Blog sociology 1: The Single Outlier Theory

Successful blogging seems to requires focus. I base this conclusion on the usual list of hot blogs in WordPress. A high-traffic blog is usually a nexus for posting, talking, thinking about a single topic or theme. Technology. Food. Sports.

However, it also appears that successful bloggers are allowed one recurring outlier. That’s how we get David Churbuck’s blog: “Comments on media, technology, marketing and clamming strategies”. If you know David, the first three are all one subject mashed together. The clams are the outlier. The Venture Capital blog I read talks about business and throws in the odd music post.

I think readers will allow you one outlier. After that the blog either becomes Mildly Interesting to Everyone but Fascinating to Noone, or the blogger has to cobble together some artificial focus: “This Blog’s About About Eclecticism!” or “Reassembler!” or some such nonsense.


5 thoughts on “Blog sociology 1: The Single Outlier Theory

  1. I think that like any ongoing writing exercise, you start with an idea and it evolves over time; what works, what doesn’t. Where the main focus is, where the off-beat topic is. You decide on how to judge that. Is it based on reader response? page impressions? AdSense checks? how you feel about the quality of the work? If you are depending on it to make a living, of course, it’s metrics metrics metrics.

  2. Hi Michael – without knowing your actual traffic statistics I would certainly commend your blog [] as an exceptional success. You’ve become a recognized and authoritative source of information on a very specialized and signficant topic. “Recognized” as measured by the fact that people in prominent positions return your phone calls and know your blog.
    My topic (if you can call it a topic) is sufficiently diffuse that I probably shouldn’t aspire to the same kind of success.
    On the other hand, putting together disparate or incongruous ideas sometimes leads to “eureka” moments that bring about advances in science, health, materials, design, you name it. So I do think it’s a very worthwhile activity.

  3. A nice piece of analysis.

    Blogging has often been sold to the public as an online diary, a running record of your life. And that’s fine, for you and an immediate circle.

    For those who are considering blogging long-term, and writing for a broader audience, it’s probably best to treat blogging as a form of pamphlet writing. Short, persuasive articles on a consistent theme.

    And if you look at it that way, blogging could become a powerful tool for social change. You just have to look at some of the profound social movements that grew out of the 19th Century (anti-slavery, pro-franchise) and see how they were all driven from the grassroots, via grubby little sheets passed around till they disintegrated.

    And that, is an intoxicating thought.


  4. ggw – Very interesting indeed!

    Of course the reason I like your blog is precisely that it isn’t focused :) In publishing, there’s a great deal made of the notion that online readers have no attention span. So long is out, short is in. That can have a negative effect or a positive effect. The negative is when short = thoughtless, shallow. The positive is when you have an interesting insight but force yourself to express it in a compact, streamlined way. That discipline can actually improve and clarify the insight. I think your blog shows a lot of thought without being longwinded. – Derek

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