Dropping the A-List Mentality
The overwhelming feeling I got from last year's BlogHer Conference was that nobody planned to put their highest Technorati ranking on their tombstone.
But then, why do we care so much about traffic?
It's different for everyone. Some want ad revenues, some want credibility, some want what all of us want when we bother to throw a party--people to show up. There's often a childlike fear that bloggers--fine, that I--have that all of our heart-rendered outpourings will fall on deaf or criticizing ears.
Still, I gather that women overall, even "A Listers," would rather forego pageviews for the freedom to write what they are passionate about.
I self-flagellate for being a "bad" blogger. But, thinking this through a bit more, I think I'm a bad A-List Blogger. Don't go running to Technorati to throw my middling traffic numbers at me--I don't mean to say that I'm an A-Lister, I mean that as much as I would love to have a huge audience I don't want it enough to alter my blogging habits. I must not want it enough, anyway, because whatever it is that I'm supposed to do I haven't done it.
I read Jeremy Wright's tongue and cheek post about how to get on the A-List, written from the perspective of a recovering A-Lister, and found a lot of my underlying sentiments about blogging echoed. Jeremy wrote the post in response to Robert Scoble's in-earnest post on how to increase your profile in the Blogosphere. Scoble offers well-meaning advice, such as use conflict as a storytelling device in headlines, use visuals, and tag often.
All of this advice is useful for people who want TRAFFIC, but not so much for bloggers who just want to write good stuff dammit. We don't question our loyalty to blogging, but to being traffic-building machines.
I read Jeremy's piece a week after it was written--another A-Lister no-no, and had to laugh at the ploys he mentions as ways to boost your traffic:
10. Talk about what everyone else is talking about, adding your own spin, and linking to everyone else who is mentioning it.
Is it just me, or does anyone else have an aversion to talking about what everyone else is talking about? I can only read so much Katrina, TomKat, Apple Nano, Iraq coverage before moving on. While some bloggers thrive off of providing their take on popular news/issues, I prefer to riff off the pale underside--the part that doesn't get much light. So sue me!
9. Disagree with A-Listers. If you have the balls, "challenge" them to prove they are right.
On occasion I have something pertinent to say in the comments section of BuzzMachine. But other times I really don't. And though I can get eyeballs for no other reason than telling an A-lister that they are full of it, I'd rather wait until I mean it.
8. Use A-Listers' names in your posts. Name dropping is good.
I think I did this once and felt like a whore, like I invited Paris Hilton to my party, knowing full-well she'd ruin the good time everyone else was having by imposing on them throngs of paparazzi and bad taste. I got traffic, but I also felt cheap. And Paris only stayed long enough to see her name in hyperlink text.
The other form of this is recalling all of the drunkening people you spoke with at industry parties. On occasion I mention these shindigs, if I've had so much freaking fun and good conversation that a decent blog is conjured, but otherwise it feels like a social media circle jerk. When it's over I'm wet and drippy, and my readers are shaking their heads at me, wondering, "Was it really that worth it to sell out?"
Skipping a few...
6. Blog. A. Lot. 4-5 posts a day is a minimum.
I'm not sure I should get started on this one. Lord knows I've agonized over my output, but it can't really be torturing me like I purport it is, because I still insist on writing posts that rival the Bible in length. Going on two years of blogging I haven't found the secret to churning out copy several times a day AND having a personal and professional life. Maybe once a day, but then I better be getting paid for it, because it can take me hours to get out what I want to say in any adequate way.
Traveling with Susan Mernit I saw her method, of squeezing out quickies before bed. Not those kinds of quickies, I assure you, but considering what our Sex & Relationships Contributing Editor is reading these days you never know ;) I'm amazed at how she can eek out quality so quickly. Then there's (don't even get me started on) the NonBlogger Elisa Camahort (Non, being Latin for NINE!)
4. Talk about controversial topics. Say that the FireFox memory leak IS an issue, and that the team's response to it is the EXACT SAME THING as Microsoft would say about similar issues in IE.
Yep, this one resonated because, for someone so ensconced in social media, I could give a rat's behind about OS/IE/Insert name of technology here, IMHO. For that matter, I don't get excited discussing politics, unless it relates to career issues, or about sex, or American Idol, or any other hot-button memes or keywords that would get me clicks. To this day I get Google search traffic for my rants on Dell--probably more than I do my most heartfelt posts about Entrepreneurism and meaningful work. But, like, what am I supposed to do?
For some, the answer is write about what's hot. But that's like going blonde because more blondes get TV gigs. And, well, I'd make an ugly-ass blonde.
3. Make up lists. Top 10 lists are great. Funny top 10 lists are better.
An acknowledgement that we are desperately seeking readers with the attention spans of four year olds. Yeah, I know, people are busy. But if we took their time to give them something substantive they may not mind. As it stands, short and linky trumps long and introspective. I've got nothing against links, but they shouldn't replace READING other blogs.
Yep, Jeremy gets kudos for having the cajones to write this list. The comments that followed were even more interesting. So many people feel similarly--some commenting bloggers even altered their blogs purposely, knowing they would cut their page views in half but wanting to enhance the reader experience.
And all of the commenters were Men! I'd like to get a women's dialogue on this one. I feel like Wright's comments speak to where women inherently gravitate with their blogs, more toward personal expression (even in business-related posts) and less with traffic strategy in mind. Sure, we'll use the fun traffic-boosting tools we need to get our work out there, but will we strain our voices to make it into an A-list choir that's singing some other tune?