Hello! I got linked to your blog post on KoL by my girlfriend. I very much related to the mentality you share, like expecting free content online, and the sadness of the demise of something you tacitly took for a constant in a universe of variables.
Something I struggle with on my blog (enduringbeta.com) is who the audience is. What the focus should be. I’m curious if that’s a concern for you!
Thanks for the question, Ross! It’s always neat to find other KoL players. Also, your girlfriend is a really neat person, and I’m not just saying that because she passed my blog along to you. 😉
My elementary school required us to conduct at least two research projects a year and present them to our classes. One year–I don’t remember which–I settled on the topic of Calvin and Hobbes, and spent much of my research reading comics. I was a clever kid.
I think it was during that research period, as I was reading some biography of Bill Watterson–although it could just as well have been another offhand comment from some other comic artist–when I came across a piece of advice that has stuck with me. Watterson (or whoever) commented that when you’re drawing comics, you should draw, first and foremost, what you find funny. Don’t worry about catering to an audience, because if you do that, eventually, you’ll stop caring about your work. Just draw what you find funny, and your audience will find you.
It’s the idealist side of me, then, that has stuck to that philosophy for years and years and years. My blog has largely been written about things that I find interesting–I’m the target audience, more or less. There was a period when I considered my audience to instead be my parents and family. That was a bad idea. I found myself worrying about what would be appropriate and discarding drafts that I didn’t think those people would find interesting. When I finally gave up on that idea and got back to writing for myself, although my output didn’t necessarily increase in quantity, the process of writing became so much easier and more enjoyable, in accordance with what Watterson–or whoever–observed.
But the other part of me that has an opinion on this matter is the part that has the title “Manager of Marketing and Digital Communications” at work. It’s the capitalist, marketing-as-marketable-skill side, that thinks things like “You are your own brand.” That side of me says that if you want to aggressively grow your blog, you should decide on a target audience, and write posts targeted toward that audience.
It’s the antithesis of Watterson’s[ref]I’m just going to say Watterson for simplicity’s sake.[/ref] advice, and in more than the obvious ways. Watterson described a way to create and leave yourself feeling happy and whole, regardless of your audience. The typical content marketing advice describes a way to get results: more readers. Watterson’s talking about personal fulfillment; marketing advice is eminently pragmatic.
And I don’t think that makes the marketing-oriented advice wrong. Rather, I think the content of any blog falls somewhere on a spectrum between “written for the author” and “written for an audience”. LiveJournal and other blog-as-diary sites? Pretty author-driven. The professional business blog aimed at building interest and generating leads for a company? Definitely audience-driven–the whole point is to build something that will appeal to the right audience. Most blogs aren’t that dramatic, but instead fall somewhere in the middle.
Anyway, I’m letting this get away from me. Personally, I don’t worry too much about my audience, because as I’ve experienced, that way lies stifled creativity. Instead, I write about things I want to write about, produce quality content that I’m happy with and interested in sharing, and then I share it. I’m not rolling in readers–most of my posts only get a dozen views, if that–but I feel proud of the things I share.
I think most important, however, is continuing to write. This blogathon has made that abundantly clear to me. The more the write, the more comfortable you will be with articulating your thoughts and getting them out there, and the less difficult it will feel to compose a single post–something I’ve particularly noticed this month. More than focusing on your audience or your subject matter, I’d encourage you to write, write, write.