I’m seeing bloggers in two categories:
1. Ones that stick to one subject so as not to alienate their readers. These bloggers always put their readers first, doing anything to make them happy. They keep everything short and pithy, and make five posts a day. If it’s a photography blog, three-quarters the post are about Canon and Nikon’s latest cameras and other industry news. These blogs are often have several writers, who follow rules like “use short paragraphs” and “capture the reader’s attention quickly because otherwise, it will go away.” These are clearly subject-oriented blogs. This category holds many popular and focused blogs. Check out Photolog for an example. A writer of this style would never dare to mix personal development in with photography, even if they can be bridged. If he wanted to write about growth, he’d start a separate blog and at best link it the footer from his photography blog. Because the footer link is so small, only 1% would come on over. The audience for the two blogs would be totally separate. The blogger may as well be a different person on each blog. Readers come to read about widgets, then leave.
2. The blog is not so much about the subject, but about the person or group writing it. It doesn’t even have to be personal. People come back because they like the subjects, but more importantly because they like the style they’re written in. They come back because the blog is about you, not widgets. Blogs like this are timeless and become insanely popular, but often less than 5% of their traffic is driven by search engines. A friendly email is always more attractive than an ad or a search result, because it’s unpaid, unfocused sponsorship. These are definitely persona-oriented blogs. Lifehacker definitely comes to mind. It’s all over the place, but people go there to feel a part of the life hacking scene, one of intelligence, versatility, and smart computing. There may be posts about widgets, but people don’t go there to read about one type of widget.
One of the things I found fascinating when I was part of the Animal Crossing Community (a site about a video game), is that the community that builds up around the game makes it so everyone wants to talk about all sorts of other stuff. There was one off-topic forum, but people loved to hang out there even though they had no idea what would turn up, just like people love to watch the Oprah show. You can’t keep people on one subject; they’re going to want to talk about anything and everything with their new friends. And you can’t expect them to know what they’re looking for. Often their waiting for you to surprise them, even if it’s a non-photography article on a “photography blog.”
Persona-oriented bloggers usually have only one blog for everything. No partitioning. It might be messy, it might be all over the place, the blogger might share a lot of unreleated talents. But the truth is, our lives are messy. Placing ourselves so firmly in these little boxes is unique to blogging. It isn’t natural.
My challenge for you is to mix it up a bit. If you belong to category 2, try doing some really focused writing in category 1. And if your firmly in the subject category, try doing some engaging writing in the persona category. You don’t have to go off-topic. If it’s a photography blog, instead of writing about the latest press releases, take some time off and write a riveting account of how your camera was almost stolen, or how you grew up longing to start photography but couldn’t afford the equipment. The consummate of the two is rounded blogging, where you have a blog that people come to not to obtain a factoid and leave, but to challenge their minds and digest everything. If you follow this path for a few months, you’ll have people that literally spend hours at your blog, because you’ve written so much fascinating material. They love it, because when they click their bookmark they’re returning to wholeness rather than being bogged in fragmentation. They don’t even come for a reason or subject, because they know whatever there is going to be great. You have a captive audience. Use that greatness, leverage it to brighten their days and inspire them to action.