Writing for An Audience

When you write a blog post or an article for some online site, how aware are you of your intended audience? It seems to be the sort of question that would lead to a great discussion on the weekly #blogchats on Twitter, the sort of question that various readers of this blog who are struggling with their own blogs grapple with, and was recently explored a little bit in Are Page Views Meaningless? and Journalists Won’t Report on News Unless it Drives Pageviews.

Many people have many different reasons to write. There is the profit factor and the desire to be heard. The audiences vary considerably as well, depending on whether you are writing for friends and family, for a business, or as part of a news organization. Beneath all of this are the questions of how many readers do you have and how engaged are they.

For individuals writing for family and friends this becomes a fairly simple issue. Do your friends know about your blog? Do they find it interesting and come back? For political bloggers, there is a different question. Are you preaching to the choir? Most political blogs I read end up writing in such a way that people who already agree will read and agree and people who don’t agree will simply skip over it. This may be useful in strengthening the bonds amongst people of similar political viewpoints, which may result in additional action by these people, but does little to expand the dialog and find new friends, ideas, or coalitions.

Yet the biggest issue is for those who are seeking to monetize their writing, either through their blogs or by getting their articles read more frequently on the news sites they write for. The article about journalists being driven by page views quotes Sam Whitmore saying

if you want to write a story on an interesting but obscure topic, you had better feed the beast by writing a second story about the iPad or Facebook or something else that delivers page views and good SEO.

The article about page views questions whether writing for page views really makes sense. The author focuses on the effect tabbed browsing has on people’s reading habits. With billions of advertise impressions sold each month, more impressions coming, and more impressions selling at remnant prices or not being sold at all, trying to get a few more impressions may just be a losing strategy.

As advertisers become more savvy in targeting advertising, it is important to attract demographics that will be interested in your content and to get people to link to your content. Ads targeting attractive demographics sell for much higher prices than remnant ad prices. The best way to do this is not to simply write about whatever the hot topic du jour is. In doing so, you are following the pack, and you are more likely to get lost in the pack. Instead, write about your interests, your passions. Step out where there isn’t a pack. If you write something good and compelling, you’ll get followers and lead a new pack. This will make your ads much more valuable than ads of random people in the large packs.

Whether you are writing for profit or to be heard, you are more likely to be successful writing something special, something unique that will capture people’s interest than writing with the pack.

Pack journalism is nothing new. It was around before the Internet, and will probably be here for years to come. I do not believe that the Internet will result in journalism becoming more pack following. Yes, some people may follow Sam Whitmore’s advice, and managed to continue scraping by as journalists. Others will follow their dreams and passions and write interesting copy that improve their lives and the lives of others. Every writer needs to choose how they approach their intended audience.

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