So. Here’s my inevitable contribution then.
I waited for years for the Aussie blog scene to arrive so I could fill my feedreader with local content. It finally started happening in about 2009, ironically about the same time I moved to Hong Kong. But something went wrong. People stopped telling stories, and started campaigning for numbers. Now it’s common for me to open my feedreader and every third post will be an ad for toothpaste or a competition to win a $5 bakery voucher. Which to be honest would be pretty sweet if I still lived in Oz, because CHEESYMITE SCROLL WITHDRAWALS EVERY DAY, but in the actuality of the web being worldwide, not just activated once one steps within a 1km radius of a Bakers’ Delight, is pretty untargeted marketing. Even worse than this pointless product placement are the regretful litanies about not having enough sponsors or PR offers or receiving enough comments. Where it used to be about entertainment, conversation and memory preservation, now it’s all sponsored posts, stats and SEO.
I am shit at all those things.
But instead of using that as a licence to turn this into a failblog, I’ve decided to embrace my mediocrity as a point of difference. The biggest personal bloggers in the world – Dooce, The Spohrs are Multiplying, The Pioneer Woman, Edenland – have lots in common. One of the things they all share is that I never use any of their successful tactics, either through negligence, ignorance, or just not giving a fuck.
But maybe there are some new up-and-coming bloggers out there who can learn a few lessons in failure from my seasoned, progressive descent! Do YOU want to write a blog that receives three to four embarrassingly under-remunerated PR pitches a month? How does two comments a post sound? If these are the sort of wild dreams you are harbouring, look no further than my TEN RULES OF UNSUCCESSFUL BLOGGING.
If it’s your aim to write a blog which doesn’t measure up to any of the modern success benchmarks, I assure you you couldn’t ask for a more accomplished teacher. And all this advice is FREE! I gather everything I put online should be monetised, because it’s my “valuable time” and I deserve recompense, but I think that would involve embedding a payment widget and that’s the first rule:
1. Don’t embed widgets/buttons. And definitely don’t learn how to make custom ones. Moving .gifs or anything remotely professional or graphically designed should be strenuously avoided. On that, whatever you do, don’t get a custom layout. By all means change the header photo or font if it’s a simple process, but that’s it. You want the people who open your site to feel the dichotomy of warm familiarity and bleak desertion when they recognise your layout from 2006.
2. Never reply to PR pitches. Hand in hand with this is, crucially, don’t have a media kit. This is good news because really, how would you write one of those things. Also you’d have to learn how to add a “page” onto your layout, a clear contravention of point 1 above.
3. Read other blogs on your phone, which makes it really hard to leave worthwhile comments. Hardly ever commenting on other blogs means you establish few new connections. This will ensure limited return visits and reciprocal comments. Who cares though, because you’re only writing for yourself anyway, right? While we’re talking about limiting new “token” connections, singularly fail to sign up to Alexa, StumbleUpon etc. Whatever you do, don’t join Twitter. Don’t join groups like ‘You like me, I’ll like you’ or guest-post on more popular blogs than yours. All these avenues increase the chance of establishing a readership, which is the anti-aim of any unsuccessful blog. Don’t even bother to learn what Disqus, Nuffnang etc mean. I use an obtuse Facebook-only approach of pimping out my blog, and if you’re looking at my stats in that light, it’s with wild success, baby.
4. Swear a lot. Even if the subject of a particular post doesn’t call for profanity, sprinkle a few fucks around randomly. This is a surefire turn-off for potential
5. Post late on a Saturday night. Some guy wrote a book that says it’s the worst time in the whole week for traffic, but if you’re a parent, it’s your only free time – now that you don’t go out any more. Any readers you do have will miss Saturday night posts because they don’t have kids and they’re out; or they’re also unsuccessful bloggers so they’re crafting their own Saturday-night posts; or they’re asleep, and then busy on Sunday, and then on Monday their feedreaders are so full they just mark everything as read anyway.
6. If you’ve got nothing to say, don’t post. Let those tumbleweeds fly down the corridor for a month if you CBF. Your stats will be abysmal, dropping from 200 to 40 overnight, and then after a week of neglect, shocking numbers of 6 and 3 daily hits will be seen. This is pure crystallised failblogging.
7. Don’t finish your post with an open-ended question. I’m pretty sure the same bozo who wrote the book about not posting on Saturday night is the one to blame for nearly every post in the Aussie blogosphere ending with an idiotic rhetorical question in a desperate bid for comments. But who are you going to trust: him, or someone like me, with a bona fide 76 “likes” on Facebook?
8. Don’t watermark your photos or use aliases for your family. Your shit isn’t that important. Also think how much time you’re going to waste stuffing around in photo-editing software. Even I can’t deny, though, that photos are a crucial part of blogging. But it’s up to you how you approach them. If you’re trying to build a successful career out of your blog, sucked in – you’ll now be spending 70% of your spare time orchestrating photo opportunities, uploading, cropping and watermarking. If you’re going down the failblog route – hurrah! Take any photo you like with your phone camera, and just upload it as is. The worse composition and less clarity, the better. Using the incorrect aspect ratio is fine. For best failblogging results, you will also upload your photos sideways.
9. Content is, of course, the most important element. The problogger will plan their blogging schedule a month in advance, with post topics pre-determined. They will post things of relevance to their target audience, link in with recent social media happenings, respond to current affairs affecting their readership. I like to go down the less popular route of talking about things that are either uncomfortable (ie, having a servant) or incredible niche (ie, my job in the very tiny field of stenography). These topics and others I cover are usually either of little interest to anyone; or else distasteful and ostractising.
10. Once you’ve found the offensive niche topics in your life that interest you personally enough to ramble on nonsensically about the twice a month you get around to blogging, be sure to expound on them in chunky prose and in interminable sentences. There are some famous maxims in writing about “less is more” and “don’t be a smartarse with words” etc. I couldn’t stand in any more strident opposition to both statements. I stride each one with vigour. By which I mean, no. Words are good. Use any that pop into your head. Sometimes when I reread my own blog I have to use a ruler to block off parts of sentences to digest individual clauses before moving on. That’s some good clear enucleation.
You can never post enough photos or anecdotes about your kids. Never. No limit.
In conclusion: embrace your unmarketable mediocrity. Flood the blogosphere with awkwardly laid-out and convoluted blogs. I’ll follow all of y’all. Next time I get to a PC…
So, what tips would you offer fledgling unsuccessful bloggers?