NBI: How not to build an audience

Hello again, new bloggers! You thought I’d forgotten you, eh? Not so, not so…

So by now you’ve got your blog going and you’ve hopefully found a writing frequency that fits your schedule. Now maybe you’re wondering how to attract readers.

Well, I can’t tell you. I’ve been writing Dragonchasers for 10 years now and I have like 500 readers who generate less than a thousand page views a week.


Well it could be because I suck at writing, but I don’t think that’s it because on my other blog I get as many as 10,000 page views/day (though that’s not typical… about 1,000/day is typical).

So I’m going to have enough hubris to not blame the quality of my writing, but instead to blame the quality of my marketing.

I figure if I tell you what I do, you can do the opposite and you’ll probably get plenty of page views.

So the first thing I do is, I don’t care about page views. I’m narcissistic enough that I actually enjoy reading my own writing, so I tend to write this blog for myself, not for my audience. I think they can tell and so go find someone willing to cater to their needs.

You should probably be more aware of your audience and try to judge what it is they’re interested in. How? Simple: ask them. Your fans will tell you what they like and don’t like if you ask them. In fact they’ll feel more committed to you because they’ll realize that they’re important to you. You may not have a lot of fans yet, but nurture the ones you do have and their numbers will grow via word of mouth.

Second, if you really don’t want an audience, be really inconsistent. Write three posts on one day and then go two weeks without writing any. Be nurturing and rational in one post, and in the grip of a flaming nerd rage in the next. Keep the audience totally guessing about what to expect next and it’ll guarantee that you’ll never have to pay for extra bandwidth.

But if you want an audience, you should probably find a voice and try to stick with it. Being angry is fine if that’s your shtick. There are plenty of popular rage bloggers out there. If you want to be wacky and weird, go for it. Again, plenty of wacky and weird bloggers have devoted followings. Ditto thoughtful bloggers who talk about game theory or what not. Just don’t mix these things up. Don’t go from philosophical musings on the nature of gaming to talking about how you want to build a sculpture of your favorite character out of navel lint and ear wax. People find that jarring. Once you’re established you can drift a bit, but even then it’s worth it to preface ‘out of character’ posts in order to warn people that they’re about to get a taste of something different.

Third, I’m an asshole on social networks. People block me all the time. People who block me certainly don’t read my blog. Mission accomplished!

In order to build an audience, DO get involved with social networks but remember that now you’re selling yourself. People absolutely will remove your blog from their RSS feeds and unfollow you based on one outburst. We all have more things to read than we really have time for and in some sense we’re all looking for excuses to cut down on sources. So don’t be a doormat, but do remain rational and respectful on social networks. You probably do this anyway because you’re probably not an asshole.

Fourth, swear a lot. Some people hate swearing and many will get nervous about reading your blog at work if you’re filling their screen with 4-letter words. As soon as I finish writing this I’m going to go find a nice jpg of a naked woman to insert into this post. I bet I can get 50 people to drop me from their feeds if the image is raunchy enough.

For you, keep a lid on excessive swearing and provocative images. None of us can admit it, but most of us do a lot of our blog reading at the office. Don’t make your audience nervous about opening one of your blog posts within sight of their co-workers.

Fifth, and I don’t do this one, but plaster ads all over your blog. People hate ads and they’ll avoid you in order to avoid them.

For you, skip the ads for now. Not everyone is sensitive about them, but some people are, and until you’re established you’re not going to make enough for it to matter. In particular stay away from sponsored posts or links because they make you look like a sell-out in some people’s eyes.

Bandwidth ain’t free and the best way to keep your costs down is to keep your audience down. So follow my plan and you’ll never have enough of an audience to worry about.

Or if you’re one of those crazies who’d like an audience and maybe to grow your blog into something more than a hobby, use me as an example of what not to do. Work hard, be true to yourself and your audience, be consistent, and before long you’ll have a huge number of devoted followers.

I can’t believe you want that kind of pressure, but whatevs.

NBI: New Blogger Initiative launches!

It’s the first of May, which means it’s time for May Poles (are those still a thing?) and the time to celebrate Beltane for my pagan friends. But for bloggers and in particular wannabe bloggers, May 1st means the start of the New Blogger Initiative (NBI).

So what is the NBI? It’s a program run by Syp of Biobreak that strives to invite new writers to try their hand at blogging (and to give them some help and guidance getting started). Maybe you’ve been meaning to try your hand at blogging but you’re not sure where to start, or even HOW to start. Well then the NBI is for you.

During the course of this month you’ll be seeing NBI posts pop up all over the blogosphere: Syp says over 70 blogs are participating! All of us existing bloggers will try to share what we know (or even what we don’t know) in order to help you get your blog off the ground.

But I’m going to spoil the event on you and tell you the deep dark secret of blogging: There is NO SECRET! If you can write a comment or an update on Facebook, you can blog. If you’re worried your writing isn’t strong enough, don’t be. First of all you’re probably better than you think you are, and you’ll continue to improve with practice.

OK end spoilers.

As a participant, I’ve agreed to write at least one post during the month giving advice on getting started. I’m aiming for the middle of the month for mine. (If all 70+ of us write just one post, that’s still going to be plenty of advice.) So who am I and why am I qualified? Well I’m qualified because Syp asked me to participate!

If nothing else I have longevity going for me. Dragonchasers is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this month. My first post was in May 2002 (though there’ve been big gaps at times when I took a break from writing for a while). Before Dragonchasers (long before it) I was associate editor of a now-defunct PC gaming magazine, Strategy Plus and executive editor of a multimedia magazine (it came on CD) called Interactive Entertainment. I’ve also done some freelance writing and in addition to Dragonchasers I write a personal technology blog for ITworld.com.

And that’s all I’m going to say about me, because NBI is about you: the person who has something he or she wants to say and is thinking a blog is the right place to do it.

So how do YOU get involved? Step one is to head to the forums set-up for the event, NBIHQ, and register there. Then head to the Newbie bloggers instructions thread and follow the steps to get started. It’s easy!

I can’t wait to read your new blog!