Once talking to a brilliant marketing professor from New Orleans, whom I have already mentioned a few months ago on this blog, I was given a most interesting definition of PR. In his own words, a failed PR attempt is “like pissing in your pants while wearing a dark suit because you get a warm glow and nobody knows about it”. Once the initial burst of laughter gone, this wise thought got me thinking about blogs. Does the same hold true for every single blogger out there? Are we all, collectively, wetting our pants, typing our thoughts away into the /dev/null of the publishing world?
That fear of speaking into a wide emptiness is common among bloggers and I know of nobody who, a few days after launching his own feed and looking at stats that steadily oscillate between zero and five — three of which account for your reloading your own page from home, work and a friend’s house — doesn’t pause, wondering whether that new blog of theirs isn’t going to be a monumental flop. Heck, even the Soup, which is definitely not destined to earn money, raised its share of questions at its beginning.
Considering how few people actually read blogs and considering that most of these are most likely to write their own, how much room for interaction does it leave? How closed is, in fact, the blogging world and how much traffic does it generate? Some blogs out there are, without a single question, extremely popular and can boast thousands of readers but these are usually news blogs or specialized feeds that serve a role as information resource. The personal blog, the one you write on the corner of your kitchen counter, waiting for the chicken casserole to re-heat, is the one that, while potentially richest, slips under the radar most easily.
There are, of course, ways out: working hand in hand with partners that already enjoy some publishing force (such as O’Reilly indeed), exchanging links (in good taste, always) with other bloggers, writing the best content you can for years: all these routes have good chances to lead your blog to a relative success. Yet, one has to wonder where a blog that is pushed stops being a “Blog” and starts becoming an online magazine of some sort — not that it would be bad, of course, but it would certainly be different. Tricky, uh?
Discussing with fellow bloggers and writers, one answer stood out: the main objective in blogging is not to be known or read but to lay down thoughts of paper, much like one writes a private journal. In fact, many people told me they preferred knowing their blog had a very restrained readership because it made it easier for them to speak their mind and share personal experiences, making their writing experience more enjoyable — which, incidentally, brings us back to the eternal problem of statistics.
The current reputation tools in the blogging world are everything but reliable and word of mouth, that friendly recommendation, remains the best way to create a readership that will care about what you have to say.
Even more than it brings power to the masses, than it puts freedom of expression in the hands of the individuals, is a blog a personal venture above all?