There's this intriguing trend/theme going around the blogosphere lately: reader-directed blogging.
Many bloggers are picking up a sort of "meme" and asking their readers to ask them questions, which they will answer in a post. I believe it's a twist on the 7 random things type meme.
I think it's cool. I've asked every blogger I read who did it a question and have been thrilled to see all the questions and answers.
Simultaneously, every "how to be a good blogger" site I subscribe to has done an article that either centers on or mentions "reader-directed" blogging, wherein you ask your readers to weigh in on the topics you cover.
I find this approach very intriguing.
Obviously the key tenet in any publishing endeavor is write what readers want to read. This involves "keeping your finger on the pulse of your market" and catching trends, interests, new innovations or concerns, etc. There are a variety of means to do this.
Readers have always had the opportunity to weigh in with publishers: letters to the editor, response to publication, statements of support (or not), and most obviously...purchase or subscribe (or not).
Other than the last one, each of these is always put through an editorial process, and statements are either selected because they further a goal, or rejected. However, most of this process---including what is selected versus what is rejected---is invisible to the reader, who is generally a fairly passive participant.
But blogging is an interesting newer medium...new model.
Blogging is more open and immediate. In blogging, readers have a higher participation rate, are more active. Also, readers can see the other comments (usually, unless they go through a moderation process up front). It's free, so anyone who stumbles upon the site can participate with only the cost of time. The blogger has few constraints, such as editorial deadlines or boundaries. Each constraint is blogger-determined.
In many ways, at heart, it is the same as traditional publishing. Bloggers want to write what readers want to read. We want traffic and participation. We employ---mentally at least---a basic mission with internal personal editorial constraints and boundaries.
So I'm intrigued. I've always written as it pleases me, when it pleases me, on topics that appeal to me. Obviously I hope these appeal to people, and often it seems that they do. That pleases me too.
But what would happen if I changed this model? What would happen if instead of functioning as the editor in charge, I handed the reins over....either to a selected or elected group or in an open call to the readers?
Would I get guidance and direction? How deep would the participation go?
Would the canvas be too blank?
Would people like it, or not?
Moreover, it would involve largely asking other content generators to generate content ideas for me. How would they feel about that?
Would people care what I have to say about a particular topic in their minds?
What would I do with all the topic ideas that crowd my head, most of which are somewhat timely?
Would it leave too much space? Or not enough?
How would people respond if their question or topic suggestion didn't get selected or used, or used within what they considered a reasonable time frame? What is a reasonable time frame? If it's four weeks later, will their interest have utterly waned? Blogging is such an immediate gratification sort of medium; do people have a long-term interest or expectation and acceptance of a long wait?
Answering questions from readers sounds easier. Writing on an assigned topic sends me into oppositional defiance disorder inspired tantrum of resistance. (But I don't carry any baggage or bitterness or grudges from my horrid public school days.)
That's why I immediately veered away from questions and towards topic suggestions.
What do you think? Do you have questions you'd like to ask me (within reason)? Topics you'd like to suggest? Are you interested in seeing me and/or other bloggers you read writing on a particular topic? If you are a blogger, what do you think about doing this?
How active do active reader participants want to be?
Is reader-directed blogging brilliant and inspired, a can of worms, or boring?
Note: Hump Day Hmm tomorrow! Remember the topic is:
Two Square Meals was inspired by my Twitter Do or Don't post and suggested for next week (2-6): What are the ethics and mores of social media and social networking? (If you don't think you use social media or networking, think again. You are online, you use it or it uses you, or both. Bloggers you read review products, or you do that yourself. There is an interchange and exchange of linking, passing along of awards, "digging" or "skirting" posts, trading back and forth of comments, community building, and so forth. What is this online space for you? How do you use it? What do you expect of it, in all realms? What behavior---business or personal--crosses a line in your opinion? What are the lines? Write honestly about what this space is for you and what you believe the ethics and mores are.)
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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