the circular runner

should a blog be focussed or should it be all over the place?

In criticism, media, observations on August 2, 2012 at 6:28 am

I’ve been reading Ryan Holiday‘s book, Trust Me, I’m Lying, and let me tell you, the experience is depressing.  In the book, Mr, Holiday not only talks about how he’s manipulated the media countless times, he also argues over and over again that the world of social media is not based on value or truth or quality writing; it’s based on tricking readers to view more pages.  It’s worth noting that as I read this book, I started to wonder if I was part of some kind of meta-experience set up by the author.  I wondered if the book itself was just a trick in that it repeated the same basic point over and over again.  Was my buying the book–a book that promises to describe in full detail the ins and outs of the media landscape–a trick?

But the most depressing part of reading this book has more to do with where I am than where the book or its author is.  I heard Mr. Holiday interviewed on Brian Lehrer‘s public radio show, and I bought his book because he said that in it, he would give away the tools of his trade. In other words, he would teach his readers how to manipulate social media.  I’m not saying that I wanted to do anything dishonest, but I was hoping to learn something I hadn’t known before–some trick of the trade that would help my blog, my career as a writer.  Kind of sad and lame, I’ll admit.

The only thing I really learned from the book is to ask this question of myself an of all of you bloggers out there.  Mr. Holiday repeatedly quotes big-time bloggers all saying the same thing: focus on one thing and become an authority on that one thing if you want people to come read you.  As a generalist, this troubles me, but at the same time, it stands to reason.  People like to know what they are getting, so if they want spots, they go to that blog or channel or whatever, and likewise, they want to know about food or clothes or relationships.  Blogs, so Mr. Holiday argues, are all about consistency.  That sells, by which he means, that’s what readers want.  Is that so?

What do you all think?  Do you care if people read or if they comment? Do you write for yourself or are you trying to get your stuff read by as many people as possible? Do you force yourself to post about a limited amount of topics or are you all over the place?

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  1. I think if you want your blog to be a commercial enterprise, then you do indeed have to focus on something. But, you don’t have to focus on a topic. You could focus on a point of view, I think, like the Prairie Wife who wrote about being a city girl who becomes a country wife. Without the city girl point of view, it’s just another living in the country blog and doesn’t lead to a tv show and lots and lots of money.

  2. Frankly, I feel a little uncomfortable writing about topics I have little knowledge on. That’s why I stick to writing and the writing biz on my blog. I hope to make it a place that visitors (writers or not) can discuss the issues and dilemmas writers face in an intelligent manner. And combined with my other social media efforts, it might help establish me in publishing circles and help convince some insightful publisher that I’m worth a book deal.

    Although sometimes I wonder if I should try to be more entertaining; less serious.

    • There’s that line between giving the people what they want and holding on to yourself and who you are. If you feel like being funny, you should probably let that side out, but if that’s not what you are about, I don’t know–it’s hard to read people trying to be funny. It seems like you’re getting the readers–they obviously keep coming back because they like what they get from your Saturday posts. I know I do.

      Looking forward to reading you tomorrow.

      be well,
      g

  3. I have been wondering the same thing, but I think you as a blogger need to understand the purpose of your blog. For instance my blog is literally about me airing all of the dirty laundry of my life out as I tread the road of self discovery. It is an all over the place blog with a central focus. However what if you are like the the Ryan Seacrest of the boggersphere? Your topics would be broad and vast. If you as a blogger have the ability to let your personality shine through, then you are selling you as a brand versus a you as an expert on a limited subject. But if your personality get’s lost, then being “all over” will not serve you in the long run.

  4. I love this reply and think it’s full of wisdom. In fact, I’m going to tweet about because I think you encapsulated the problem and gave me a way out of the problem I’m having with this thing. Thanks!!!

  5. Whenever I realize that the writer is trying to get something from me, I want nothing more to do with them. I have a sign out front of my house that says “no soliciting” and it’s handmade in the hopes that this will lend sincerity and weight to the words. I’m not going to change what I write, but I don’t mind doing things to make my message more visible. I see that you’ve linked to Wikipedia in this post. Is this some trick for getting more traffic? Curious minds are dying to know.

    • I often link to Wikipedia–usually for terms or subjects that I think are worth looking at more closely. I have to read this over and make sure I didn’t just give into Zemanta or whatever that technology is on WP that suggests you should link to.

      That said, I would probably link to my own wikipedia page except that the good wiki-fascists don’t think I merit a page. Alas, maybe one day I’ll make the cut.

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