Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I have met the enemy, and he is us

I have been fighting the urge to comment on the latest A-Lister dustup. I told David that his latest series of excellent posts were the tipping point, and that I had to comment. But then I found the post below that I left on BMA back in February, the last time this 'debate' ignited, and I realized that I couldn't top my first effort. Some of the numbers are outdated, but the idea I was trying to express is just as true today as it was 6 months ago:

When I left this post last month, I did so because I thought the whole 'A-Lister' dust up was a temporary by-product of boredom, and that we'd all rant/laugh/ramble about the subject for a few days, realize it's all very silly, and get back to talking about much more important things.

Alas, I was dead wrong.

Instead, the 'debate' over the blogosphere's version of a class system has only intensified. Now it seems some have determined that the key to blogging nirvana, which of course is 3,000 links and 10,000 visitors a day, is being held by the gatekeepers known as the 'A-Listers'. All blogging goodness is in the hands of a select few bloggers on the mountaintop.

Right idea, wrong gatekeepers. The gatekeepers aren't A-Listers like Doc Searls and Steve Hall, they are the anonymous IPs that read your blog. They are the people that come, look around, and either decide that your blog sucks, or that it kicks ass, and then they tell ten friends.

Last week everyone was excited about Dave Sifry's update on the state of the blogosphere. We all got excited when we heard that there is a new blog created every second of every day. But think about that for a minute....if there are that many new blogs each and every day, how many new blog READERS are there? New readers that not only have no idea who the so-called 'A-Listers' are, they could give a damned less. Every day. If you're a Z-Lister, they have no idea, and again, could care less. They just care about what they read on your blog that they just found for the first time. What they read that first time could decide if there will ever be a second time.

See our job isn't to impress Steve Hall and Doc Searls the A-Listers, our job is to impress Steve Hall and Doc Searls the BLOG READERS. When we start worrying about getting the attention of a few bloggers that we perceive as being important, we risk losing the attention of our blog readers. And if we've lost that, we have nothing.

BMA will have been live for 5 months on the 16th. We currently have 58 links, and to the people that subscribe to the 'A-Lister' view of the blog world, that means we aren't very important. On the other hand, traffic levels have never been higher than right now, we averaged 806 visitors a day last week, and at the rate traffic is increasing, we're on pace to touch 25,000 visitors for the month. Good thing we aren't paying attention to the people that think that a blog's worth is defined by its number of links, but instead to the visitors that come here every day, and hopefully enjoy what they see.

Because that's the key. We have to stop this worrying about who is linking to me, and who won't. The time we spend bitching about how 'unfair' it is that the haves are supposedly holding back the have-nots, is time lost that we COULD have spent producing great content on our blogs, and contributing to the community. Stop worrying about why Scoble never reads your blog, and worry about giving the gal that's reading your blog RIGHT NOW a reason to come back.

Because your readers are the REAL A-listers. Treat them as such, or they'll happily leave your ass to bitch about why no one comments on your blog, and your pet theory that it's somehow gotta be Guy Kawasaki's fault.


Cathy said...

You're right on the spot Mack! As bloggers and blog readers we are all part of this great community. Caring too much about links and readers will only cause a blog burn out.

Anonymous said...

That idea of the influential blogger is indeed a reality but to suggest that they are gatekeepers is not entirely accurate (though it is an interesting thought that I had not considered before). Yes, the approval of an influential blogger and their helping hand is of benefit but I suspect the idea of immediate success is foremost in the mind of many less than stellar writers. I suspect that the vast sea of other bloggers out there and your blogging survival skills are what eventually determine your success. Also, with the exception of a few, the top blogging positions do alternate quite a bit over time.

Anonymous said...

If I was meant to be popular I would have been born pretty. Or smart. Just as well I have a good face for blogging ;)
Seriously, it is easy to get distracted from your main game, which is to produce great content/comment ... that, together with your insight/interpretation is what makes you stand out from the crowd. And I would much rather stand out, than fit "in".

Anonymous said...

"Caring too much about links and readers will only cause a blog burn out."

This is the POV that seems to come up most often in this kind of discussion. Who wouldn't agree with this sentiment? But should we ignore the "elephant in the room" and pretend that every blog has the same level of influence?

When I undertook the graphics, I did so to better understand and communicate this Phenomenon to an audience who hears the buzz about blogging but doesn't know much more than that.

Mack, You know first hand that I didn't even know who half of the "A listers" were until months after I started blogging. I've still never read cluetrain or most of these other books about blogging.

Which is why I think it's less about blog celebrity and more about influence. We are all influencing eachother both inside the Social Network as well as out. The fact is—that some of us have more reach than others.

Look, for me this was worth exploring. Now I'm ready to get back to business on my blog which is dedicated to the things written in my header. Blogging just happens to fit in because it's become the vehicle to allow me to influence and be influenced.

Mack Collier said...

David I guess the reason why I've never really cared about 'A-Lister influence' is because they've never really had an input here. At BMA, we had some A-Listers that would link to us or comment occasionally, and despite little A-Lister contact, we grew pretty quickly. Here I have had almost NO A-Lister links/comments, and The Viral Garden has grown even FASTER than BMA did.

But at both BMA, and here, I've made a point to totally embrace my community. I've spent more time reading and commenting on blogs that have 5 links or less, than those that have 1,000 links or more. Why? Because I don't see links, I see readers that were nice enough to link here, or comment here. I have to reward that. I literally get excited when I find a blog that's linked to me, and when I link back, I give them their first link.

David I know you were looking at this as a project, to see what the deal really was. This argument really does kick up every few months, and if pattern holds, it will start up again around Jan or Feb. The end result is that some of the A-Listers will never think that linking to the 'little guys' is worth their time, and some of the 'little guys' will always think that they are being 'held back' because the A-Listers won't link to them.

Both groups are dead wrong. Embrace your readers, not bloggers in an ivory tower. Community trumps any A-Lister.

Bob G said...

so now I feel a little more connected. I've made 2 new contacts - Gavin and David - both of whom I check daily. And be assured my comments will continue. I still need to reconnect with CK - she an early on commenter on my little blog.

Absolutely LOVE the conversation around David's spheres of influence - and all the places its traveled. Its my first experience with the magic of blogging - trackback, permalink, commenting, publishing. It never would have happened without David's voice whispering through the din of chaos. And Gavin's comments on what those terms actually mean. And Macks suggestions on posting my OWN comments plus personally responding to every one who visited onereader. And taking time to leave a footprint. If Macks prediction holds true, this conversation on influencers will come up in early 2007. New bloggers will be influenced - by all sorts of ripples.

Big believer in the customer, Mack. The listening skill is something we all need to grow and nourish. Your observation on the ivory tower is often used when talking about my profession - newspapers and journalism. No I'm not a writer - I market. For too many years, the walls were built around the editorial stances - and journalists - in newspapers. Look what the state of the industry is now :). Tearing down the walls - it ain't easy - is moving beyond a "nice idea". Its becoming a matter of survival.

I look forward, with optimism, to continue traveling this path and journey of discovery.

Later -

Tim Jackson said...

Mack and David; both of you are right by the way. How is that possible? Because it's a big blogosphere with a lot of people in it and nothing is carved in stone, there are no real rules and passion abounds.

My blogging experience began as way to reach my customers and reach out to my industry. The rewards have been huge and I have become an "influencer" within my very small world. That's pretty flattering for a humble bike nerd like me. What's coolest about the whole thing, to me, is that it came about with simple, honest dialog. All I wanted to do was talk to people and start a conversation with my community (just for you Mack). It worked and I am happy to say that the blog grows and grows and the readers keep coming back and new ones show up all the time.

What the heck is my point? Well, basically, content is king. The readers are Queen and honesty is the Prince/ Princess... if that makes any sense at all. (I'm still really jetlagged, so forgive me.)

Anonymous said...

Mack, your post is a real inspiration to those of us who have come to value community and care about readers. The post also reminds me how much I learn from blogs like yours -- and why I write blogs daily with the same freshness. In any community some will surface and often appear more vocal -- the blogging community is no different. Yet the friends I've made and lessons I've learned far outweigh any desire I have for A-List status! Thanks for saying it so well -- it will improve our blogs to write for genuine reasons that caused us to start blogging in the first place. For some A - List status rocks and that's fine too. But your words and the community I have met -- add the status I enjoy most!

Brain Based Business