Follow Up: The Crux of the Confusion About Metablogging

by Kurt

It is fascinating how many (if not most) lists of ‘successful bloggers’ seem to focus on either (1) metablogs about blogging to make money online or (2) that discuss business or marketing, which are not too dissimilar from the first sort or (3) semi-personal blogs that, with few exceptions such as celebrities, are rarely successful in terms of traffic or earnings. This reader comment, to me, sums up how that confusion is translated by newcomers to online publishing:

I am with the others. I went to all of the top sites you listed that make a ton of money and with the exception of perezhilton I really don’t understand them. I really don’t think they are appealing to mainstream bloggers who blog about their lives, their jobs, their hobbies, their kids, etc… I just don’t understand the photos of cats. It seems silly and it’s not really a blog. Nothing is being learned there so I don’t get it. I am trying to develop my own niche blog but I was thinking more along the lines of the lighter side of life..maybe incorporating humor into my every day experiences that I believe most Americans experience…either that or a review of McDonald’s restaurants all over the country. Even that is more appealing to me than a blog with crazy cat pictures.

  • Audience: The sites mentioned may not appeal to “mainstream bloggers” – but even if that turned out to be correct it would only illustrate a critical point of confusion: blog writers are not necessarily blog readers, and audiences vary. Personally, I do not check ICanHasCheezburger for the latest captioned cat imagery nor do I find the celebrity gossip and poorly-edited images of PerezHilton personally entertaining, but I have looked them over with a critical eye – as should anyone who wants to understand online publishing – and at least comprehend the source and nature of their success.
  • Authorship: As to writing about personal life stories … sorry, but most of us find that mind-numbingly boring. We already communicate with friends, family and others about daily life – we read web content to either entertain and/or inform us. There are exceptions. Facebook, Twitter and other social sites exist for sharing this kind of day-to-day content. They are also easier to use and communicate through – likely better options for someone looking for this sort of more personalized and direct interaction.
  • Alternative: Perhaps the most fascinating part of the above-excerpted comment, however, is the final note about reviewing fast food joints around the country. Now, if you asked a fan of ICanHasCheezburger they might turn the tables and say: but cats with captions are at least more interesting than reviews of mass-produced restaurant chains. It is entirely subjective. The point is: there probably would indeed be a market for such a review site – either for the practical information it would impart or simply for the entertainment value.

The lesson to be learned here: define your own terms for success and then understand the sites that are already successful on those terms. If your goal is to simply express yourself, great: start your personal weblog or social media profile and have at it. If, however, you seek fame, fortune or at least a significant following, then read, re-read and read again each of those sites that are successes on those terms. It might be a tad hyperbolic, but I believe that no one has a serious shot at success unless they understand the work of their peers and colleagues in the same or similar fields. If you do not “like” or “get” them then you are going to have to go back and try again.