:
What are you waiting for? The internet is out there. Here's a chance to engage with readers, build an audience, promote yourself, create, network - and it's FREE!
The following year I gave the same speech to the Scattered Authors Society conference and then to the SCBWI Bologna conference.

The internet is here, I intoned to my audiences (who looked startled and terrified), get with it or get left behind.

Trawling back through my old blog posts I found that I've been banging on about engaging with the internet since 2006 - check out this one - Why competition from the internet means children’s writers must get web savvy. I wrote:

Know your reader, they say in all the How To books on getting published and writing for children. Well, for goodness sake, according to Ofcom, the kids are even switching off the TV – reading’s traditional rival – to get online!

Are writers for children losing their readers to the internet?

Know Your Enemy

Well, do you? Do you know why the internet is such a turn-on for kids? Or do you shuffle into a dark corner and mutter about the yoof and bloody new technology? Do you mourn the days when it was enough to take a pen to paper?

But there is no time to moan. The longer we delay, the further we will be left behind by the internet juggernaut that even now is evolving into something bigger and more pervasive than we ever could have imagined.
Read the article

That was in 2006 - Broadband was only just truly broadening, Facebook was two years old. MySpace was ascendant. Twitter didn't exist. People were still talking about Friendster. The iPod was a few years old. Smartphones, eBooks, iPads were works in progress (the first iPhone came out in 2007).

Years after speaking to those audiences, I still have people coming up to me and saying, I started my blog after hearing you talk and I haven't looked back since. (A lot of people also come up to me and thank me for calling on aspiring writers to have their author picture taken NOW because it might be years before they're published. I wish I'd taken my own advice!)

Photo by @lox - from ProBlogger

So was I giving bad advice? Should I have kept my counsel to myself? After all, if I hadn't dished out all that information about blogging, the blogosphere might be marginally less cacophonous than it is now.

No, it wasn't bad advice. No, please don't delete your blogs just yet. I guess I'm moaning because the rise and rise of enthusiastic author bloggers makes it very hard indeed to be noticed. And the rise and rise of bloggers blogging just to blow their trumpets is really annoying. And we all feed on each other, which makes it very hard indeed to know if you're growing a platform or talking to the same people.

No, blogging is not dead. It's still the most exciting, most value-filled way to reach out to a reader. But it becomes a bit useless when too many bloggers are blogging for the wrong reasons. Mitch Joel, writing in Six Pixels of Separation, wrote:
Blogging's true value comes from the fact that it's a publishing platform. Plain and simple. With the evolution of the software behind it, we are no longer in the world of individual online journaling, but at the beginning of a huge shift in publishing. Now, anyone, anywhere can have a thought and publish it in text, images, audio and/or video instantly and for free to the world (online, mobile and touch tablet). That's profound and that's powerful, but it's not something that's easy and that should be done by everybody.
Read Blogging is Dead (Again)

So how can we blog above the rabble?

Blog less. Or am I just being selfish? I am an avid blog reader, but even I can't keep up with the frequency of some bloggers. I find myself skimming and sometimes (HORRORS) not managing to comment!

Blog more. As in get out there. Blog in places other than your usual. If you want to get your message out there, guest blog, join a group blog, blog in places where you don't usually reach.

Blog better. I was going to say 'blog well' but no .. blog BETTER. The problem is that so many of us blog the way we tweet. It's okay to talk about inconsequential things on twitter, but on a blog? I take the time to read blog posts because I expect something far superior to a 140 character status update. I want to get new ideas, I want to be moved, I want a proper story.

Blog for the right reasons. If you've got a new book out, I don't want to be told to buy it, I want to learn something from your writing journey, I want to hear the story behind the story, I want to know why you wrote it. If you did an event, I don't want to know the date and time, I want to know who was there, what it was like, why I should care. Drop the trumpet. Blogging is a great marketing tool but only when it brings something special to a reader, something extra, something new. If you don't enjoy blogging, if you don't care about your audience, if you don't want to share, then blogging is not for you. There are other ways to raise your profile on the internet.

Someone in the comments of the Six Pixels of Separation post said, 'Blogging is evolving not dying.' Yes indeed. And it will evolve into a better thing if we bloggers try to do better.

So. Teach me what you know. Amuse me with your humour. Touch me with your wisdom. Tickle me with your wit. And then we can shout it out to the world. Blogging is alive and well.

Here I am taking my own advice, guest blogging painfully about my spotty younger self  on the US blog, Dear Teen Me

48 comments :

  1. So true. We are a very incestuous lot. I do wonder whether getting lots of other writers reading is the way to go. I've gone down the join a group blog route, which has been interesting and certainly shares the load. I suspect most of our 4000 hits a month (with a new post every five days) are other writers (and mostly picture book writers, too, since it's a picture book blog) but still hoping there are some librarians and readers/parents out there. It's a shame to think our biggest fanbase for our children's books is probably other writers -even if we do buy each other's books! Great post, Candy. I will try and blog better, Clare.

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    1. Don't get me wrong I still think it's a fab way to reach out - and I love blogging. But I don't blog unless I can add value. Otherwise it will be just another blog post swallowed into the ether.

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  2. I started blogging after I read something you wrote on this blog...and I love it, and I'm glad I did it. But I do it less and less (although I do flit from blog to blog) and I don't read blogs that are all about 'buy my book!. It's easy to get sucked into social networking all the time and never doing any actual writing!

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    1. Blogging used to be a no brainer. With the rise of social networks, EVERYONE is blogging even if it's just a status update on Twitter or Facebook. It's a fast moving world and we must have no fear of moving on with it.

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    2. And I love your blog, Keren. You blog well.

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  3. I noticed the 'silliness' behind blogging when I started a 'Challenge' this month. Not that its bad - its a fun and interesting experience and I've found some nice blogs, which I wouldn't have noticed otherwise, but having to put up a blog a day brings a lot of trash (from my side :) especially). And I agree, trying to sell a book over blogging is probably not productive... I'd rather read about the nitty-gritty behind the scenes too. Thanks for the post!

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    1. To be fair - marketing is a skill too isn't it? But we're in this business because we wanted to tell stories, not sell books. The truth is writers need look no further than themselves to find the right way of blogging. Just like writing, it's all about an original voice.

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  4. Great post, Candy. I have difficulty keeping up with blogs and sometime ago I stopped everything online. Now that I've revived my online life, I've decided to journal once a week. Not just random journalling about anything and everything, but something I've really thought about before sitting down and writing it. I feel much happier about it and it works much better than random blogging about everything.

    And look, here I am reading your blog. I followed it from twitter and I think that's what's good about twitter. It brings us to the posts that make us think. Thanks for writing this.

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  5. An excellent post, Candy. Surely, whether it matters if your blog is only read by other writers depends on your aim in blogging and what you blog about? If you're trying to sell your books, you obviously need a wider reach.

    I blog specifically for other authors and don't expect readers to look at my blog - or purchasers (parents, teachers, librarians). One or two might, if they also happen to be or want to be writers.

    I don't blog to get sales and I rarely actually mention my books. I haven't mentioned last week's publication of seven books anywhere as I very specifically don't want people to think I blog to publicise my books. They might be 'outed' at some point, but I'm more interested in saying other things, and I think my blog readers are more interested in reading other things.

    Whether or not you talk about your books on your blog, what's really important is just that you have something to say that is worth hearing. And on days when you don't, you say nothing. I totally agree with you about blogging less (and not just because I'm lazy!). I believe - and hope - that people would rather read something interesting once a fortnight than some mindless drivel every day.

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    1. Hear hear! Yes I should have been clearer - here on Notes, we too blog for other writers. in fact I had to start up another blog over on my website when I got a book out because I had readers asking me why I was blogging here on Notes about stuff they had no interest in. I only blog when I have something to say over there and my readers tend to be occasional and opportunity readers who pop by when they're checking me out after reading my book. I don't expect them to subscribe although if they do I am very grateful. So over there I try to write articles that might have a longer shelf life or discoverable articles.

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    2. loved both your responses here. Thank you both

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  6. Hiya Candy. It's over a month since I blogged on my blog thingy. My agent said to me the other day that I should be blogging every week but I agree that too frequent is off-putting for subscribers. I find bloggers who post too regularly come across as needy. It's a cry to "please like me" and often, as you say, they have nothing to say. I like to wait until I've got an idea bubbling away and if I'm writing fiction, the blog has to wait really. The fiction comes first because everyone knows blogging and the attendant publicity on twitter and FB can be a real time sink. I got into writing to write novels, not blogposts. Although I enjoy my blog, it's really something to do in-between writing fiction...when I'm doing that dreadful waiting. A good topic this week!

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  7. Inciteful, as always Candy! I'm always conscious that I don't want to spend time on blogging that I should be spending on writing. I think this is a potential trap, especially for the unpublished. You could end up blogging to fulfil the need to be heard, instead of honing your novel!

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  8. Is there a right reason to blog?:-) Anyway - I like those who blog for the sheer pleasure of it and blog about this that and the other and I think that's why I don't follow purely writerly blogs. Take care
    x

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    1. Here's the wrongest reason of all: you've got a book coming out, you should start a blog. only start a blog if you want to. it's about the joy.

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  9. I like your comment about not just using the blog for marketing. I have a friend who went on a weight-loss program and liked it so much she became a coach. Now, every time she comments on Facebook, she has to mention the program or her weight loss or her other retreat business that she's developing. I don't have a problem with her trying to promote her business, but she seems to do it all the time and everywhere. I can't have a conversation with her without her bringing up the blasted weight loss program because she knows I'm trying to lose weight on my own. I'd like to just have a conversation with her, the person, not her the saleswoman. This is happening on Facebook and live, but it could easily apply to a blog that is all about selling an author's latest book. It's a turnoff. Like you said, I want to know something interesting that will make me want to run out and find that book.

    I recently saw a very interesting promotion for a book that was a video interview of the author talking her own family's history and the research she did in Siberia for her story. I don't usually like stories about the war, but I was really moved by what she said and now I'm interested enough to buy the book. http://www.betweenshadesofgray.com/

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    1. I read that book - it's great. Ruta actually went on a course to experience what it was like to be a prisoner in Siberia. They simulated torture! I think it left her with backache. Now that's what I call dedication.

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    2. Apropos marketing - I think video is a great tool for an author to be discovered. There was a study that showed children would rather search Youtube than Google for information!

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  10. I've been thinking about this lately. An agent I follow has just up and closed down her blog. Another two writer bloggers have taken a spring hiatus. I felt strangely bereft, like it was the end of a TV season. The agent, who has blogged since 2006, said Twitter and Facebook served her purposes better. Interesting. Are we seeing a trend?

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  11. Oh dear - I blog as if I'm in conversation...it's like an extension of FB or twitter for me...how disgustingly self-centred that is...

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  12. Wow. This is so true. I especially love your point about blogging better. There's no point to blogging if we have nothing to say.

    I have to say, though, I love blogging as a non-published author. I don't have to chase an audience, I don't have to care about my numbers, I can just use it as my own personal, happy place.

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    1. Agree. I think blogging helped alleviate a lot of the pain of being unpublished. I learned a lot too - both about my subject and how to write.

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  13. I've been thinking about this too. I joined the Slushpile because I didn't want to blog a lot, but I thought I should blog - probably because Candy told me to. Then I got a bit of a surprise when I discovered I love blogging. It's very different to writing for young children and I can have some fun with it. Also I love the response I get to my posts. I think if no one commented I'd stop.
    And, you don't know who's reading your posts. I was approached by an agent after a particularly cheeky Christmas poem on the Slushpile. Also I pitched an article to the SCBWI Bulletin and had it accepted because I was able to point the editor to another Slushpile post as a sample of my style. So, I'll keep going. For the fun of it.

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  14. I have to admit I don't blog (at least not as myself) and the main reason is I feel that I don't have a lot to add to the discussion. I'm still on a steep learning curve. I learn a lot from them but not sure I have anything as of yet to offer that is useful.

    I like the idea of team blogging, as on here. I think writers have less pressure to write something earth shattering, deep and meaningful or revelationary every week, so when they do blog then there's some real thought and time gone into it, it's about something the believe in and care about SO slushpilers, keep on blogging!

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  15. Very interesting. There are blogs and there are blogs and there are blogs. Content rich is key - you want interesting, original content for your audience. If you don't have that, don't write a post. Candy, I totally agree that blogging has to come from a place of 'joy', and that you need a unique voice. I'd also add 'authenticity' to the mix. Blog readers can sniff out fakery from a ten mile radius. Don't blog because you feel you have to or you have something to push or because you want to drive Google towards your site. Readers will see all of this for what it is and stop reading. One challenge for author bloggers, I suspect, is that the act of writing is not in and of itself particularly interesting, nor does it lend itself well to regular blog posts. A book can take years to write - that's years sat at a desk in front of a computer. Not so interesting, is it? Only you can see the adventure inside your head, and you'd be foolish to share the story online. (In fact, there are many aspects of the author journey that you'd be foolish to share online. I'd say this is a big danger point for authors.) So unless you are of stellar status with a plethora of fans who want to know what you had for breakfast, a blog can become a challenge. I have two blogs - one for my children's author career, one for my sewing and knitting hobby. My author blog gets updated about once a month at most; my sewing blog goes out almost daily. My writing blog has about 12 subscribers, my sewing blog has over 1000. So it's all about: is there an audience? For some things, yes! It is evolving, it can still be loads of fun.

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    1. 1000 subscribers! Wow! if only I could knit! Thanks for your thoughts!

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  16. This was a really pertinent blog. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by blogs. It seems there is a new blog or two every week to follow. There is someone I know (not anyone who would read this) who is constantly pushing their books/events through their various blogs. I find it tedious because it is so 'in your face' and actual now don't even bother looking at them. I read blogs that interest me. I write blogs when I have an idea that is niggling that I want to share. But I will think seriously about what I am writing as I love your suggestion of blogging better.
    Brilliant and insightful blog as ever Candy, thank you

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    1. And I love your wise ruminations, Vanessa. Keep on blogging.

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    2. Thank you Candy, that means a lot

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  17. Ha! I am here reading this at lunchtime because I made a conscious effort to catch up with some of the blogs i love (about 5 of them) but that I just haven't had time to read properly as I've been really swamped these past couple of weeks! So I'm living proof that blog-reading can reach crisis point - let alone blog writing. Still looking for my own niche on the front, but will be sure to trumpet loud and give non-escapable blanket coverage when I get started... or maybe not!

    Anyway, this blog is one of the few I really feel part of so always try to make time to check in. And making readers feel part of a blog is no mean feat - so well done you piles-o-slush, or slushpilers, or however you like to style yourselves!

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    1. Slushites? oops that has a naughty word in the middle :O)

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  18. Wow, what a can of worms that opened up!

    Interestingly, my blog takes priority over my books because I have a weekly schedule and keep to it rigorously. If there are even a couple of people who look forward to my posts, then that's job done!

    The day I run out of new things to say, is the day I stop. Luckily, 162 posts in, that's yet to happen - I think in part because having a blog makes me investigate new things and examine existing ideas in a new way. For me, my blog is the space where I think about writing and publishing, hopefully in a way that makes my readers think too.

    Nick.

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  19. I had an actual blogging nightmare last night - fact. That someone had put up a joint blog with my name on it, but I didn't know anything about it: it mostly involved making ridiculous anagrams out of words in my book.

    Could this be some sort of sign that I'm becoming blog-obsessed? do I need help? is that actually a really good idea for a new blog?

    'Worried in Buckinghamshire'

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    1. No blogging after 9.30 and cut down on the wine.
      Lasted.

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  20. Great blog Candy. I'm not a natural blogger, but I do Blog, and I'm trying to build an audience and blog about something a little different. It's hard but I think ultimately its a good thing...right?

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  21. I blog as some of you may know but I don't blog about me. I also don't go crazy trying to promote the blog, I just let it do its own thing. I get about 5000 hits a month but very few comments but I check the stats and feel satisfied knowing that people are reading about the authors and books I feature on the blog. So if I'm doing my bit to help spread the word around the world about debut authors and kids books, then I'm happy.
    I've seen a review on amazon that said they only bought the book after seeing it featured on my blog and it was lovely to know that had happenened. I like seeing all the surprising places that have linked to my blog without me knowing - sometimes we may be reaching more people than we realise even if it feels like we're trying to be heard above all the noise.

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  22. I blog mainly for myself-horribly self-indulgent, I know.
    For me it's a way of storing random thoughts on children's literature in a concise way. These usually arise from interesting stuff I've read for my Birkbeck MA written by much much cleverer people...
    I consider it a sort of online diary-I'm completely thrilled when people look at it and comment, but don't mind terribly if they don't. Hopeless as far as marketing is concerned, I know.

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  23. As I'm still waiting for my first ever comment, I am convinced that my "in character" blog enters a wormhole whenever I press publish. I think they guys go off to the common room and have a chat on their own and no one else sees or hears. Best of luck to them, I say. So to your list of blog more, blog less, blog better, blog right can I add blog roll and blog off--cos sometimes it feels scatalogically the right thing to say now and again for those of us blogging off to no one!

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    1. I suppose it's about finding your audience RA Jones. NFTSP had a ready made audience of scoobie friends when Candy began and it's grown from that as people have passed it on. We get a lot more looking than commenting though.

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  24. Good Share! Some really valuable information here. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Look forward to reading more of your articles. Voted up!

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  25. Thanks for this, Candy. I must drop in more often - it's fascinating stuff. I blog in a bid to make people laugh at the strangeness of life and don't focus on my books much at all. Even this string - the word is a brilliant example of descriptive language incidentally, with its lovely endless wandery nature (whoops, off at a tangent as usual) - is marvellously weird when you really look at it. Here we are, sitting at our little square bits of technology whacking out odd-shaped squiggles devised thousands of years ago which SOMEHOW make communication possible. Tremendous. Peculiar. Life-affirming. Blog on, friends!

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