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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



organically-grown audiences

One of the funnier conversations I watched at BlogHer was between some big league blogger talk to a small crowd. The big leaguer was talking about how she’d built up traffic by creating a community around her, and linked to everyone else, and written positive comments across the Net, and held carnivals, and proptly replied to email from visitors. She then explained that she was now really guilty about all the mail she didn’t answer, and how her community was always needed tending because some drama was blowing up, and how much time she had to spend reading and commenting on other people’s posts. The listeners looked in horror; eventually one hesitantly said “So I write online because I’m introverted. Why would I want to deal with anyone else?” Cue buzz of agreement from everyone else hiding under the desk, including me.

Speaking from adjacent experience, I’d say that one of the pains of doing something for fame and fortune (apart from the usual lack of fortune), is that the incredibly low quality of  mass-produced fame. I may have mentioned tangentially before, but if you scale up who knows your work, you often end up with fans whom you can’t stand. For many, this is quite disheartening. How are you supposed to value your own work when it appears that most of the people who love it are idiots?

If anything, the effect of this online is worse than in Ye Olde Traditionale Media. We all know people who produce great work, but are afflicted with cesspits of comments that hang on their every word. The beauty of new media is that you’re in direct contact with your readers: the horror is that you’re in direct contact with people who you never want to meet, but who feel that they have some sort of relationship with you.

In the end, the conversation moved away from “building traffic” and we ended up talking about how slowly you can grow a blog: avoiding ending up with a mass-produced audience, and instead taking the time to organically grow a smaller, perhaps more costly, but ultimately more satisfying bunch of readers.

Like you, of course. Group hug!

4 Responses to “organically-grown audiences”

  1. anno Says:

    If you going to start with the group hugs, I’m leaving!

  2. dannyobrien Says:

    It’s all right, I hate you all really.

  3. Saltation Says:

    i feel treasured

  4. Matty B. Says:

    Very interesting food for thought. I don’t de-lurk that often unless it is something that I feel I can add, or the post was intellectually stimulating enough to, perhaps, seize the moment and bring others readers to the fray, and have a good “conversation”. Being a relative new-comer to the blog scene (not a blogger yet, just an avid lurker), I have my favorites. I stumble across a blog, get intrigued, zip through the archives, and perhaps become a “fan”. Then I’ll comment, and check back to see if I have been validated with a response. I will occasionally get responses from other posters, but would feel slighted by not getting the poster/ blogger to reply to my comment.

    It is a strange phenomenon, being a “fan”, as we all have experienced. You listen to someones music and see their concerts. You see the weather guy on the same channel you have been watching for the last 9 years, and dig his witty demeanor, and feel a familiarity with this person, and the day you bump into them at the grocery store, they looka t you like you have 9 heads, because you exclaim that they are who they are— which is just that: they are people just like the rest of us. While I may have been a little disheartened from time to time when I comment (and feel that it may have been a little more valid than the rest of the “sheep” out there), it seems that the sheep out there can’t fathom the fact that hypothetically at any moment in time, thousands of people could be checking out the same blog, yet feel like they are the only one who is there in that 10-15 minute time span, reading, commenting.

    Conversely, in a weird way, I feel like I have slighted my favorite blogs on which I comment from time to time, because as I sift through the Great InterHighway, I add a few more to my Bloglines, get rid of some that just don’t do “it” for me anymore, and wind up with less time to comment. Those select few sites where I would heavily participate in comments (where I felt like part of the “in crowd”, got the inside jokes, and would probably stop off for happy hour with the gang after work if it could take me a half hour to drive from Minnesota to Utah, or Maryland), I have neglected- and feel guilty about it as well.

    With regard to the intolerable followers/ trolls, etc., I think it is kind of inevitable, but if you are shamelessly and outwardly promoting yourself as the best thing since sliced bread, then you are asking for it, since the sheep respond mindlessly to advertising, and will bitch if they don’t get what they expected for their time they’ve “spent”, like it is a commodity. Sites that aren’t so overtly promoting themselves, and get readership more by referral in a blogroll on another site, will get a better quality readership, like you said. I guess this diatribe could have been summed up in a few words… You are totally right.

    Validation! Hug!


petit disclaimer:
My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.