the blogging pyramid

For the past few weeks I’ve been pondering Victoria’s thoughts on blogging trends. Though she spoke mostly to the homogenization of fashion and the impact fashion blogs have had, it got me pondering some bigger thoughts about blogging in 2012.

When blogging began (about a decade ago?) there were few people doing it seriously. Since then the progress in content, images, and general sophistication of the blogging community has exploded. Even since 2009 when I began MML, I sense a remarkable difference between the blogging prowess now and then.

With the advances in social media (Twitter, Pinterest, and even Facebook), digital photography, and web design, getting an extremely professional looking blog is easier than ever before (though definitely not always cheap).

And the boom of bloggers have been swiftly upgrading and improving their skills in all of these areas – which has led to a larger volume of high quality blogs.

However, readers still have busy lives and only have a limited amount of time to devote to blog reading each week, thus making them more selective in what they read.

There is an increasing number of great blogs, but still a limited amount of time for a reader to consume them.

So when people are now looking to find and select the blogs they want to follow, they have become more selective out of necessity. They don’t have all day for blogs, so they have to pick the ones they want to read the most. They have become better editors of their own content consumption.

And what blog readers are looking for, I believe, lies in the pyramid I created above. Though there are exceptions to all of these levels, I think that they majority of successful blogs have these elements in spades.

Though I will return to the bottom three levels later, today I’d like to focus on what I believe now truly separates the biggest blogs out there from the pack. And ultimately, these are the things that I’m focusing on personally to continue to grow myself.

To me, value and uniqueness are what really now define blogs with significant followings.

When a blog reader visits a site they are doing so with a purpose: to get value. The value can be anything; beauty, humor, inspiration, ideas, advice, and information are all forms of valuable content. To cultivate a large, dedicated readership there must be great value in the content.

And when the value of the content is lacking, readers may find themselves disinterested.

Which also leads to the tippy top of the pyramid, the thing that I think differentiates us all as people: uniqueness.

When a blogger is able to tap into their own authenticity and be completely themselves, magic happens.

This of course is most easily shown through original content. An inventive DIY project, touching personal story, reaction to a current event, funny thoughts on motherhood, or stunning images are all unique and can have far-reaching effects.

The homogenization of blogging, if that is indeed happening, perhaps lies in a lack of trust in our own authentic value. We are perhaps a bit too focused on looking at the person next to us rather than within.

This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. Yes to everything here. This is a conversation I’ve begun having with several other bloggers as well. There was a shift sometime in the last few years, in which bloggers saw other bloggers becoming successful (whatever THAT even means), and convinced themselves that in order to also “succeed,” there was a formula that they needed to adhere to or emulate. I believe this is now why the market is not only extremely saturated, but everything looks the same. Recently though, I’m excited by a subtle shift back to blogging’s roots — a place where ideas and content were far more original, authentic, and yes, sometimes even provocative. To be honest, I can trace a lot of it back to Things I’m Afraid to Tell You, so kudos to you, my dear! And as always, for being at the forefront of talking about issues that everyone’s already thinking about, but are sometimes unwilling to say.

  2. Yes to everything here. This is a conversation I’ve begun having with several other bloggers as well. There was a shift sometime in the last few years, in which bloggers saw other bloggers becoming successful (whatever THAT even means), and convinced themselves that in order to also “succeed,” there was a formula that they needed to adhere to or emulate. I believe this is now why the market is not only extremely saturated, but everything looks the same. Recently though, I’m excited by a subtle shift back to blogging’s roots — a place where ideas and content were far more original, authentic, and yes, sometimes even provocative. To be honest, I can trace a lot of it back to Things I’m Afraid to Tell You, so kudos to you, my dear! And as always, for being at the forefront of talking about issues that everyone’s already thinking about, but are sometimes unwilling to say.

  3. ANH Style

    This could not be more relevant! I am in a large phase of unsubscribing and unfollowing from blogs and Twitter feeds because it’s more than I want to keep track of right now.

    Personally? I think that there are many more people out there who can take great photos but who are not great writers. That is really how I “get to know” another blogger and if the writing is lacking, I tend to lose interest quickly.

  4. ANH Style

    This could not be more relevant! I am in a large phase of unsubscribing and unfollowing from blogs and Twitter feeds because it’s more than I want to keep track of right now.

    Personally? I think that there are many more people out there who can take great photos but who are not great writers. That is really how I “get to know” another blogger and if the writing is lacking, I tend to lose interest quickly.

  5. Last night I culled my Google Reader subscriptions from 416 to 50 (more on that here, if you care). It feels good to be free to focus on the blogs I actually enjoy reading and who I feel have value. It’s also interesting that the posts that seem to get the most responses—like the one where I talk about how hard it is to make friends after college, or today’s post where I talk about why I decided to free myself to focus on my own content—aren’t the ones with the pretty pictures or pretty collages. I agree with Victoria; the industry is oversaturated, and you see a lot of people doing the same things over and over. I’m taking this weekend to regroup. Thanks for posting this! It’s so true.

  6. Last night I culled my Google Reader subscriptions from 416 to 50 (more on that here, if you care). It feels good to be free to focus on the blogs I actually enjoy reading and who I feel have value. It’s also interesting that the posts that seem to get the most responses—like the one where I talk about how hard it is to make friends after college, or today’s post where I talk about why I decided to free myself to focus on my own content—aren’t the ones with the pretty pictures or pretty collages. I agree with Victoria; the industry is oversaturated, and you see a lot of people doing the same things over and over. I’m taking this weekend to regroup. Thanks for posting this! It’s so true.

  7. I completely agree with everything you said here, Jess! Over the past few weeks I’ve received several emails from younger bloggers asking for advice. I’ve more or less said a lot of what you said (though not so eloquently.) Now, I think I’ll just point them to this post!

    It is so so incredibly important to look within yourself vs. at the next person. Very well put.

  8. I completely agree with everything you said here, Jess! Over the past few weeks I’ve received several emails from younger bloggers asking for advice. I’ve more or less said a lot of what you said (though not so eloquently.) Now, I think I’ll just point them to this post!

    It is so so incredibly important to look within yourself vs. at the next person. Very well put.

  9. Abby

    Great post! I agree with the above comments as I recently went through a massive purge of my Google Reader. Now I only read the blogs I want to read, instead of scrolling past dozens of entries that I’m never going to look at. Content is key and, as mentioned by ANH Style, if the writing is bad I’m not coming back to that blog no matter how amazing the design.

  10. Abby

    Great post! I agree with the above comments as I recently went through a massive purge of my Google Reader. Now I only read the blogs I want to read, instead of scrolling past dozens of entries that I’m never going to look at. Content is key and, as mentioned by ANH Style, if the writing is bad I’m not coming back to that blog no matter how amazing the design.

  11. kelsey williams

    thank you for writing this! i am so guilty of trying to be like everyone else, which is crazy because in my “real” life, i am all about being different. like to the point of doing something just to be different. i have taken a big step back from fashion blogging since march (when rooney was born). i’m focusing more on marriage, parenting, faith and money – which is where i think i can provide better value. the one thing it’s definitely lacking is a beautiful blog design, but it’s in the works!

  12. rita

    thank you, i love this. i started blogging just two weeks ago, as part of an effort to do all the things i wanted to do but have been too afraid to try… and honestly, to just try to be a part of the community, because i feel like i have gained so much from reading blogs and wanted to give back, if i could. and it’s hard to figure out what i want to focus on, when so much of what i see is everyone doing the same thing. i took time to go through my reader this week and remember why i read a lot of the blogs i do, and have for years, and your pyramid summarized it perfectly. thank you!!

  13. anne

    This is so refreshing, Jess. Thanks so much for these great thoughts to ponder.

  14. Jenny @ BAKE

    Wow. This is an amazing post and it’s given me so much to think about. I’m going to have to print out your pyramid and stick it above my desk.

  15. Jenny @ BAKE

    Wow. This is an amazing post and it’s given me so much to think about. I’m going to have to print out your pyramid and stick it above my desk.

  16. Lauren

    Great post, Jess! I’ve definitely found that lately I’m much more selective in the blogs I read. I’ve found myself unfollowing a lot simply because it seems like people are trying to post something everyday rather than something that is authentic and unique. I’d rather they post a couple times a week (consistently, like M W F) rather than every day but with content I’ve seen all over the web.

    It’s definitely a catch-22 with blogging, especially if it’s not your full-time job. You need to have a life outside of blogging so that you have authentic things to blog about, but then you might not have as much time to blog about it. I’d rather get a small glimpse of someone’s full life and those are the blogs I’ve been gravitating towards.

    You’ve got a great talent for writing things clearly and concisely. One of the reasons I come back here a lot! 🙂

  17. Emily @ Peck Liife

    I love this post! Very well said! 🙂 I have been blogging for 4 years now and I feel like it’s just gotten bigger and harder to keep up…there are so many things i love to read but am having to really cut it down in order to maintain sanity/time for family/creating/writing my own content! ahh! never enough minutes in the day. 🙂

  18. Yasmine

    Hi, Jess! I’ve been following your writing for a couple of months now, and have always enjoyed reading (including your “What I Wish I Knew Wednesday” emails). I started blogging back in early 2003 (almost ten years ago!), but have slacked off in the last couple of years, posting only twice a year or so. It’s been a huge shift for me, especially since I’ve made so many real-life friends via blogging and have created and cultivated such a lovely community over the years.

    In the last two years or so of not blogging regularly, I’ve definitely felt like something was missing, since writing is such a huge part of my life. I think a lot of the problem was that I’ve fallen into the mindset of “I need to write perfectly” as opposed to “I need to write more regularly, and share it, even if it’s not perfect”. Lastnight I updated with some writing and photography after six months, and I’ve been feeling SOO GOOD AND ACCOMPLISHED all day! =)

    All this rambling to say, this was such a timely post from you, and exactly what I’ve been needing today, to keep my blogging high going. It’s a reminder that I love my little blogistan community — and they, much to my honor, seem to appreciate my writing and my take on life, too. They’re not clamoring for perfect writing — they’d just like to hear from me more often, about my life and how I see the world. Somehow, that resonates with them, and I am so grateful to have that support and encouragement as I intend to write more often, and with the soul and value you mentioned.

    Thankyou for a lovely post, Jess.

  19. Yasmine

    Hi, Jess! I’ve been following your writing for a couple of months now, and have always enjoyed reading (including your “What I Wish I Knew Wednesday” emails). I started blogging back in early 2003 (almost ten years ago!), but have slacked off in the last couple of years, posting only twice a year or so. It’s been a huge shift for me, especially since I’ve made so many real-life friends via blogging and have created and cultivated such a lovely community over the years.

    In the last two years or so of not blogging regularly, I’ve definitely felt like something was missing, since writing is such a huge part of my life. I think a lot of the problem was that I’ve fallen into the mindset of “I need to write perfectly” as opposed to “I need to write more regularly, and share it, even if it’s not perfect”. Lastnight I updated with some writing and photography after six months, and I’ve been feeling SOO GOOD AND ACCOMPLISHED all day! =)

    All this rambling to say, this was such a timely post from you, and exactly what I’ve been needing today, to keep my blogging high going. It’s a reminder that I love my little blogistan community — and they, much to my honor, seem to appreciate my writing and my take on life, too. They’re not clamoring for perfect writing — they’d just like to hear from me more often, about my life and how I see the world. Somehow, that resonates with them, and I am so grateful to have that support and encouragement as I intend to write more often, and with the soul and value you mentioned.

    Thankyou for a lovely post, Jess.

  20. Jill

    I’ve been thinking about this post so much since reading it yesterday and have felt similar in the past couple months. But I think there are also two upsides to some of the negatives here:

    1) Even though there is a stream of new bloggers in the mix, there are also those of us that have been blogging for years. I’m almost at the four year point. Not many bloggers make it that long, so our longevity (hopefully) adds to maturity in the marketplace.

    2) I also think that having a limited readership can be a positive. It can lead to a more engaged community and readership for that particular blog. I don’t need to have HUNDREDS of comments on each blog post. Meaningful comments and engaged readers are more valuable to me.

  21. Jess

    You guys, these are such great, great points!!! I’m so glad this conversation has started. : )

    Jill, I totally agree with all that you mention! I do still think the Blogging Pyramid is applicable to both large and small followings, old and new blogs. On any level, I think value and uniqueness are needed and appreciated by readers. : )

  22. Lorena

    Oh Jess, great post. The other day I visited a blog and checked out all the blogs she has the blogroll (it is a good list). After a while all the blogs looked the same. Fashion blogs, decor blogs and lifestyle blogs (even some cooking blogs) are looking the same. The Internet in general is overcrowded and to find a unique voice is more and more difficult. I have also been cleaning my reading list, because I have time limitations.

  23. Dana McDowell

    This is a great post! I know when I was in high school, I wanted to blog so so badly (about what, I don’t even remember). But my parents thought it was dangerous and I obeyed them hah. Now that I have been in the blog world for around two years (both reading and actually blogging), I see where it is so commonplace. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes! So, as I blog, I try to concentrate on things that really matter in my life (even if it’s the blanket I just bought for our master bedroom), as opposed to finding pretty pictures that have nothing to do with me. It’s challenging, for sure. But it’s also rewarding in a way I never thought possible.

  24. Dana McDowell

    This is a great post! I know when I was in high school, I wanted to blog so so badly (about what, I don’t even remember). But my parents thought it was dangerous and I obeyed them hah. Now that I have been in the blog world for around two years (both reading and actually blogging), I see where it is so commonplace. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes! So, as I blog, I try to concentrate on things that really matter in my life (even if it’s the blanket I just bought for our master bedroom), as opposed to finding pretty pictures that have nothing to do with me. It’s challenging, for sure. But it’s also rewarding in a way I never thought possible.

  25. Ashley

    Absolutely love this post! Thanks for sharing with us your tips – I think finding our authentic voice is a very valuable trait and one that I am continually trying to improve on.

  26. ashley

    LOVE this!! i’d rather post 3 times a week with authentic material rather than everyday with posts i just slap together. it actually used to really stress me out – how to keep up with the daily or mostly-daily posting when i am particularly busy or not particularly inspired. i’ve slowed down and tried to focus on writing about what i love and things that i would like to share with others.

  27. ashley

    LOVE this!! i’d rather post 3 times a week with authentic material rather than everyday with posts i just slap together. it actually used to really stress me out – how to keep up with the daily or mostly-daily posting when i am particularly busy or not particularly inspired. i’ve slowed down and tried to focus on writing about what i love and things that i would like to share with others.

  28. Cara

    This is so well put Jess! Just by the comments alone I think you have articulated something that many of us have been thinking about (and actioning in many ways). I might argue that the “soul and uniqueness” be at the foundation of the pyramid, and be the grounding of all else, but I’m sure as you post more about this topic it will come together nicely ~ because that is just what you do! 🙂

  29. Jess

    Cara, great suggestion! To me, though it is ultimately the most important factor in longevity, quality, and reader engagement, the pyramid as I built it shows the levels of importance from low to high. So low is posting frequently and high is soul. : )

  30. Jess

    Cara, great suggestion! To me, though it is ultimately the most important factor in longevity, quality, and reader engagement, the pyramid as I built it shows the levels of importance from low to high. So low is posting frequently and high is soul. : )

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