January 06, 2004

Blog audience, or lack thereof

Lis Riba just wrote a noteworthy post on blog audience which makes for an interesting parallel to what I've written recently:

I like to think that cream will float to the top and good material will get me noticed, but sigh... It feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy that those in power have better means to stay in power. Even if they're not doing anything consciously, they've still got a certain mindshare that persists with readers and perpetuates itself.

I really do want to increase my readership in 2004. And I'm really wondering what I should do about this: ...

Is it just a popularity contest related to whom you know in [real life]? ...

I sympathize :-(

It's the "Matthew Effect"

"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath"

There's only so many slots at the top of the pyramid.

Basically, as far as I've analyzed it, there's usually a reason for being A-list. Some people get there because of their celebrity status from some other domain. A few were in the right place and the right time and managed to capitalize on it (not without skill, but not entirely skill either). Quite a few are intense, relentless, promoter/impresarios (and there's nothing wrong with that, I'm merely being descriptive).

Critically, almost none of the above is acquirable if one doesn't have it to start. That is, you can't just become a celebrity elsewhere, or decide to be in a favorable place and time, or even do the necessary huge amounts of self-PR (the exception to this last being professional talkers). Being someone's protege is possible, but again highly limited to a very few slots.

So contrary to myth, good material will not automatically get someone noticed.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on January 06, 2004 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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good material gets some noticed.

More people read you than me. :)

Posted by: joe at January 7, 2004 01:43 PM

Derek is in fact a proof of my point - he's both a professional talker (he's a lawyer-larvae), and he has the Harvard name behind him. In fact, when I congratulated him on the Diebold victory, I made a point of saying it was good that he used the Harvard privilege in a _pro bono_ way. There is nothing wrong with it, but he has a significant amount of PR pushing him.

These two statements are true:

1) Almost all people who get noticed, produce good material.

2) Only a fraction of the people who produce good material, get noticed.

My own audience is roughly 100. That is not absolutely zero. But it's pretty small, and nowhere comparable to several thousand or more.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 7, 2004 05:14 PM

there's more to it than that. Maybe you could change subject matter? Maybe do a bit of promotion?

There's far too much good stuff out there to just sit and wait for the crowds, you have to build them. And there's a good chance that it's just going to take a whole bunch of time.

BTW, this is getting kinda close to sour grapes, which is rather unproductive if the overriding goal is to increase your readership.

Posted by: wah at January 13, 2004 03:05 PM

Changing subject matter rather defeats the goal in the first place - I might be able to get more of an audience by writing about sex, relationships, or cats - but I don't think I have anything particularly vital to say on those topics.

At this point, I'm at a loss as to what I can reasonably do. It's indeed not a happy topic. But again, if I can't talk honestly about the issues, I'm just a PR flack :-(.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 13, 2004 03:21 PM

"Changing subject matter rather defeats the goal in the first place"

In that case you are kinda stuck. From your front page, it seems you pretty much just cover blogs, blogging, and pretty much blog-anything.

Yea, there's a couple other stories on there, but it's pretty dry stuff. Throw in the monotone design and utter lack of sex appeal, and you have a page that doesn't really inspire much.

Please don't take it personally, and it's not like I've done much better, but you could definitely use some sprucing up of the place. Follow bOING bOING's lead and throw up a picture every now and again. Color seems to make people happy (and this is backed both by marketing and neuroscience, don't dismiss it) maybe you should try some?

Alternately, start writing as much as possible for the dead tree press, get published and 'famous'...all to get more blog readers. ;-)

And adding a bit about sex and personal lives can certainly help. You've, hopefully, read enough to know that your opinions about technology will not die with you, i.e. there are hundreds if not thousands of people who can cover the basics as well as one another. In that sense it *is* commodity reporitng, the only one that get the credit is the one who does it first.

However, despite that, there is only one person who has your particular cat, if you will. So maybe mentioning it from time to time will let people know that you are a unique individual with a solid opinion set and a rounded life, and not just another /.'er spouting the 'company' line. ;-)

Anyway, there's tons of stuff this blog could do to become more accomodating to your regular readers and random passers by. Maybe investing in a graphic designer or spending a few weeks doing it yourself.

There's a great deal you can do to make your content more appealing ... and almost none of it has to do with that content itself.

I know, it kind of sucks to have to pander to people in such ways. It would be nicer if such things didn't matter...maybe. But they do, and that's why companies have marketing departments.

If you have a good product, but no one is buying it...it's probably your marketing that is the problem. At least when you can strip away everything else, as one can do here on the web (distrubution ain't often a problem).

Invest a few hundred bucks in that part of the site, see what happens.

Posted by: Wah at January 13, 2004 05:00 PM

Thaks for the thoughts.

Ironically, writing about blogging is one of the more popular topics I've found. Very few people want to read about censorware or the DMCA, and even copyright is a small niche if one isn't saying high-concept sermonizing.

My most popular post, by far, was about a celebrity, Jacko and his nose :-(

Hmm, there's a point about the color. I'm a function-over-form kind of guy, and it does show.

Fame eludes me. It seems I don't have the connections or the personality to achieve it.

Actually, I think have some good thoughts on technology, which are not run-of-the-mill. But frankly, almost nobody wants to read them. They aren't very appealing thoughts.

No cat now, but one in the past. Come to think of it, was good for a few essay topics back then.

As I say, I need a PR agent. But they cost money. I'm unsure if it's a good idea to throw good money after bad.

Thanks again.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 13, 2004 05:57 PM