July 11, 2008

General Purpose Blogging

I'm not 100% sure I know what Nick at Cogitamus means by the phrase "general purpose blogging," but I think I do. As I understand it, it means a blog that covers multiple areas of interest, on which one can read a variety of things rather than to go to for a particular subject.

It's certainly the case that blogs which enjoy higher traffic tend to be focused on only one or two things -- law, religion (or atheism), politics, and so on. The more focused one's blog can be, the more one will attract eyeballs because the audience comes to realize that this blog is a place where one can read about a particular thing. When you want to know about law, you'll look for a blog like Volokh or Above the Law. If you're an atheist, Richard Dawkins' website is of great interest and you can go there to learn about atheism. When you're looking for politics, you'll go somewhere that there's a lot of political writing. There's no shortage of people writing about sports out there on the Internets, either.

But on the other hand, event hese blogs seem to deviate from their primary topics. Right Wing Nuthouse indulges in diversions about Rick Moran's home life and sports, although generally one can find a combination of political commentary and historical context there.

And there is an audience for just plain good writing, too. Anything that makes someone laugh or think or even cry will attract eyeballs. And the general-focus blogs from Atlantic Magazine (Sullivan, Yglesias, McArdle) all seem to get a lot of traffic, and they're all over the board.

So maybe it's not true that you need to have a narrow focus to be popular. But that brings us back to the subject of why blog in the first place. Does one write to attract a wide audience? Does one write to provide a journal of interest to one's friends and family? Or is it for the love of doing it in the first place?

I have a lot of things I write about here. Politics, law, religion and atheism, and especially where these topics overlap one another, are of great intellectual interest to me. But sometimes I indulge in sports talk. And many of my frequent readers are personal friends and family; they seem to want to know what's going on in my life, which involves the doings of The Wife, the critters, and myself as we have our adventures in and out of Soffit House. That would make this a "general purpose blog" and if Cogitamus is right, that dooms the blog to perpetual obscurity. But on the other hand, is 100-200 hits a day "obscurity"?

At the end of the day, the right attitude about these sorts of issues seems to be to not care. I'm not here to make money; this is not a commercial, profit-generating activity. I'm pretty much throwing out ideas and seeing if anyone has anything to say about them here, whether I'm a voice in the wilderness or not.

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