Building a Better Blog

The blogosphere is unique social construct, a community in which thousands of voices speak into the darkness and hope for a whisper in return. Even though nothing committed to the internet ever disappears entirely, the life of a blog is always uncertain. Some voices seem to continue to ring on strong, but these are the exception. Most speak out for a while and then die off into nothingness. There are several important differentiating factors that I have found as both a reader and a writer to be good indicators of the health of a blog.

The first predictor is the dependability of the people behind the blog. If they have a schedule set, do they fulfill those promises? If not, do they post regularly or is it months between new content? Do they have some way to communicate to their readership when new content becomes available? As a reader, I have neither the leisure time nor the inclination to browse blogs that haven’t been updated. Go too long without new material, and I will not be back. Chances are the blogger won’t be either.

The next sign I look for is the self-awareness of the blog and blogger. All writing must have a target audience, a group of people whom they wish to reach and influence. Whether you are trying to reach a niche, sub-culture or an entire demographic, it is essential to know what interests them and to tailor the blog’s culture to fulfill those needs. Do your readers seek entertainment? To learn something or keep up on news? To share in the thoughts and art of another? These questions change the nature of the posts themselves.

This leads directly into my third flag. Does the blogger produce high quality content, or can most of what they post be considered “fluff”? More importantly, is the type of content that they produce consistent to the needs and expectations of their audience? Both are legitimate strategies, after all. For instance, a blog that seeks to target geeks with science and entertainment news may be posting many short, graphic centric articles. They do not rely on readers going in depth, but rather depend on a high frequency of shares and new visits to spread their message. A blog that discusses the finer points of restoring classic cars, however, would rely on a small pool of devoted readers and discussions generated by more detailed content.

The final and most important aspect that I use to predict the success of a blog is its focus. Bloggers who write for their own satisfaction, who are internally focused, tend to be less reliable, and frankly, less interesting. They write for an audience of one. If that is enough for them, then I hope that they have fun with their little piece of the internet. Bloggers who are truly successful tend to be externally focused, seeking to reach people in order to share their passion and interest. They seek to form a community.

When I think of the blogosphere, I can’t help but picture the club fair that occurred during the first week of the fall semester at my college. Back then, we dragged tables out to the middle of our campus, and freshmen wandered around, trying to find what extracurricular they wanted to be a part of. These days I sit behind a digital table, but the goal is the same. I want to attract people who share my interests to stop and talk to me. If I’m lucky, they’ll even join my club and stick around. Community is what matters to bloggers, it is what supports and sustains us. It is our raison d’être.

The community that surrounds ForeverWriters.com and the Author’s Think Thank have become part of my personal blogosphere, part of my community. This community has done what most don’t. Not just grown, but thrived. Through reading their blog, listening to the podcast, and participating in discussions in the Think Tank, I see many of the indications I mentioned above that point to a long-lasting and healthy community.

Most of all, I’m thankful to all of you, dear fans and readers. Both my own, and those native to ForeverWriters. Without y’all, without your willingness to listen from within the darkness, and occasionally even whisper back, we would not, could not go on.

Nathan Barra

About Nathan Barra

Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” He is an active blogger, not only on his own site, NathanBarra.com, but also with a group blog called the Fictorians (www.Fictorians.com). Nathan is always up for a good conversation, so please drop him a line through his contact page, or write on his Facebook wall (www.facebook.com/WriterNathanBarra).

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