Friday, February 23, 2007

"Hey Baby, How About Writing a Blog Post for Me?"

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.


Jesse Harris said...

If you run your blog off of your own server, there's a lot of good reasons to run a stats package. The obvious one is that it gives you an idea of your traffic needs. (Since I host off of my cable modem at home, this is imperative for me.) Another one is that it gives me an idea of what attack vectors those pesky spammers are using to try and leave spam comments. I also get reports on HTTP errors so I can find broken external links, blocked IP addresses, and potential content theft by crawlers. I'm not saying that a bit of vanity isn't involved (there's some odd satisfaction in watching numbers gradually creep upwards), but stats packages give you a lot of good maintenance bits as well.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Good point. But most of us lame brains let someone else do all the server management stuff for us.

Voice of Utah said...

Ditto on the Servers for Dummies thing. We started our blog on LiveJournal because it was the first thing that came up that we understood when we were googling to figure out how to start a blog. It doesn't have a stats counter, but we don't mind. We're among those who just get a kick out of expressing ourselves.

y-intercept said...

Personally, I think "monetizing the net" is a good thing. I think it is good when individuals find ways to augment their incomes with blogging.

The knee jerk reaction is that combining commerce and blogging automatically reduces the integrity of the blogs.

The reverse might actually be true. When people start getting a little bit of independent income, they start thinking more independently.

The only really big downside to ads is that there is a large number of individuals and programs that analyze sites. If they see anything that wreaks of an ad, they give the site demerits.

BTW, one good reason for having a stats package is that it lets you learn a little bit about the people coming to your site. The most useful information is the search engine keyword list. If you find a whole bunch of people coming into your site for a particular keyword combo, you can sometimes hone the site so that it provides the answers that they were seeking.

Scott Hinrichs said...

I have no problem at all with monetizing the net. I'm fine with people that want to put ads on their blog sites. Those folks blog for different reasons than I do, and that's OK. But I hope that the outlet for those of us that don't want to do this professionally continues to exist.

Tony said...

I think your statistical approach is a little wonky. Your said
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.

Quite often direct mail reaches a 3% response rate, but that does not imply that it is always the same 3% who reply. The number of people who never reply to any direct mail is actually around 18% - at least in the UK where I am. The rest do reply to some - which by logical implication also means they read some.

Frank Staheli said...

I think it is very therapeutic for me to get 'out on paper' how I'm feeling about things. There are a lot less productive things I could be doing with my time!

I guess I'm a bit vain, though, when it comes to my blogs, because I'm checking often to see how many page hits I get. Sometimes I'm satisfied just to write, but then other times I (conceitedly) think, 'man my blogs are awesome. It's too bad more people don't know about them.'