Earlier this year, when I talked about what bloggers can learn from magazines, I touched on this topic a bit, but I wanted to devote a full post to the subject today because it’s one that really matters to me. There’s a trend I’ve been seeing among bloggers that has me a little alarmed: complete disregard for the reader. More and more often, I’m seeing bloggers say that they blog for themselves, and that the reader is secondary – or not important at all. That mindset scares me a little.
Personal versus Professional
First, let’s make a distinction between the type of blogs you could run and what exactly I’m talking about with the issue of disregard for the reader. People commonly split the world of blogging into two groups – personal bloggers and professional bloggers. You can analyze content to determine the difference between the two if you want, but I’ve also made the distinction this way: With a professional blog, I’m trying or hoping to make money from the content in some way. With a personal blog, I am not attempting to make money, nor do I have plans to make money in the future.
If you’re running a personal blog – i.e., you use the blog as a place to rant and rave and don’t care about traffic or revenue or brand building or anything like that, you just want a place to write – then do whatever you want. Don’t care about your readers. Do care about your readers. It doesn’t matter, because it is your personal space on the Internet.
But if you’re running a professional blog? Yes, your readers matter. This entire post is an argument for people running professional blogs.
The main issue I have with people who say that they don’t care what their readers want is that these same people are relying on readers to make money. Blogs make money in a variety of ways. Maybe your readers purchase products directly from you or from your affiliate links. Maybe you sell advertising space, which means that you can charge more if you have higher traffic numbers. Maybe people who read your blog hire you as a consultant or otherwise pay for your professional services. No matter what, if you want to make money with your blog, you need someone to hand you those dollar bills. If you don’t have readers, you won’t make money.
So, how disrespectful is it to say, “I don’t care about you at all” to that person opening his or her wallet?
No one is forcing a reader to be on your site, and more importantly, no one is forcing a reader to make any kind of purchase. But, I find it horribly pretentious to have the mindset that you don’t need to care about the people who are, essentially, your customers. If they want to buy, they’ll buy. If they don’t, screw them.
It’s just not a good way to run a business. It shows a lot of disrespect to the people who are keeping you in business.
The Reader Doesn’t Know What He Wants
I’m not a fan of the phrase, “The customer is always right.” because frankly, the customer is often not right. There’s something to be said for customer service, even when the customer is clearly incorrect, but I’m not suggesting that you need to let your readers walk all over you.
After all, the reader doesn’t always know what he (or she) wants.
When you run a blog, the reader comes to your site to be informed or entertained (usually both), and it is your job to dictate the content they receive. But it is also your job to listen and analyze how your readers get value for what you offer. Surprise your readers by doing something unexpected or even post something that might cause a stir – but in the back of your mind, ask yourself, “Am I doing thing because it is what my readers need? Or am I doing this because I want my readers to need it?” Keep in mind that what you want to write isn’t always what your readers need to read.
As a writer, I don’t want to tell people not to write about something if they feel passionate about it. I guess, I’m just recommending that you consider the right time and place for off-topic rants, opinions that don’t always fit your brand, and other things that you really want to write, but that might not be the best for your readers. Start a personal blog, have a special section of your site for such posts, etc. You don’t have to give up your passion for your readers!
I guess all I’m really arguing here is to be a smart business person. Your readers are your customers; even if they don’t buy anything directly for you, they are giving you their time. If this is your business, care about it, remembering that your customers readers are a big part of it.