Bloggers that post their email addresses occasionally receive solicitations to blog about something specific. Sometimes it’s a common cultural or political concern — kind of like organizing an online protest. Often it’s about a commercial product. In other words, you’re being asked to be a cheap part of someone’s marketing campaign. Occasionally, these solicitations include monetary offers if you will blog about a specific product and/or include a specific link in a post.
Based on the nature of the solicitations I receive, I must conclude that: A) most of these people don’t understand what motivates bloggers, and B) few of these people spend any time reading the blogs of those to whom they send solicitations. It seems to me that they’re taking kind of a throw-the-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach.
Although I have only my own experience to draw on, I can’t imagine that these campaigns are very successful. I suppose they’re relatively cheap, much like sending direct mail to 2,000 recipients in a single zip code is relatively cheap. But if you’re like me (and studies show that 97% of people are), direct mail goes directly from the mailbox to the rubbish bin. And that’s pretty much how I treat blogging solicitations as well.
Citing a couple of studies on what motivates bloggers, Kelly Abbott of Red Door wrote in this October 2005 article, “Bloggers blog for the same reason guitarists rock: they have an urge to be heard and the medium allows them to express themselves like no other.” Well, sort of. Being a guitar player myself and knowing other guitar players, I have to say that different people play guitar for different reasons. Some don’t care to be heard by anyone but themselves.
Similarly, bloggers blog for different reasons. The very nature of the medium means that bloggers intend to put their writings out into the public space. But the same studies cited by Abbott show that for many, blogging is intensely personal. It is therapeutic. They don’t necessarily care that much about what others think of their posts; they do it because they experience some level of fulfillment from writing.
I think I fall into this category. I haven’t installed any of the traffic monitoring tools, because frankly, I don’t care how many people read my posts. I also occasionally compose music and write poetry when I feel driven to it. But I will be the first one to admit that most of what I put together isn’t very good. I expose very little of this stuff to others. I know it’s not that good, but I also know that simply writing it satisfies a psychological need.
Others blog for the value of social interaction or the mental stimulation of debate. Bloggers that stick with it often end up becoming part of an online community, where a certain level of trust is attained, personalities are developed, and where there are expectations, rights, and responsibilities.
The largest portion of blogs are personal blogs. But these are also the most likely to die off. That is, there is an initial flurry of writing, followed by increasingly rare posts. In fact, that is the model for most blogs of any type. The vast majority of blogs are dead or nearly so. Blogs that more or less center on a topic or range of topics are somewhat more likely to remain viable for a longer time. At least, this is what I garner from various studies (see Snurblog, Daniel Drezner, Hugh Hewitt’s book, etc.)
Being a free market kind of guy myself, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with businesses trying to get bloggers to advertise for them. I don’t even see a problem with bloggers advertising, as long as they’re up front about it. Of course, even if they aren’t, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what they’re up to.
But I’m not going to willingly be part of anyone’s marketing campaign. Why? I write about what interests me at a given moment, not about what interests others (which should be obvious from the limited number of comments I receive on some posts). I write for my own satisfaction. Writing something someone else wants me to write about would not fill my psychological need. It would remind me too much of work, or even worse, of grad school.