How does I shot web? Blogging with an Audience.

Posted in Blog, Guide, Writing Well on Jun 12, 2008

When I was first convinced to start writing a druid-themed blog, it was with the intention of creating an audience interested in both druids and high-end raid content. I don't ever recall reading many other blogs geared in a similar fashion until recently, and it's (dare I say) refreshing reading the trials and tribulations of others riding the progression bandwagon in the writings of folks such as Lume the Mad or Chick GM. But before I totally digress, I'd like to just take a minute to step back from Warcraft here and address what I mentioned in the very first sentence: creating an audience.

Here, I am making a few assumptions:

  1. While bloggers must be writing in some fashion for themselves, they are also writing in a public venue in which they want to be seen.
  2. You, as a blogger, do not want to alienate a potential audience and you, as a reader, do not want to feel alienated by a particular blog. Here, I'm talking about a potential audience within a topic itself; for example, I wouldn't want to discourage druid readers. Generating interest from anyone else is an added bonus.
  3. You, as a blogger, want to allow open discourse, in some capacity, and you, as a reader, do not want to be ignored.

Keeping the above items in mind, here are a few suggestions that I try to follow for anyone who's curious or struggling with a fledgling site:

  1. Update Frequently: I admittedly have a hard time doing this, especially when my schedule lately looks a little something like Go to Work, Come Home, Cook Dinner, Raid, Sleep. But the more often you update, the better the chances are that people will frequently check out your work to see what's new. Similarly, as a reader, I really enjoy following specific blogs and look forward to new content.
  2. Track Site Statistics: While this offers a work-procrastinating opportunity for every Type A, OCD individual out there, integrating some sort of tracker into your website, like StatCounter, allows you to view a comprehensive breakdown of the traffic your site is receiving: how many hits, unique hits, recent keyword activity, websites that people clicked through to get to yours, popular pages, exit pages, etc. I am generally most interested in the amount of daily traffic as it correlates to days-of-the-week (when most people tend to drop by), where people are coming from (who's linking to me) and what folks typed into Google to get them to my blog (keyword activity). This shows me when it's most opportune to post in order to please the greatest numbers of stoppers-by. This kind of information might also surprise you—a post you might have viewed as silly, inconsequential, or difficult to read may end up being the most popular thing you ever wrote. Go figure.
  3. Comment: Don't be afraid to comment elsewhere. Discuss. But more importantly, respond. While there are certainly blogs out there with entries generating 40+ comments a day, I'm going out on a limb and postulating that most, or at least many, WoW bloggers don't usually get more than 20 and often less than 10. If folks bothered to leave you some kind of feedback, even if it's something to the tune of HI I LIKE YOUR LAYOUT ALSO O'DOYLE RULES!, it's just common courtesy to respond in some way, even if it's simply a "Thank you". Similarly, if someone comments with a correction or a controversial opinion, before you dismiss him or her outright or call him or her rude, take a minute, recheck your facts, math, whatever, and respond graciously and thoughtfully. We all make mistakes, and we all tend to make incorrect assumptions at one point or another. Additionally, while most theorycrafting is standard, take a minute and ascertain where this person is coming from—are they raiding Karazhan and you're working on Illidan? Different specs, item levels, and levels of raiding might necessitate different rules or ideas. Meet halfway.
  4. Determine Readability: This goes beyond the basics of good grammar, structure, and spelling. I come from a background of writing dense scientific papers, rather erudite literary critcism and, to balance it all out, humorous nonfiction. It's pretty easy to figure out which of those most people would probably read, and I try to recognize my tendency to write obscenely long sentences and make everything a little bit more conversational. To get an idea of how your writing compares to known standards, the intrepid writer can perform a Flesch/Kincaide test. Flesch Tests are statistical analyses of a selected body of work that utilizes the below formula.

    206.835 – 1.015(total words/total sentences) – 84.6(total syllables/total words) 

    High scores indicate an easier to read document, while lower scores generally indicate denser, more difficult prose. For reference, Reader's Digest scores around 65, a basic insurance policy scores around 45, and Nature would probably score in the mid-twenties. The Kincaid portion of the test scores your writing and calculates the basic grade level of your work (10 being a sophomore level). This post, for example, scores a 43.2 with a 12.0 reading level and definitely isn't hard to read. Most public media caters to a sophomore or lower reading level. It's interesting to see where you end up on the spectrum.

    Don't let the math scare you—if you use WP, you can download a plug-in called FD Word Stats. Additionally, going to Tools>Options>Spelling & Grammar>Check Show Readability Statistics will allow you to perform the same tests in Microsoft Word. Just run a standard Spelling & Grammar check, and the stats will display at the end.

So even when you're supposedly writing for yourself, take a moment to reflect on your personal motivations and slip yourself into the shoes of the reader: what do you like to see as a member of the audience?

I have some rather ridiculous WoW related news to report on later, but that's it for now. In the meantime, what do you want to hear from me that I don't already discuss?

6 Comments

  • At 2008.06.12 12:53, Elf said:

    Comment

    Mmm, good point. I read your writings through an RSS aggregator, but I read them all the same and enjoy your writing style and topics. I just thought I’d leave a note to that effect and let you know you have another fan.

    My gaming blog started as a personal project to remember amusing or interesting happenings in my weekly D&D group. I ended up adding RP moments and then general experiences from my WoW playing, and these predictably enough get the most hits. I am slightly torn between writing more WoW posts to drive page hits and staying true to my original spirit of documenting my RPG sessions.

    I think I can manage to strike a balance, concentrating on RPG anecdotes and throwing in the occasional interesting snippet from WoW.

    Hey, why haven’t I linked to you? I’ll get to that now.

    • At 2008.06.13 09:47, Spectrum said:

      I suppose there are two types of blogging. The first is the live-journal style where you dump whatever you find interesting, writing primarily for yourself. The second is a subject blog where you primarily write for for an audience. You have to decide who is your primary audience and what your primary goal is ahead of time, otherwise you won’t end up pleasing either audience.

      Audiences take a while to build, and it’s always fun to get a few comments. What has killed one of my attempts at blogging in the past is the amount of comment spam I get. What do you use to keep the discussion going without too much spam?

      Anyway, keep blogging until the cows come home.

      • At 2008.06.14 06:01, Runycat said:

        @Elf
        Hey, thank you. If someone enjoys what I’ve written in any way, shape or form, then I’m doing the right thing.

        I tend to view most blogs via RSS as well; it’s too handy and organized for me not to take advantage of it, especially if I’m trying to keep up with multiple sites. It is a little more difficult to monitor your site statistics that way, but if you burn your blog using Feedburner, you can pick up some notes from there. Generally speaking, I’ll read everything with my handy-dandy Google Reader, and then, if I’m compelled by something they’ve written (or I’m not at work), I’ll drop a comment.

        While I think it’s important to tailor your work to a specific audience, and it’s obviously in your best interests as a blogger to post what people want to read, don’t compromise your “integrity” as a writer to do that. So the WoW posts get more hits. Okay. If those aren’t what fuel you as a writer, don’t bother with it. Write about it when you want to, and enjoy the traffic boost when it happens.

        @Spectrum
        Very much so. I’m actually a huge fan of journaling for personal purposes, and it’s where I get much of my inspiration for writing done beyond the WoW blogosphere. Obviously, I keep that separate from this particular blog. I think occasionally, there are folks who mix up a little of both and tend to turn off the reader; any journal that’s online and isn’t kept at a “private” or “friend-locked” setting is essentially something that could be in the public eye, and I think people forget that. While personal experience/anecdotal information can generate reader empathy, I find that entry after entry of “This is what I did last night in WoW” bores me if it isn’t extraordinary.

        And you’re absolutely right. Creating an audience is a lot like cultivating a garden; you plant a few seeds, see what comes up and then carefully tend to what’s left. I really enjoy comments, because I like the feedback and I like talking to like-minded individuals. I can look at StatCounter all day and say, “Oh, I got this many hits today” but if no one is talking about it, what’s the point?

        In terms of comment spam, what are you talking about? Pointless commentary or actual spam that needs to be blocked? For the actual spam (penis enlargers, nigerian insurance scams, etc.), I use a WP plug-in called “Akismet” that filters comments. Occasionally it’ll snag a real one, so every once in awhile I check to make sure it’s doing its job. If you mean harassing commentary, I don’t really mind so much, mostly because you can turn their stupidity right back around on them. Or ban their IP address. But if you’re not getting the kind of feedback you want, or you’re getting some kind of monstrosity that’s barely readable, I’d honestly just try asking for clarification or try to redirect their inquiry.

        • At 2008.06.14 06:07, Bellwether said:

          Very solid, Runy. Blogging can be done by anyone, but it’s not the easiest to do it well and gain an audience while still writing what you like. It’s a pretty delicate balance. Like raiding, if you’re not enjoying the process of writing your posts just as much as the reward, you’re going to burn out.

          And this of course makes me feel guilty, as I’ve neglected my blog this weekend. I have a good excuse, though…it was my birthday yesterday! Which is also why my haikus were so late.

          • At 2008.06.14 06:12, Runycat said:

            @Bellwhether
            I got a real kick out of the fact that my e-mail shows your entries at exactly 11:59. I’m actually going through the process of deciding right now, making banners, etc. I figure that I’ll probably post it all on Monday unless I’m feeling incredibly industrious today (and I still need to find a good dry cleaners D:).

            And I totally agree with you; while I advocate writing as much as possible, I’d also rather have fewer entries of high quality than a bunch of random things I’ve spewed out thoughtlessly. Will there still be a few of those anyway? Yeah, probably.

            Happy Birthday!

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