There are, I think, two kinds of online diarists out there. Those who want more traffic, and those who claim not to. If you’re in the latter camp, and don’t care if only eight people a month read your site, then why are you making it public in the first place? I can think of a couple reasons:
- You’re just doing it for friends, family or another specific, distributed group of people.
Hmm…that’s the only reason I could come up with. I think nearly everybody wants more readers. I certainly do. It’s only natural. You’re putting in an effort and want others to enjoy it.
I’m speaking here to people who mostly write about their own lives. If you write about a specific industry, subject or hobby, run a blog consisting mostly of links, or any of a dozen other approaches, this probably doesn’t apply to you. If you’re an online diarist, however, here’s how I think you should generate more traffic:
UPDATE: It’s become apparent to me that, ironically, this post wasn’t as clear as it should have been, and that my tone may have struck people as dictatorial. For this, I apologize. It was my intent to articulate what I looked for in an online diary, and to describe how aspiring diarists could increase their readership.
It wasn’t my intent to impose limitations on what people write about. They’re welcome to write about whatever they like. They may or may not find an audience for their writing. I still believe that nearly everyone wants a bigger audience, and these are my thoughts on how they should get it.
- If you’re going to write about the ordinary day-to-day events of your life,
write extraordinarily, with humour and insight and passion. Heather Armstrong,
of Dooce fame, does this
very well. Here’s an amusing, informative entry about getting a haircut.
- Don’t confuse passion with complaining.
- If you’re going to complain a lot, make sure you’re very amusing doing so.
- Definitely write about the extraordinary events in your life. I want to
read about your
wedding or your
struggle with illness or your
- The same goes for your pet. If you’re going to write about your cat, I only
want to hear about how it caught that bald eagle, has pea-green feces or
is growing a third ear. I know that you love them and think they’re perfect–you
don’t have to keep telling me.
- The same goes for your children. I want to hear about how your son came first
in the town-wide spelling bee, wore his sister’s dress to school or said "cocksucker"
in front of the grandparents.
- The same also goes for your spouse. In short, don’t gush about the other
mammals in your life. Instead, tell entertaining or poignant or tragic stories
- Include lots of photos of both people and things. I’m constantly amazed
at the quality of photos I see on weblogs.
- Identify the cultural sub-group (suburban fathers, goth girls, cat-fanciers,
etc.) you belong to, and seek them out on the Web. These people definitely
want to read about your life experiences.
- Be self-effacing.
is the soul of wit. Don’t post unless you’ve got
something compelling to talk about. After writing a post, consider whether
it’s worth publishing publicly or not. There’s nothing wrong with
having both a public and private diary.
- Distill your experience. Good writing makes the commonplace exceptional.
I describe these as methods for generating more traffic because I regularly
abandon diary-type weblogs for their monotony, verbosity and grimness. I stick
with others because I like the style and content (or, admittedly, because they’re written by friends of mine). Maybe I’m alone in disdaining this approach–maybe there
are enough readers for every online diary. Whether that’s true or not, making
your online diary more compelling isn’t a bad idea, is it?
I know I’m courting controversy here. People are likely to respond with "I
don’t ask you to read my online diary." If that’s the case, then why is