I’ve had this idea floating around for some time but haven’t quite been able to articulate it. So here’s a feeble first attempt – bear with me and I’ll hope you get my point. Any and all comments / suggestions etc appreciated…
I’ve been posting to this blog pretty regularly for quite some time, and those of you who have been reading for a while will have noticed some substantial variations in content matter. I’d like to think that some of my posts are pretty insightful and well written. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and recognition this past year – both in links and comments, as well as a surprisingly high readership.
Other posts, for example last year’s ranting about Grampa Joe and the Cat in the Hat, could be regarded as off colour at best. Given that I’m currently looking for work (as you can tell, I get bored quickly and the consequences can be dire), it has occurred to me that I may not be doing myself any favours by tainting the ‘good’ posts with what others (potential employers, clients, business partners, whatever…) may find disturbing.
So why post them? The fact of the matter is, I feel that to post anything based on what I feel ‘people’ (whoever they might be) want to read as opposed to what I have to say would be dishonest. It’d also be a hell of a lot harder to manage (keeping track of who my readers are and what they’re interested in before I even begin to write anything). I also firmly believe it would be the end of what up to this point has become a pretty sizeable and loyal following.
In your traditional publishing environment (TV, newspapers, radio, magazines, and most ‘web 1.0’ sites), you start with your audience and work backwards. E.g. ‘We want to appeal to 18 to 35 year-old men, so this is the kind of content we’ll create/source and this is the style in which we’ll deliver it’. What you are effectively doing is constructing a persona for the publication based around a pre-conceived notion of what viewers / readers / listeners will identify with, and then attempting to provide content in a style consistent with that persona.
Blogging – or rather, good blogging – is a different animal. To put it simply, this is all about me. I didn’t need to create a persona for this blog, because I already had one (mine). I didn’t need to decide on a theme or style either, because I just write about the things that interest me in the style that comes naturally. And here’s the rub – you’ll either like what I write or you won’t, but if you do, you’ll be back. Why?
Let’s take an analogy from the world of dating…
Bill is looking to hook up with the girl of his dreams. He’s set his heart on landing a 19 year-old fashion model. Bill does some research and figures out that models tend to like rich, muscle-bound party boys, so he starts hitting the gym and throwing a lot of money around at the hottest clubs in town.
Bob is also looking to get loved-up. He doesn’t have anyone in mind, other than that she needs to love him for who he is. So he puts himself out there and makes an effort to get to know people, but takes pains to ensure people get to know the real him.
Aftert a while, Bill and Bob have both met people. Who do you think has the stronger relationship? My guess is Bob. She may not be the girl he had in mind (she couldn’t be, as he started out with no such preconceptions), but she loves him for who he is, rather than for his efforts to be who he thinks she wants him to be. Bill has based his relationship on two critical assumptions – he thinks he knows what the object of his desire wants, and he also thinks he can be that man. Sounds like a house of cards to me.
What does this have to do with blogging? Let me answer by asking you another question: There are millions of blogs out there, so why are you reading this one? My guess is that if this isn’t your first time here, it has more to do with how well you relate to me than anything I’ve written. See, this blog is a nothing more than a reflection of the stuff I find interesting expressed in my own personal style. You’ll either dig it (me) or you won’t.
Perez Hilton. Rob Scoble. Om Malik. Matt Drudge (not a blogger as such, but I think he deserves mention here – will explain later). These are some of the web’s new superstars, and they sure as hell didn’t get there via market research, brand workshops, focus groups and Deputy Assistant Sub-Editors. Think about that, people.
Does this mean I was faking it back when I was working at Marker and regularly contributing to the company blog? I don’t think so. Like Eddie said, we all wear a bunch of different hats, and when I was blogging at Marker I was wearing my Marker hat (I know I’m deviating from the point de Bono was making, but the analogy still fits). Avoiding cursewords and not posting about porn (ok, bad example) and child-molesting children’s book characters was in no way dishonest, because ‘Marker Stuart’ didn’t feel the need to write about such things or in that style.
What’s the lesson here? Still trying to work that one out. The first thing that occurs to me is that a lot of people I know are reluctant to blog and I think many are simply afraid people won’t like what they have to say. The way I see it, no matter what you write some people will love it and some people will hate it. That being the case, the only sensible option is to be true to yourself and your readers by writing what comes naturally – be yourself instead of attempting to please the faceless masses. I’m sure more will occur to me over the next wee while now that I’ve got this off my chest, so stay tuned.