What do bloggers owe their audience?

It’s usually the blog posts that get my attention but this weekend, it was the fracas in the comment section on Guy Kawasaki’s blog post that got me thinking. Guy posted on how Houston has the "funniest Web 2.0 babes" and he went on to share this hilarious introduction by Jenny Lawson of Good Mom/Bad Mom.

… What does matter though is that Guy Kawasaki kicks ass. That Guy Kawasaki is totally famous. That Guy Kawasaki is a genius who looks a little like Jackie Chan and could probably take you out with a roundhouse kick if he wanted to. And, most importantly, that Guy Kawasaki is here with us tonight.

So without further ado, I give you…Guy Kawasaki.

You can read the full introduction on Guy’s blog. For sure, it’s very funny stuff and and I am glad he shared it. But I think the verbal free-for-all that ensued in the audience ie. the comments section is worth a mention. Here’s what I am talking about:

…This post had nothing to do with changing the world and everything to do with Guy telling us how great his is. No feed reader in the world can sniff that out. You read a para or two to see what’s up. Nobody was trying to be rude. Nobody died. You dn’t have to defend Guy. Read the blog and appreciate the fact that it’s free. We’re just asking for some consistency.

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Wow – if you hate Guy’s blog – why stick around and complain? Move on! …I like this blog and regularly read it. I am thankful for the free gift. I pay no money to read this blog. If I don’t find a particular post useful, I can move on. That’s why they invented feed readers – or come to think of it – Alltop!

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….Self-serving and off-topic posts are Ok once I a while, in the same way occasional contextual advertising is acceptabl. However a balance must be maintained.

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Denis says –  "when one posts to a blog he should largely post for the benefit of the readers."

I say BS to that! The question begging to be asked and answered is – what if anything, do bloggers owe their audience? When an author writes anything it’s going to be self-serving. That’s the point of self expression. Do you think that every great writer in history wrote to please everyone? No, one writes about what one wants to write about. Period. End of story. Get over it.

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Wow, that’s some debate! The question at the heart of this fracas is – what if anything do bloggers owe their audience? Wikipedia’s definition of blog(ging) is,

A blog (an abridgment of the term web log) is a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.

In other words, a blog is supposed to be personal. But as blogging has evolved, there has been an emergence of ‘blogberties’ and professional mega-blog sites like the Technorati, GigaOM, Mashable, Huffington Post who have turned these ‘personal musings’ into a lucrative business. These professional blogs have an uncanny resemblance to the traditional news media networks. The emphasis is on constantly spewing content or being the first one with breaking news. But aside from the behemoth blogs and small select group of professional/B-List bloggers, blogging still largely remains an individual endeavor.   

Bendy3008 blogged about the relative unimportance of blogging and social networks based on Edelman’s Trust Barometer survey, which shows that consumers still find traditional news media, business magazine and newspaper articles to be the most credible sources of information on a company and/or product while blogging and social networks rank very low.

While individually, some blogs and bloggers have tremendous influence and credibility, it hasn’t translated to the blogosphere in general. Technorati claims to be tracking over 100million blogs and there are 175K  new blogs coming up everyday. That’s heck-of-a-lot of content out there and it’s challenging to separate the good ones from the bad. Not only is the volume of content staggering, blogging still remains a highly unstructured media. Bloggers control the format, content, frequency of their blog posts but there is no standard format or consistency.

On the other hand, traditional media has a very structured format, you typically don’t hear the news anchors or talk show hosts veering off-topic or devoting an entire episode to a discussion of their personal life. If that happens, how long do you think you’ll stick around before you flick the channel? So, while you get a very narrow view of things, traditional media still continues to be a much more credible source than most of the blogs out there and for a good reason.

I truly believe that the essence of blogging is keeping it human and keeping it conversational. Rankings do matter, but there’s a fine line between being ‘customer-oriented’ and pandering. As an avid consumer of blogs and a newbie blogger myself, I am acutely aware of the time, effort, and dedication it takes to churn out quality content. The advantage of blogs vs. traditional media is that there’s a great deal of value in getting unadulterated content from someone’s who’s not trying to pander to the masses or obsessed with ratings.

I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this debate. As blogs evolve, so will the audience and the expectations will go higher rather than lower. The blog audience has many choices, if they find that a blog doesn’t meet their expectations, they will vote with their feet or in this case… their mouse.

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8 responses to “What do bloggers owe their audience?

  1. Mia – I referenced this post in the comments on one of my posts (Social Media Identities). It fit very well with the discussion we’re having over there.

  2. first thanks for showing me guy kawasaki’s blog. I just bookmarked it too.

    For me blogging is about helping my readers overcome problems by offering them detailed solutions. I hate it when people blog about what they ate for lunch….its so 1999

  3. Hi Hutch, Thanks for the mention 🙂

  4. Hi there,
    You’re welcome! 🙂
    I couldn’t agree more. If your blog isn’t helping the readers, then you’re just adding noise to the blogosphere.

  5. Great article. I think it’s a really interesting debate. I feel that there’s a growing problem in blogs being developed specifically to develop traffic or income.

    That’s a problem in two ways really. It’s a false hope for most of those blogs, because there’s just too much competition. But equally it devalues the idea of blogging in general and undermines confidence in blogs where the writers really are trying to add value.

  6. Thanks, Robin!
    You raise a very good point. With thousands of blogs coming up every day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate the good from the bad. This unfettered proliferation of blogs negatively impacts the credibility of the blogging world in general.

  7. Blogs are like a canvas. They should be whatever the writer wants them to be. My blog is more like a collection of essays and quotes (like Andy Rooney), and I do it more as a creative outlet. Whether I have 2 readers or 200, it doesn’t matter to me too much. But what happens is I see how ridiculously high I come up on search results, (from referrals). Then I think this is fun, why not try to make money off of it? Blogging as a business would be a great lifestyle.

  8. Hi UH2L P,
    I couldn’t agree more! It’s great if you can make a great living doing something that you enjoy. I think the challenge for some bloggers is that once you start doing it seriously, it’s no longer fun because there’s the constant pressure of keeping your audience engaged.
    Cheers,
    Mia

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