They’d read your blog (more often) if only…

Homes & Antiques magazine cutting: Dec '09
Homes & Antiques magazine cutting: Dec ’09 (Photo credit: H is for Home)

You used photos, videos, drawings — visuals!

I’m amazed, and dismayed, by how few bloggers consistently add visual content to their posts. A sea of words is daunting and dull. Magazines and newspapers know they must seduce readers into their material, not simply subject them to an unbroken and wearying sea of type.

You thought more like an editor

When you write for an editor, your ideas, and how you plan to express them, have to pass muster with someone else, often several. They usually ask you to explain, a little or a lot, why you think this story is worth doing now. Blogging offers writers tremendous freedom of expression — please don’t abuse it.

You remembered that your readers are busy, easily bored and quickly distracted

Journalists are taught to use the “inverted pyramid”, in which the most essential information in any story is at the very top, usually within the first sentence or paragraph. We do it because readers are like very small tired children — they have short attention spans and wander off within seconds. Grab them fast!

You wooed me in with a fab headline

Magazine editors sweat over coverlines, the teasing short sentences they choose to put on their magazine covers, hoping to make you buy their edition over that of their competitiors. Newspaper editors know they need powerful, succinct or amusing headlines to catch our eye and pull us into a story. Have you ever studied some of the best heads? “Headless body found in topless bar” is a classic. This is an excellent headline as it immediately made me read the post — it’s bossy, very specific and focused on a place I know well. Sold!

Here’s a link to how to write great heads —  and another.

You used lots and lots of paragraphs

Don’t force readers to scale a huge unbroken block of copy! It’s lazy and editorially rude. They’ll just click away, irritated. And I see this a lot.

You posted more frequently

A blog that shows up every few months is the sign of someone who just isn’t that into blogging. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it takes time. Your readers are there for a reason. They want to read what you have to say! Don’t disappoint them.

You posted less frequently

True, dat. Some bloggers, giddy with the delicious freedom of being able to hit “publish” after every little thought flitting through their head, post constantly. I know that some bloggers relish the writing challenge of producing a post a day, but do your readers have that much time or interest?

We’re not writing for ourselves, but our readers’ pleasure.

You had more of a sense of humo(u)r

The best blogs have some lightness to them. They’re not a laugh riot all the time, and can often be serious. But being earnest all the time ? We usually shy away from that in real life, so why would we choose to read it? Mix it up a little.

You remembered I don’t live nearby, and don’t get your points of reference

I live in a town north of New York City, and most of my readers also live in the U.S. But I also have readers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, India, places where a reference I might make to a local politician or cultural figure or news story may mean nothing to someone who’s never heard of them. Add a link to help your readers far away better understand what you’re talking about.

English: Broadway show billboards at the corne...
English: Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th Avenue and West 47th Street in Times Square in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You didn’t mistake a public blog for a private journal

This is the single greatest mistake I see in too many blogs. I really don’t want to read someone whining: “I don’t know what to write.” A blog is a public document, visible in perpetuity to anyone who finds it — your friends, family, employer, future employers. Make it lively, interesting, compelling and intriguing.

You didn’t underestimate the power of a great blog

A few bloggers have won paid writing opportunities, or more, thanks to their terrific blogs. A well-written and illustrated blog, with smartly-chosen links and consistently compelling material, is a fantastic way to showcase your design, thinking, ideas and insights — far more effectively than any resume can.

If you’re a current high school or college student, fresh grad or work-seeker, consider creating a blog strategically. It’s your very own billboard.

You understood that it takes time to grow an audience

Some fortunate few find thousands of followers within weeks, but more likely this will take months or years. Broadside has almost 4,000 followers now, but it began in July 2009, has more than 1,300 posts, (archives help), and has been chosen for Freshly Pressed six times, each time bringing in thousands of views and new followers. (My best-ever day, thanks to FP, brought in 7,606 people.)

Tried using bold and italics once in a while

A sea of unbroken copy is bad enough. Readers need breaks! We need to know when and where to pay extra attention. Read books and magazines — even their on-line versions — to get a better feel for this.

Linked to and quoted others

Readers are hungry for well-curated content. What else are you reading or listening to?

You revealed more of yourself

Readers are hungry for authenticity. We don’t need all the gory details, but we want to feel we “know” the people who are asking us for our limited attention.

Or less…

Some bloggers beat us to death with detail. Why is what you’re posting of compelling interest to others?

You introduced yourself

There are far too many blogs where the writer hasn’t even bothered to fill out the “about” page. Every single magazine includes an editor’s letter and their photo, in addition to “our contributors” pages, with their photos and mini-bio’s. In a world of competing voices, why should we listen to yours? Who are you? Where do you live? Have you any specific experience or credentials that add authority to your posts? Don’t be too cute or coy. The blogosphere is a public space and staying totally anonymous means I have no idea why I should give you my very limited time and attention.

You leave me wanting more

Don’t overshare. Many bloggers bury readers in minutiae, a level of detail about their kids or cats or classes, super personal stuff that’s too internal and not focused on me, your reader. Make me hungry to hear more, not covering my ears going lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala.