It’s been a while since I’ve done a “blogging meta” post, especially since my last foray in to that arena got rather bloody. But Chris Bowers has a post up at MyDD about “HowBloggers Are Held Accountable,” that kind of struck a chord with me. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed a change or two in how I blog. One, I’ve tended to write longer posts that are rather deeply linked and researched. Two, I’m posting less often. Sometimes, lately, a day may go by without even one update.
Part of that’s due to realizing some realities about my life and blogging, which I’ll get to in a minute. But here’s the part of Chris’ post that jumped out at me.
If you want to be a big-time blogger, you have to produce new content at a torrid and relentless rate. Virtually every single highly trafficked political blog posts multiple new articles every day of every week, even on weekends and holidays. I often commiserate about this with Atrios and BooMan, since we are the only professional political bloggers in Philadelphia (I think). As Duncan once said to me “you have to feed the beast,” even if it isn’t always your best content. As BooMan wrote the other day:
How about my critics try to find four stories a day to write about, and have them all be of critical importance and all really well written and thought out? Try doing it every day for almost two years? Then you can get my ear for criticisms of that type.
This sounds like a defense mechanism, but it is not. This constant need for new, interesting content keeps bloggers accountable because it guarantees that only people who are unswervingly dedicated to blogging will be prominent bloggers at any point in time. It also prevents laziness, as you have to be at, or near, the top of your game all the time. If you are a one or two trick pony, it just won’t work either. The endless demand for new material keeps your focused, dedicated, and open to new ideas.
It’s true, actually, and it’s something I’ve said to people when I’ve done “blogging 101” presentations. Blogging doesn’ t look like work, but it is. And it takes time in three specific ways that make it work: time to read, time to think, and time to write. You have to pour through any number of news and blog feeds. Then you have to think of what you want to say about any particular item, and how you want to say it. Then you have to write.
Until recently, I’ve tried to keep up with the “post every day” ethic, because in the world of political blogging there’s a “publish or perish,” as there is in academia. If you don’t update regularly (once a week, at minimum) then you probably won’t be read by very many people. The archives of this blog, going all the way back to October 2003 will attest to my efforts to post at least once a day, and usually more than that.
But, as I said, there are some realities that I’ve noted recently. The first is that the topic area I tend to cover is not one that’s likely to draw a high amount of traffic, because it’s just not going to have a lot of mainstream appeal on a daily basis. The other thing is that since the beginning, this blog has been a one man show. A look at the ecosystem, however, shows that a number of the top blogs are also multi-author blogs, where there either multiple bloggers or a number of diarists producing content every day.
I’ve begun to believe that in order to produce the quantity of content that the upper echelons of blogging seems to require means that you either have to be making a living from your blog, have to have multiple authors, or have some other means of support. Because what I’m finding as a blogger, and a parent who also works full time is that it gets harder to produce three our four posts a day.
Unless I want to neglect my job or my family, and deal with the stress of doing both, I’m going to have to let go of keeping up with that daily blogging grind. Yesterday, for example, I was home alone with Parker, whom I couldn’t exactly ignore in order to get my blogging in for the day. Today I’ve been catching up at work, which means not even looking at my blog/news feeds until late in the day. And tonight, I’ll probably opt to go to bed at a reasonable (for me) hour, instead of staying up into the wee hours to writing posts and schedule them to publish the next day.
Part of that may also be due to the standards I’m holding myself to lately. As I’ve written before, I have a tendency not to cover stuff that’s already been posted by a number of the high traffic political blogs. At least, I don’t post about it unless I’ve got something to say about it that hasn’t been said already elsewhere. By the same token, if I’m going to write about something, then I have to try to offer something — an insight, a perspective, a history, etc. — that they’re not likely to find elsewhere. For me that usually means writing posts that are longer than a blockquote and three paragraphs of commentary, and have numerous links that often tie in to other related posts and news items in order to provide a context.
I’m flattered that at least one person thinks I’ve made those kinds of posts to into an art form.
Some of the best bloggers don’t link to a single story, but to several stories. They stand back, study the news stream, find patterns in the news, and draw out those patterns with well-written, compelling posts. This was the basis for a rant last month by Metrodad over what he perceived as alcohol getting the short end of the cultural stick.
When commenting on a news article, seek out external links that will enhance your commentary. Terrance, the best black liberal vegetarian gay Buddhist parenting blogger on the Internet, has made an art form out of this. Check out this example, where he weaves a blog, a book, and a Washington Post article into a unique story about how GLBT families are becoming an assumed, accepted part of the culture. Or take his great critique of David Kuo’s Tempting Faith – an original piece which he augments throughout by linking to examples of what he’s talking about. This drawing together of various forms of information can be very powerful; it’s a luxury that many journalists can’t afford to exercise in their daily writing, but is a part of daily business for bloggers.
But the reality is that this particular style of blogging isn’t one that builds huge audiences, maybe because it requires more time from a reader and/or a longer attention span. (I should talk, right?) In fact, this post is probably turning into one of those, and thus I should probably start wrapping it up.
So, I’ll say this. Maybe the most important reality for me is that I’m not a full-time blogger. I may work in blogging, but I don’t get paid for writing this blog. (And the revenue from BlogAds is nice, but not near enough for me not to need a day job.) Meanwhile, I’m also a husband and father, which just have to take precedence over blogging. The other reality is that, for a part-time blogger — with a (growing, eventually) family, a full-time job not related to my blog, and no co-bloggers — I guess I haven’t done half bad.