Ending the Excuses for Struggling

by Rachel on April 26, 2010

Requesting that bloggers step up their game is a message that’s not always well-received. When people get defensive, they usually turn to a bunch of excuses. So let’s talk about those right from the get-go!

“It may not be great but…”

“Well yeah, I agree that it’s boring but…”

“We all know it’s dumb but…”

And then come the excuses.

“THEIR READERS LIKE IT.”

But do their readers like it?

I’m a reader and I don’t like it.

I’ve talked to other blog readers and they don’t like it either.

You know what else people liked? PCs. So maybe Steve Jobs just should have never re-done the Mac. Why don’t we give people more options before deciding that things are good enough and it’s time to just settle?

“THEN WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP READING IT?”

Good question! I am losing count of people who say, “I don’t know why I keep reading some blogs.”

Have you ever watched an MTV reality-show rerun? A “Jersey Shore” marathon perhaps? It wasn’t that good the first time you saw it and yet you find yourself spending a few hours just staring at it unfolding all over again. And you always find yourself saying, “I don’t know why I’m still watching this.”

Is it because we’re so used to MTV turning out crap versions of the same thing that we forgot there used to be good reality TV? Did VH1 start the “Flavor of Love” and “Charm School” series in an effort to imitate what MTV was doing with all the Real World/Road Rules spin-offs? [It’s like a chapter of the Bible. “And the Real World begat The Real World/Road Rules Challenge and the Real World/Road Rules Challenge begat The Gauntlet and The Gauntlet begat…and Laguna begat The Hills and The Hills begat The City…”] Are we as health bloggers just turning out bad imitations of the same thing because that’s all we’ve ever seen? What if VH1 just said, “Fuck this stupid format we’ve been using for the past decade — we’re going to put our creative energy into make a new show or finding a new way to tell a story.” Bet you’d turn off Jersey Shore.

And, you know, when reality TV started, it wasn’t bad. The original Real World was thought-provoking and got people talking. Yeah, people still talk about reality TV, but talking about a cast member dying of AIDS and talking about The Situation isn’t the same thing.

In the same way, the old school model of blogging wasn’t bad. But when you make a copy of a copy of a copy, the quality suffers.

“WELL PEOPLE ARE COMMENTING SO THEY MUST LIKE IT.”

Comments are actually a pretty poor indicator of whether or not a blog is good or liked.

Haven’t you noticed that a lot of comments are left by other bloggers? it’s because most bloggers have realized, at this point, that commenting on other blogs will get you some hits.

I call this “The Sweet N Low Comment.”

It’s artificial. It seems really sweet, but the fact that it’s simply sucking up is kind of low.

I know it’s true because I’ve done it. You probably have too. I did it because I was trying to connect with other bloggers and this seemed like a good way. And it is a good way — when it’s genuine and you have something to actually say. (But more on that tomorrow.)

The point is, a bunch of Sweet N Low comments just means that a blog gets a lot of comments. And that just because it all seems so sweet doesn’t mean it really is.

“BUT I BLOG FOR MYSELF.”

If you only write for yourself, then why put it in a place that everyone can see it? Ah, yes. First there is the, “I just want a way to keep myself accountable” defense. But if you want an online food journal, there are Web sites for that. Check out Nutridiary. KeepAndShare. “I like the community aspect of blogging.” Oh, right. You want support? Try SparkPeople. Try a forum. Why are you a blogger?

Leah wrote a great post on her blog last week about how she doesn’t blog for herself. She wrote, “The truth is, I blog pretty much exclusively for you guys — because I want to share my passion for food with you. I want to be your trusted (and hopefully entertaining) source of nutrition/fitness information, inspiration, and foodie pleasure.” And she pointed out that when you blog for other people, you want to try to improve for them too.

This isn’t to say that blogging isn’t a little selfish. We blog for ourselves in the same way that people volunteer because it makes them feel good too. Yes, we get something out of it — we get a lot out of it. But as a writer, I get a lot out of any writing. The only time I get a lot out of blogging is when people are reading and responding. So, like Leah said, I want to give those readers the best experience I can.

“IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T READ IT.”

Ah, yes. See, that’s sort of the agony and the ecstasy of blogging. You can write from a biased point of view. You don’t have to please everyone. If people don’t like it, they don’t have to read it.

But the problem is, if one blog struggles, we all do. I talked about this in my video about why I started Hollaback. I’d like to make the title of “blogger” more respected. Brands and even major news outlets are finally starting to give blogs the respect they (sometimes) deserve, but there’s still that perception of, “Oh you write that little blog thingy. It’s like LiveJournal, right?”

So, no, I don’t have to read it — but if other people are reading it, it’s going to influence their perceptions of all blogs.

I also think it’s really important to make the distinction that “If you don’t like it, don’t read it,” can and should apply to subject matter rather than style. For example, I don’t read a lot of vegetarian blogs because I’m not a vegetarian. But I do read some vegetarian blogs because I like their style that much. I like how they say things even if I don’t agree with what they are saying. So isn’t it kind of great to strive to make your blog one that is respected, even by people who disagree with the content?

“If you don’t like it, don’t read it” is the most common defense, but it’s one that I find pretty weak. Because you know what? I actually want to read your blog. I don’t want to clean out my Reader. I don’t want to say, “Ugh, I’m bored; I guess now I have to stop reading this.” No! I want to get idea, tips, motivation; I want to see how other people do healthy living. I want to feel like I do when I go into Barnes & Noble, when I’m overcome with excitement because I say, “OMG, there are so many great ones, I wish I had time to read them all!”

Wouldn’t it be awesome to give our readers that??

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