Blogging: What It Is, What It's Not, and Why We Even Bother
I ask writers Seth Godin, Neil Pasricha, and of course myself, why we blog.
Posted December 18, 2012
I may be biased, but I think bloggers are a very brave lot. Knowing that anyone in the world with an Internet connection could potentially be watching as they share everything imaginable. Their political leanings, life philosophies, deepest depressions, and their intimate moments from sex to childbirth to mortality.
If you don't know what blogging ("web log") is all about, this one written by Darren Rowse, founder of the famed ProBlogger.com sums it up. While ProBlogger is a highly successful blog, you might wonder which is the most popular blog. As of this writing, Technorati currently calculates Huffington Post as #1 news blog. China's Han Han is often considered the most read individual blogger in the world1, and certainly one of the most controversial.
So why do we publish our thoughts for all to see? Why not just keep a diary under the mattress? Most of us don't start a blog thinking we can compete with the likes of Huffington Post, TMZ, or Perez Hilton.
I posed that question to prolific blogger and 13 time best-selling author Seth Godin. He has been dubbed "America's Greatest Marketer" so he certainly knows what makes a blog tick: "I blog because I don't really have a choice. The ideas in me insist on being shared, and this is the least painful way I can find to do it!"
He taps into a simple truth behind the very origins of blogging. Most people blog simply because they have something to say. And they make it public because there's some part of them that wants to be heard. On some level we all want to be heard- it's a basic human need. Whether or not a blog eventually returns financial gain, in most cases its primary function is to provide fulfillment for the blogger.
As readers, if we're not seeing honesty or passion in their writing, we're not going to stick around. A blog, by its very nature, ought to contain at least some of the following: a 1st person perspective, a bold assertion or opinion, a fresh take on an old idea, a personal connction with the reader, a colloqial tone, and a take away for its readership. By definition, a "blog" that only contains the cold dissertation of information or possesses no opinion or 1st person connection, is not a blog-- it's an article. At least that's my opinion.
Neil Pasricha writes the award-winning blog 1000 Awesome Things that has been around since 2008 and is still going strong. His blog has earned two Webby awards-- the top honor in the blogging world. 1000 Awesome Things succeeds because it contains all of the blog compontents I mentioned above. Pasricha's impetus for starting his blog stemmed from overwhelming stresses swirling around him. He explained to me in an earlier interview:
"Every time I opened a newspaper it was about melting ice caps, pirates in the ocean, and an economy about to blow up. And on top of that, I was in a marriage heading the wrong direction and my best friend was in a major depression. Before long, my wife came home from work and told me she didn't love me anymore...and my best friend very sadly took his own life. With a black cloud over my head I just felt like I needed something positive in my life. Some way to remind myself of the good things, which seemed like they were hidden behind some heavy velvet curtain.2"
Pasricha never imagined his blog would garner 30 million hits—a result many bloggers dream about but very rarely attain. In 2010, BlogPulse estimated the blogosphere to contain 152 million blogs3. While most of those bloggers do not become rich and famous, millions of blogs do provide profit for their owners. Advertising and affiliate marketing are sources of income for blogs with even modest amounts of traffic, and it's another top reason that bloggers blog. There is still a lot of money to be made for writers providing quality content.
Having been a blogger for several years, I can relate to both Pasricha and Godin. Fame and rich financial gain were not my motivation to start blogging. Good thing because I've attained neither! I blog to share information and challenge the status quo. It's a way I can connect with a global audience that I would otherwise never get to reach. But I also blog for the creative outlet. I've opened up about my relationship, explored heated political topics, and even come out to my readers.
I've learned not to rant in my blogs because I've learned -- the hard way -- that rants are just one-sided agitatations that do little to further quality dialogue. I still find many blogs attempting to use the force of shock/anger/fear rather than the power of emotional intelligence and the carefully crafted word. Yet my blogs certainly do challenge popular opinion. My piece on mindfulness generated some disagreement, and my blog about living off-the-grid was picked up by a large and controversial conservative media outlet. Now that was unexpected!
Public blogging can be very anxiety-provoking at first -- and also exhilerating -- but when we do dare to express our honest opinion in a blog, I think we can be quite surprised at just how many like-minded or open-minded readers are glad that we did. With millions of blogs out there, people want that emotional connection.
I like to think we bloggers can change the world. But, in the end, like Seth Godin, I end up blogging so that my thoughts will leave me alone.
Here are some other reasons why people blog, can you think of more?
- To maintain a routine- motivation and accountability
- To hone the craft of writing
- To air new and provocative ideas
- To spread cutting-edge information or timely opinion
- To connect with a like-minded community
- To forward the tradition of storytelling
- To build resume or clout
- To express creativity
- To find catharsis after a traumatic event
- To attract web traffic to another endevour
- To tap into the potential for money and/or fame
- To rant or vent
- To see our names in print - ego motivation
- To change the world
What are your reasons for blogging? Join the conversation below.