Maximizing blog appeal. October 28, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: blog content, blog criticism, blogs, visual blogs
Here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, we love our blog host, WordPress, because it’s so easy to use, even if you’re Luddites like us. (A Luddite, by the way, is a technophobe whose idea of human-friendly technology is a laptop with Windows XP and a landline with voicemail.) WordPress also has a great spam filter, Akismet, that’s caught pretty much every piece of spam we ever get here so nothing embarrassing pops up in our comments section. Thank you, WordPress and Akismet!
However, occasionally Akismet gets over-zealous and puts a legitimate comment in our spam folder, like the one our friend Ben found there this morning. It reads (in part):
“Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. However imagine if you added some great photos or video clips to give your posts more ‘pop’!”
This isn’t spam, it’s legitimate criticism; the person wasn’t trying to sell us anything or link us to a porn site or something (at least, as far as I know). And they’re right. What we say might be “valuable and all,” but in today’s split-second world, where a tweet is probably considered way too long if it runs to the full 150 letters and spaces, and visuals have made constellations of superstars from YouTube to Instagram, our posts definitely fall short on ‘pop’. Waaaay short.
Every now and then, the three of us who write Poor Richard’s Almanac—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—get together to talk about this. And every time, we come to the same conclusion. We realize that our posts get hundreds rather than hundreds of thousands of views because there’s nothing here but writing. Our dreams of publishers beating down our doors and MacArthur “genius awards” raining down on us are just not going to happen in a text-only format.
But we’re writers, plain and simple, all three of us. That’s what we do, and what we do well. And we’re Luddites. What we don’t do well is use technology and take decent photos, and we wouldn’t have a clue how to make a video or embed a photo or video or soundtrack or you name it into one of our posts. Nor do we wish to learn how to do any of these things, much to the horror and incomprehension of many of our friends.
I guess the three of us are well matched in terms of blogging because we share this perspective: We want to do what we do well and effortlessly and only what we do well and effortlessly. Blogs don’t write themselves, after all. Unless somebody’s paying you to write and/or produce blog posts, it’s a pure labor of love on your part.
I could be heading down the road for a pizza or paying bills or watching a DVD instead of writing this post, but I’m putting in the time because I really, really do enjoy writing, and I hope at least a few of you out there still enjoy reading and thinking. (Maybe those folks who prefer the plain black-and-white Kindle e-reader to the Kindle Fire. But we’d rather have real books, none of us has ever used an e-reader or even audiobooks. We can’t help it, we’re Luddites, we love holding real books with real paper pages and real ink and drawing the scenes portrayed with words in our imaginations.)
This is the joy and challenge of writing: Helping readers see and experience what you see and experience through the medium of words. We paint, we sing, we sculpt, we cook with words. If we can’t draw you in—if you can’t smell and taste Silence’s black bean soup and hot cornbread and succulent, savory endive boats after reading her recipes, or know the Founding Fathers or famous pirates better after reading one of Richard’s posts about them, or connect to one of my rants—then we’ve failed you, and we’ve failed ourselves as writers.
Sure, we could throw in some photos. But we don’t think Silence’s black bean soup or Richard’s post about the greatest pirate of them all (not Blackbeard, not Captain Morgan, but the Great Pirate Roberts) would be improved. And while I wish I could show you a photo of my black German shepherd, Shiloh, or a video of Athena the Dancing Cat, I doubt that you’ll be grieving over their absence. After all, your time is as valuable as ours.
Ultimately, this is why blogs are so great. You can do what you want on your blog, and people can visit the blogs that resonate with them. If you want lots of visitors, you’d better have lots of photos and videos. It’s a smart way to maximize blog appeal in a visual age. Our advice is: Do what you enjoy. Enjoy your blog, whether you load it up with visuals and soundtracks and links or just say something you feel needs to be said. It’s all good.