How To Become a Better Blogger By Not Reading Blogs

Posted on December 20, 2007
Filed Under Blogs |

Andy Swan left an interesting comment on my post about MBAs.

The strategic thinking aspect of an MBA is worthless. Why? Because it is EXACTLY the same strategic thinking that your competitors are using. Think of business like a poker game or trading the stock market…if most people are playing based on the same set of strategic rules, then it is going to be the “maverick” who changes the dynamic of the game and can exploit the weakness of ALL competition with a single strategic difference.

I was thinking about his comment today as I looked at the links to Businesspundit in Technorati. I noticed that my hastily published post Management by Semantics received several incoming links, while a post I spent a lot of time on, The Google of Eden, didn’t get squat. The interesting thing about the former is that it came from a quote I found in a book. The latter was a response to another blog post.

As I thought about this, I realized that over the 5 years I’ve been blogging, my most popular posts have not come from following the blogosphere. They haven’t been the result of me responding to some online conversation. They haven’t been on techmeme. They have all been original stuff, stuff that I thought of when I wasn’t in front of a computer. My most popular post of all time, How to Network For Introverts came from a lunch conversation with a friend. The second most popular post of all time, my criticism of the book “Good to Great”, came when a friend of mine made a random comment about one of the companies in the study. Do you see a pattern emerging? Not one of my top 20 posts was on a popular blogosphere topic. Not one of them was about me “being part of the conversation.” Not one of them was anything other than a random observation or encounter that led to an idea.

In the early days of blogging, I read a lot and linked a lot, but now, to stand out, you have to take Andy’s comment into account. If you read the top blogs on the web, well, so does everyone else. Why are you suddenly going to have different ideas of what to write about?

My advice, if you want to become a better blogger, is not to read so many blogs. Or mix them up, rotating through a different list each week. I know, I know, you are afraid you will “miss something.” Miss what? Anything that is really important will filter up to a higher level of news anyway. Maybe that isn’t what you are concerned about. Maybe you are looking for that diamond in the rough - that unpopular piece of information that will somehow make all the difference to your life. Well, you may find that, but you will have to read so much redundant crap to get to it, that won’t be worth the tradeoff.

If you want to stand out, get your ideas from some place that other people don’t. Blogging is about differentiation, and to get different outputs, you need different inputs. So shut down that RSS reader. Pick up a book or a magazine. Chat with a friend. Find your blogging ideas in life, not in other blogs. You, and your readers, will enjoy your posts more.

Comments

18 Responses to “How To Become a Better Blogger By Not Reading Blogs”

  1. Stock Market » How To Become a Better Blogger By Not Reading Blogs on December 20th, 2007 4:22 am

    [...] Here’s another interesting post I read today by Coconut Headsets [...]

  2. Code4Gold on December 20th, 2007 4:51 am

    I think it’s fair to mention that there are many informative and useful blogs out there but the ones that seem to garner all the attention are the ones specifically devloted to marketing and pimping affiliate commissions. Take the biggest blogs out there, Techcrunch, JohnChow, ProBlogger, Shoemoney - all serve no real purpose except to glorify “getting rich” from blogging. In my opinion, blogging should be an art for and an a form of self expression, not a television commercial. Essentially, I occasionally browse through the afformentioned blogs to see if anything has changed byut countless times I find myself landing back onto more obscure, niche oriented, content worth blogs.

    Great article anyway,
    Dave

  3. Ignat on December 20th, 2007 12:07 pm

    I hate when you start your posts with a quotation. As if saying “Go and read other blog/article first”.

    From any other aspect the post is great. Thanks!

  4. bobvis on December 20th, 2007 2:09 pm

    Rob, I find this interesting because just a couple days ago I posted about how the opposite seems to happen in academia. As an academic, it is important to show that your work is important by showing a lot of ties to what people are talking about right now in your field.

    Let me offer a suggestion: maybe if you want to hit a home run, you should do something brand new and not just another step in the conversation. At the same time, these new things are more likely to be duds. Adding to an existing conversation meanwhile is less risky. You are less likely to hit a home run or to find that no one is interested.

    Now that I think about it, that is the way it works in academia too. The really big, popular articles are about new things, but so are the articles that are complete duds…

  5. nic on December 20th, 2007 4:06 pm

    so true. so very very true.

    keep living the real life, and we’ll live vicariously through you. mmkay?

  6. Raza Imam on December 20th, 2007 5:55 pm

    Most modern blogs just rehash news that’s already out there. It’s almost like adding your own hype to something that other people have already discussed. I don’t read TechCrunch or any other ultra popular blogs because they just aren’t relevant to me. A lot of these blogs have really good content, but again, they’re not relevant to me. There’s a tendency for glitz and glamour and less actual substance. Seth Godin has a lot of substance. He’s obviously well read and provides really powerful nuggets. Something that actually makes me think… something that actually provides insight into how I can improve my life or my business.

    Bloggers challenge revolves around relevancy. They have to scour the web and find stories to satiate their hungry readers. If they don’t they’ll lose relevancy. Either way, I agree, bloggers should read to improve the quality of their content.

    Raza Imam
    http://BoycottSoftwareSweatshops.com

  7. Doug Green on December 20th, 2007 6:23 pm

    Nice to see I’m in touch with at least one small part of the blogging world. I make my living writing on a niche (not the one listed here) and just deleted all the blogs in that niche except 3.
    All are specialist and low-readership but high value info. The rest of the “blogging/journal” types - no matter how highly ranked, just hit the dead pile. It is a liberating feeling.

    This came when I realized that most of those bloggers are only writing for themselves and other bloggers. My target audience doesn’t blog, but visits (and I have the numbers to show) to get real information from my point of view. Let the bloggers play, I’m doing my own thing.

    Off with their heads.

  8. James Farquharson on December 21st, 2007 3:05 am

    And here I had just downloaded Reader so I could start a habit of reading blogs so I could, in turn, blog as well. Your post makes sense, but I think those that are complete newbs like I am at this at least need to read blogs to see how they work…how to people interact? How do I search for a blog….etc.

    James

  9. Nick Huhn on December 21st, 2007 3:54 am

    *wiping feet on new welcome mat*
    It seems to me that blogging (or ‘new media’ generally) has transformed from its origins as a platform of spontaneous ideas and causal discourse into an unapologetic vehicle for PR in a variety of ways. That can filter out a lot of noise as easily as it can snuff out original thoughts. As a result, I think SEO has now become PRO, and the behavior of the lemmings is as predictable as it is somewhat disheartening for those with contrarian or unique points of view.

    Thanks a million for the thoughtful insights and calculated opinions you contributed to our micro-discussion on Google in the Garden of Eden. The cream always rises to the top, and something tells me that the dialog we started might be a bit too early or too abstract for most of the lemmings right now.

    I fear most people give too much credence to “wisdom” and “crowds” being inextricably linked in ‘the new economy/media/enterprise’ when we should just admit that the bell curve applies here as well.

    Keep up the trailblazing…

  10. Marjorie on December 21st, 2007 6:52 am

    Bonsoir! I agree. I spend several hours a day on my blog doing one thing or another (if not writing, then researching, reading books, etc.), and I find that one of the most popular items is my weekly (every Wednesday) book review. I choose a France-related book (usually something published recently, but occasionally I’ll write about a particularly interesting book that may have been published, say, in 1925) and write what I consider a fairly comprehensive review of it. Not only does it allow me to combine three passions (reading, writing and France), but it’s allowed me an opportunity to offer a regular, interesting service to my readers. In addition, it’s allowed me to develop a sort of editorial calendar that my readers can depend on. (Wednesday is book review day, Friday is film review day, and Saturday is recipe day. I’m thinking of adding on a beauty-themed post once or twice a week on a specific day as well.)

    Most importantly, I get tons of ideas from these books and films that serve as jumping-off points for future posts. Win-win-win!

    Merci for this great article. It reinforces something I’ve been advocating since I first started blogging.

    Salut,
    Marjorie

  11. John on December 21st, 2007 2:56 pm

    A very good point and likewise my most popular posts are those that are based on original content, not those responding to what is being said elsewhere.

  12. Anuradha Goyal on December 24th, 2007 6:52 am

    I agree with you…linking and commenting can get you initial clicks but after that you better have the content to keep on readers coming back…and am saying this from my experience of blogging for 4 years and never linking…:-)

  13. K T Cat on December 26th, 2007 2:42 pm

    Well, I guess we’ve also discovered that Physics, Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering classes are a waste of time since all of your competitors in those fields went to the same classes.

    Seriously, how does this even begin to make sense? It sounds like the kind of thing a bunco artist management consultant says when he comes in to sell his revolutionary new process improvement technique.

    Strategic planning techniques have coaelesced around a few different methods because those are the ones that have been shown to work. If you don’t have a sufficiently dynamic personality or wealth of personal experience to put your own, unique stamp on your strategic planning, then the method by which you plan isn’t your problem.

    In the organizations where I’ve worked, the failed strategic plans have come from poor managers making stupid decisions, not a homogenized basic process.

  14. K T Cat on December 26th, 2007 2:46 pm

    By the way, my most popular posts came from reading the blogosphere and then applying my knowledge and contacts to fill in missing information. I was able to give a lot of additional value during the recent fires in San Diego by posting Google Earth image captures of superimposed satellite data (picked up from friends in the SDSU faculty) in near real-time and show the positions of the fires much better than the local media could.

    It was entirely from reading the blogs and participating in this media that I was able to do this. In a few short hours I developed a friendship with another local blogger who was doing some great work with wind speeds and directions and Google Earth’s 3-D terrain features to predict the path of the fires. Together, we picked up a ton of hits and comments and helped some people visualize what the local news media could not.

  15. Edo on January 1st, 2008 4:47 pm

    Thank you very much for this article. A good idea is that you should be different from others to become successful. You should be rather a niche player not a mainstream. Every person is unique and can share his own ideas.

  16. Robert @ reason4smile on January 7th, 2008 2:32 pm

    Hi Rob, it’s my first comment on your site!
    I found your article on how to network for an introvert and I’m very much inspired by it! As well by your other articles on introversion!

    I’m an introvert also, and dreaming to become a leader! Recently I found enjoyment in writing and blogging, and now I’m trying to focusing my blog on helping introverts to become leaders.

    Regarding this post, yeah, my source comes from many sources, some from books, friends, blog, podcast and my own experiences! and what I usually do is combining them, finding the similarity and how one concept is supported by another, relating them and eventually creating a blog post that is quite authentic!

    I’m still very new in blogging, and I do look forward to learn more from you, Rob! how you can be so successful even started from an introvert!

    Btw, how can I find more about your personal story, about what you’re doing, and what kind of business you started!

    Thanks and regards,
    Robert

  • About Rob

    Rob is co-founder of Backupify.com. He likes value investing, the Rolling Stones, college basketball, artificial intelligence, economic history and people who think independently.