Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 18 comments
I admit I shamelessly stole this post title from YA author Sara Zarr. (Though, to be fair, she used the year 2006.) In a recent post, she discussed the gradual shift in her blogging style away from personal posts to podcasts, largely interviews with other authors about creative life.

That's astonishingly brilliant! I'd tell her so if  I had hands.
What struck me about her post was this: "I’m leaving comments off because I really do think that part of blogging is dead (or nearly dead, or at worst gets resurrected as a terrifying zombie made out spam and hate)." I've definitely noticed a trend of diminishing blog commenting, not only here, but on very high-traffic blogs like Janice Hardy's Fiction University. I haven't yet had the displeasure of having to wade through piles of spammy or hateful comments. Mostly, it's just very, very quiet.

You'd think no one cared about blogs anymore.

Except the stats say otherwise. My posts these days average 200 views. Back in 2010, my peak blogging year, a really popular post might garner 80 views and about 40 comments. The ratio of reads to comments could be as high as 50%. Levels of engagement were generally higher. But it came at a cost: you had to keep reaching new readers and comment on their blogs, or the comments would dry up quickly.

I went through a period last year that I burned myself out trying to keep reaching, reaching, reaching like I'd done in 2009 and 2010 and 2011. But engagement would be reciprocated only on a tit-for-tat basis, if at all. I'd have to comment on twenty blogs to get five comments. Talk about discouraging.

And time wasting! I'd meant to finish a book or two last year. I didn't. I think I wasted entirely too much time trying to get 2010 results in a 2014 reality.

Direct engagement on blogs has been on the wane since 2012. I think it's because walking into someone else's space and making remarks is a weird thing to do, when you think about it. You don't typically wander into your neighbors' homes and offer your opinion of their decor, after all. Blogs are really more effective, I've found, for information sharing and educating, rather than building ties.

Other forums are proving more apt for interactions. Facebook is where I'm more likely to have quality back-and-forth,and where most of my former "blogging buddies" now gather (you can friend me HERE if you wish). I haven't entirely hit my stride on Twitter (having to be so pithy feels like writing haiku; I'd rather clean toilets). I use it mostly to share useful things I come across, to make an occasional snarky comment, and to generate traffic for my best blog posts.

I've appreciated Anne R. Allen bringing to my attention the idea of "slow blogging," Write higher quality posts less often and you'll have built something people will be drawn to.

Even if  they don't comment.

I'm becoming more and more okay with that. Are  you?

Dare I ask...What do  you think? Is blog commenting genuinely on the wane? Or is there some deep secret I've been missing?

Photo credit: Mlphoto from morguefile.com

18 comments:

  1. I think so. I think the wane in comments - a theory - is that we follow 200-300 blogs so commenting becomes a job. I follow less blogs now. And I do try to comment, but sometimes the post is not commenty, you know what I mean? And I no longer want to write "good post" when I haven't nothing better to say.

    I think turning comments off takes away from posts. I often like to read though the comments. They often add to the post.

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    1. I've found diminishing returns on visiting dozens of blogs every day. That's really the rub for me. I enjoy having other writer friends online, but find I connect with them other places than here. Here is more of a platform for long-form teaching and idea sharing to a wider audience than just a few dozen chums.

      And if I don't visit dozens of blogs, it follows that I won't get much in the way of comments. I think I can more easily live with that than taking another whole year to finish my two books in progress. Blogging like it's 2009 took way too much time.

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  2. This is encouraging. Blogging is my most time-intensive platform investment, yet I get ten times more response by posting a picture on Facebook. Slow blogging sounds like a great complement to other social media activity. It frees me up to enjoy it more, too :)

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    1. That's been my experience lately, too. I've had to shift my thinking about what my blog is actually for. Posting meatier things less often is more rewarding than my old 2009 ways. I find I do get lots of positive response through Twitter favoriting and retweets. It's not quite as up close and personal, but that's okay; it does give a sense I'm heard, not talking in an echo chamber.

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  3. Like Alina, I find this post encouraging. I had noticed that my "visitor" rate seems to be up, but my comments are low. I am guilty of the comment-for-comment type visiting sometimes because my life has just been kind of crazy. I've missed visiting more, but time feels fleeting.
    I've always felt like your posts are meaty, and sometimes I know I've visited without saying much because I don't want to leave a tiny comment on a meaty post . . . which sounds strange, except when I think of that part about walking into someone's space and making comments. Although it probably seems even flightier, I sometimes tweet a post that I've read but haven't commented on.
    My question for you, do you have a personal facebook and an author facebook, or just one? I just have one and I've found it a little odd lately . . . I'm not sure my writer friends really want to see pics of my kids, and I'm pretty sure some of my friends and family don't really want to read my writing stuff.

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    1. Great question! I have two, no, three FB accounts. One is personal and I only friend people I know in real life. One is writerly me--that I linked in this post--and I will friend anyone who doesn't behave inappropriately (like flirting in PM when I clearly say I'm married, or filling my stream with R-rated images and language). I don't post pictures of my family there, or name them. I use that account to talk shop and stay in touch with other writers, and with 300+ other people named Laurel (we have our our FB group! LOL). Finally, I have an "author" page that people can like. I find that one hard to maintain, so I don't do much with it.

      I decided early on that my family life needed a safe space among known quantities. And like you, I felt I had two pretty distinct audiences that weren't likely interested in the same parts of my life. That's why I made the separate account.

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  4. I know what you mean about time consuming with diminishing returns!!! I've noticed the same trends, of course. But I still love blogging because I like thoughtful writing, and it's harder to find on Facebook and Twitter (though those are great for other things). The blogs I follow and eat up are the ones that are "personal journey" blogs. I've been trying to post more that way on my blog, too, but I'm such a private person, it's hard for me to really share the ups and downs of my writing journey, though I do love to share everything I learn along the way.

    I'm really curious to read in your comment above how you have three different Facebook accounts. I wish I had gone that route. Now all my writer friends are mixed in with my family and church friends, so I never quite know what to post.

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    1. Yours is one of the few blogs I consistently visit any more. Ever since Blogger got rid of its one feed service, it's really a challenge to figure out who is even still posting regularly. One of my fans who follows on Twitter mentioned that she loves my blog but never comments because it's nearly impossible to do on a phone. Her little ones interfere when she tries to read blogs on the computer. Interestingly, I think these techie issues are a big piece of the diminishing comments.

      Like you, I'll continue blogging, but I don't think I'll continue killing myself to get comments. If they come, great, if not, that's fine too.

      I feel a little insane having multiple FB accounts, though with two versions of myself being my own fan, I can nudge posts on my "fan" page to a few more readers by liking my own posts. (The algorithms are so stupid, it's hard to be motivated to have a page for people to "like", because 90% of my supposed fans don't see anything I post.) Anyway, I seriously recommend starting up a separate FB account for your writer self, unfriend everyone you don't know in real life, then refriend them with the new account. It is loads easier to post regularly when you know what your audience is interested in hearing. I use full name (Incl maiden surname) in my IRL-only friends account, and the name I publish under for writerly stuff. When you get to the point of creating a page for people to like, you have two pools of folks to invite. You and yourself can be co-administrators. :-)

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  5. I do feel like I'm caught in the comment cycle. It seems rude to me not to visit and comment on someone's blog when they've taken the time to visit and comment on mine. But the time suck is a drain.

    Still, I hate to lose the connection I've made with other bloggers. It's a Catch-22.

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    1. I know only a handful of other bloggers who will return the visit. Many don't anymore. But I agree that those who do are gems and worth making the effort to stay in contact with. Even if imperfectly.

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  6. My comments are drying up as well. But it really is the give and take with the comments that I like about blogging. I believe most authors already know the basics of how to write. To write about that would be like singing to the choir!

    If someone comments on my blog, I will comment back unless I am at work. I was raised a Southern Gentleman. :-)

    Twittering just seems like an ADD disorder to me. Facebook cannot contain a meaningful, indepth post.

    SouthPaw has a point. People want to zip in and zip out to get to all the blogs they follow. But that is rather selfish, isn't it? To gain entertainment from a blogger and not say Thank You?

    I RT this on Twitter by the way. :-)

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    1. I enjoy give and take in blogging, but to build a sense of community, it means blogging more often than I can feasibly do these days. With Networked Blogs, my posts also appear on Facebook, where I often get some interactions. While I know what you mean about preaching to the choir, my educational posts have much more audience than the personal ones. It's through them that I continue to reach new readers, even if these readers don't interact. Since that element of the equation has changed, my habits have had to change as well.

      I agree that Twitter suits some personalities better than others. I hated it so much for a long time, but I'm acclimating to what its strengths are. For example, it is easier to make connections there than through blogs, where it can take months of visiting to get another blogger to follow back. (Thanks for the RT also!)

      How we use social media will evolve (or perhaps devolve) over time. Figuring out how to adapt to the changes isn't the easiest for sure.

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  7. Just recently I re-entered the blogging world and added a subscription to my page for my readers who now generally are friends and friends of friends (like facebook). They do not comment on the blog as the subscribing to a Google account can be daunting for them. Many did not even know what a blog was when I first started out. So I think our comments may be down but it is possible that the readers have increased as people like my friends are getting comfortable navigating the blogging world!

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    1. That's a great point about needing a Google account to comment on most Blogger-based blogs. I hadn't thought of how much that technological aspect can make blogging a somewhat closed universe.

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  8. I definitely can feel the change in the blogging world compared to 2010. In my experience, blogging used to be writers sharing more frequent, more personal-ish posts about their writing journeys and whatever else they felt like sharing. Now, I feel like a bunch of those writers dropped off (I even took 2 or 3 lengthy breaks), and there are fewer of us. And I've noticed I'm among many writers who have made things less personal and more casual business-like.

    I really enjoy interacting via blogs, because I feel like you guys are my writer co-workers in this crazy job we have. But it's not as high of a priority as it used to be for me, and I'm generally less involved than I used to be.

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    1. Yeah, blogging in 2010 was more of a water-cooler experience for catching up with writer friends spread widely around the globe. Yet so, so many blogging peeps have stopped blogging it's rather hard to stay motivated to keep it up. But with Twitter and FB to supplement, I find I'm using the blog differently. Like you, it holds a different level of priority than it once did.

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  9. Yes, yes, and yes! To everything you said. Comments are fewer, but generally my hits are up. I totally agree with high quality less often. I only post once a week, and even with that, I think I have to mix the longer high quality ones with shorter posts (such as today). Honestly, I stopped stressing about it. It's just not worth it. But I personally like having the trail of my genesis as an author.

    I did love meeting so many other struggling writers through blogs. But even with that, you hit a saturation point, and just can't keep up with everything. Twitter is that place now, but I'm with you, I just don't feel like that's me. I tweet, but not often.

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    1. Blogs definitely helped me at a certain point in my journey, but as I and the medium have changed, my practices--and especially my expectations--have likewise needed to change. Like you, I still really enjoy blogging, but it doesn't play quite the same role as it once did. I find Facebook better enables keeping in touch, cheering one another on, getting quick feedback, asking for help--all with less angst.

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