Last week, after a discussion thread on Blog Catalog about all of the "make money blogging" blogs out there, I wrote something I planned to post here on RockStories. It was a parody of those posts that many of us run across ten times a day on blogs and in forums, titled "I Made $XX Online in January!" and filled with helpful tips on how you could, too. Except that the "XX" was my actual January online income and my helpful tips included things that have helped me earn a living from home, like obtaining an advanced degree from a first-tier school and securing the assistance of a rock star at a critical point in your career development.
Usually I draft my posts right here in blogger and post them immediately, but I had some reservations about whether this one would be recognized for what it was, and so I sent it out to two friends and asked them if the point was clear or if it sounded condescending. Both are mothers with professional backgrounds working in creative fields. One felt strongly that it sounded condesceding and braggy, and that there had to be a better way to make the point. The other said it was funny and not the least bit condescending and I should post it right away.
Naturally, I did nothing. But I did start thinking about an issue that's bigger than whether or not that particular post would be well received: "know your audience" is a standard in the writing profession, but that's not as easy in the blogging world as it is when you're writing for other kinds of publication.
If I'm writing for a parenting magazine, or a humor magazine, or a writing website I have a pretty good idea of who my readers will be. Just as important, they have a pretty good idea of what to expect when they type in that URL or flip open the magazine. And that's true for some bloggers, as well. It's true for bloggers who write within a narrow niche, and for those who have a strong regular readership. But the vast majority of traffic to my blogs comes from search engines, which leaves me with little information about those visitors. And even the regular visitors come, I think, more for something about my writing style or perspective than subject matter--I think that because I have a writing blog, a dog blog, a personal blog, a Catholic blog, a social commentary blog and a search engine humor blog, and a surprising number of those who subscribe to or regularly read one read several (or all) of them.
There are some broad perspectives out there, depending on which blog they started with. Even these two good friends of mine, who know my style and my perspective well, had two very different takes on the same piece. With a little reflection, the reason was obvious: one of them works online and daily encounters the kind of posts I was parodying, so that the format and intent were immediately recognizable to her. The other doesn't frequent the kind of blogs and forums and such where those posts appear.
But what about the rest of the world? I just don't know. I'm certain that if I posted that piece, I'd have readers who thought it was hilarious and dead-on and cheered me on for it. I'm equally sure that I'd have readers who weren't familiar with the format and thought I was bragging about my income and my education and my connections. And I'm suddenly concerned about just how many other topics and approaches and perspectives might trigger exactly this kind of conundrum.