The Web Needs You To… STOP BLOGGING!

Well, that was an incendiary title. On purpose.

Now that I have your attention, let me say that I don’t literally mean “stop blogging”, I mean to object to the meme that seems to have overtaken the zeitgeist of too many lately. The “You Should Blog Every Day” meme. Here are some of it’s advocates:

As an aside I think somehow the folks at WordPress.com must have used subliminal messaging on their platform to encourage blogging addiction and thus, for them, revenue growth. But I digress…

What’s Wrong with Daily Blogging?

If you’ve read (any) of the posts above you’ve read glowing prose about how and why you should post daily, but none of the counterpoints. Just as we wouldn’t appreciate our neighbors leaving their trash bags on their lawn why do so many people champion other people to churn out non-stop pablum? Where in anyone’s good book has this endeavor been canonized as a virtue?

Lacks Depth

Daily posts are rarely more than opinion, and from what I’ve seen are usually without significant research, or links to related information on the topic. After all, who has the time for any of that when posting daily?

Adds High Noise, Low Signal

Publishing daily adds to the total amount of information out of them web. Let’s just say only 1% of US Citizens, let alone the rest of the world followed the “Blog Every Day” meme; together they would produce 1 trillion posts/year! Do we really need that much more low-information content to contribute to overload on the web?!?

More is Not Better

Daily posts focus on volume and not excellence. Unless you are one of those extremely rare prolific individuals who can be blog daily and write high quality content (and those people are usually known as “professional jounralists”) then posting daily is just setting one’s self up for #fail.

Not that you won’t be able to successful at daily posting, you might, but is daily posting really more beneficial than writing a much higher quality post less frequently?

No Time for Greatness

Similar to the previous, people who blog daily set themeselves up on a treadmill after which they’ll likely never have time to write a truly epic post. Some of the best and most valuable posts I have read on the web have been long form posts that clearly took more than a day to write. Few daily post ever gain continous linkage, at least not from what I’ve seen.

Why Should You Not Want to Blog Daily?

Besides the reasons above not to blog daily, what about selfish reasons for not blogging daily?

Busy People Will Tune You Out

Although I can’t say it’s a completely valid indicator, busier people seem to be the ones who accomplish more. As such, they are a higher value audience most of the time. If you post daily you’ll likely overwhelm people who want to consume your content but simply cannot handle the volume.

Expect More of Yourself

The first question to ask yourself is “What else could you be doing with your time?” If you spend only an hour a day blogging that’s over 9 weeks full time for a year; could you not achieve something better than a slew of blog posts?

If you are a programmer, for example, why not build and release an open-source project? If you are venture capitalist, why not take more meetings with entrepreneurs or use your network to help your existing investments more? If you are a social media maven (really? seriously?) maybe you could use your time to research all the emerging tools for tracking and analysis.

In other words, envision a BHAG project you could complete rather than just writing a new blog post every day. If John F. Kennedy had rallied US citizens around all journaling daily instead, would we ever have ever made it to the moon?

You Are Competing with Millions

If you are blogging about anything that is not highly unique, you are competing with millions.

Consider if you were paid your effective hourly rate for the time you spend blogging; would you invest that money in lottery tickets if you had it in your bank account? If not, why would you compete for the attention of people against so many others who are blogging too?

Life is Too Short

One of the mantras regarding daily posting is that you have to train yourself and develop discipline, which means that for most people blogging daily is just not fun. Why put yourself through that unless you are really going to benefit greatly from it?

But What About the Benefits?

Reading through all of the posts listed above about why you should blog each day it seems that the primary benefits stated are these, paraphrasing of course:

  • Increasing your blog traffic
  • Readers expect it
  • Developing habits are a key to success
  • Establishing yourself as an expert
  • Exercising your “Writing Muscle”

Let me tackle these one-at-a-time, in reverse order:

Exercising your “Writing Muscle”

That’s probably the best reason listed, and I agree. Except.

If it is really important to you to become a better writer, then yes, write every day. But you don’t have to push the “Publish” button, at least not for your public blog. Here are strategies that you could use instead that would excerise that muscle just as much:

  • Write a portion of a longer blog post, and do it every day.
  • Create a Facebook page and write posts for it daily.
  • Write a private journal daily. If you really need/crave feedback, invite friends to access it. But publish your best work less frequently on your blog.

Establishing Yourself as an Expert

This is another good reason. But a weekly blog can be just as successful at establishing your expertise, if not more so.

Look around at some of the leading experts you know via their blogs; how many of them blog daily? I’ve listed at least one below, Mark Suster. His expertise is well established, but he doesn’t blog daily unless he has something to blog about.

Developing Habits are a Key to Success

Agreed. But do you really need to blog daily to develop habits? Aren’t there other habits that can generate a better return in your life? (exercise, to name one?)

Readers Expect It

Sorry, this is just rationalization as far as I’m concerned.

When I was young my father told me:

“Don’t worry what other’s think; they think about you about 1/1000th as often as you think about yourself.” Similarly, most people don’t wait with baited breath for you to generate yet another post.

As for the few people who do tell you they wanted you to blog more (search for “Loyal Readers Crave More Content”) they are just feeding your confirmation bias compared to the majority of your vistors.

Increasing your Blog Traffic

Really, it comes down to this.

Yes, blogging daily is about driving more traffic to your blog, nothing else. And sadly, it works.

If your primary goal is to drive more traffic to your blog but not necessarily higher quality traffic, and the other reasons for not blogging daily are of no concern to you then more power to you. Just please don’t try to fool yourself or convince others that your daily blog ritual is for any other person than yourself.

Sorry to be harsh, but I haven’t seen anything that has given me evidence to believe there’s any other reason for it than self-promotion, and in some cases even narcissism. Maybe you can convince me otherwise in the comments below?

Are There Exceptions?

Of course there are exceptions. The ones who should daily blog (well, actually “write daily”) are professional journalists, you know people who get paid to write daily, and especially those who write news stories, which by definition require daily writing.

Also, anyone who generates highly unique content, such as content about their own company’s products or services could possibly benefit from daily blogging, especially if they have internal content developed by others from which to draw upon.

Effectively anyone who is likely to write content that nobody else is going to write could be forgiven for blogging daily. But even then, less frequently per author is better because then they have the time to write higher quality posts.

Information Overload Redux

When I was in college and learning to love programming computers there was one (1) monthly magazine that covered the programming language I was learning at the time. Each month I would read it cover-to-cover several times, and anxiously await the next issue to start again.

Today, thinking of programming for WordPress, I could spend every waking minute reading good quality articles that would be somehow relevant and informative regarding my current chosen professional. But to find the good articles I’d have to sift through the other 90% of that were published just for publishing sake, the ones that are little more than noise.

Simply put, blogging daily exponentially increases the amount of noise on the web. And that’s really not good for (the users of) the web, or humanity.

Bloggers I Wish Didn’t Post Daily

Speaking of daily bloggers, here is a short list of people who I really respect and admire and who I would love to see write some truly epic posts inspired by their knowledge and experience. Unfortunately each day I find a typically a mediocre post albeit occasionally a few almost good ones. But (almost?) never do these people product really great posts.

Fred Wilson of AVC.com

Fred <@fredwilson> is known as the VC who has funded some of the most visibly successful Internet startups in the past decade. He blogs daily, and I get an email containing his daily posts. Given his daily blogging schedule and all of his other obligations and evident success, I am constantly amazed at how good his posts are.

But more than being amazed, I’m also disappointed because he never blogs long form or in-depth. I know he has great knowledge and experience to share, but I never really feel like I’ve learned something after reading Fred’s blog posts, I just feel like I’ve been kept up to date.

Now Fred’s blog has generated an incredibly active community of commentors. Many of the frequent commentors are well-known and successful people in the startup world, but I constantly amazed at how much time these people can spend commenting on Fred’s blog in a day. It flabbergast me, frankly.

Fred’s blog uses Disqus for commenting, a company he has invested in but one where I find product usability very lacking other than I do really like the ability to edit the typos in my comments, which you can’t do on most blogs. The reason I mention this is that as soon as I comment on Fred’s latest blog I am inundated with about 250 emails that day because Disqus emails every me comment, not just replies to my comments, and Fred’s blog overflows with comments. This is clearly good for Fred’s personal branding and provides him with a posse of people he can ask for help, but then if Fred wasn’t an uber-successful VC I doubt he would get the same following from his daily blog.

After all, people are attracted to where the money is…

David Cummings on Startups

David <@davidcummings> is an incredibly talented individual. He’s a “local boy done good”; he built and then in late 2012 sold Pardot for $90 million to ExactTarget, which was then sold to Saleforce.com. Almost immediately after be purchased a 100,000 SQFT building in Buckhead, Atlanta’s prime real estate market, a.k.a where old money lives and new money parties.

David christened his new Buckhead facility Atlanta Tech Village, now home to 100’s of startups. He has become a well-known ambassador in town for high tech startups and has receive the attention of the USA Today, the Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed, the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, Atlanta’s Creative Loafing, InvestAtlanta, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and more.

I think 20 years from now Atlanta will look back at David as the father of Atlanta’s High Tech Industry Boom, or something similar. When I tell people about David who don’t know of him I say his is Atlanta’s future equivalent of Brad Feld re: Bolder, Colorado.

CLEARLY David is amazing, one of the best business thinkers in Atlanta. And he blogs daily, and yes I get an email for every one of his posts. Unfortunately David’s posts are short and rarely ever better than a high-level outline of some topic that he has clearly queued up for the day. I receive his post via email, like clockwork, around 10pm ever night.

David has so much value to share, and he obviously devotes the time to sharing. But unfortunately David’s choice of daily bloggingmeans that he rarely if ever (has the time to) write a really valuable, in-depth post that leverages his profound knowledge, experience and expertise. For example, David frequently mentions the importace of establishing a great company culture but he’s never blogged anything that helps a would-be entrepreneur know how to establish a great culture in a startup.

Such as shame, really.

Tom McFarlin

Tom <@tommcfarlin> is one of the sharpest guys in the WordPress space, if not the sharpest WordPress guy I know personally.

Tom is also incredibly prolific. He blogs nonstop it seems, constantly writes for Envato, he’s written numerous plugins listed on WordPress.org, he gets profiled frequently, he was a partner at 8Bit which used to sell the Standard Theme he helped develop, and he was a contributor to their WPDaily blog, which is no more.

Anyway, I tried to follow Tom’s blog for a while and periodically he had some incredibly valuable posts. Unfortunately they were interspersed with numerous opinion and/or low information posts many of which generated a lot of comments but few if any dispensed any real usable knowledge, at least for me. It’s as if he set himself a goal to write daily, so by gosh that’s what he is going to do.

Sadly, I had to unsubscribe because the noise-to-signal ratio was just so high. And that made me sad, but I had to do it.

Honorable Mention: Eric Mann

I got to know Eric <@ericmann> during the time I was actively involved in moderating and answering questions on WordPress Answers. While I learned that Eric is a very bright WordPress developer with lots of relevant experience and a great ability to explain answers to WordPress questions in writing, what I admired the most about him was how even-keel he was when interacting with others on the web. Never did I see Eric involved in a flameware (unlike me, unfortunately) nor have I ever witnessed him talking down to someone online, a behavior that otherwise runs rampant online, especially in certain open-source circles. Eric really has my respect.

And when Eric blogs a how-to article about WordPress, it’s usually well worth reading, at least for me. I know Eric has interest in writing a novel, and recently it seems Eric has decided to blog every day (if I misunderstood Eric, please forgive.) My criticisms are not of his posts so much as a knowledge he wants to blog daily and I fear we’ll see more quanitity and less quality.

As an aside, it was actually that comment exchange which triggered me to finally write this post rather than just repeatedly think this sadness I feel when faced with the daily blogging of others who blog posts I would love to read, albeit not daily.

Awesome Bloggers Who Don’t Post Daily

Conversely, here are a few of my (current) favorite bloggers. They seem to only post when they have time and inspiration, but their posts are almost uniformly excellent. When I think of these people I don’t think of how much pablum they have churned out, I only think of how much I am in awe of them.

Mark Suster of Both Sides of the Table

Mark’s <@msuster> blog tagline is “Entrepreneur turned VC” and his experience just exudes from his posts. From my perspective Mark is a VC on par with Fred Wilson albeit he’s not been a VC as long thus he hasn’t had the time to rack up an equivalent number of successes. But like Fred he writes for entrepreneur’s benefit and is clearly not a VC who thinks the best way to win is to take advantage of startup entrepreneurs. Both he and Fred write as if the best entrepreur-VC relationship is a win-win relationship, and that’s why I think both of them has gained so much attention.

Whenever one of Mark’s posts arrives in my email I think “I need to make time to read that, because I know it will be worth reading.” And 9 times out of 10, it is relevant to me and my interests in startups and provides me with significant insight or understanding that I would struggle to find published elsewhere.

Kudos to Mark, he’s my favorite blogger and I would love to have the opportunity to meet him in the future under circumstances where I have something of benefit to offer him.

Price Intelligently

I don’t know who actually blogs for Price Intelligently <@priceintel> but their posts are almost consistently excellent. They blog more frequently than Mark Suster, which surprises as they are able to keep up the quality, but if you care about optimizing pricing for a SaaS then this a must-read blog.

And I’m really glad they don’t try to do the daily thing.

April Dunford of RocketWatcher

Contrary to the rest of this post, I really wish that April <@aprildunford> would blog more. I think she’s like me; she’ll get a burst of inspiration and write a few posts, and then she’ll get busy and 6 months will have gone by with no new posts.

I don’t know April well but she’s got a startup marketing blog, and it’s excellent. When she posts.

Nuff said.

At Least I’m not the Only One

Finally it seems these people agree with me, at least somewhat:

One Final Takaway

So if you are contemplating the development of a daily blogging habit, please consider this the summarization of the above:

  • Choose Quality Over Quantity

 

-Mike

P.S. I do get the irony of my blogging on this topic. But since it’s contrarian in nature I think it counts as unique. One thing’s for sure; I could not write posts like this every day.

Tags: ,

20 comments ↓

#1 John Saddington on 01.07.14 at 12:47pm

yeah, that guy tom makes most of look blog-foolish.

;)

i blog daily and advocate blogging daily. the reason is less about traffic (not even the point) and more about self awareness and growth. this you can never over-indulge in.

#2 mikeschinkel on 01.07.14 at 1:00pm

Hey @John,

Thanks for stopping by! Yes, you are well known for your daily blogging. :)

Truth be told this post is just my plea to those who I really want to follow but can’t lest I be overwhelmed. Alas you fit into that category, but I do appreciate your perspective. If it works for you then, well, it works for you. :)

-Mike

#3 Tom McFarlin on 01.07.14 at 2:20pm

I started to write a longer comment that was more inline with each of the points that you mentioned above (many of which I - perhaps ironically - agree), but I digress,

Some people who blog daily, do so for the sake of page views.
Some people who blog daily, so for the sake for its personal (and potentially educational benefits - like John mentions)
Some people don’t blog daily because it’s not part of their desire as a hobby, day-to-day routine, or whatever.
Some people don’t blog daily because they take a significant amount of time to write their posts (which tend to be more long form than short).

It sounds to be like you’re advocating that people begin to blog a specific way which, by its very nature would, make it more difficult to write daily, and would require more academic approach (for lack of a better term) as it relates to blogging.

And perhaps that’s not a bad thing, but I think sometimes the amount of time that goes into writing long form posts like that could also come out to be as equal to (or even surpass) the amount of time to write several short, to-the-point (something I’m still working on) posts.

Regardless, when it comes to think kind of stuff, I pretty have one view about it: People are free to write and read as much or as infrequently as they want.

We can talk signal to noise all day long, but there is a subjective component to this (otherwise, we wouldn’t have magazines like Scientific American and US Weekly :).

There are plenty of blogs that I’ve followed and unfollowed over time. The one’s that I have kept around - some long form, some not - are the ones that consistently provide more value than not.

Oh! And just to be clear:

It’s as if he set himself a goal to write daily, so by gosh that’s what he is going to do.

LOL! That’s not why I blog daily, but I got a kick out of it nonetheless :).

Bottom line: I dig the post, I agree with many points, I respect you both as a writer and as a developer, and appreciate the kind words :).

#4 John Saddington on 01.07.14 at 2:23pm

I digitally-spew volumes of nonsensical wisdom (wait, WTF…?). See? You’ve made a wise decision.

;)

#5 mikeschinkel on 01.07.14 at 2:35pm

@John,

:-)

#6 Chris Lema on 01.08.14 at 12:24pm

Thanks for the link. I don’t disagree with some of the points you make above. Yet to suggest that long form = depth and that short posts != depth is an assessment that seems w/o depth. :)

#7 mikeschinkel on 01.08.14 at 1:58pm

Hi @Tom,

“It sounds to be like you’re advocating that people begin to blog a specific way which, by its very nature would, make it more difficult to write daily, and would require more academic approach (for lack of a better term) as it relates to blogging.”

I’m not sure that was what I was thinking but I can see how you can interpret it that way.

Bottom line for me is the mass daily blogging habit tends to generate a huge flowing volume of content and makes it harder for those of us who would really like to follow numerous bloggers to consume all their content. A daily blogging habit just does not IMO leave the blogger enough time to contemplate and rework deeper and higher-quality posts, especially for people who are not full-time writers.

I pretty have one view about it: People are free to write and read as much or as infrequently as they want.”

Absolutely, and I would never want to see a anything limit people’s ability to blog at a frequency they want. But like you who often blogs to influence the opinion of others I wrote this post in hopes to influence a fair number of bloggers to want to focus on writing less instead of focus on writing better.

We can talk signal to noise all day long, but there is a subjective component to this (otherwise, we wouldn’t have magazines like Scientific American and US Weekly :).

True, but like pornography most of us know it when we see it. Not always, but often enough. I can look back at my past writings and I can sure find a lot more noise than signal here (which is why I keep thinking about pruning past posts, but I also hate killing URL endpoints too as it feels like rewriting history. But I digress…)


Oh! And just to be clear:

It’s as if he set himself a goal to write daily, so by gosh that’s what he is going to do.

LOL! That’s not why I blog daily, but I got a kick out of it nonetheless :).

:-) That was just my “outside looking in” perspective.

Bottom line: I dig the post, I agree with many points, I respect you both as a writer and as a developer, and appreciate the kind words :).

It goes without saying to you, because I’ve told you before, but for others who might read this you have my highest respect, even if I can’t keep up with your volume of posts. :)

#8 mikeschinkel on 01.08.14 at 2:01pm

Hi @Chris,

Thanks for stopping by.

to suggest .. short posts != depth

I hope my writing didn’t imply that, it wasn’t my intention nor do I believe that. As Mark Twain famously said:

“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”

Clearly short content with great depth can take a lot more time to produce than long content. What I was attempting to convey was my opinion that if someone blogs daily, they (probably) don’t have time to devote to writing content with greater depth because they are always on the treadmill of daily blogging. And from my reading of content from daily blogs, experience confirms my evaluation of average “depth”.

Yes, there are rare people who are able to maintain quality daily, but for the most part I believe that the people who can produce daily content worth consuming are full time professional writers.

Even so, if someone produces daily content they are run a high risk of overwhelming their readers. Case in point I subscribed to your blog for email notices but had to unsubscribe because it was just too much.

Of course I know you are a strong proponent of daily blogging and I strongly believe in your right to your opinion, I just happen to disagree with you. And like you, when we feel strongly about our opinion, I blogged about it. I felt like there was a need for our counterbalance out there in the blog-o-sphere.

But nothing says you have to agree with me. :)

-Mike

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#11 Sarah Gooding on 01.11.14 at 4:08pm

I agree with many points you make in the post, though I think I fall into the exception category. I blog multiple times daily but that’s my full-time job as a WordPress journalist so there’s no choice when you’ve got to get the news out. ;) However, I also very much appreciate developers like Tom McFarlin who blog daily because I think it adds so much learning to the vast library that is the internet. I read everything he writes, but that’s because he writes on topics I’m interested in. I like others who blog daily about life and business, but would prefer to have a weekly digest of those kinds of things where I can quickly pick and choose articles to read. I guess that’s what a feed reader is for. The only thing that bugs me is when people tweet links to their posts multiple times per day. Yes, I get why that’s beneficial for traffic for business and for getting the word out. But it clutters my twitter stream because I read every single tweet.

#12 mikeschinkel on 01.11.14 at 4:35pm

Hi @Sarah,

Thanks for stopping by. Honored. I’ve read LOTS of your posts, and by-and-large they are quite good!

And yes, you are in the exception category; it’s your job to write and that’s probably in part why you can do such a good job while writing so often (talent is probably the other part. :) And as a writer I’d assume part of your job is also reading for inspiration thus you’d get to devote more time to reading than the average person can afford to.

As for feed readers I’ve found they work great for the first few weeks and then (at least for me) I get overwhelmed with so much content in my feed I can’t keep up. Feed readers don’t help me consume content any quicker than getting new posts in email; a single inbox is the only way I can manage multiple forms of input and so feed reader vs. inbox actually makes things worse.

Agreed about Twitter, but since I treat Twitter like a stream I drink from rather than a basin where I capture all to consume I don’t mind them as much.

Bottom line regarding this post, it’s just my opinion about what I think would make things better for many people (myself included) so I wanted to add a counter-point to the blogosphere in hopes to help counter balance the “blog every day” meme. My hopes are I can influence a least a few people whose knowledge and experience I’d really like to learn from, but not get overwhelmed by, to blog better by blogging less.

-Mike

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#15 John Locke on 01.15.14 at 1:29am

Hi Mike:

I agree with some of this post, but not all. Blogging daily, or even a lot, is pretty difficult for a lot of people. Time constraints or just lack of something good to say are reasons why people shy away from it.

Regular blogging does bring traffic, but it also helps people know why they should trust you. It helps you clarify your thoughts and express them for yourself and others. It isn’t easy, but I believe the benefits outweight the negative.

#16 mikeschinkel on 01.15.14 at 10:51am

Hey @John,

Thanks for the comment.

Funny thing, I agree completely with your comment. While I know my post title said “STOP BLOGGING” I was being tongue-in-cheek and was really arguing for what I believe is better blogging. More specifically, no arbitrarily required daily post but instead having people devote the time required to each post topic so that the subject is covered well.

Personally I think that too generates trust but it also generates respect for expertise that, at least with me, daily blogging does not. FWIW. :)

-Mike

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