Blogosphere

You should start a blog

If you have thoughts, ideas, or stories to tell, if you are working on a creative project or have one in mind, then you should start a blog to showcase your work and share it with the world.

Just expect that blogging won’t make you rich or famous. There was a time when bloggers could attract vast audiences, but those days are over. We’re in the post-blog era; the big audiences are all on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube now. This is why in recent years I’ve dissuaded people from starting new blogs.

But I was wrong and I’m reversing my position. You should start a blog.

Unless you’re already famous, gaining attention on the Internet beyond your friends and family requires lots of both effort and luck. The biggest audiences are on social media, so it might seem obvious to do it there. But the giant tech companies nakedly seek monopolistic control. They gather and use information about you in any way they please. Facebook and Google are actively working to wall you off from the rest of the Web so that you stay always within their services. Google is now more about advertising than helping you find things on the Internet. These companies monetize you. They are not on your side; they are not your friends.

A blog is free from the datamongers and monopolists. Starting a blog extends a solid middle finger toward their practices, and uses the Web in the open and equal fashion that its builders envisioned.

The giant tech companies can still be useful to you and your blog, however. Organic search still can lead people to your work, and you can use social media to promote your blog and individual posts. (I need to write a post about what I’ve learned about both.)

So: start a blog. With effort, persistence, and patience you’ll find the people who find what you do to be interesting. With a more effort, you can build a community of those people. This is incredibly satisfying!

I want to tell you about the Courthousery blog. Ted Shideler had an idea to document every still-standing Indiana courthouse — city, county, state, and federal, past and present. Little by little he drove to every one of Indiana’s 92 counties to photograph them. He researched each one and told its story. He’s even beautifully woven some of his personal stories into some of the posts, which is one of the quirky and interesting things you can do in a blog. He’s covered most of Indiana’s courthouses now, so he’s branched out to nearby states to keep going.

Courthouse at Paoli
Orange County Courthouse, Paoli, IN. Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Ektar 100, 2012.

Ted will probably decide one day that he’s completed his project and stop updating his blog. But then his blog becomes a permanent record, a site people interested in a particular courthouse, or in courthouses in general, will find when they search. They’ll be grateful for Ted’s careful and thoughtful work.

If Ted had posted his research and photographs only on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter, they would have become lost. Have you ever tried to find an old social-media post? It’s nearly impossible. They’re not available to search engines, either. They’re meant to be of the moment.

They’d not be entirely lost to Ted, who has the right to download his own Facebook posts. You have the right to download yours, too; do it on this page. But that would include everything you’ve ever posted there, not just posts related to your project. It could be a staggering amount of information to sort through. But crucially, it would not include the comments anybody left on your posts.

Because Ted chose to blog, however, he can export just his project at any time and save it on his own computer — comments and all. WordPress.com has especially robust blog export tools, which is one reason I recommend WordPress.com for bloggers.

Even though neither Ted’s finite project nor my continuing photographs and stories have mass appeal, there are people in the world who enjoy what we do. It’s a big world — some people are likely to enjoy what you do, too.

You can attract readers to your blog, and keep them. You do it one reader at a time. Some readers will find you through search. Some will find you as you promote your posts on social media. Some will find you through word of mouth, which is how I found Ted’s blog. Persist, and you will find an audience.

Courthousery is Ted’s gift to the world. Down the Road is my gift to the world. Your blog can be your gift to the world. What do you have to say? What do you have to show? There will be others who find it interesting.

Start a blog!

If this post has encouraged you, here are links to a whole bunch of other posts I’ve written that share many of the things I’ve learned about how to blog well.

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16 thoughts on “You should start a blog

  1. By golly, I believe I will! Oh, wait . . .

    Seriously, this is good advice. My middle finger has been extended towards InstaGoogBook to the extent that I stopped promoting/sharing my blogging efforts on those platforms some while ago.

    And I will add my salute to Ted’s Courthousery blog. Having been to many of those courthouses in my “real” life, these little history lessons are especially interesting.

    • I continue to promote my blog on Facebook and that is bringing the most casual traffic here now. I’ve upgraded to WordPress.com Business so I can use the Yoast SEO tool — no results yet, but I’m told that SEO changes can take a few months to “catch.” I resent that I have to work this hard on promoting my blog; I long for the simpler days of 15-20 years ago. But ya gotta live in the present, like it or not.

  2. What a cool surprise to wake up to this morning. Thanks, JG and JPC for the shoutouts and for the overall message here, as well as your own blogs which are daily (and weekly) reads for me. Niche interests being necessarily small spaces to operate in, t’s gratifying to have a project and a blog that other people connect with.

    Though I’ve worked in SEO and search logic in the past, I made the mistake of gearing my tags and categorizations on WordPress to better index my own blog rather than position it well in the marketplace. At this point, going back and resolving those redundancies might be for the best as far readership, and I may have to set aside some time to do so. It’s true that SEO changes do take a while to index in Google or wherever else, but work put in up front should ultimately be beneficial.

    Again, thanks for the support and call out here. I appreciate Down the Road as a great gift to the world!

    • I redid all of my tags to index the site better a couple years ago and it correlates directly to a steep dropoff in search results here. So I’m renewing my commitment to decent SEO practices and hope that search results return.

      I also hope that this post sends a lot of people your way today!

  3. DougD says:

    I seem to be down on persistence and patience these days, so although I am not about to start a blog I do appreciate both your and JPC’s efforts to blog regularly.

    I think a big part of the fun is that since I’ve met both of you it’s more real. Is there going to be a Down The Road photography meetup someday?

  4. Yup….I have consciously avoided Google for a long while now, and they apparently know very little about me which is kind of gratifying. My blog is quite new, and I am still finding my way with it, but the interactions with the followers I do have are very pleasant. In real life I don’t seek to get close to more than a handful of folk anyway, and the need to monetise social interactions seems very false to me. Social Media, which promised to bring us all together, has really done the opposite, and divided much of society into tribes of angry, intolerant people, some of whom have difficulty with spelling, grammar and even logical thought…..

  5. Thanks for this post, Jim. I started a blog eight years ago, posted five or six times, and did not have the discipline to keep going. I still may not, but I think I will try to get it going again. alifeinphotography.blogspot.com

    Thanks also for your posts about your relationship with God. I am a fellow believer and I greatly admire the way you have opened yourself up to write about these essential things.

  6. Excellent post Jim, and sound advice and reasoning throughout. I really think if many people looked at how much time they waste on social media (and/or TV) with little end benefit, and redirected that time into starting a blog and posting even once a week, it would be time much better spent!

    On audience size and finding your niche, Seth Godin often writes about this. For example –

    https://seths.blog/2019/03/the-minimum-viable-audience-2/

    “…if you aim for mass (another word for average), you’ll probably create something average. Which gets you not very far.”

    And on monetizing blogs, I had a rant about this very recently. I think too many personal photography blogs ask us to pay for them to have a blog in some way, either advertising, or another way. I think if you want the privilege and freedom of having your own blog and the really very minimal hosting costs, then you should be doing it for the pleasure of it, not to make money from people you enjoy talking with. Like Steve said above, trying to monetize social interactions seems very unnatural. Would you meet a few people in person for a photowalk or chat about photography and say “I’m happy to be here, but I think you should pay me first, or alternatively can I give you a few advertising flyers to read about random services I have no interest in but who pay me to advertise for them.” Bizarre!

  7. Gavin Lyons says:

    Encouraging post Jim! I’ve blogged for about 10 year or so. Mainly for the shear fun of it, myself and anyone who maybe interested. I’m also not a FB fan, I much prefer the blog format to wading through weary and pointless social news feeds to glean some content. Blogging is still very relevant and poignant, I believe.

    • Thanks Gavin! 10 years is a long time – you must be dedicated. I’m hoping that we can cling to all the original good of the Internet through blogging.

  8. Pingback: So you want to do a Photography Project! – Alex Luyckx | Blog

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