A few days ago I implemented asides on my blog. These are sometimes called “tumblelog” posts and give me a way to write short pithy posts about this or that. For me it was really important to give these posts a different look on my blog (at least on index pages), so that you the reader would not get confused.
See, until now I have limited myself to “meaty”/lengthy posts that tend to dig in fairly deeply into a matter. I spend a long time on each of these and do a lot of thinking in advance, which I hope is reflected in the content.
But it became clear to me some time ago that I also wanted to be able to communicate in a different way as well, with short, sharp posts that may be no more than an external link to an interesting article, say. Nothing wrong with wanting to do that, but I was concerned to avoid sending a confusing message to you, the reader, that you would henceforth not know what to expect from me, and hence the “asides” format was born.
Then today I received this message (in part) from a fellow blogger:
What do you think of the idea of having two blogs, one in which the content is concise, engaging, emotive, and the content of the other is more in-depth and philosophical. I know a few people do something similar, though usually it’s someone talking about the facts of something they’re interested in, in the “professional” version of their blog, and their opinions in the “personal” version. But they’re not necessarily always mirroring each post. I probably would.
I enjoy exploring topics in detail, but I know it doesn’t necessarily attract visitors. I also know that a lot of what I write could be condensed and re-structured to be more appealing. I would hope that a more engaging site would filter more people through to an in-depth discussion.
Can you foresee any negative side-effects to something like this? A couple of things I can think of are:
- Weaker positioning on social networking sites because votes which may have all gone to one site now go to one of two. But I suspect this wouldn’t really be a problem because the engaging site would bring in more votes for *both* than the in-depth one on it’s own.
- Confusion regarding what the purpose of each site is. This shouldn’t be hard at all to counter as long as the style and content of each site is clear and consistent.
What do you think?
This guy is struggling with the feeling that he can’t write in both ways on one blog. It would be mixing genres, so to speak. It would be the same as receiving a love-letter from your sweetheart, which half way through switches into legal language like you read in a contract. You might understand what’s being said, but it would be frustrating to read and confusing too.
And so he’s pretty much decided he needs two blogs: one for each “genre” (writing style) even if both are ostensibly on the same topic.
How to Decided Whether You Need More Than One Blog
Deciding whether you need more than one blog to cover your own writings is really a strategy question. Peter Drucker‘s cardinal three questions apply here:
- What is my business?
- Who is my customer?
- What does the customer consider value?
As you consider the content and style of what you want to blog about, continually ask yourself these three questions. They’re the same questions Peter Drucker would ask Big Business CEOs the world over, and they’re designed to force you to focus on the essence of your task (in your case blogging, in their case running a corporation!).
Forget writing style (genres) for a moment. Think about what you want to write about and to whom. I would say that as long as these two do not change, you only need one blog. I’ll use myself as an case study:
- What is my business?
I write a blog about blogging, covering all kinds of topics relevant to blogging, including design, SEO, platforms and technology, social media and blog marketing, and trends.
- Who is my customer?
My customer is anyone who takes blogging seriously enough that they are investing time and effort to get good at it. My customers come in all ages, sizes and nationalities, and are united in their more-than-passing interest in blogging.
- What does the customer consider value?
For my average customer (read: faithful reader) value is derived in a number of ways: skills are learned; new technologies are introduced; errors are uncovered; new approaches are explored; relationships with other bloggers are initiated; a (moderately) “successful” example is presented; an enjoyable (occasionally entertaining) reading experience is had. Perhaps there’s more going on than that, but that’s a start!
Now, as some of you will know there’s a whole other area of my life. I am a theologically trained Bible-believing passionate-about-Jesus kind of Christian. Truth be known, he is the driving passion of my life. I really get off on blogging but I’m sure could give it up if I had to. I could never give Jesus up.
But to start to post regularly and consistently about my faith journey, my reflections on Christian issues or “church stuff” would be a clear departure from the three points above. That said, it is clear to me that I should feel free to blog about that stuff, but not on this blog. Or, if I do choose to shift this blog’s focus, I should be explicit with my readers about that shift, so that it doesn’t come as a suprise and so that people are free to “leave”.
Similarly, but more subtly, I think I’d be making a definite shift away from my above-stated “focus” if I were to spend much more time prattling on about Digg. About three months ago I think I posted about as much about Digg as I dared without “breaking the rules” of my blog. See, Digg relates to blogging, but only a small part of it.
So here’s what I recommend you do…
Answer those three key questions for yourself; for your blog. You should do this because, like it or not, your readers will automatically be discerning your “niche”, your subject focus, as they read. It will help then, among other things, if you name your blog around that focus:
- Alister Cameron // Blogologist – a blog about blogging; changing the world one blog(ger) at a time… and all that;
- Scrapscene – the who’s who of celebrity scrapbookers;
- Digital Photography School – a blog about taking better digital photos.
Then… stick like superglue to your topic. Even if there is no money passing across the table, most readers (except your mom) are there because there is an unspoken “contract” in place: while you keep writing about the stuff you’ve said you’re writing about, they stay. If you stray they’ll go away. Repeat after me:
If I stray they’ll go away.
Trust me on this: if you will look at your blog(s) as would a business guru like Peter Drucker, carefully answering those three questions and revisiting them regularly, you will keep much better focus, and it will be quite straightforwardly obvious to you when you need to start another blog (with a different focus).
How to Write In Different Ways on the One Blog
But back to our blogger friend with the “genre issue”.
I am convinced different writing styles do not imply a contravention of the focus we’re maintaining around the three questions we’ve been answering. But I do agree that it’s possible to confuse and even annoy readers if you want to write in different ways (genres) but are not careful how you do it.
But it’s all about the looks and the labels, I reckon.
- The looks.
Have a look at my hompage, and Matt’s. We both use asides. I designed mine to look much the same as his. Both blogs are examples of how you can make blog posts look dramatically different, based on their genre. In this case, asides look a lot simpler than “full” blog posts. Your readers work that out really quickly and appreciate that you’re doing them a favour in reinforcing the genre difference visually.
- The labels.
Liz Strauss does this really well, I think. By labels, I mean images or text that stand out at the top of your posts, identifying each as a member of a series of posts, a weekly column, or related to a particular subject area, etc. In Liz’s case, her large and faithful readership find it easy and “comfortable” to read her blog because she provides consistent visual cues to tell them what kind of blog post she’s writing. If you’ve not been over to her site, or even if you have, here’s your assignment: go over there and click through the first ten or so pages of her blog’s index pages (archive pages). Scan through the posts you see and notice recurring “genres”/types of posts: Inside Out Thinking, SOBs, the SOB Business Café, I’ve Been Thinking…, Tuesday Open Comment Night, Bloggy Questions, B.A.D. Bloggers, etc. And each has an image or other visual cue — a label — attached to it.
So if you want to “mix it up” a little on your blog, writing different kinds of posts, here are some quick take-aways:
- Use categories well.
If you write posts in series, then assign each series to its own category. That makes it easy for your readers to see them grouped together and connect one to the other. If you’re using a “category-aware” WordPress theme like Sandbox or my ClassyBody plugin, you can use this unique category as a way to apply different CSS styling to the posts within each of these special categories.
- Tell (and show) your readers what you’re doing.
If you’re going to write a “speedlinks” post every friday afternoon, tell your readers that. Introduce this new idea really clearly, and then label each of these weekly posts in some clear way. Readers love buttons and images, so get creative about it!
- Be consistent.
Once you get on a roll with a certain type of blog post, you need to stick with it and be consistent, since your readers will be expecting that. It may surprise you that your readers value (there’s that word again!) the consistency as well as the quality of your content. The quality and the consistency go hand in hand.
Have you struggled to find your focus? Have you stressed over how to integrate different styles of post into your blog? What’s your experience?