Gini Dietrich

Writing for You…Or the People?

By: Gini Dietrich | May 15, 2012 | 

A few weeks ago, I came across an OpEd by Ann Patchett. It was in the New York Times and she was lamenting the fact there was no Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction this year.

Before I go on, let me be clear I also think it’s a shame there were three finalists, but no Pulitzer Prize winner, too.

But the OpEd read like sour grapes to me.

When this blog gained a little bit of popularity, we began to have internal conversations about the type of content we should be writing. You see, what I consider the “smart” posts are never the ones that get shared a lot. Sure, people read them, but not as many comment nor share on their social networks.

The ones that do get a lot of comments and shares? The top 10 this or the such and such is dead.

It kind of makes me nuts. I won’t pretend it doesn’t. I’m an English major. I choose to read over watching TV. Heck, I just wrote a book. So the idea that something that takes 20 minutes to write and 90 seconds to read gets shared more consistently hurts my feelings.

Ann Patchett says:

With book coverage in the media split evenly between “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Hunger Games,” wouldn’t it have been something to have people talking about “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s posthumous masterwork about a toiling tax collector? Unfortunately, the world of literature lacks the scandal, hype, and pretty dresses that draw people to the Academy Awards, which, by the way, is not an institution devoted to choosing the best movie every year as much as it is an institution designed to get people excited about going to the movies.

Pulitzer Prize-winning books don’t get made into movies. Well thought-out blog posts don’t get shared.

Both make money…just not as much as kids killing kids or top 10 ways to approach journalists on Twitter.

I remember reading somewhere that Julianne Moore makes two types of movies: The kind she wants to make and the kind she knows are going to be hits.

Perhaps it’s not high-brow enough to say authors should do the same. Perhaps I’m suggesting something insulting. I mean, I was there. When we had this conversation a year ago, I was saying, “Let the guest bloggers write the top 10 lists. I’m going to keep writing what I want to write.”

But after reading Patchett’s sour grapes OpEd, I’ve decided it’s OK to mix the two.

Give the people what they want!

P.S. This probably won’t get shared as much so I’ll have to write a top 10 post tomorrow.

P.P.S. The book launch went great! It still feels very surreal to me, but Geoff Livingston made it a very fun day. More to come.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Yup, I read that Anne Pachett article a few weeks ago too (Nashville represent!). I don’t know that it was sour grapes. I think, much like you, she was lamenting our focus on fluff.
    As much as I love to read smart blog posts and books, the challenge is time. We’ve got so many different things demanding our attention, it’s difficult to find the time to focus on something deep. That’s why we love the snack-size posts of lists. We know exactly what we’re getting when we open them. When I scan through my Reader, I’m drawn in by great headlines, which often contain lists. Heck, I have a list post on my blog today.
    Lists posts don’t have to suck because they are a list. If they are useful and helpful for people, it’s still a win. And, it’s even better if it gets shared a lot. But, the introspective and thought-provoking posts are just as important. While they might not gain the attention as others, they will matter to the right people….not just those who are looking for a quick article to snack on.
    All that to say, you’re right to mix the two. Those of us who know you and care about what you have to say will keep reading those smart posts. And, when you share your ideas and take a stand, that’s what helps differentiates you from everyone else. 🙂 Keep on, keepin’ on, my friend!

    • ginidietrich

       @lauraclick I debated it with my mom and my friend abbief . They agree with you – they didn’t read it as sour grapes. I don’t know why, but it really just rubbed me the wrong way and I’ve been thinking about it since.

  • Yay for the book launch Gini! That’s awesome!!!! 
    It never ceases to amaze me what gets shared online… more often than not the posts I put the most work into bomb and the ones that took all of 10 mins to write up, edit and post fly – not even going to try and make sense of such madness … 
    I guess it’s a lot like the Oscars – the weirdest movies seem to win and those great ones don’t, obviously there are always exceptions to the rule! 
    Ultimately I write for my audience, the way I want to write so I guess it’s a bit of both – if I had to choose I’d say I write for me, and I also illustrate for myself too.

    • ginidietrich

       @Ameenafalchetto Thank you! It’s all pretty surreal!

  • Good morning Gini. First, I think we’re up to 41 Pulitzer Prize winners being made into movies or TV shows.
    I was also disappointed there was no Pulitzer for fiction. More disappointing is the secrecy of the selection committee – they don’t say why there was no prize awarded.
    Like you, I tend to read rather than watch TV, unless Breaking Bad or Justified is on. I think the challenge with books that are defined as literature, as opposed to genre fiction, is there is a perception that literature is “hard.” While I read quite a few books that are classified as “literature,” even for me that categorization conjures memories of high school English.
    I think more daunting is with the exception of a few “breakout” Pulitzer novels, such as The Road, how many people have actually read them? Even the ones that might be considered “classics” (gasp! classic literature!). Grapes of Wrath, Gone with the Wind, All the King’s Men, The Old Man and the Sea. How many people today have sat down and – for pleasure – read those books?
    Too often, people’s familiarity with these books come from one of two sources: they saw the movie version, or it was forced down their throats, again, in high school English.
    I’m going to try not to get on my pedestal, but I think high school English has ruined more potential fans of “classic” literature than any thing else. You don’t read them, yous study them so you can pass the test. Or you have to “read” Shakespeare, which was meant to be performed and watched. Ugh….
    Blogs are similar. Some require thought and perhaps push you out of your comfort zone. They challenge you. Others are, well… the blog equivalent of another trashy teen vampire novel.

    • ginidietrich

       @ClayMorgan And, unfortunately, the trashy teen vampire novel sells. I read all of them. 🙂

      •  @ginidietrich It does indeed, BUT theirs hope.
        This summer, I made a deal with my niece. If she’d read Dracula, I’d read Twilight. I definitely got the worse end of that deal and my niece actually enjoyed Dracula, so there’s one victory.
        I have heard the trashy teen vampire novels described as “emotional porn.” I think it is apt.

  • This mirrors almost exactly the experiences I’ve had in recent years. Back when I was a Museum Curator in the 90s, I would put together exhibits and write some pretty heady content to provide context for the exhibitions. Over time, our editor started cutting the text and putting it in blocks and adding more images and graphics. Why? Because people weren’t reading. It was so frustrating. I had a lot to say but I couldn’t say it. I felt constrained, and as if my voice was being muted. 
    Fast forward to today, and I don’t have to constrain myself as I’m in charge and no one can tell me what to say, but I self-edit. I want to draw people to my site and have them share my content. The times when I do write something more on the “smart” side, it doesn’t do as well. There can only be so many Mitch Joel’s and Brian Solis’s. 
    What I’m trying to do is mix the two up a bit. One example was my recent post on Pinterest where I threw in some bits from my graduate work in semiotics. Because it was about Pinterest, and Pinterest was in the title, people came and read it. If I had thrown the word semiotics in the title, I would’ve heard crickets. The interesting thing I found is that a lot of people talked to me about the semiotics portion of the post, and included that in their retweets. 
    So perhaps it’s like how we feed our kids: by finding ways to hide the good stuff inside what they like. Does JB just take his pills or do you have to put it in cream cheese or some other type of food?
    In the end, it comes down to my audience. Even though my audience contains plenty of marketers, social media and communications professionals, and academics, they aren’t my target. My primary audience, the one to which I write, is made up of small business and nonprofit executives. My goal is to write content that brings them in and is helpful. 

    • ginidietrich

       @KenMueller I love the analogy of how we feed our kids (or pets). Sometimes you just have to hide the veggies.

      •  @ginidietrich  @KenMueller Unless you own a beagle who loves carrots, broccoli (zip it, Gumby), and raw snap peas. 

  • rdopping

    Is it because brains are no longer capable of processing something that has complexity? Nope, but you have to acknowledge that fact that ADHD is a reality of the internet alone. Who the heck buys a book and sits down to ready anymore? This guy, for one, does but I am in my mid fourties and I was BROUGHT UP THAT WAY. I can’t help myself….sorry for bleep sakes.
    My young contemporaries in the office look at me sideways for the most part for that so I get it! The quick fix is here to stay and so are the top 10’s I suppose. Give the people what they want, huh? So sad we force ourselves to conform. Hey, I am no better.
    Good thing we are all slightly i-different. Yep, that was deliberate.

    • ginidietrich

       @rdopping I buy a book and sit down and read! I read two books a week. It makes me sad no one has the attention span to do that.

  • While reading this I couldn’t help thinking, “Ahhhh, is she afraid not many people will buy the book? And share it.” You know that ain’t true!!!  Congrats on an awesome book launch day!  I bought a copy, shared that fact with others and tuned into Ustream for a bit. It was fun and I was glad to be a tiny part of it.
    So I think you’ve hit on an important topic, a topic writers have dealt with forever. From my experience, people enjoy “smart” posts when they time to slow down and think about them.  The thing is they’re not easily digestible and applicable so people are hesitant to share them because, well, they’re not easily digestible or applicable. 
    And just like you, sharers want to share content that solicits comments, gets shared or is at least read by a few people.  Ken brought up Brian Solis below.  I love the way Brian thinks and articulates this thoughts, but I’d never tell a marketing coach client to seek him out. Instead, I’d tell them to subscribe to blogs like this one (even thought they’re not the target) and many others that provide practical, relevant information. 
    People are busy, especially people who seek out professional development on a daily basis.  The balance is in meeting their needs and what they read, share and comment on is good feedback you’re meeting those needs.  I’d rather “top 10” this and “dead” that and help thousands of people than write the smartest post of 2012 and it only be read by my mom.

    • ginidietrich

       @JoelFortner Oh ha! This had nothing to do with the book. I would feel differently if I wrote a piece of fiction. But, with the business book, I figure either people are going to buy it or they don’t. It’s not creative. It’s a theory, based on years of experience. So I don’t have the same feelings about it as I do fiction or a blog post.
      I think I want a balance of what you describe – a few really smart posts and a few that really help people.

  • Good post. I just don’t know if I’m capable of writing a business book, though my business partner says we’ve got plenty of material at Boxman Studios going from billing zero three years ago to billing millions in such a short time (all using social media, of course). But that doesn’t appeal to me. That’s my ‘job’ over there. The kind of writing that puts me in a trance while I’m doing it is nearly uncontrollable. And yes, it’s fiction for the most part. If you ever go to my blog, you’ll see that its title is ‘Obsessed with Conformity.’ It was intended to be ironic since there’s no conformity at all. I pride myself on not being ‘bucketed’ when it comes to my writing. I do not desire to be a business writer – but if I did, I’d be a God. But, if you go over there you’ll see that I have naturally balanced my writing on my blog between personal reflection, fiction and business – this is not intentional. It’s just how life ebbs and flows for me. But it’s still not focused. My challenge this year is not writing – it’s writing with a specific focus. ADD is a bitch. Add to this a young family, having to pay bills, etc. and you’ve got a writer who is frustrated with not having the separation necessary to write more than 500 words on any particular topic. Sure, they’re usually very good words, and no I don’t try to ‘sell’ my stories to the masses via social media in hopes they’re shared everywhere – because people don’t share good writing here. They share the stuff that can benefit them. They share the top 10 lists. Because it’s simple and doesn’t require too much thinking. Poetry does. And there’s no market for poetry in social media. 
    Anyway, great post, Gini. Really got me thinking, 

    • ginidietrich

       @jmitchem And add to it the rough three months you’ve had…
      But you, sir, are a phenomenal writer and you SHOULD write a book. 

  • I’m with you on this, Gini – and I know we had this very discussion with seanmcginnis back in December.  I enjoy the heady stuff and the challenge of writing something clear and concise on complex topics is part of what keeps me blogging. While there are times when I get cranky about a lack of good meaty comments, I’ve seen that some of those dense, academic posts get shared quite a bit, but it’s often months after they’ve been published. Odd thing, this internet. 
    And while I can easily write the post guaranteed to see lots of shares, I don’t enjoy writing them and only publish those kinds of post occasionally at best. 
    The more people that aspire to write provocative content, the better.  #englishmajorsunite

    •  @jasonkonopinski  seanmcginnis I think you said it all. The end.

    • ginidietrich

       @jasonkonopinski  I was talking to Valeria Maltoni about this, too. She never gets comments, but she has one of the most popular blogs on the web. She’s way too smart, which is why no one comments, But they sure do read…and she’s noticed it’s months after she’s published.

      •  @ginidietrich She’s wicked smart. 

        • ginidietrich

           @jasonkonopinski She IS wicked smart. 

  • To paraphrase (or completely demolish the original quote): “I write therefore I am”. There’s definitely a synchronicity to the world as I think about what I posted on my blog today. Congrats again on the book and the launch. Did you get the ponies and balloons and cake? Cheers! Kaarina

    • ginidietrich

       @KDillabough I did get all three! Thank you!!

  • I told you this last week: Candy Chang blew me away, and my post tomorrow is on similar lines – about big ideas and how to get them. I love how much she made me think, and I had a lot of fun writing about it. I hope it will make some people think, but it won’t be a crowd pleaser and that’s OK. 
    And don’t worry, you can just write about Pinterest tomorrow. There has to be another top ten list to be squeezed from that topic, right? 

    •  @Lisa Gerber I. Love. Candy. Chang. 

      •  @jasonkonopinski You do????!!!! I’d never heard of her! I have been moved. She is incredible, and you’ll read more tomorrow. 🙂 

        •  @Lisa Gerber You need to get out more. 🙂 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @Lisa Gerber I’ve never heard of Candy Chang either. Link me to the thing you loved?

        •  @NateStPierre  @jasonkonopinski  @Lisa Gerber I’m so glad that you asked. I wanted to ask, too, but I was trying to play it cool.

        • ginidietrich

           @Erin F.  @NateStPierre  @jasonkonopinski  @Lisa Gerber Oh jeez. You guys do need to get out more. The post will run tomorrow…so watch for it!

        •  @ginidietrich  @Erin F.  @NateStPierre  @jasonkonopinski HAHAHA! Yes, the post goes out tomorrow with all the links and even some cool pictures. So don’t forget to come back!

  • You should write a post that says:
    It is only about how many fans and followers you have.
    Brogan, Solis, Scoble, and Godin are Gods and anything they say, write or even think you should implement immediately into your business practices because that was the secret to your success.
    I bet you get 500,000 reads and so much praise you get invited to dinner with Sarah Palin.

    • I really hated Dickens in High School. I remember I read the first 3 chapters of Great Expectations then waited to see the movie in class before the test.
      Lord of the Rings still better than Harry Potter though!

      •  @HowieSPM Lord of the Rings will always, always be better than Harry Potter.

        •  @Erin F.  @HowieSPM I love both, but LOTR rules them all.

        • @NateStPierre @Erin F. @HowieSPM Guess I can’t put them in the same mention. One’s like milk, the other’s like honey. It’s like comparing Greta Garbo and Meryl Streep

    • ginidietrich

       @HowieSPM OK. I’ll try it.

  • RebeccaTodd

    Excellent post Gini!  As a fellow English major in sales for a publisher, I think a lot about this.  We often discuss- do you want to write what is teachable, or write what is sellable? For our authors, it is very hard to come to terms with the fact that their passion project, founded in strong educational theory, will not sell as easily as resources that tap in to current buzz words or trends. 

    • ginidietrich

       @RebeccaTodd You and I could have some really interesting conversations about this topic. You, me, wine…SOON!

  • Congratulations on the book I look forward to reading it soon.
    I, however, like the fact that an award wasn’t given out this year. I think it protects the integrity of the institution that they are not going to give out an award because they “have to” but that argument if for another day. 
    I think its an easy post to talk about how simplistic superficial content is more marketable and easier to share rather than your deepest musings. Reading the comments you got all the typical responses one would expect from such a redundant topic.
    This post could have been written ten years ago and will no doubt bubble up ten years from now as well. I’m also not to impressed with the high school reverse psychology of “O I know this post will never be shared like my others” 
    The nature of blogs is to be at the shallow end of the content pool and provide links to more complicated work for those who are interested. I think that this is nothing more than providing the right message to the write medium. I don’t seek out blogs and other social media to get lengthy discourses and I don’t know anyone who does. 

    •  @Bzarbock “The shallow end of the content pool…” I really like that one. Agreed with you on most everything, although there is some long-form writing out there on blogs that I do appreciate – You Are Not So Smart being one of them.

    • ginidietrich

       @Bzarbock Are you implying I did the “high school reverse psychology” thing with this post? That wasn’t my intent at all. I have been thinking about this Ann Patchett OpEd for weeks now. I’ve debated it with my mom and friends. I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to have a balance. Write some things for us and others for the audience. My P.S. was a smart @ss comment. It wasn’t reverse psychology. I need a sarcasm font.

  • Instant gratification is killing attention spans. It irritates me to no end to see blog post after blog post talk about writing short blurbs because people won’t read more.
    I refuse to do it. Read or don’t read it, but I won’t make it short simply because you have allowed yourself to be trained to have the attention span of a gnat. 
    I figure that good content will help encourage people to read all the way through. That assumes that the headline has caught their eye. Half the time when I write things like “We Did It On Top Of The Car” it is because I know it will capture eyes.
    That is a related issue. So many posts don’t match the headline…quality wise.
    And like Howie said, once you achieve a certain level of “genius” you can say anything and people will read it. Kind of a silly and sad commentary all at once.

    •  @TheJackB Gah! I hate that, too. We’re only encouraging short attention spans if we cater to them, right?

      • ginidietrich

         @Erin F.  @TheJackB Yes, we are. But we also have to think about what our goals are for blogging. Jack, your goals are different than mine. My vision is about the industry; yours is about your writing. So you have more leeway to write for you than I do.

        •  @ginidietrich  @Erin F. In some respects I have more leeway but at the same time once you build a certain size community you can say almost anything and people will nod their heads and tell you that you are really smart.
          You have that foundation here, but this place isn’t populated by as many of the air heads that can’t voice an opinion other than one that tells the author they are the smartest person ever.
          The diversity and independence are part of why I enjoy hanging out here.

        •  @ginidietrich  @TheJackB And mine is different from both of those. I’m focused on helping people – mostly business people – tell their stories. I am going to be very, very sad if I have to change my blog completely. @KenMueller says I need to quit over-thinking and just write, but I don’t see the point if it’s not doing anyone any good.

        • ginidietrich

           @Erin F.  Listen to Ken!

        •  @ginidietrich  @Erin F. OH my word. I am bronzing that comment and filing it under “Things You Never Thought Gini Would Say”.

        •  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich I had a good conversation with @Shonali tonight. She helped me think about some things. 🙂

  • I think I’m trying to mix the two. I actually have a post scheduled that asks for people’s input. I know I have to lead the charge with the content I publish, but I also want to know how to best meet my readers’ needs. I’m at the point where I need somebody else’s perspective. I’ve gone around my head one too many times and am feeling the weight and weariness of it. :/
    I know I avoid writing (and often reading) the list posts because they irritate the dickens out of me. Yes, the dickens. 

    •  @Erin F. See, they shouldn’t irritate you. It’s just a different type of writing. For me, my audience is primarily made up of small business owners. They want content that is actionable. You can mix the two. I try to add some good contextual and sociological content to set up my lists.
      Think of it this way, in the literary world, there are very different kinds of writing. This is why we have writers like Douglas Coupland and Chuck Klosterman. Their style is very different from what we might be used to. 

      •  @KenMueller  @Erin F. Precisely. Remaining true to ourselves as writers and meeting business expectations definitely a challenge. The cool part is entrepreneurial spirit blends well with the passion we tend to have for diverse subjects, which is what makes our story unique and can also be important differentiators for personal and organizational brands. 
        The Lord Byron in me just wants to brood, but the LadyGaGa reminds me there’s sh*t to Do, and an insatiable public awaits… 

        •  @Byron Fernandez  @KenMueller  @Erin F. List posts absolutely irritate me, mostly because they’ve been used to the point where they’re really little more than noise. Well-executed, they are absolutely effective (mostly from a traffic standpoint, I think) but, as jaybaer  astutely pointed out in a recent post, we’re not in the eyeballs game. Traffic is probably the least important social metric yet we continue to closely watch the analytics. 
          Are list posts valuable? Yes, if they’re done well and infrequently. And, as marketers, we have to see the value in a tool or tactic from the best interest of the client. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @KenMueller  @Erin F.  jaybaer A bit lost on all the hullabaloo surrounding lists. There’s a time and place for bullet points and numbering. Lists not the problem to me, it’s their abuse and overuse as you guys mention.
          No, they should not comprise the focal point of content. Period.
          Lists should only supplement valuable insight, opinions and evidence supporting claims and assertions within the body of any work, whether a blog post, whitepaper, dissertation or book.
          If I had the time, it’d be fun to experiment with this. For example, start a “guest listing trend?” Could I include my dry cleaning and grocerys, too?
          Would certainly eliminate the concept of guest posting for lots of Dodos out there!

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @Byron Fernandez  @Erin F.  jaybaer And that’s why I say they work for me. My clients love them and use them more than any other posts. It’s the number one way I get traffic AND new clients, outside of referrals. When a small business owner sees “16 Ways to Use Pinterest for PR” they know what they are going to get. It tells them exactly what type of content to expect. 
          I would also argue that while eyeballs is overrated, it is not the least important. The amount of traffic you get is a key component to Google’s algorithm. And to flip it around, that’s why we have the whole idea of SEO. To get more eyeballs. Which hopefully translates to leads, customers, etc, depending on which business you’re in. That’s why we promote social sharing. To get those eyeballs. They aren’t the be all and end all, but they might be the most important FIRST metric which you need to use to get to the more important numbers.

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @KenMueller  @Erin F.  jaybaer *Groceries
          And @KenMueller ‘s right. Clients love them because they cut through the BS and give them what they want. Like Chick-fil-A / most fast food joint menus, or my favorite In-N-Out’s 2-option menu: Numbering is simple and people know what to expect 

        •  @Byron Fernandez  @KenMueller  @Erin F.  jaybaer 
          I’m not arguing that link posts are patently bad, mind you. They’re still around because they’re still generating results. Same as banner ads, pop-up subscription pages on blogs and sponsored links.  
          I’ll repeat another of Jay’s lines from that post (which if you’ve haven’t read, you should) in framing the Pinterest traffic boondoggle: “You are in the behavior business, not the eyeballs business.”  If a list post generates lots of hits but little associated valuable behavior (lead form, going deep into your site, return traffic), there’s a lesson there. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski @Byron Fernandez @KenMueller @Erin F. Thanks Jason. I appreciate the plug. I’m not anti-lists. I write them quite a bit, actually. As Ken says, I write them because they work. But, they work from a traffic perspective (which is the least important perspective). I have seen no evidence that list posts convert to desired behavior (subscriptions, et al) than other posts, and in fact as a % of total readers, probably worse (because lists get clicks you wouldn’t usually get). 

        •  @JayBaer  @Byron Fernandez  @KenMueller  @Erin F. Cheers, Jay. I always value your perspective which is why that Pinterest traffic post sticks so soundly in my brain. 
          I’ve written a handful of list posts and I’ll continue to write them periodically in the future (typically for clients – phew). They definitely drive traffic and there’s value in that and I can’t argue that.  You’ve especially done a really good job in balancing the list with good, meaty analysis and, for that, I thank you. 🙂 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @JayBaer  @Byron Fernandez  @KenMueller I’m not against list posts if they’re done well. Can I write them? Yes. Do I write them? Yes. I wrote one yesterday, but I typically write them for other people. My business may offer action steps, but I’m more concerned with helping people to think about writing and communications in a different way than they have previously or to offer a glimpse into one person’s writing life. It’s hard to condense either of those things into a list.

        •  @JayBaer  @jasonkonopinski  @Byron Fernandez  @Erin F. My second to latest client came to me cold from list post. They liked it. Used it. Found it useful. Called me. I’m working with them now on things that go far beyond the scope of that list.
           I think we need to remember that the desired behavior is different for all of us, and factor in what industry you’re working in. Another client is a veterinarian, and their lists on ways of taking care of your pets are absolutely behavior drivers. We think in terms of our little bubble which is very crowded, when we need to (for me at least) be thinking more locally and less globally). 
          And while the traffic perspective may be the least important, it is also the most important because without it, the rest doesn’t happen. It’s not that it’s the least important. It’s that many begin and end their measurement with traffic, when they need to go further.

        •  @jasonkonopinski Coming soon,  923,873 reasons why Jason hates list posts. This one will go big, just you watch.
           @Byron Fernandez  @KenMueller  @Erin F.  

        •  @JayBaer  @jasonkonopinski  @Byron Fernandez  @KenMueller  @Erin F. We still come back to a question of goals and objectives.
          I am not a huge fan of list posts but there is an argument to be made that says there are advantages to bringing in large amounts of traffic because it gives you more opportunities to capture and convert prospects.
          Sometimes if you are trying to build traction…

        •  @KenMueller  @JayBaer  @jasonkonopinski  @Byron Fernandez Exactly. I can see list posts working wonderfully with a client who’s a veterinarian. I might even recommend that clients use them every so often as long as they serve a purpose. Will I use them more often? Guess we’ll see what happens in the upcoming weeks…

        •  @KenMueller  @JayBaer  @jasonkonopinski  @Byron Fernandez  @Erin F. My thoughts exactly, Ken. Without traffic, almost nothing we do here (specifically concerning writing on the web) matters. Of course it shouldn’t be your total focus – more of a starting point, but let’s not be so highbrow as to say that it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter to us.
          Bottom line is, you need people looking at your stuff in order to do whatever it is you want to do with your stuff. All producers want the world to love and share and talk about their best work, but not everyone in the world is like us. They enjoy different aspects of what we do. The more people you can bring into the fold to see your stuff, through whatever means they decide to come in, is a good thing. Because the more people you have listening to you, the better chance you have of your best work being multiplied out the way you want it to.
          I do this with my work, too. I run philanthropy projects that change the world for the better, but most people don’t find me through that avenue. They find me through the writing I do and the stunts I pull, and then in turn I funnel them through the gift shop of the philanthropy stuff, and a good chunk of them realize it’s something amazing that they’ve never thought of doing before, and they start participating – helping others in real life, and changing their own. This is my heart. This is what I want people to do.
          And they would never be out there changing the world that way if they didn’t read one of my silly list posts or get sucked in by one of my internet pranks.

    • ginidietrich

       @Erin F. I like the posts that have gone around in our heads and then we ask for input. I see that differently than “the top 10 ways to open a jar of mayo” posts.

      •  @ginidietrich I do, too. I’m trying to be better about asking questions that encourage conversation. It’s hard when I’m used to having that conclusion that slams the lid shut on the topic. 🙂

  • Byron Fernandez

     ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber Enjoyed this. There’s a difference between pandering to the public and reflecting deeper sentiment or critical analysis. 
    It’s almost like saying ‘not all bloggers are writers, and not all writers are bloggers.’ Or, as Gini’s referred to in the past, bloggers are NOT journalists.  I’m wary of the distinction between all as well.
    Agree with @lauraclick and @TheJackB though, too — great writing is great writing. Crowd pleasing, granted, is part of performing, but the quality of the performance itself is not incumbent upon the approval of the masses. That’s what it means to be an artist, producer, director, thinker, creator, what have you — our work is subject to opinion and evaluation.
    True artists, I’d dare say, even seem to welcome it — but validation should never be the driving motive. That only breeds chronic disillusionment 😉

    •  @Byron Fernandez  ginidietrich  @Lisa Gerber  @lauraclick  @TheJackB Ha! I guess I’m wavering between the two. The writer in me says I shouldn’t worry about the number of comments and shares and whatever else. The entrepreneur in me? Totally different story. I’m struggling to find a way to blend the two parts so that I don’t compromise who I am and what I think but can still meet my audience’s needs. I agree, though, that validation should never be the driving motive. That only results in a lack of clarity and purpose.

      •  @Erin F.  @Byron Fernandez  ginidietrich  @Lisa Gerber  @lauraclick I understand exactly what you are saying.
        If I changed how I do things I could build the readership/comments much more quickly than I have, but I won’t.
        I am still an advocate of building our communities around us. If we set a certain standard we will find like minded individuals. It would cripple me if I had to do things that eliminated passion and personality from my writing.
        The quest for the blend is worth it.

        •  @TheJackB  @Byron Fernandez  ginidietrich  @Lisa Gerber  @lauraclick It is. I think I’ve been struggling with the blending more often as of late, and it’s becoming a little discouraging.

        •  @TheJackB I’ve been blogging for almost 2.5 years now, everyday, and I’ve stopped caring about traffic.  I’ve just given up. I don’t get much more than 50 -100 per day, or I would assume, since I stopped checking sometime last year.
          I post my novels, one chapter at a time, and some random thoughts on the blog, but if I write something I’m really proud of I send it to Gini or Shonali.  They already have lots of readers.
          This past week I’ve written two short stories I’m very proud of (7.4K and 1K) and I’ve decided to try to sell them to magazines.  The point is, my blog has giving up its dreams of a great readership, but it still serves a purpose. It makes me write. I love writing and that is enough.

  •  @KenMueller hit upon it. You gotta do both fluff stuff, and go deep.
    The fluff stuff gets the clicks, shares, likes that builds seo juice.
    But going deep “qualifies” your visitors to take the steps to become clients.
    Pay attention to your analytics. I find my subscribers do read my deep pieces. They don’t comment, share, or like ’em. They take action.
    That’s a good thing if you’re looking to work with smart clients.
    I’m a simple fisherman with lots of pride.
    “You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?”

    • ginidietrich

       @WaltGoshert  GREAT quote!

  • Of course it’s okay to mix the two! “What you want to write” probably includes pieces that mean a lot to you, as well as pieces that give your blog more traffic, publicity and influence, yeah? So write ’em both. As long as you’re not compromising values to go after the bigger hits, it’s all good in the hood.
    On my site I have two sections (as do many others) – the “Most Popular” list, based on comments/traffic/shares/whatever, but also the “Best Of” section, which is where I list my own personal favorite pieces . . . the pieces that I feel truly encapsulate me, and how I look at the world.
     ginidietrich , I always see your “Popular Posts” on the right, but honestly I’ve never read any of them. But if you had a list of your own personal “Best Of” or whatever, I’d probably read them all. I’m here because I dig you (and your community), not because of what other people like.
    Oh, and as for the article? Yeah, she had a horse in the race, and nobody won. Sucks to be her, for sure.  I did feel a little bad for her, until I realized they’ve declined to give out a Pulitzer 10 OTHER TIMES!
    An unfortunate year to be in the running, indeed, but hey – if your piece wasn’t good enough to win it outright, they would have given you the award in the first place. Getting the consolation prize doesn’t change that.

    • ginidietrich

       @NateStPierre I have no problem with them not awarding a Pulitzer (though it does make me a little sad), but I read the OpEd as “I didn’t get one and I think it’s ridiculous the only popular books are about vampires.”

  • jennimacdonald

    I thought I was the only one. I swear sometimes I write posts that are full of valuable information for marketing professionals centered around hop topics and I get NOTHING. At least I feel a little better.

    •  @jennimacdonald One thing I am curious about, and your post kind of raises. How do we KNOW the information is valuable to the reader?
      I know at our paper we’ll have a great story sometimes, and we’ll think “our readers will eat this up,” then …. silence. I think it is hard to tell sometimes that there may be a difference between what we think is valuable to the reader and what the reader actually finds valuable.

      • ginidietrich

         @ClayMorgan  @jennimacdonald If you write about Pinterest, you’re golden. 🙂

        • jennimacdonald

           @ginidietrich  @ClayMorgan Ha it was about Pinterest, when I write blog posts I answer questions that I have been asked. Usually these questions are asked when I’m at tradeshows or events by CEOs, VP Marketing, etc. So I extend my answer into a blog post. 

        • ginidietrich

           @jennimacdonald Keep doing that. It’s what provides the long tail on SEO and it gives clients and prospects something to read as they’re deciding whether or not they’re going to work with you. Don’t change that strategy. Pay less attention to comments and more to repeat visitors, new visitors, and bounce rate.

  • Right there with you, as usual! One of my favorite, most personal posts has only netted a handful of shares or comments to date, but a few fluffier ones I wrote at the last minute are sitting pretty at double or triple-digit shares. It’s disheartening! 🙁
    I’ve read article after article lately about how bullet points are a must, how top 10 lists are more popular than ever, and how content should all be written in bite-sized chunks for the “scanners” to read with ease. That bothers me a bit, too, especially as a fellow English major! I have nothing against shorter, broken-up content, but it’s a bummer to completely change the way I write just to make it easier for someone who may or may not (likely the latter) even decide to read it. In a way, it cheapens the entire process! But I suppose that’s the natural progression of things and I should roll with it. Who am I to argue?
    Anyway, go ahead and mix it up, Gini. Variety is key, and you never disappoint us! Just keep the creativity flowing and don’t let it bother you too much… 🙂

    • ginidietrich

       @Jill Tooley It does cheapen the process, but it works. Which is why I guess I’m changing my mind. I don’t always want to do top 10 lists, but they certainly work. And, it’s true…the posts you write without any pain are always the most popular!

  • You talkin’ to me?
    Forget the fluff.  No one really makes money off of blogging alone – and those who make it sound like they do are either lying or (more likely) never exact about how much they make.  Visitors and retweets and all that by people who can’t think outside of a list of “Top XX Whatevers” aren’t going to get anyone a nickel.  It’s all hype and BS.
    Build your reputation as a smart person – if you are, that is.  You’ll get some work from it.  My humble blog does decently in donations, too.  The web is far too cluttered with fluff as it is, IMHO.

    • ginidietrich

       @wabbitoid We know I’d much rather write the in-depth stuff, but the goal of the blog is bigger than just me. So I think it’s about your vision and your audience. Unless you blog just for yourself (and there are bloggers who do that), you have to have a balance.

      •  @ginidietrich Barataria is nothing more than my own thoughts.  I’d like to be in a group with other people, but I’ve never been invited – so I can’t speak for that.  Certainly, when I write any kind of copy for pay I do my best to put it into that person’s voice or a voice that suits their organization.
        But when you’re talking about fluffy stuff, there’s really no place for it anywhere.  The non-internet-addicts in the world usually go to a site for something much more like news than what is usually produced.  I have gained quite a bit of business from people who were advised to put up all kinds of giggly nonsense and realized that no, that’s not what readers really want.
        I realize that the internet mavens will tell me I’m wrong.  They more or less have, at least to the extent they’ll say anything to a heretic like me.  But it’s very true – ordinary people who aren’t “into” this stuff are much more no-nonsense.  
        There is always the question of fashion.  I never did understand fashion, and I don’t understand how people cue into the latest trends.  I don’t really know what even causes them to want to be that way, frankly.  It seems very time consuming and not very much fun.  The downside of fashion is that if you catch a trend at the end, you look pretty stupid.  So why bother with it at all?
        So I don’t get any of this, I never will, and I know most real people don’t.  So to Hell with it.  I don’t see any reason to play these games.  I really don’t.

  • So true Gini and can relate.  It kills me up when I labor over a well-thought out post, publish with excitement and then crickets…but then I write something top-10-ish and get a ton of traffic.  It’s the 2012 version of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”   

    • ginidietrich

       @Frank_Strong Seriously! And now that I see the title of your latest blog post, I have to go read it!

  • Well, with 85 comments (and counting) you may have proved yourself wrong… :p

    •  @Shonali You need to remove the comments written by @ginidietrich as that’s more of a reply than a comment. Surely this can be edited in the core code, no @jennalanger ?

      •  @Ari Herzog I can’t do that physically, and I’m not going to literally count out @ginidietrich replies. That is a question for @jennalanger as you noted. Personally, I don’t care if the comment count includes replies and replies to replies… isn’t the whole point of a comment section to generate engagement?

        •  @Shonali  @Ari Herzog  I would say that it still should be counted as a comment. The article itself is a whole piece, and anything posted below in this conversation is an extension of that, even if it is posted by @ginidietrich (maybe her comments should count as 2 anyway 😉

        •  @Shonali  @ginidietrich  @jennalanger There are two issues here. I agree with you that commenting is engaging in that the action establishes a meaningful relationship, but I am unsure whether the author’s replies to comments are comments in themselves.

    • ginidietrich

       @Shonali Comments here are never a problem. You see lots of people having conversations without me (which is awesome!). But the shares are what’s interesting. Last week I wrote about Pinterest (which we all know I love) and it’s up to 350 tweets. This hasn’t broken the 100 mark. I find that fascinating. 

  • jackinessity

    Congrats on the book launch, lady! I was an English major, too 🙂 Thoughtful stuff may not be as visibly popular, but good work is somehow more satisfying… you have interesting thoughts. 
    Can we go back to making monkey jokes at each other, now? 😉

    • ginidietrich

       @jackinessity MONKEYS!

  • You could relate this to people watching and obsessing over shows like Jersey Shore instead of spending time watching documentaries about real issues. It all really depends on who you are trying to impress, or if that’s even the goal. 
    I want to read your book!!!

    • ginidietrich

       @jennalanger It’s totally the same. All reality TV vs. Downton Abbey. 

      •  @ginidietrich I love Downton Abbey and hate reality TV, but I think you are right, more people prefer mindless to clever.

        •  @ExtremelyAvg  @ginidietrich I keep hearing about this Downtown Abbey show, but it’s on at the same time as Jersey Shore! 😉

        •  @jennalanger  DVR Downton Abbey. You won’t regret it. I promise.

  • Well, it might also be that Pulitzer Prize-winning books are a bit boring. The interesting question is why people want this kind of things, or articles, or books. Is it because the most important thing is knowing what kind of surgery has done a celebrity or because in the effort of writing sound things they get boring? Or heavy to read?
    As for me these days I’m not much into reading epic posts, or longer than 1000 words at maximum. Might be I don’t have enough free time but as a comparison reading a bulleted summary delivering the same information is much more appealing. Well I’ve always liked reading concise stuff even when I had more free time. At the end that’s what you search and hopefully get when reading a book, just the meat of it. Unless it’s recreational reading. 🙂
    Also let’s not forget that we’re talking about TV generation and now FB generation. I still belong to that when you watched TV from 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm and then go to bed. And there weren’t commercials all day long. Probably ten years from now real books will be found just in museums but you will be able to connect to FB even deep inside a mine. And I’m not sure we’ll earn something positive with the exchange. Imho. 😉

    • ginidietrich

       @Andrea T. H. W. You’re absolutely right about the TV generation. People will spend hours watching TV, but won’t read a good book. That makes me laugh. I disagree, though, that Pulitzer Prize winning books are boring. Some may be…just like some TV or short blog posts are boring. But not all. Not all at all. How many alls can I type? All.

      •  @ginidietrich 😀
        Clearly you’re right. At all. 😀

  • Didn’t Queen Ann say let them have cake, and eat it, too!


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  • DMVM

    I guess the answer is two-fold.  If you are being commissioned to write, then you write with the intent of meeting the clients needs, and if their needs are to pique the interest of cat ladies across the nation, then you may be compelled to write about frumpy sweaters, balls of yarn and hoarding (please note:  I have no idea what cat ladies like, I am spit-balling here).
    The other fold, is those of us who write for the love of writing, and getting our souls onto paper for the world to embrace.  The Thoreaus of the world, those of us who like to march to the beat of a different drummer (me included), and blaze new trails that are yet to be discovered.  We want to be the first.    It was this culture, that drove independent film makers to pull box office share (and oscars) from the cookie-cutter neilsin rated focus group generated garbage that was out there.   No offense to the Michael Bay’s of the world, I do need to get my Surround Sound, 3D fix in, but when I’m in the mood to really commit to being entertained, I gravitate toweards the unknown, I want to experience something I never have before.  
    I digress, in literature/writing, it’s all about genre.   If you are talking how-to, then you have to write about what the people want to know.  Everyone learns differently, and they gravitate to the authors and styles that they can comprehend and mimic.   To  succeed in this space, is to write about what the people want you to tell them.  We all like to hear that we are right.   Technology and Business Practices are so trendy, I feel to be successful you write about the trend.  As a reader, you think “If I’m doing what these successful people are doing, then I am doing it right.”  
    But alas, everything hits its saturation point, everything pops, the money gets made, the businesses “get gained”, and the ride is over.  Waiting, waiting for those Thoreaus out there, to write about that different drummer, who dare write about what they want.  They spawn that new idea.  The cycle repeats.  The bandwagons begin to roll, the book shelves replenish, and somewhere in the world, an author, smiles.  Because he/she gained the real reward.  The reward of their soul becoming accepted, and the fruits of their labor have been repaid.
    On that note, I am going to eat my sushi now.   

    •  @WhoIsDave So, really, you’re divided like me!

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  • Be proud of launching a book. It is more than most of us can do. I am not an English Major so you have something going for you that most of us only wish we have so we could write better. There are people out there who do like to read things that aren’t fluff. Give me the facts, just the facts. If I see a blog with lists, I will skim over the list and then leave the blog.
    <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>RudeeG</a>

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