Travels with Myself

A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author

23. The Challenges of Blogging

Bloggers are writers. Some are excellent writers. Some are clumsy, inept. Or maybe actually ept but rushed to meet a deadline. Some write just for self-pleasuring. Many write knowing that their works are merely trees falling in a forest absent sentient beings. 

Some write as a pure marketing strategy, trying to draw attention to themselves, or what they have to sell. They link social media sites to their blog sites, thus attracting readers to their website and the real reason for the blog – buy a book. This works if you have thousands of followers, and even if only 5% actually click through to your blog, you may get some sales; and even still, google and ping notice, thus attracting even more traffic to your site. Some bloggers blog as a direct way to earn income by collecting micro commissions from the sponsors on their page.

And some write because they genuinely want to be read. They believe they have something interesting to say, and try to say it in an interesting way, and meet readers’ needs somehow. To entertain, possible to educate; or the opposite, to educate, possibly to entertain. Some perhaps write to preach, possibly to convert, but that seems rather elitist to me.

I confess I write for all these reasons, especially seeking fame and fortune, but mostly because of the last reason (not the John Wesley part) – I write in the hope that I will be read and be appreciated for my efforts.

And some do seem to appreciate my efforts. Or perhaps more satisfactorily, appreciate my results. (Sounds like a sound management practice to me, we don’t reward for effort but for results, the effort should be its own reward (Frederick Herzberg).) 

A theme throughout these pages, ‘Travels With Myself’, has been my transformation from being a Human Resources Professional and Consultant to being an Author. Writing has always been part of my sense of self, and I’ve always been a lover of words and good writing, but being a writer and author is a new identity I have adopted only in the last half dozen years or so. I have discovered I enjoy writing for its own sake (though there are times when I think it is more masochism) but I know that I also crave approbation for my work. Equally and opposite, I also fear reproval. It may not be reasonable but it is human, perpetuated by ambitious mothers no doubt.

I work hard on my blog posts – and of some I feel considerable satisfaction, others, ‘need improvement’. These posts take many hours to write, and polish, and post, at least 10 hours. Quite a few take many more than that. Most improve with editing, some get worse. But overall I think my writing improves with each outing. But the proof of this is in the reading, and the feedback (which as we have reported before is itself another fraught undertaking).

I post a post every fifteen days and for some posts it takes fifteen days to get it done, for some merely two days. My last post took only a day and a half, under pressure of deadline. And some of my readers thought it one of my best. This post is one of three I’ve been working on at once, not sure which I want to release, and serious doubts about this one.

So it can be somewhat discouraging to know (or merely think) that few of my ‘followers’ actually read my blog. My broadcast email software, Directmail for Mac, gives me some data as to which of my subscribers open the email (usually between 60-70%), and who actually click through to the blog site (usually around 15%, but not always the same 15). I only have about 100 subscribers on my subscribers list so this means only 15 people are clicking through to my actual blog post, and of those 15, how many actually stay long enough to read through the entire post?

Of the ‘Openers’ about 50% are regulars, the rest occasional, but it’s not always the same occasional ‘openers’. So there are about 20 habitual ‘non-openers’ it seems. I think of deleting them from my mailing list and then I get surprised when a long absent person suddenly is seen to ‘open’, even if they don’t click through. Usually this happens, I have learned, when the person has been cleaning their spam folder after many months. And so I don’t delete from the mailing list. It takes no time to maintain the list, and a person who wants to unsubscribe can easily do so.

I recently had my webmeister put up an RSS feed link (RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) on my blog so that people who have RSS activated on their computers can bookmark my blog and every time a new post is posted they automatically get a notification, though I would never know it. I may have dozens of anonymous readers like this. Cool. Not likely says my webmeister, RSS is already a passé technology. Such a scary thought, I just found out what that little icon is recently.

Still it’s the 50% of regular ‘openers’ of my notification emails who don’t click through to the blog I wonder about – why don’t they stop and read my wonderful stuff?!? But then I recalibrate my ego and allow for the fact that many of these people have busy lives, and competing interests, and haven’t the incentive (the title doesn’t appeal to them, nor even the excerpt) to click through to my blog and actually read it. I have to accept that people, even covid cloistered people, are not sitting at home counting the days until my next blog comes out.

I don’t have a counter on my blog itself so I can’t know how many visitors actually go there, and even if there are visitors, one can’t know who actually take the time to read the blog. There are analytical tools that tell you how long a visitor actually stayed on your site, but I don’t consult the tools, not sure why not; most visitors are browsers and only stay for seconds at most, obviously not staying to read. Even so, I can be pretty certain that most visitors are merely bots, and as indicated from the reports I get from WordPress security, there are hundreds, even thousands, of bots. Lately there are a lot from Bulgaria and Spain! What’s even more amazing, judging from the spam comments I get on my blog site, is how wonderfully inarticulate those bots are.

My sense is that most of my readers (families and friends, and other parties who previously expressed interest) are more interested in news of me and not so much the wonderful erudition of my blog! Overall I find it quite discouraging – tender ego that I have.

When I explore other blogs on the web this seems to be a common pattern, there are lots of blogs that haven’t been updated in years. Like me, perhaps those bloggers after a while found the effort to write something good with a certain frequency becomes too big a burden. It makes me pause to think what the purpose of my blog is after all: a) a marketing effort for my products and services (mostly my books), hoping my web presence multiplies? b) A genuine exercise in expressing what’s on my mind in hopes that provokes new insight in some readers? c) Self-indulgent mental masturbation? d) A desperate plea for recognition? Or should it be e) forget the blog and merely send a newsletter only, reporting on the current condition of my dog?

I used to think, and still find some justification, that the answer is a), or should be. But then I think most of my readers are not there for reason a) and probably think I write for reasons c) & d). And charitably most of those would prefer I write for reason e). (Some readers of the broadcast email reply to the email but evidently don’t actually go to the bog post itself.) But the 15 or so faithful blog readers, some of whom reply or and a few even post a comment on my website, make me want to continue because of reason b). 

I am very gratified by remarks such as this to my last post, Pandemic Ennui.

‘l really enjoyed this blog [post]. It’s extremely well written and a sentiment we can all relate to in our own and unique way. It was an emotional read yet so enjoyable, insightful and inspiring. There’s a recent New York Times article titled, “Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing” which shares a similar perspective. I encourage your readers to give it a read.’

And then I think, how many others might have got value from my post but never realized what they have missed because they never clicked through. My wonderful post falls into an empty forest, but such is life.

I subscribe to a number of blog posts myself, and sheepishly admit, I rarely click through to honour their work. Shrug.

Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata Ontario

© Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing

All rights reserved. No part of these blogs and newsletters may be reproduced without the express permission of the author and/or the publisher, except upon payment of a small royalty, 5¢. 

2 thoughts on “23. The Challenges of Blogging”

  1. David Bradley

    Well, funnily enough this reader did say to himself on the 14th, “Doug’s blog is due about now.” I suspect that part of this is tied up in my need to have a timetable or programme in my retirement years. Your blog is an important landmark in my month. I am naturally a busy person and teaching for nearly forty years, twenty of them as headteacher, every minute of every day was pretty much allocated. So, I’m not sitting in my armchair waiting for death; I’m writing, reading, gardening, keeping in touch with family and friends, managing a small business, actively participating in U3A activities, doing some charity work and hopefully making a difference. I love reading your blog because you have a gift for catching the moment in an honest and engaging way…..keep writing!

    1. As an experiment (the broadcast email had no other information in it and if people were interested they needed to actually open and click) I was interested in how many people would respond to the post one way or another.
      Curiously, 77% opened (about 12% higher than usual) and 31% clicked through, double the usual rate. The downside, two people unsubscribed, or which one was a surprise.

      Keep writing yourself.

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