The Raven, writing today about several aspects of free speech ( waxes eloquently on the desperate feeling of new bloggers trying to find an audience:
For the time being we’re having lots of fun, writing cryptic notes to each other that very few people are going to run into by chance… And then you start to realize how deep you’re buried. You aren’t a one-man publishing empire, you’re a bit of trivia locked in an underground vault at the end of a hidden tunnel system that takes a committed effort to locate even with directions.
So what can the new blogger do to salvage his (or her) self-esteem when, like the guy that sets up a snazzy new office, sends out flyers and then sits by the phone wondering why no one is calling, his brilliant new blog flounders at the bottom of the page-reads list, unloved and, worse, unread?
I’ve advised start-up businesses how to bring new products to market, and, although the blogger has a lot less money at stake than the entrepreneur, here are a few ideas that may work analogously for start-up bloggers:
1. Do your research first: Read other blogs, learn what subjects, styles of post, and lengths of post, get the most audience response (number of page reads and comments) and, unless you’re really patient or actually like shouting in the darkness, give the market what it wants.
2. Notwithstanding hint #1, be really patient anyway. I’ve seen many great business ideas folded because the owner wasn’t prepared to wait for the idea’s time to come, or the market to discover it. And even the medium of blogging is still unknown to most potential readers. Take your time, enjoy the ride, develop a style, learn to write better in the process.
3. Notwithstanding hints #1 and #2, don’t copycat. Your ‘product’ has to be better and/or uniquely different from others’ if its going to be a market success. Better analysis, synthesis, composition, insight, your particular background, experience or perspective – something that fills a need that others’ blogs don’t.
4. Learn from your successes, your failures and your customers. If something innocuous attracts surprising attention, or you post a real scoop that falls into a black hole, find out why. If someone gives you a suggestion or a pat on the back, take it to heart.
5. Join a club and network like mad. Salon Blogs is a great start. Comment on others’ posts. Send them articles that you think they’ll find interesting that bring them to your blog. Read at least twenty times as much as you write. E-socialize.
6. Blogging is one of the rare ‘businesses’ that isn’t a zero-sum game. Just like locating your specialized bookstore across from Barnes & Noble might seem counter-intuitive but is actually very clever, linking to other blogs and sites that deal with the same topics yours does can actually increase traffic to your blog. But don’t forget hint #3. The key constraint you’re dealing with is readers’ lack of time, so get to the point.

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  1. The Raven says:

    Superb post, Dave. May have to link to it. You recapitulated a lot of advice that’s appeared here and there, but it always bears restatement. Especially the part about patience. Until Google has you cross-referenced eight ways to Sunday or you’re blogging about sex, you won’t see big numbers. If I recall correctly, it took about two months of posting two to three times a day before I was getting more than 40 hits per diem. The worst thing, really, is the way a new blog gets lots of attention the first couple of days out. That’s got to be an ego boost for the newbie. “Hey – ” he’s thinking, “They LOVE me!” And then the honeymoon’s over. Some people give up right then and there. Big mistake. Gotta stick it out awhile. Plus, most people aren’t going to cite you until you’ve shown you’ve got staying power, and no way they’re gonna blogroll before that. And some people seem to just hate your guts because… well, who knows? Eventually, quality is always recognized and responded to, and seeing that acorn grow into a mighty oak is almost as good as finding the right metaphor, which I didn’t. Regards, – R.

  2. Charly Z says:

    From taking a look at other weblogs’ referrals, I’d stress that (after getting all your hits from Google) the best way to attract attention is point #5. Though people will only become repeat customers if you can offer a consistent stream of writing, the best way to get them to know you is reach out to them.And then, there’s always a little cheating

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Raven: Thanks for the kind words; coming from someone who’s successfully stuck it out through the early days, it’s especially encouraging. And after reading Sharky’s dismal prognostication for newbies ( we need to hear it.

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Charly: Super ideas for increasing traffic to a new site (hardly cheating, though ;-) I agree that links to/from other blogs are the key, though I think having something interesting to say is right up there. I’ve also noticed that my (and others’) ‘how to’ posts seem to attract more attention than news, analysis etc. Now if I could only discipline myself to keep my posts shorter…

  5. The Raven says:

    Re Shirky’s comment, “It’s not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it’s harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year,”: I had to laugh because this is exactly what I wrote back in September 02. It was obvious then that early entrants were gaining a huge advantage. At what point “breaking into the game” becomes difficult is still to be determined. What makes Salonblogs work thus far is the daily top 100 list. That list doesn’t keep growing – it’s the daily top 100. Second, there’s still plenty of time to distinguish yourself and gain the attention of a “big node” in the pipe – we haven’t reached the doomsday scenario Shirky points out – although we will reach his prediction eventually. Assuming he’s right, and I have no reason to think he isn’t, it may be necessary for bloggers to occasionally migrate to different servers with “early entrant” potential. For example, AOL is going to be starting a Weblogging service. Anyone who sets up a solid, killer blog on that site within the first month and networks it like crazy is going to do well. – R.

  6. Charly Z says:

    Dave: Yes, if we don’t have anything distinctive to offer in our weblogs, no matter how many links we get, people will rarely want to check them out. As for finding a niche (a subject to focus your content on), I kinda ramble all over the place, so I feel the idea of sticking to a subject that becomes an attetion grabber is kinda limiting; I’d rather dress the Emperor in new clothes every day. Then again, maybe there is a niche for “let’s see what they brought left of field today” content and it’s just waiting to find moi.

  7. pete says:

    Excellent advice, which as a new blogger, I will take to heart.Reading other blogs is as much fun, often informative and more often than not very amusing than actually writing the stuff.There is an element of shouting into emptiness. Bit like life really.

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Hey, Pete, ‘Shouting into Emptiness’ sounds like a great name, or tag line, for a blog ;-) But then, as Salon blog readers know, A blog doesn’t need a clever name (

  9. mark says:

    Good tips Dave, and good suggestions from Raven and Charly. One thing that can’t be overemphasized is the need to write regularly, day after day, inspired or not. For me, by far the greatest number of hits comes from the recently updated page. I thought for the longest time that the higher I ranked, the more hits I would get, but it definitely doesn’t work out that way. If I stopped posting today, by Friday no one would visit me but Google.Best of luck.

  10. filchyboy says:

    Interesting points. I might add that patience is the key to anything. I have been doing this since about ’96. I am only now starting to get some real flow as I start to consolidate all my feeds and interests. I just ran my numbers yesterday and it looks like I’m running about 2.8 million readers a year. But when all things are said and done that is 6 years of effort to get there.I think the biggest point should be that if you are doling this for page views you are wasting your time. Write because you cannot do otherwise and it will all be okay. Write because you want an audience and you are better of on tv.

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Mark, you’re right for most of us, although last fall’s thread on this subject makes it clear that once you cross a certain threshold that’s no longer true. Scott Rosenberg was basically off-line all weekend but still managed more hits each day than the rest of us could dream of, due to ‘subscriptions’ and the link to his page from Salon’s home page. For the rest of us, we have to keep writing until we reach that pinnacle. The same thread also said the best time to update for maximum impact is 5-7am (yawn).

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Filchyboy: Spoken like a true writer. Six years of daily blogging? I’m in awe.

  13. Jeff says:

    This has been a great thread. Even though I am celebrating the second anniversary of my blog, I try to remember that it’s the writing that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something at the end of the day, not the hits. I would be lying if I said I didn’t look at my stats and referrer logs each morning, though. I’ve seen spikes when someone “big” has mentioned my posts. But they remain spikes. Of course, I don’t/can’t write every day. My life isn’t set up that way and I’ve found that I must work hard to write (which means often letting it sit on my computer a day or so to view it with fresh eyes). That’s just my process.

  14. Dave Pollard says:

    I’m pleasantly surprised at how much attention this post has received, and equally dismayed at the lack of response (comments or referrals) to what I though were my three most provocative posts this week: Voluntary Human Shields (, JAG & O’Reilly on the Friendly Fire Deaths ( and Greenspan’s Weaseling ( These 3 posts were quite short, and hit issues not really touched on by anyone else in the blogosphere that I’ve seen. Anyone hazard a guess why these posts got no traction with readers?

  15. xian says:

    metablogging always gets flow. it’s about the one thing you can be sure all bloggers care about to some extent: blogging.also, after some of us linked to your post some of our readers picked up the link, so there’s been a bit of a network effect. for example, sebastien paquet reads my blog and he himself has a lot of readers in the klogging and academic blogging world. i am now seeing people picking up his retransmission of my post about your post…

  16. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks xian. You describe an interesting organic model of how information in blogs and websites gets distributed. As a KM practitioner in my work life, I see this kind of pattern quite often. One might almost think the growth and survival of blogs is governed by Darwinian principles.

  17. Tanya says:

    After being introduced to blogging (4 weeks ago) I am fascinated and thought provoked by much I have read including your piece especially as most of my exploration is through links to other peoples pages. Now as I consider coming out and becoming a blogger myself your words will stew in mind as having provided much food for thought. THANK YOU

  18. Mark says:

    Excellent post. Alot of good info I will be using it to help build my blog. I have read numerous articles on blogging, but this one makes the points clear and concise. Thanks again.

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