A recent study has come out saying that the average regular internet user visits around seven sites regularly. They may surf over 100 or 1000 sites a week, but as far as faithful standby sites go, people stick to about seven. At the same time, demands on our attention are rising, split between other media like DVDs, theater movies, internet video, audio podcasts, games (console, pc, or online), blogs, social software sites like MySpace, Flickr, and more. We are drowning in ways to use up your computer’s CPU cycles, and completely submerged in the amount of ways you can spend your time.
How is your blog going to stand out?
I do a LOT of blog surfing, but I get most of it through the various places of quality aggregation. For instance, I love technology, so I subscribe to an RSS feed for a site called the Daily Mashup. It gives me a blend of the things people are tagging on del.icio.us, populicious, and I think a little bit of Digg and Slashdot mixed in. Without it, I wouldn’t find a lot of the smaller content being put out there. I love productivity and self-improvement, but without Lifehacker, Lifehack.org, and a few other sites, I wouldn’t be landing on excellent sites like Matthew Cornell or otherwise.
How did you find me? I’m betting that most of you (except for my Mom) either found me from a Technorati tag, or from a site like Lifehack.org. Otherwise, how would you know I was out here pouring my heart into my blog these past years, building up quite a body of content, thoughts and insights.
If a Tree Falls
The biggest tragedy of this over-abundance of content is that the quality stuff quite often falls beneath the waves, as the lowest common denominator material is linked into prominence. Don’t believe me? Check out YouTube.
The top videos there are almost always skateboard kids falling off the wall, flatulence jokes, and chicks in bikinis. Nothing is inherently wrong with any of that, but how does one find the true rare gems, like someone putting out a howto series on digital photography?
If you’ve got an amazing internet web series like Justin Kownacki, doesn’t it just frost you that more people have watched a kid pretend to be a Jedi Knight than three seasons worth of hard work and quality entertainment?
Everywhere I go, I see excellent content with not nearly as much of an audience as it deserves. You as a blogger or podcaster or producer of amazing and creative content are scratching your head at your 50, 100, 300 subscribers, and wondering what it’s going to take to get 1000 regular subscribers. You know you’ve got something to share with people, and you’re putting in so much effort that your significant other is complaining and reminding you that you’re not getting paid for this, and yet, it’s a passion.
On the other side, I see people surfing the net, finding whatever’s at the surface, and then running out of time before they can go down the various alleys and crannies where the “good stuff” is kept. Imagine you’ve come home from work, had dinner with the family, read your kids three stories and fended off their requests for ten more. You’ve helped with the dishes, signed a few bills, and managed a brief “how was your day” conversation, and now you’ve got about 40 minutes between you and bedtime.
The choices before you as a consumer at this point are: DVD, game, news, music, internet video, podcasts, random surfing, eBay, etc. You might even be doing something of your own, like editing and uploading photos to Flickr, or making something along with the guys at MAKE Magazine. Which do you choose?
Content Networks are the New Blogs
I believe you as a content producer deserve a shot at more audience. I believe you as a consumer want to find big stashes of engaging quality content. So, what to do?
I say gather. I say reach out and find the other blogs that write the same kind of stuff you write. Put together a new “superblog” that can serve as a magazine or similar content silo for your collected materials. Think of it as a byline column in a newspaper. Can you imagine having to go to 21 different sites to read the New York Times?
Imagine the difference as a producer of content when you get the synergy of five or so people working together. That’s what BoingBoing does. That’s what Lifehacker does. Hell, pretty much all the huge blogs that you probably read are created and maintained by more than one content producer. Why not emulate their success by forming little networks to aggregate your content into a much bigger package of value?
If You Care About Ad Revenue
Some folks are making a living from their blogs, podcasts, video content. Most of us aren’t seeing a dime for the work, and receive payment in the way of intangibles. (I’ll write about that some other time). However, if you’re interested in landing advertisers that matter to you (instead of just formatting Adsense skyscrapers in the margins), there’s a big difference in showing such advertisers site stats and RSS subscription info from Feedburner that demonstrates your 2500 regular subscribers and 7100 unique hits a day. It certainly sweetens the pot.
If the Network Isn’t For You
For whatever reason, you might be perfectly happy with things the way they are, and you might enjoy the small base of regular-but-loyal consumers of your content. In those cases, it’s still useful to add tags to your blog so that folks looking for more support material or information that you possess will have a way to reach you. For that, I recommned Technorati. It’s brought me all kinds of interesting visitors that have stuck around for whatever reasons, and that’s great, too.
A blog is just a template for a website. Podcasting is just a template for delivering audio and video. People use these things for different reasons. I’ve read plenty of blogs that are food diaries covering what someone ate in a day. I’ve read people’s blogs who use them only to list movies and books they want to read or have read. (I find good stuff out there). Some blogs are there for venting. Remember, it’s your medium.
Content Networks Are the New Blogs
As for me, I’m going to seek out content that complements what I’m doing by people who produce similar quantities and quality as my own, and I’m going to implore them to work together on a group content effort. Where it goes from there, we’ll see. I have more access to the producers of content than I have the consumers or the marketers. But I do know that the use case I listed above is sound. Consumers want easier access to better content all in one place. Advertisers don’t want to write lots of little checks, but would instead rather make one payment to a larger network and reach more eyeballs.
If you have a blog, a podcast, a web comic, a video cast, whatever is content that you think consumers are interested in experiencing, feel free to contact me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a strong hunch where things are going and I want to get ahead of that curve.