What makes a good blog?

I seem to get pulled into daily discussions from people trying to get a blog off the ground.  There appears to be a common misconception that all you have to do is post something and thousands of people will flock to your site, eager to listen to your rhetoric and add their own views.  I have literally lost count of the number of bloggers who put out a few posts, only to leave the thing stranded gathering web-dust.  Cyberspace is littered with blog-junk that clutters web-searches and gives the impression their owner fell off a cliff or experienced some other inexplicable disappearing occurrence.  Bottom-line – if you're going to start a blog, stick with it. 

Those blogs today that now get substantial traffic and almost cult-like followings are those that developed a personality and kept at it.  Let's be honest, you'll pick up a copy of a magazine if there's a story advertised that interests you.  However, if the article fails to keep your interest beyond the first paragraph because it is:

a) telling you nothing new,Blogger

b) boring, or

c) has little relevance to your interests,

the chances are you will not pick up that magazine again. 

The same applies to blogs.  Readers are operating entirely under their own volition to click on a blog posting and read it.  If any of the three categories above apply, you are likely never go to that blog again.  Hence, bloggers need to captivate their audiences quickly, be consistent with content, originality and humor, and post regularly, to have any chance of developing a blog-brand.

Here are some hi-tech/services blog "categories" and how they tend to fare:

The Independent consultants:  Tend to be among the most successful bloggers. Good consultants tend to have a lot to talk about and (on occasion) good content, and always a point of view.  In addition, many consultants need an outlet to expound their views, especially when they have been on client-site in the Midwest for 4 months with the client from hell.  Prone to blog-failure – have seen several big-shot consultants blog for a few weeks and give up (usually with good reason).

Pros:  Plenty of content, always a viewpoint.  Tend to be prolific.

Cons:  Prone to waffling, and going off-point.  Occasionally get caught in issues that only they find interesting. Can be sporadic with posting frequency.  Often lacking in humor

The Journalists:  The most natural bloggers.  They know a good story when they see one, and are skilled at attracting attention to their story.  Particularly effective where they have comments feature under theire articles.

Pros: Always well-written and eye catching.  Punchy and entertaining. 

Cons:  Can often lack a viewpoint – good at reporting news and inviting commentary from others, but not always the best at delivering pointed opinions themselves.

Analysts:  A mixed bag.  Analysts expect the world to stop and listen to what they have to say (as an analyst myself, I can get away with saying that).  However, a blog post is not a research article – it is an outlet for discussion and needs to be punchy, sometimes creative, informative and amusing. Not in the DNA for every analyst, unfortunately.

Pros: Great content, often prolific, sometimes edgy and thought-leading.  Great to stimulating debate and cultivating ideas.

Cons: Can drone on too much, doesn't often invite opinion, prone to being dull and lacking in humour.  Occasionally falls victim to an earth-shattering proclamation that is it a little off-base.

Anonymous folks:  Can be excellent!  These are often practitioners or suppliers who choose to remain anonymous due to the need for confidentiality, or the simple fact their firm won't let them blog (respect to them).

Pros:  Untethered, unafraid opinion.  Usually have cult followings and great discussion

Cons:  Their author(s) get paranoid that they will be outed (they usually get found out…).  Often hard to develop a personality when noone knows who the author really is.  Can get too focused on the micro-issues of the blogger and miss the bigger picture.  Many anonymous blogs have failed.

Corporate blogs: Good, but often lack edge.  Most companies feel the need to have a "blog" option on their website, and there's always a willing employee who wants to churn out a few musings.

Pros:  Professional quality content is guaranteed.  Most posts are vetted / edited by marketing and generally have good information.  Can be highly educational and informative.  Tend to work better for the corporations's own staff to opine their views, as opposed to external people.

Cons:  Bias is inevitable in many cases.  People like to go to blogs that are run by individual personalities, not corporates, hence discussion is often restrained and tepid.  Often not timely to respond to industry news as they have cumbersome review procedures internally before being released.

Blogger stables:  Mixed bag.  These are "stables" of bloggers, usually brought together by an online publication that has decided its best blogging strategy is to get a collection of individuals to blog for them and compensate them based on traffic flow them cab generate.  Creates a potentially-powerful content-medium for online media who want to embrace the blogshere, rather than risk getting run out of town:  see Blog-culture is ripping up the rule book for the outsourcing services and technology media industry.  Works for the aspiring blogger who wants to blog, but isn't so bothered about developing a unique personal portal of her own.  

Pros:  Good traffic, and easy to get a blog up and running on this platform. Easy to introduce new content, concepts etc.  Plenty of choice and content for the reader. Usually get some unique, unfettered opinions from bloggers vying for headline posts within their stable.  The stable culture drives some "blog-petition" across their bloggers, and improves the quality of some of the laggards, who need to keep pace with the thought-leaders.

Cons: The blogging platform is standardized to the look-and-feel of the online publication, lacking that individual personality. Some of these stable bloggers are likely to be using the stable as a back-up blog to their individual one.  Other stable bloggers use these platforms as they do not have the know-how of confidence to run their own blogs – often the content is less punchy or informative and can  prone to too much waffling.  The traffic is normally from bored web-surfers, often not particularly engaged with that blog and are one-time visitors – hence can be tough to develop a loyal network of followers to that blog. 

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6 Comments

  1. Mike O.
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    One measure I use to determine how good a blog is how well it engages dialog. While there is certain value in recording thought and having others read it, success or “goodness” includes discussion it brings about.

    Under the blog author category of “Analysts” you touch on “thought-leading”, “stimulating debate” and “cultivating ideas”. Insight and original thought are a big part of it as well.

    There is one area of blogging that is being changed by tools like twitter. This is getting the scoop on industry news or industry gossip. Twitter is being to show potential for breaking news because it is more immediate. It is surprising to see in 140 character bytes how much analysis is offered as well.

    “Horses for Sources” is in my RSS reader feed. It passes muster. Bottom-line, here’s to your sticking with it!!!

  2. Posted September 9, 2008 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I think that’s a great post, Phil.

    Speaking as a professional writer I am made very nervous by what you call “Blogger Stables” … already a post of mine from my cancer blog has been heisted by one of these content farms, slightly re-written so it’s now utter gobbledeygook – do they honestly think they can get around my copyright by changing a few words? Anyway I could prove it was mine because they had forgotten to take out some imbedded links to my website!!

    I have received several invitations to write for such outfits and can well imagine that for the small sums of money involved, it must be very tempting for writers to lift material from elsewhere rather than spend any time on doing something good.

    What all that cheap content means is that the web is getting laden with more and more low-quality text and for people like me at least, that’s NOT good for business. I hate to see cyberspace cluttered up with b*llsh*t.

    Suzan

  3. Julie Sullivan
    Posted September 9, 2008 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    1) A blog needs to be updated predictably or your readers will go away.

    2) It needs to look good. Endless paragraphs of print on a bi-color page are boring. Liven it up with photographs, graphics, sidebars and links.

    3) Have something interesting and new to say or show. Think value-added. Don’t just regurgitate stuff you found elsewhere on the internet.

    4) Keep it short.

  4. Jessie Goh
    Posted September 9, 2008 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil

    IMHO, a good blog is one that connects with the audience and does not try to sell. It is giving and does not expect to receive anything (well at least on the surface). It will have attention grabbing subject titles, videos and photos. In essence, connect with the audience and have fun.

    Jessie

  5. Posted September 13, 2008 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Yup, I’ve see quite a few analyst blogs that take on those exact characteristics.

  6. Posted September 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    You know a blog is good when Mike O. adds it to his feeds!

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