I have a lot of friends who work in book production. When the publishing industry began to change and ebooks grew in popularity, putting some people out of jobs, they looked at me, the editor, and said, you’re safe. You’re on the content side. Publishers will always need editors, writers, and people working with content.
As I simultaneously entered the blogosphere, I became more disenchanted. Most blogs weren’t writer-centric. They weren’t generating new content, they were rehashing—“aggregating”—content. Any new content provided was mostly in the form of criticism. Obviously that’s not all blogs, as today there are many blogs that feature fascinating stories that cater to niche readers, but if you follow the rabbit hole long enough you tend to see the same material linked over and over again.
In “Content Is No Longer King,” Ben Elowitz makes a very interesting and valuable point: “Content isn’t the goal. Audience is.” He explains that distribution needs more focus today. Packaging and delivery are just as important as what you have to say. In the end, advertisers—the people who pay your bills—care about how many readers you have, not what it is you’re actually saying.
Okay, that’s true, but it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Which comes first, the audience or the content? You need to have content to draw an audience, right? Well, yes and no. Here are two different stories:
A while back, a bunch of my favorite blogs mentioned a new food blog. Because of their lovely posts, I trusted their opinion on this new blog and clicked to check it out. It was indeed an adorable blog with pictures that made my mouth water. Unfortunately, there were only two or three posts. I went back a while later and there was maybe another post or two, but nothing too substantial. Now I no longer remember the name of the blog. My point is, they had beautiful packaging and a built in audience, thanks to all the hype, but without significant content they failed to keep me as a reader.
On the flip side, I’ve read many blogs that have great content, content that has informed and inspired me. However, these same blogs appear to have no following. Perhaps they get many hits, but no one leaves witty remarks in the comments section. So great content obviously isn’t enough. These bloggers are failing to reach an audience, perhaps because of their distribution or lack-thereof.
Elowitz gives a few tips on distribution. He says:
Put someone in charge of audience development
Adopt an audience development strategy
Under each of these headers he explains the tips. They’re valuable tips, but they’re also vague. What are some audience development strategies? Elowitz says “know your audience segments, and what each one will like.” I’d like to expand on that a little because it’s an important point. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:
- What can you do to make your blog stand out from other blogs on that subject?
- Is your content too broad?
- Who is your dream reader?
- Would you read your blog?
- What ideas can you “steal” from other blogs? Don’t literally copy and paste content or do the exact same thing as another blog, but think about what your favorite blogs are doing right and use it as inspiration.
- Is your voice consistent?
- Are you blogging often enough?
Now as far as getting your content out there, Elowitz mentions disseminating content through social media. I’ve definitely found Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to be useful means toward promoting and distributing work. However, you have to an audience on these social media platforms for it to work. So, again, it all comes back to finding and developing that audience. How do you reach an audience on social media? Here are some questions to think about:
- Do you sound like an advertiser? Buy this! Read this! Click here!
- Do you sound needy? Like me! Follow me! Share this! Subscribe!
- Are you only disseminating your work or are you promoting other bloggers’ work too?
- Are you only posting or are you interacting with your any followers?
- What time of day are you posting?
- Can any of your older posts be redistributed?
- Are you following people who have the same interests as what you blog about?
- Are you leaving comments on other people’s works?
- Is your social media voice consistent with your blogging voice?
It’s important to be patient and consistent. As in the example above, it’s not always a good thing to have an immediate following. You want to grow with your audience.
Think of it this way: Content and audience aren’t king. You are king. You rule your corner of the blogosphere, making important decisions about content. The diplomatic aspect of being ruler is developing relationships with your subjects (your audience) and other rulers of the blogosphere. If you’re a benevolent king, spreading good will (content) and cheer (promoting and encouraging other bloggers), more people will want to visit your kingdom.