Every so often someone writes a post giving tips on how to create a successful blog. Simon World has such a post and, for the most part, his advice is good. But the post itself is noteworthy and you should bookmark it because of Simon’s excellent compilation of posts that other bloggers (mostly quite successful bloggers) have written on the subject.
Let’s look at a few facts about the top twenty blogs from the TTLB Ecosystem:
|1||Michelle Malkin||June 2004||6,171||86,967||Journalist|
|3||Daily Kos||May 2002||5,271||560,636|
|4||Captain’s Quarters||October 2003||4,595||30,947|
|5||Power Line||May 2002||4,078||69,986|
|6||Boing Boing||January 2000||3,890||?|
|8||The Drudge Report||1998||3744||?|
|10||The Volokh Conspiracy||April 2002||2,898||16,317||Academic|
|11||Outside the Beltway||January 2003||2,772||7,623||Academic|
|12||Talking Points Memo||November 2000||2,697||?|
|14||Hugh Hewitt||January 2003||2,446||29,484||Academic, journalist|
|15||The Washington Monthly||August 2002||2,426||45,559|
|16||Mudville Gazette||February 2003||2,296||5,736|
|17||The Huffington Post||May 2005||2,276||?||Journalist|
|18||Andrew Sullivan||August 2000||2,086||30,768||Journalist|
|19||The Evangelical Outpost||October 2003||2,017||935|
|20||La Shawn Barber’s Corner||November 2003||2,008||?||Free-lance journalist|
More than half of the top twenty are professional writers; several are academics; some were celebrities at least to some degree before beginning to blog.
There’s something else to note: both traffic and links decay rapidly once you get past the top few blogs. ur-blogger Clay Shirky observed quite some time ago that the pattern follows a power law distribution. And from the table above one of the things that jumps out is that longevity is one of the important factors: only two of the Top 20 Ecosystem blogs started after 2003 and both of those were started by people with some degree of celebrity prior to blogging.
There’s another little piece of prevailing blogging wisdom that I have serious doubts about: the idea that the most successful bloggers have something unique or fill a niche. With the exception of Boing Boing (and Boing Boing is the oldest by a considerable margin) all of the top blogs comment on news of the day. Sure, they have constituencies and points-of-view. Unique? Hardly. But most have been in their niches for quite some time.
So, here are my tips for becoming a top blogger: be a celebrity academic or journalist and start your blog in 2000 or before. Be outrageous. Attract attention. Throw red meat.
Or, better yet, pick another goal. I don’t have any ambitions to break into the Top 100 blogs (or even the Top 500). So I won’t be disappointed if I don’t make it to the top of the Ecosystem. I write in my blog to garner a bigger audience for my ideas, to express and, consequently, improve my ideas, to improve my writing, to sharpen my mental acuity (I can tell you with confidence that blogging has improved my attention span and sharpness), and for the social aspects of blogging—the fellowship.
So here are my tips for success in blogging:
- Identify your goals in blogging. Make them high enough to require effort but low enough to be achieveable.
- If you achieve your goals, re-examine them. If they’re still legitimate, be happy with what you’ve accomplished.
- Your style and content will by definition be suited to the audience you attract. Consider how big that audience actually is. Either change your style and content for a larger audience or be willing to accept the audience that your style and content attracts.
- Market your blog but don’t be an idiot (I’m still working on this one).