Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about Ed Bott’s recent rant about Techmeme being a “template for a gazillion me-too bloggers who manage to write a dozen posts a day without ever expressing an original thought”.
Given Techmeme’s well-deserved reputation as being the place to quickly discover what’s going on in the tech world, Bott’s assessment is blunt, critical, perhaps unfair but not entirely without merit. He’s right; there is an awful lot of blog posts offering little or no insight other than referring to another blog. Rather than adding to the conversation, many of these posts come across as simply noise and bandwagon jumping.
The question that begs to be asked is why does there seem to be so much me-too blogging as opposed to people contributing different perspectives? Here’s what I think:
1. Writing original thought-provoking blog content is a challenge. It takes time, thought and effort. The problem, however, is many bloggers are often short of time, which means it is difficult to come up with insightful thoughts. As Louis Gray talked about in a recent post, many bloggers are time-strapped what with blogging and being on other social/content vehicles such as Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, RSS readers, etc. If you’re doing all that, when do you have time to think Big Thoughts?
2. Many bloggers just want to be part of the conversation before it moves on. Here’s what happens in many cases. You see a hot story and you’re keen to jump in but not willing to simply leave a comment on someone else’s blog. Solution: Pound out a quick, no-frills post that makes you feel good about being on top of the hot story even if it’s piling on. I’m willing to guess that 50% of the posts about a red-hot story on Techmeme (e.g. Microsoft making a bid for Yahoo) were posts that just parroted the news reports.
3. Writing original content often provides a low return on investment. Let’s face it, traffic is what drives many bloggers, which explains why checking your stats on a regular basis is a key part of blogging. When you write original content that falls outside the hot news of the day, there’s a good chance it’s not going to get much love or traffic.
How come? The biggest reason is everyone is spending so much time reading or writing about the big news of the day, your original, thought-provoking post gets buried. As a result, it’s easy to think “Why put so much effort into writing quality content when there’s instant gratification (and traffic) by jumping on the bandwagon”.
4. Unless you blog for living like Mike Arrington or Erick Schonfeld, or you’re a tech reporter like Mathew Ingram or a conference junkie like Robert Scoble, you don’t have steady access to people and new ideas that often spawn original blog posts.
5. Vanity and Envy. If you really want to see your name on Techmeme, write about the top news on Techmeme. If you want to talk about whatever TechCrunch is covering, blog on what Arrington thinks about something.
As much as writing original, insightful posts is every blogger’s goal, the reality is it’s difficult. Sometimes, the ideas aren’t flowing but you still need to feed the blog every day. Sometimes, jumping into the conversation of the day just feels good.
At the same time, however, writing original content is so much more satisfying because there’s a sense of accomplishment that you’ve been inspired by something you’ve read or talked about with someone about. It’s those nuggets of original content gold that make blogging so rewarding.
Update: Just by coincidence, I stumbled across a blog widget tool called Skribit, which provides a way for people who read your blog to make suggestions for new posts. One of the promises is it will “Cure writers block overnight”. I just installed it – let’s see if there’s any pick up.