Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 22, 201011:53 PM

Small Pieces Disjointly Joined

When was the last time you discovered a new Blog? How did you feel in the first second after you arrived? Confused? Lost? Unsure as to what you were looking at?

That's the problem with Blogs today (ok, it's one of the many problems with Blogs today). In thinking more about the New York Times and their desire to get people to pay for content (see more on that thought here: The Moment Of Truth), a lot of people have commented that they could get their news elsewhere or that they get a lot of their news, commentary and unique perspective from Blogs and specific Bloggers. In pushing that thought even further, why are Blogs not more popular? What's holding them back? If they're free plus they provide so much amazing insight and reading pleasure, why does Blog readership pale in comparison to the more traditional media channels.

Is it possible that Blogs only tell a very small story in a very specific moment in time, and that's confusing to the masses when they first see them?

I love Blogs (no surprise there). Many of the Blogs I love give me the same warmth and content comfort that I used to get from seeing the daily newspaper. Without question, I feel like I know (or that I am even "friends") with some of the Bloggers that I read and follow, but that statement needs context: I'm used to Blogs. I've been following them since the early 2000s. I understand how RSS works, the etiquette behind commenting, and what a trackback and permalink is. While most Blogs cover a general topic, the content within them changes and matures as the Bloggers gain confidence and audience, so when a newbie/first-timer stumbles along, what do they think and feel when they're suddenly thrust into a conversation and flow that has been a long time in the making?

Blogs are not like other print media.

While that's an obvious statement, it is - probably - one of their biggest flaws and hindrances to Blogging's long term success. A Blog can be intimidating at first blush. Whenever you arrive at a Blog, you're suddenly plopped into whatever little story/random thought is on that Blogger's mind at that specific moment in time. This is good for the regular readers, but could pose a major hurdle for those just starting to discover them.

Some have helped to quell this feeling of randomness.

There are some Blogs that have placed a tab in their navigation for first time readers or calls to actions for first-timers at the top of their Blog pages. While this can be helpful, we all know that usability and functionality still has many challenges when it comes really helping users navigate our online environments. Bottom line: it's hard to show a first-time Blog reader where where they should get started to be more comfortable with the platform and not ruin the online experience for those who have been there before.

Maybe being parachuted into this content is a good thing.

Yes, there is a little Digital Darwinism going on here. Many Bloggers (and this includes me from time-to-time) feel like people have to be smart enough to figure out some of this stuff on their own, and be smart enough to click around to discover if the content is relevant to them. If they don't, perhaps this type of publishing/conversation is not for them. It may seem a little elitist, and that's the point. Blogging was (and may very well still be) a wee bit elitist. You have to be at a certain calibre (or level of game play) in online knowledge to engage in this rapid-fire word joust in near-real-time.

It's probably not the best way to grow this media channel. As Bloggers, we need to think more about how to be much more welcoming. We need think more about how to make Blogs easier for people to connect with this type of content at first glance.

By Mitch Joel