I watch a major segment of the blogging industry closely. Women bloggers.
The writing industry has always been a tough nut to crack. Book publishing is not dead, but it has gone digital. Magazine publishing is shifting and a large percentage of women read blogs instead of picking up a magazine for some female-centric time. The magazine industry trends mirror the expansion of tablet, smart phones and other digital delivery devices.
But as for the blogging industry, there is no single industrial cluster that examines this area of publishing that can really compare to organizations and centralized research that support the print industry to the same degree. OPA is probably the closest thing to an association of digital publishers. But this organization is focused on publishing for profit and the changing world of small online publishers advocacy publication may not be well represented with the weight given this publication.
So where do bloggers go to get data to inform their publication practices? This is a very real concern of mine as I watch some of the best bloggers I know stumble over what should be standard blogging practices. I am exploring here, not criticizing, or problem solving.
Information PathWays – Distribution and Networks
Bloggers count on readers finding them through search and word-of-mouth, although the latter is more like word-of-web these days. Best practices will keep you out of hot water with DMCA take-downs and the FTC fines but please Google may be the most important current practice of all because Google is the Gatekeeper of digital pathways.
Peer Information Exchange versus Selling to Your Peers
The really good bloggers I know who win awards, who are asked to do public speaking, and who seem to have the best advertisers (read money-making) on their sites, still seem to be floundering around a bit when it comes to networking. My evidence for this comes from:
- watching one of the most promising networks of bloggers since BlogHer started crash and burn within the last year because of a very old and predictable snafu. There was a difference of vision.
- watching the rise of Facebook Groups dedicated to the blogging process that turn into distribution networks for link spam. The Groucho adage is true here: ” I don’t want to be a member of any group that would have me as a member.” Bloggers who blog for other bloggers tap a finite market of quality, timely topics. Finding the fresh spin on those topics is a difficult task that most bloggers just are not up to navigating in a successful fashion.
- the growth of private comment sharing groups who create real comments for each others posts in order to increase their exposure are tapping a potentially closed market while breaking one of Google’s major rules about having “true collaboration and natural back links” as noted in a recent Copy Blogger article
The people behind the ventures that birthed these examples are smart, savvy and successful women who want to tap what they see and feel to be a pulse and trajectory of a new technologically networked society drawing upon emergent properties. Corporations and networks are out-maneuvering the the small players. Imagine that.
What Small Online Writers Do Best
So, my recommendations for small bloggers and digital publishers:
- focus on the new and different
- don’t follow the corporate examples
- network, search, mine and discover
- cultivate stimulating contacts
Will these things guarantee success? Nope. But nearly all successful digital writers will have done these things. Being a low-, under- or un-paid writer constricted by advertisers or publishers who are sapping your creativity and your personal network for their success is not a success strategy either.
Your own geographic communities and online friendships, not in the largest Facebook sense of the word, are what will support and nourish your blogging. Figure out your local social media scene, the maker spaces in your community, like-minded people , and support each those as well as the few social media contacts that really appeal to you.
Bloggers are writers, and no one is ever “just a writer.”
There are, from what I can tell, some very open niches for trade associations and groups for the new breed of digital writers often labelled as “just a blogger.” Information about the work of blogging is woefully disjoint and difficult to access. When writers tap other writers as experts there can be immense reward, but rewarding engagement is less likely to happen when a writer sees another writer as a B to B, or B to C opportunity.
So, what information and support do you need to produce optimal content? Do you need information about what other businesses publish? Do you need information about who your potential readers and clients are? Do you need information about finding outlets for your writing locally? What are the questions you need to answer to make your blog, whether personal or professional, a better publicaiton? Why do existing online networks and associations not fit your needs?