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September 10, 2008

Do You Miss The Old Days of Blogging?

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Louis Gray had a post yesterday about blogs’ never-ending battle of page views vs conversation and, to be honest, it made me a tad emo. He talks about his perfect world where the best bloggers with the best content get the most attention, and how that’s not even close to how it exists today. Instead, Bloggers have been forced to fight for page views instead of focusing on what blogging used to be based on – sparking conversation and debate. It’s like the old way of blogging died as soon as folks realized they could monetize it. Bah money.

I’ve often wondered if you can really do both equally well – balance the sky-rocketing page views while also sparking genuine conversation in a single post. Obviously, you can. It’s humanly possible. But I think it’s definitely the exception.

The Bruce Clay, Inc. blog gets a moderate amount of traffic. We go hot on Sphinn, stuff makes it big on Reddit, we’re Stumbled, content is bookmarked, etc. We’re there. We get those page views. However, nine times out of ten those aren’t the posts I’m proud of. It happens without fail and often makes me laugh – the post that I write in five minutes without much thought is always the one to get attention. I spend five minutes of my time breaking up with Ask.com and the post is Sphunn, Stumbled and bookmarked. I write a quick rant about Google’s new indexing of Flash (that I’m now genuinely embarrassed of) and it goes popular on Reddit and sends about 10 gazillion new visitors into the site so they can leave really, really intelligent comments. Meanwhile, the posts that I’m personally proud of, the posts where I think I’ve brought up something worth discussing and where a conversation has brewed go nowhere in social media, giving them considerably less page views and allowing them to fade off into obscurity.

And that’s totally fine with me. In fact, it’s become a game. I can almost predict the popularity of a post by the time I spent writing it. If I spent 10 minutes it has a chance to go hot on Sphinn. If I spend 40, it doesn’t. But that’s okay, because I’d rather write something I’m proud of and have it go nowhere, then chase page views. We’re not social media whores around here. We never have been.

But I wonder how other blogs work and what’d they rather have. If they’d rather have the conversation or the page views. Now, I’m not talking about folks who make a living from their blog;, obviously they’re chasing page views and ad clicks. I’m talking about the bloggers out there like me. The bloggers who write for a company or for themselves where they’re not directly making money off their blog and where their living isn’t based on how many people click through. What are they interested in?

Taking a look at some of what gets covered in the blogosphere (and not just in SEO), I see a lot of blogs chasing page views. Linking to certain stories so they’ll show up in TechMeme. Being jerks online or pretending to be offended by what someone else said so they can make a stink and get attention. It’s sad, but if you’re going for page views, it works!

Personally, I’d rather spark a good conversation. In his post, Louis Gray wrote that page views are only more important than conversation if you let them. I’d take some good community debate over a flood of Reddit or Digg visitors any day.

People started blogging because they wanted to spur a conversation, to share ideas and insight, and to learn new things. If that’s changed and if page views are today more important than conversation…I’m sorry but that sucks. That’s not a blog I want to write or a blog I want to read.

I don’t know how many page views Louis’ post got. I know it didn’t get a lot of TechMeme attention (at least not that I saw), but I do know that it has sparked a good conversation, and to me that’s more important. What’s most important on your blog: Page views or generating a good story? Do you quietly miss the days before Google AdWords, when you could just blog without having to be a slave to the almighty page view? When you didn’t have to think up a crafty new Reddit-friendly blog title and when you could instead focus on engaging your reader? Let it out; it’s okay. This is a safe place for discussion. :)

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One response to “Do You Miss The Old Days of Blogging?”

  1. Louis Gray writes:

    Nice job, Bruce. I almost want to put my fist in the air and say to fight the power. :-)

    The debate on whether ads on blogs made sense earlier this Spring was an unpopular one. Most people had opinions, but people would love to make money, even if in my mind, that shouldn’t be the top goal. And yes, I recognize how it may have seemed hypocritical to some that I posted the story yesterday when it has “Digg This” just below it. But I’ve got all the FeedFlares from FeedBurner going myself.

    One commenter said conversation doesn’t matter if there are no page views, so nobody sees it. Maybe the page view spike will leave future conversations having higher probability. I tend to think the spikes are a big cloud of dust, with people who may never come back. But I’m glad at least we’re talking about it.

    I blog to have conversations and meet new folks and share ideas. Sometimes my posts are popular, and they’re very often not at all. And… I’ll live.



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