Saturday, July 11, 2009

Attracting Readers and Gaining Momentum

As our blog is new, and Eric and I are completely new to blogging, I recently asked an old friend and active and successful blogger for advice about blogging. Specifically, I was interested in how to grow our blogging readership. His thoughtful reply can be found as a blog post on his site, the baseline scenario. His post, and those in the comments, contain useful links to other bloggers' advice about how to start blogging, such as this post by Felix Salmon, and this post by problogger on how to optimize search engine hits.

Take home points for me about our site are as follows:
1. We need to post more often, not worry about quality as much.
2. We need to link to other bloggers, comment on other bloggers sites.
3. Felix Salmon says it takes about a year for your blog to gain momentum, so we have time.
4. We should eventually post about every new and exciting policy or newsworthy article in the literature.
5. We need to be less journalistic/perfectionist and less afraid of putting ourselves out there and saying something wrong.
6. If no one is commenting, be Zen, keep posting.

This is new to us. As academics, we're used to writing in the somewhat staid and highly defensible format of the journal article or letter to the editor. Blogging, however, is more like a written conversation, and we need to be more willing to put our opinions out there. Even if they're a little rough around the edges. We need to find our own voice.

What do you think? How can we appeal to you, our readership? Do you value quantity over quality, or the other way around?

2 comments:

TIM COUSOUNIS said...

Six points well taken. Be careful, nonetheless, to not sacrific quality over quantity. readers won't be happy - nor will the bloggers.

Jan Henderson said...

I couldn’t agree more with the previous comment – don’t sacrifice quality or the satisfaction of the blogger.

I have been blogging for a year on health-related topics. I read the same advice to new bloggers about how you should post six days a week, keep it conversational, don’t be a perfectionist or afraid to say something wrong.

It was a struggle for me. (As a former academic I couldn’t imagine writing without footnotes!) Ultimately it hasn’t been satisfying for me, the blogger. It wasn’t quality so much as depth that got sacrificed by posting every day. I found myself writing only about subjects whose complexity didn’t threaten to take up more than one day’s worth of time. I haven’t tackled the subjects that motivated me to start a blog in the first place. Your situation may be different because you have more posters, but I suspect time is in short supply for everyone because your work is demanding.

Blogs are organic. It’s OK to try one approach and then try something else. If you did lots of posts on what was new and interesting in the field and in the literature, I would find that valuable. If you do something deeper occasionally, like the discussion of the Lancet article, that’s terrific. You can do both.

I believe there’s definitely an audience out there that’s interested in your subject matter. Do you know the blog Time Goes By (http://www.timegoesby.net/)? I think those people would find your blog interesting. I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, but a 500-word guest post on KevinMD would help people find your blog.

I think you’re doing a great job. And it’s true, you do need to be patient.