Monday, April 17, 2006

passive trivia reader vs. active info seeker

Blogs that are just text, and especially those that are mere expressions of random opinions, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. With so many millions of blogs, users don't much care about some stranger's rantings and ravings, even about topics of great interest.

Bloggers must focus on the real value of their work. We must abandon the Passive Trivia Reader model, and accommodate the Active Information Seeker. If we think readers will repeatedly visit our blog, and hang on every word we type, we're sadly mistaken.

There's no novelty to blogs anymore. They're quickly assuming their rightful place as just another type of media. To say, "Visit my blog sometime", and expect that anyone will do it, is a vain hope. Why should they visit your blog? What value can readers find in it?

It used to be that companies would add "Visit us online at" or whatever, and anticipate a mad rush. These blase companies soon found out that you have to give users a good reason to visit a web site.

Why? Because most users already have too much to do online. To add a visit to your site, just to "check it out"? Not going to happen. Even if they know you and like you. Still not going to happen.

What attracts people
to a web site or blog?

* special "web-exclusive" offers, products, discounts
* valuable information
* practical ideas
* rare content that's hard to find elsewhere
* easy to understand how-to tips
* well-documented facts
* relevant quotes or statistics
* quality entertainment
* extremely funny anecdotes
* astonishing art
* incredible photos
* fascinating videos
* listenable podcasts
* unique personality shining through, that makes even mundane, trivial events seem comical or interesting.

I cannot stress often enough this fact, proven by user observation tests: web users and blog readers tend to be the exact opposite of the blog author.

What I mean is this...

After you publish your new post, you probably read it very slowly and carefully, admiring your genius thinking and perfect prose.

Your readers don't read your blog like you do.

Sometimes they don't even finish an entire rambling post. They often don't even follow your thoughts or arguments. They may totally misinterpret your meanings. A reader may stop reading part-way through...and post a hostile critique as a comment. They may even put words in your mouth that you never dreamed of saying.

20 Realities of
Typical Blog Readers:

People who visit your blog tend to be...

(1) in a hurry

(2) impatient

(3) distracted by television, work environment, phones calls, kids, cigarettes, music, etc.

(4) multi-tasking

(young people especially tend to eat, drink, watch TV, blog, and chat simultaneously)

(5) jaded, bored, hard to impress

(6) goal-oriented (specific purpose for visiting your blog)

(7) cynical

(8) skeptical

(9) absent-minded

(10) skimming/scanning (for relevant data or topics)

(11) preparing mentally for the next activity on their list

(12) expecting proof or anecdotal evidence

(13) fickle, disloyal

(14) easily offended

(15) repulsed by dense paragraphs and lengthy posts

(16) intolerant of multiple typos

(17) sensitive to inflammatory or unwarranted critique

(18) judgmental about personal faith, philosophy, or politics

(19) paradoxically attracted to controversy, confrontation, conflict

(20) quick to notice inconsistencies and faulty reasoning

CONCLUSION: Don't write or format your blog for a slow, patient, sympathetic blog reader. Expect your visitors to not be Passive Trivia Readers. They don't exist, aside from a tiny handful of ardent devotees. And even they can get their nose out of joint at ONE SINGLE SENTENCE they disagree with!

Write and format your blog for the vast majority of readers: the Active Info Seeker.

[ART at top of post = "Pastoral with Yellow Star" by David Salle]


carrie said...

wonderful post, image and all. i wholeheartedly agree and think this is an insightful list. but of course, we will all be guilty of improper or ineffective blogging at times... and that's: OKAY. ;-)

steven edward streight said...


I forgot to mention in my post that I'm referring mainly to business blogs. Not personal blogs.

And when I scold blogggers, I'm including myself especially. I've been wanting to get more focused, and less frivolous.

Blogs are enriched by variety, not conformity to a set pattern.

But there are certain guidelines that may be followed to great effect and impact.

Your blog is very good at describing personal events, without rambling on and on, narcissistically.

Your blog seems more like a generalized email to the world, as Doc Searls suggested a blog is. It's like a personal communique, a report from your life.

I'd like to see more weird art on your blog, odd photos, which you are good at finding.

I think though, that we all could stand to sit back and evaluate our blogs, and try to determine our purpose more clearly.

I know I need to. I'm always striving to shake myself up and challenge myself to improve.

They say a perfectionist is always crabby with self and others, while a continual improver is merely enthusiastic about incremental, gradual, purposive change toward a worthy goal.

Your blog is like a chameleon, always changing in design and content.

carrie said...

well, thank you for the info about my blog. i appreciate your thoughts.

sometimes i waiver between perfectionism and enthusiasm... or sink into negativity on occasion.