Already some years ago, after my own first episodes of writing a blog, I tried to understand what makes a good blog, and what makes a bad one. I finally came to the conclusion, that publicity is a bad measure. I have seen blogs of so unbelievable triviality (covering cosmetics, cooking, TV series, tourism), which attracted hundreds or even thousands of followers. And on the other hand, I read blogs that are of highest literature quality and of a philosophical depth that one often wishes they were available as hard copy in a bookstore. But usually, they attract only very few readers that follow and occasionally write a response. The weirdest example was a regular blog (on blogspot.com) of the late Lars Gustafsson, the great cosmopolitan writer from Sweden, also philosopher and polymath, candidate for the Nobel prize, but ignored because his novels were too much fiction and psychology, and not politically explicit enough. Lars Gustafsson wrote his blog in English, and obviously he made little effort to increase in publicity, or pay for search engine optimization. I guess because of his fame in the international literature community, there must have been thousands of Google searches per day for his name, but obviously none of them found his privat blog. I think that including myself, there were lessless than 10 regular readers, obviously close friends of him, rather than book afficionados. Responses to his very long posts were rare, and I was perhaps the most frequent responder. So after a while, Gustafsson got used to start longer discussions with me, one of the readers of his blog whom he had never met in real life. During the 6 years that I followed his blog, his books were sold worldwide over several hundred thousand times, published in new translations, and awarded highest literature awards from different countries. But his personal blog remained a sort of secret jewel.
I neither did made much effort to change this, as one could have easily done by sending his blogs URL to literature critics, to his German publisher Hanser-Verlag, or posting it on Twitter. The last post Gustafsson wrote was in March 2016, about 3 weeks before his death.
After this, nobody kept the blog alive, nobody wrote an orbituary. Since 3 years now, Lars Gustafssons blog is an orphan.
If I analyze the bloggers activities over the years (i.e. the frequency of posts that Gustafsson wrote per month), it is obvious that he enjoyed writing in this blogosphere, in an environment where he apparently felt less exposed to the literature world. From the year 2009 when he started his blog till the end in 2016, he used to write 2 – 3, sometimes also 4 or 5 posts per month. This indicates that it was much more his personal satisfaction of being able to cover so many different topics in a none-curated manner on his blog, rather than a big audience, which motivated him to keep on writing there.
After my experience with a really exceptionally great blog – there are others, often by less famous writers – here is an examplean of how to write a bad blog.
A lady also writeswrites on http://www.blogger.com for 6 years, but all in all only 12 posts. Sometimes, she stopped writing for half a year, but she always had about 60+ followers, and to each post between 5 and 10 responses that praised her cooking skills, wishing good luck with the house refurbishment, or confirming that spring time is the nicest season of the year. I guess that she made publicity for her blog among relatives and members of her church, since the responses all looked very superficially positive.
But if you sat down and carefully red a single of her texts, immediately you noticed the problem. Here is one from 2014:
“….Few months post wedding, I had to give up my job and we (I and my husband) had to move abroad for his job purposes.We moved to a beautiful city that happens to be one of the best places to live. We breathe the freshest possible air, watch the starry (and pollution-free) sky. It is an ideal place for anyone who wishes to live and grow up in a healthy environment….”
The blog author in this case seem to be afraid of telling too much from his private life to the unknown audience. She seem to believe that the ~60 followers who were personally invited to the blog knew her beforeway, so they knew what was her job, knew her husband, knew to which country and which beautiful city they moved. But to the anonymous reader on the internet, the text reads like answers of a witness at a criminal court: Don’t reveal to much, only the facts, and stay as general as possible.
- What was her job ?
- What was the husbands name ?
- To which country abroad they moved ?
- Does this beautiful city also had a name, maybe it was as trivial as Rom, Paris, or Granada ?
- Best place to live ? By what measure, because it was clean as Singapure or cheap as Bazra ?
- Ideal place for anyone who loves healthy environment ? Whats about the millions of us who desperately wanting to live in an unhealthy environment (like Delhi, Karatchi or Marseille) ?
This is an example of how a blog can become pretty boring, if the posts are kept in a very superficial style. The blog author does not seemed to feel much satisfaction from her blog neither, despite the regular response from buddy readers (in a facebook style of just doing someone a favour). In 2014, after receiving more praises and explicite encouragements to keep on writing (in response to a post about how to cook a shepperds pie and how to buy the ingredients as cheep as possible), the blog fell into silence. I first thought that maybe (like the sad experience with Gustafssons blog), some health issue or life changing event made it impossible for the author to carry on. But last year, i.e. after 4 years silence, a new post was written. This time it was about a trip to a nearby national park. Well, travelling can be at least as boring to write about as is cooking. So there is no danger if I un-follow this blog that I might miss anything exciting.