The Problem with Providing Value (And an Approach to Idle Blogging)

The value lies in the eye of the beholder This morning, I enjoyed reading a post by Oscar Del Ben about the necessity of providing value in blogging. Think twice about what you want to write, think twice about how to write it, think twice about hitting the “Publish” button – and always have in mind the value you provide. Because people are receiving way too much information already, and you don’t want to mess with them. If you ask for their attention, better bring something noteworthy.

Although I generally agree with this recommendation, it also entails a problem: Value lies in the eye of the beholder. While I enjoy surfing around the comic section of Arthur Magazine from time to time, others may find it completely stupid. But then, I am not much into buying penis enlargement pills, while apparently a lot of other people are. So if you only focus on providing value to other people, you can easily become predictable and boring. I think that’s because everybody is trying to find out about this value thing – and often draws some inspiration from other blogs. While this can lead to the creation of great content, it also may result in producing meaningless repetitions of old stuff that was useful once, but is not anymore. Carlos Miceli referred to this when he advocated to avoid echo online. If your post is just a repetition of a repetition of a repetition, it’s meaningless. Provide a new angle or trash it. Or better still, don’t even start to write it.

This means: Learn to be silent. Silence is the way of the idle blogger, and silence may provide much more value than you think. It saves you work and it saves people time. It’s a win-win situation.
Of course you want people to come to your site, you want to engage in the discussion that’s going on. That’s fine. But be sure to provide new insights. Don’t get distracted by some bloggers that are repeating themselves over and over again. Don’t get dazzled by large numbers of subscribers. Start an information diet, blind the noise out, focus on signals.

And if you decide to really raise your voice, don’t just focus on providing value to others. Because you cannot always know what will be valuable to them. You’re not a market research department. You’re a blogger. And as a blogger, you have the right to be deliberately dilettante and do what sparks your interest. As long as you’re original and honest, and as long as you focus on the quality of your texts in a sense of craftsmanship, you can do whatever you want. (Well, you actually could also copy stuff, be dishonest, and write in an ugly style. But then you would be a spammer, not a blogger.) As Oscar puts it, don’t be afraid of change. Move into new directions and provide new points of view, even though they may appear ridiculous at first. I’m an idler that engages in activism. Is this a contradiction, is it derangement? Or is it a paradox you can live by? Who am I to tell? I just seek to write good posts. Give it a try. If it doesn’t bring you more readers, it will make you a better writer at least.

At the beginning of your blog, you just don’t have a clear readership. Many business bloggers recommend focussing on your target audience. I say: Forget your target audience. People are coming to you from everywhere and you don’t have much control over it: They may be friends looking what you’re up to. They may be employers checking you out before hiring you. They may be twitterers that have never heard of you before. They may be lonely Googlers that yet have to start to engage in a community. Be open to them. Be original. Be honest. Maybe they will connect and maybe they won’t, but in the end, you will never know if you don’t give it a try. You can never be sure what synapses get stimulated by your writings in the brains other people. Just avoid endless repetitions, provide quality over quantity, lay back, and look what happens. This might be a valuable approach to Idle Blogging at last.

Comments 11

  1. Jeb November 19, 2009

    Beautifully said. I think our highest goal, in blogging, is to provide value to ourselves first. To give voice to, and honor the person we are, that others may get to truly know us. Many may find us to be uninteresting, but for some, for our people, we are exactly what they want and need. And that, my friend, is perfect.

  2. Oscar - freestyle mind November 19, 2009

    Thanks for the link and it was nice to read your opinion.

    I think we have to look at what we want to do. If my goal is to express myself and stretch my ideas, then by any means I focus on providing value to me.

    If I am a company that sells a service instead, I may want to focus my attention on a particular group. In this last example, I still wouldn’t focus on pleasing everyone though.

    What you wrote here makes sense to me. Especially when you say don’t look at bloggers who repeat themselves over and over again. Great post.

  3. Fabian November 19, 2009

    Thanks for your comments, guys! Glad you like the post!

    Jeb, true words about “our people”. There are more than six billion humans out there, and it would be a wonder if nobody would think in similar ways as oneself. I personally am really glad to see the reactions to my writings, because all of them are surely providing a lot of value and new food for thought!

    Oscar, you are absolutely right with distinguishing different approaches to blogging. I should have made that a bit clearer in the post. Thanks for the addition!

  4. Sarah November 19, 2009

    Fabian, I think this blog will be a great example of how your belief in “forgetting your target audience” can actually work. You definitely are not targeting 20something PR consultants from Canada like myself, yet I still find an incredible amount of value from the perspectives you share – both personally and professionally.

  5. Milo November 19, 2009

    This is indeed a brilliant post Fabian, and just what I needed to hear right now. It’s so easy to get caught up in and stuck in what you imagine your audience expects from you, when what’s more important is to follow your own path.

  6. Fabian November 20, 2009

    Sarah, at first I wanted to have a tagline like “The Friendly Anarchist – Serving Canadian 20something PR consultants since 1981”, but decided against it in the last moment! :D

    Milo, I see you are on a very good path concerning this! It will be interesting to see your blog evolving… music and personal development may mix really well! Looking forward to it!

  7. Nate November 20, 2009

    Ditto to all the above and great post Fabian!! I agree wholeheartedly with this. I actually responded to Oscar’s post, but I’ll say the same thing here:

    BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

    Jeb is saying the same above. I’m really, really trying hard to keep that in mind as I write. There are so many people out there with different opinions and writing styles. Sometimes it makes me feel bad about my own writing, for example, if I see someone else writing elegant posts with fancy language. Well, maybe that’s just not me so I shouldn’t worry about it. First and foremost, if I’m not being true to myself and writing about something that I care about (forget for a moment if other people think it’s lame) then I’ll never have the opportunity to please other people.

  8. Fabian November 21, 2009

    Nate, maybe you actually COULD please others while writings about something you don’t care about, but you would screw yourself. It would be like a boring job, probably even badly paid… why would anybody want that? As we all see this is BS, we take another approach, and I think it’s the nicer one.

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