Monday, February 21, 2011

On blogging and anniversaries, or, Where did the last six years go?

I'm feeling a wee bit old and pensive...  Anniversaries have a habit of doing that. [Sit back, this ended up longer than expected.]

And missing anniversaries can make one feel a tad feeble minded. You see, my six year blogging anniversary was last month, and I forgot all about it. In design blog terms, six years is quite a long time. I started my blog as an offshoot of my company newsletter that I'd been sending out for a couple of years. I had been hearing from marketing types that the old fashioned newsletter was going out of style (it didn't, if done right) and was wondering what was the next thing I could do to market myself. I'm a semi-early adopter, I guess. I started running into blogs online and became fascinated by the instant update quality and the marketing potential. I was also intrigued that major media publications were taking notice of design bloggers. I'd been reading Grace Bonney's Design*Sponge off and on when I saw that she was featured (along with Apartment Therapy, MocoLoco, and TreeHugger.) in an interesting New York Times piece, dated January 27, 2005.

Coincidentally (but not) my very first blog post was that very same day. (It wasn't much, just a repost of a piece I'd written for my newsletter that also appeared on the now defunct Respond.com site.)  As I recall, I'd been thinking about blogging, but that NYT piece must have pushed me over the edge. After all - Grace was a 23 year old baby and there she was in the Times!!  I find it incredibly interesting, and telling, that all but one (Land and Living) of the blogs mentioned in the article are far and away today's leaders and "old guard" of blogging. They are all so big, it's hard to still call them blogs (similar to HuffPo or Drudge). They are more like media giants and no one would even think of questioning if they are here to stay.

And so, six years and three weeks later, the New York Times has another article on blogging entitled Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter. It would have been cool had they both been written by the same reporter, but they are not. A couple quotes are frightening - how blogging is too much writing and it's easier to just post pics on Tumblr or reduce one's thoughts to 140 characters on Twitter.

Of course, from January 2005 to now, the design blogs have exploded. I have no idea how many there are, but there seem like thousands and thousands. Can we read them all? No. Will all get media coverage? No. I think it's clearly obvious that the "Old Guard" benefited from being first. Their stories are rife with readership jumps from hundreds to multi-thousands of readers a day, within months of launch. I doubt very much that could happen today. The Times' story of 2005 reported that AT reported daily readership of 10,000. AT reports today a readership of over 66,000 daily readers (per their media kit). Design*Sponge reports over 75,000 site visits daily and over 100K subscribers via RSS feed. 

The "Second Guard" which I guess I am part of, probably dates from 2005-2008. Many of us have also benefited from being around for a while and are on media lists and get attention from major media outlets.  The "blog smog" is now quite thick (in a good way!) and I think it's very hard for newer bloggers to gain notice. Of course, some do absolutely. But it's hard and requires dedication and the ability to stand out via excellent writing, design talent, connections, personality or some combination of the above.

I'm frequently asked by newer bloggers, or those considering blogging, how to get going and how to gain readership. Of course, as new media continues to grow and evolve (FB, Twitter, etc) the question is - will blogs continue to be as relevant and, as some marketing voices say "Should everyone have a blog"?  My feeling is no, everyone should not have a blog, or to be clearer, everyone should not feel like they should have a blog. If you want one, welcome!

But, if you're going to have a blog - write it yourself. I'm a purist and feel that a blog should be about the blogger (their views, ideas and talent). I'm not a fan of the turnkey blogging services that are available. I don't think a blog will gain any kind of traction if the voice is not genuine. If you are worried about writing skills, spelling, grammar or punctuation, then hire an editor - someone who will format your writing, correct the grammar, etc and even do the tech part. But the essence needs to be you.


In 2009, I launched The Skirted Roundtable with Megan Arquette and Joni Webb, as a way to move the conversation off the screen and make it more immediate. I think I can speak for all of us that this initiative has really established our individual voices. Personally, it's cut considerably into my actual blogging time because the editing process is so time intensive, but every minute is worth it.

When we started The Skirted Roundtable, we recorded several podcasts about blogging with topics including content, finding one's voice, gaining readership, etc. You can hear those podcasts here, here, here and here. I highly recommend that anyone interested in growing their blogs, or are just starting out, might want to listen in and read the comments as our listeners are very smart and insightful.

The most important thing to decide on, however, is why do you want to blog and who do you want to be speaking to. I started off by deciding that I wanted my readership to be other designers, high-end design buyers and the media. My readership is minscule compared the "Old Guard" and probably in the mid-average range among the "Second Guard". I don't receive tons of comments and while I treasure the comments I do receive, I've learned to let go of "comment counting". Because, my target readership isn't likely to be high rate commenters. But I know from my visit stats, from private emails and from opportunities received that I'm hitting my mark. And that's good enough for me.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the state of design blogging. I think this will be a topic for SRT soon as well, so stay tuned for that.

And a big hug and kiss to all the friends I've made through blogging (the most important benefit, bar none!). As a closet shy girl (I do love that expression) it's given me the chance to push out of my Yankee reticence and enter a world I could not have imagined. XXOO to all of you!


If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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21 comments:

My Notting Hill said...

Linda, Congratulations on 6 years!! You mentioned my favorite part about blogging - making friends. Even if blogs dwindle, or worse yet, become viewed as obsolete, I imagine still doing it if my favorite bloggers are out there. On an entirely different note - love the color of your scarf!

Teresa at Splendid Sass said...

Great piece, Linda! You are so on the money.
While I am gaining readers steadily, I am one of the last to start, and my ideas for the future are growing.
I love blogging, and learned early on that I couldn't make everyone happy. I don't try to. I refer back to my own blog frequently, and have done some advertising work lately.
I agree with you that the friendships we make are the most important aspects of blogging, and I treasure them all.
Again, great post, Linda.
Teresa
xoxo

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Happy 6 year blog anniversay...that is truly remarkable!!!

I just listened to the SRT cast on the mags and that was so interesting and on-target, I'll look forward to one on blogging too.

I agree, everyone should not blog. I think it's so true about the timing of blogs and their popularity. There are new blogs popping up daily, and some I am sure are fantastic, but sadly will never get recognition because the blogsphere is so saturated now. I think if you blog, you must do it for the enjoyment and not because you think something grand is going to come from it. It's possible, but certainly not probable.

I didn't even know about some of these latest on-line mags untill I saw the covers posted. I applaud them all for the effort and creativity, and I am currently trying to read some of them...but again, there are so many hours of the day that can be spent having fun and I can't help but wonder how long they'll be around.

Anyway, again congrats on a huge milestone!

Kathysue said...

Linda, First Congratulations on six years!! That is quite an accomplishment. Second, Beautiful picture of you!! Thirdly, I so enjoyed this post, in fact I grabbed a cup of tea so I could sit and absorb all of your wisdom. I am new to blogging. I started one year ago in January. Blogging has been a constant source of inspiration,dialogue and enjoyment for me.
I have a post up today that is somewhat in line with yours. I have actually put up my blog mission statement. This is something I wrote for myself, but after having a week of reading post about bloggers wanting to quit because they were not sure why they were blogging. Some that actually did quit. There were post on the meanness in blogland. With reading all of this I felt the need to put my mission statement on my blog in hopes that it could help others review their own guidelines for there own blogs.
Thank you for your thought provoking dialogue on the SKT I listen to each one in anticipation of learning something new.
Thank you for your insight into blogland from the beginning until now. It will be interesting to see what the future will hold, but for now I am enjoying my time with like minded individuals here.
Kathysue

Jennifer, Decorum said...

Congratulations Linda. I find your blog and your natural generosity very inspiring and am absolutely delighted that 6 years and 1 month ago you stepped out of your closet and landed on our computers. I haven't been following you that long, I'm one of the newbies but I love reading your blog, viewing your e-magazine and listening to you on your podcasts. Keep it up please, so I can be inspired and continue, no matter how many readers I have.

Jennifer xx

Storibook Designs said...

First of all.. happy blog birthday!!! You are the first design blog I started following; I've always been impressed by your "early adoption" nature. I consider you a leader and have always appreciated your voice and wisdom that you share so honestly. You also already know that I am/have been so impressed with The Skirted Roundtable ~ I do consider you "the old guard" Linda.. you're right up there with the others in my opinion, regardless of what numbers say.

My primary purpose of my blog: my clients. It's not part of my intent to make it to "best blog" lists or to receive accolades from my colleagues - [though I'll happily accept them if anyone wishes to offer them up.. ha, ah].

Seriously though, my goals:
1) to provide ongoing content, according to the timetable I can manage - that provides current and potential clients with additional information about who I am... who is the gal behind the business and what type of knowledge does she have.
2) To delve in deeper to content/topic areas that can't adequately be represented through a static website.
3) To educate and add value. I'm not big fan of what I call "fluff" posts, its just not who I am so my intent is to always be sure the reader gains something of value through reading. Boring as that may be, I do hear from customers that they enjoy it, have learned from it and/or new clients have contacted me because of posts on my blog. That was the goal, so I'm happy when a client refers to one of my posts in conversation... it lets me know that I'm doing what I intended.

Great post Linda, as usual. Thanks for sharing and opening up a topic that is sure to spark much conversation and dialogue.

Sarah said...

Hi Linda: Great observations about blogging...I started blogging in the summer of 2009 when I was out of work. I do feel that right about that time blogs exploded and I got lost in the shuffle. I think there are possibly too many now and, like Darwin, it is survival of the fittest or in design speak, those who have the voice, the talent and can hold the viewers will keep blogging. I truly enjoy it and love the friends I have made around the world. I also love the camaraderie and the common interest in design that we all have. Sometimes, it does feel like high school and the popular girls get all the followers and all the work! Why do some blogs succeed and others don't? This is a very interesting topic worth exploring in depth. Happy Anniversary and keep up the good work!! :))

Concrete Jungle said...

Just short and sweet CONGRATULATIONS!
(six years is a real deal!)

maison21 said...

happy blogiversary, linda! six years is quite an accomplishemnt!

i agree with you on all your blogging points, particularly the "be authentic" part- if you don't have something to say, and it's not even you saying it, what's the point? i can look at back issues of my magazines if i just want to see old pictures. the blogs that hold my interest are definitely the ones where the personality and/or knowledge of the blog author shines through, in additional to the visuals.

i'm also a member of that 2nd wave of blogs, and like you, i made a decision a long time ago to not obsess over numbers or comments- i'm never going to be the most popular kid in school, and that's okey-dokey by me! i'm reaching who i need to reach, and my blog is doing what i want it to do, while hopefully amusing my loyal readers along the way. i'm glad to hear you say similar on your blog because for so many, it does become a popularity contest, and they lose sight of why they started blogging in the first place.

again, happy anniversary- you deserve to be very proud of what you have achieved!

BonjourRomance said...

Félicitations on 6 years of blogging. I do agree with you that the best thing about blogging is all the unbelievable friendships I have made. Hard to believe I didn't even know what a blog was a year and a half ago. At first, it was a bit nerve wracking. I agonised over every word and image...now I simply post what I am loving at the moment, and hoping someone else will love it too.
Here's to 6 more great years!
Mimi

Amy @MaisonDecor said...

Linda, I am in awe of you even more after reading this post. You are an amazing person with many gifts and a generous spirit. So congratulations on your 6 year mark. That is just incredible! As a newbie (not one year yet) I have discovered the world of blogging and enjoy the dimension it has added to my life. I have made some real friendships in blogland that have transferred to real life, and others that are modern day pen pals. My blog is a way to satisfy my creative river that flows through my veins. We all won't appeal to everyone, but that isn't the point, is it? As with anything, being authentic is the only way to go through life.
xxoo

Katherine Hawkins said...

Congratulations Linda on your belated Blogging anniversary! I admire the creativity you put forth & your tenacity in what was a newish medium when you got going. I also truly appreciate your openness & generosity when it comes to inspiring & helping new bloggers like me. I had been thinking about starting a blog for a while as I felt that I had a lot to share about interior design from my own unique perspective, but had no idea where to begin. When I attended your seminars, your enthusiasm for the possibilities really got me excited, & away I went. It has been a learning curve just working with the technologies & so forth, but six months into it I have found that each step that I accomplish is thrilling! I love the writing & coming up with concepts that I hope will spark readers minds & touch their lives in ways that they hadn't considered… at least once they find me (or I find them)! I have really enjoyed connecting with other design-related bloggers as they are indeed a fabulous bunch of people! Wishing you continued success & lots of new frontiers:)

diane said...

Linda

I have been a fan of your blog and recently of your online magazine but I must disagree with you on one point. As a writer for other blogs I disagree that the blog must be written by the person themselves. For very personal blogs that discuss babies, graduations etc. along with design, yes, but for design blogs that offer inspiration, advice, beautiful photos and how-to's, no. Someone with knowledge and passion for design is certainly capable of writing and informative, friendly and personal blog that will produce the desired results for the online retailer, designer etc who does not or cannot write themselves. I, too, have gone longer than I expected but again, really enjoy your blog and my own time spent in blogland whether it is for me or for those I write for. Thanks for listening.

Nita {ModVintageLife} said...

Happy Anniversary! Very interesting post. I do know that most of my REAL life friends do not take the time to read blogs and they are all about Facebook and Twitter. I have accounts on both....but don't spend much time with it. I devour blogs like your's. I want to read and want lots of photos and content. I've been blogging for over a year. I would have started two years before that but was too busy with my day job to even think about it so I read blogs and didn't comment.

Blogging has been the best thing I have done. I've gained so many new friends...friends who really get me.

Anyway....I listen to the Skirted Round Table often. Love your insights. I wanted to tell you that your kitchen makeover was just darling. I loved everything about it. I think it's so inspiring to show people how they can makeover a space for not much money and it's still very chic. I'm all about making what you have work....well...that's because I have to ....I'm always trying to take what I have and make it what I want.

Anyway....just wanted to say hello and tell you I enjoy reading and listening to you.

The Zhush said...

Wow, six years...you are an early adapter in my book! I love the skirted round table, and just listened to several of your podcasts this weekend...I now I can read your blog in your actual "voice" in my head...(I know that's not what your were referring to). Will be listening to the ones you highlighted here as well. As a blogger who is still relatively new to the game, I am having the best time with it! I have no idea on the state of design blogs, but in the here in now and today, having a blast within this creative community, and that's really good enough for me right now! Where its all headed is really anybody's guess,(including the NYT) but my target audience isn't really the 16 year old high school kid on twitter, regardless.

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

First off, happy anniversary! And I loved to read more about your start. Mine was in 2008, but it took me a while to figure out what I really was about..., not being a professional designer nor a writer, but just someone who loves the coastal life style. I still feel that I'm a beginner. The best about blogging for me, I can dwell on what I love and others enjoy it too, and making some money doing it is fun as well.

Boxwood Terrace said...

Hi Linda - Congratulations on your anniversary. Six years of blogging is impressive and now you are publishing your own online magazine, which I really enjoy. This was a great post. I read the recent NYT article too and initially thought "oh no" about blogs becoming obsolete, but I think they are still relative especially for interior decorating/design, which is all about the photos and the authors commentary and the comments. I've noticed that someone has picked up my blog on tumblr and even though they link to my blog, it is odd to see them post the photos with no commentary. I am "on" FB and Twitter, but have limited time due to my day job. It will be interesting to see where technology leads us in the near future. I hope you'll discuss on SRT soon.
Deborah

Linda Merrill said...

Thanks everyone for your kind words!!

Diane - thanks for your comment as well. I guess I would agree that a third party writer would be fine for a retailer or larger business type blog where there isn't a face of the business. But, I'm going to stick to my guns and respectfully disagree about individuals not writing their own posts. Even design star Vicente Wolf dictates his own posts and has a staff member clean them up and post them. When you read his blog, you know it's essentially him and it makes all the difference in how committed people are. People want to connect to people. A ghost writer could of course provide excellent information in a pleasing, well written manner. But my personal preference is for more direct connection to the person the blog is about.

Greet said...

Dear Linda,
First of all : congratulations with your 6 year blogging!!! Waauuw I still have more dan 4 years to go!!
I love the way you write here about the design blogs! And I am so agree with you that a blog has to be something of your self! You have to put your soul in it! Sometimes when I discover all these blogs which are copying entire of or blogposts, than I feel a little bit sad! I put so much work and energy in it!! And then oooooeeeepppsss, a few minutes later my posts are copied! And guess, you can't do anything about it!
But on the other hands, I get so many emails from readers, who express their respect for my work.... and that gives me so much energy to go on. So I forget the blogs that copy my posts, because I am sure that my readers discover my blog as first and I know that they are really awaiting every next posts! I so love to help people and to advice them on design their home! Even it is for free. It gives me a satisfied feeling.
After a hard working day or week, I love to work an a blogpost, because blogging gives me a way to express myself and even gives me a way of relaxing!!
Wish you a wonderful weekend!
xx
Greet

Gina said...

Dear Linda, Congratulations. When I first began blogging I somehow found your blog and was hooked from the start. I look forward to reading each and everyone of your posts. I have admired the amount of work and research that you have shared with us. You have selflessly supported other bloggers (myself included)and I thank you.
I agree with you Linda, a blog should be written by the author of the blog. We are all so diverse in our backgrounds, so interesting in our thoughts that a blogger will eventually find his/her audience.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Ok I am back and commenting this time.

What no one tells you as your blog grows and you recieve more comments and emails to respond to, the less time you will have to leave comments on blogs you love.

Yes, yours. Ditto SRT.

I read everything in Google reader as there are only so many hours in the day and responding to emails and comments now takes at least an hour a day for me. Truthfully...more.

I haven't been shy about telling you in the past that I think you are REALLY fabulous. But it does make me sad that I don't comment more.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your support. When I hit the "send" button on yesterday's blog post I had that queasy feeling in my stomach. Your big heart and lovely comment made it all better.

Be blessed dear one and of course Happy Anniversary! Here's to many more.

Laura~ "second guard" (barely) Gunn

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