Were you blogging in 2001/2002? I was. It was new, exciting, I used to spend countless hours learning how to work with Movable Type and themes (wait,”themes” are from the WordPress era, what were they called back then? I can’t remember…) – learning codes and designing templates. My passion for writing found the perfect outlet. People were excited about being able to have a voice and express their opinions. We interacted with other bloggers going through the same experience, visited their blogs daily to see what was up. Forget feed readers, we actually visited each blog separately. And made friends from all over the world.
It may not seem like it from that description, but times were different then. Blogging was different. And let me tell you if you weren’t a part of this world back in the day: it was FUN! If you were a part of this, you probably remember. Nobody was really making any serious money out of it, except for a few people here and there, because blogging was still very new and we didn’t even know it could be profitable. Most people were just enjoying it, they were in for the ride (not the destination), sharing their life, their career, their passions. All in one single blog, because niche blogs were the exception, not the rule. The whole thing had a more personal undertone, even the ones with no personal content. It felt more authentic. Granted, things were simpler and some of the wonderful tools and technologies we enjoy today were still in the making. But that simplicity with a lot of authenticity certainly had its charm.
Fast forward to the present and I feel like my grandmother talking about how life was simpler and enjoyable when she was growing up and how fun it was to climb trees. But the truth is, I’m talking about a reality from only 7 years ago. And then you ask: why so nostalgic? I’ll tell you:
Blogging today seems to be all about making money. Aren’t you growing sick and tired of this blabber? The word is out and has been for a while: blogging can allow you to quit the job you hate and make a living from writing in your PJs from the comfort of your home at 2 o’clock in the morning. Who wants a ticket? Apparently, lots of people.
There’s nothing wrong with that and, quite frankly, I’m all for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think making money from blogging is wonderful. I do, I’ve made some pretty decent income over the years myself and plan on staying on that track. That being said, the problem I have with it is that I see an overwhelming number of people losing authenticity in the process. They aren’t having fun. They obsess way too much over SEO practices, page rank, they read everything they can get their hands on about how to be a better blogger or how to make money from your blog and hey – there’s no shortage of information out there, in fact, this very information has proven to be quite profitable for some people.
Now listen, this is all wrong… This is backwards. Let me tell you who is really making money from blogging: those who are out there TRULY expressing their passion. Financial results come from sharing value. If you aren’t focusing on sharing value because you’re too busy worrying about the right keywords to use in the title of the article you just wrote based on step-by-step instructions on how to blog if you want to make a profit, guess what? You’re wasting your time! Do you know how many people are following the same tutorials and doing the exact same thing? There are so many of you out there that, quite frankly, it’s getting pretty old. It’s ok to learn SEO and best practices, to read about how to be a better blogger and learn from other people’s experiences, to learn about possible blog income options, all of that has its place. But if you’re letting that get in the way of your authentic self-expression, I guarantee you’re on the wrong track.
You have probably read somewhere else before that profitable blogging requires you to be authentic, so I’m not really breaking the news here, right? But see, what you need to realize is, if the only reason why you’re trying to be authentic is because you read somewhere that this is part of the sure-fire formula, again, that’s backwards. There’s a difference between being truly authentic and trying to appear as such or fake it as a means to an end. And sooner or later, your readers will be able to tell the difference.
Let me share with you a recent example to illustrate this: a few months ago I started reading a blog from someone who seemed to have a very clear and honest message. He seemed passionate, wrote good articles, posted some nice videos and so on and so forth. It should have been my first clue when I started reading too many articles on this blog about how sharing your passion is important (while no passion of his own was really being shared, now that I look at it in retrospect) and how by sharing his passion he was making a profit. But I didn’t see it coming: a few months (and many subscribers) down the road, I get an email in the classic sales pitch format: “Join me in this conference call where I’m going to share with you how you can turn your passion into profit. This will change your life. It’s very rare for me to do this. Here’s an introduction video. Blah… Blah…. Blaaahhhhh…”. I was so surprised by this (considering I had a completely different image of what he was trying to do based on what I had been reading on his blog and even emails we had exchanged), I wrote back asking if this was going to be one of those conference calls where you’re invited to buy a program in the end. I said “it’s ok if it is, I just want to know in advance”. You probably guessed it, I didn’t get a reply.
Fail!! Someone pretending to be passionate and authentic (about… what exactly?) in order to sell you tips on how to be passionate and authentic borders the ridiculous. First of all, if you’re going to sell something, that’s fine (it really is!), but don’t be obscure about it. Not if you want to be a successful blogger, because that also requires transparency and honesty. Second, once questioned about it, there’s your very (unlikely) second chance to come clean, so by all means, do it. Don’t ignore the question. Would you keep a connection (personal OR professional) with someone who isn’t being honest and transparent with you? Neither did I. Unfollow. Next?
That’s why I was so happy to hear Lorelle talk about authenticity and finding your voice at the WordCamp Netherlands. We REALLY need more of that in today’s blogosphere – like we had in the good old days. Lorelle, by the way, is a very good example of someone sharing their passion and being successful at it. If you pay attention, you’ll notice who’s truly being authentic and who’s simply trying too hard. I respect people like Darren Rowse, for instance, who, yes, shows you how to be a better blogger but is actually passionate about it – and that’s how his contribution ends up being so important and relevant, and why that translates into financial success. Darren started blogging early and never lost that authenticity. Sure, he makes really good money, but you can see he’s still enjoying the ride itself. This is the natural result, not the cause. And you can still sense that personal underlying tone at Problogger.net and you don’t even have to take my word for it, just go read this article and draw your own conclusions. Same goes for Steve Pavlina and many other successful bloggers – I don’t need to name them all, you probably know them already because you’re one of the people getting the REAL value they’re sharing.
And since I’m on it, let me add another piece of annoyance to the mix: I feel like screaming every time I visit a Twitter profile and it says “social media specialist”. We all know a few people who are, indeed, social media specialists, but seriously… Is everyone a social media specialist now? How about “hype specialist”? Is this really the only thing we need to be talking about? Can you say “broken record”? Yes, I know it’s big and I love it too. But it’s getting so repetitive because this seems to be the new yellow brick road everyone wants to be on, it’s making me feel peeved about the term! If you aren’t Dorothy, this just makes you look like you’re trying too hard to be in the wrong movie.
I miss the days when making money from blogging wasn’t so much of a hype because, that being out of the way, it felt like we were connecting with people – and not their agendas. Whether that ends up being for personal or professional reasons, it really doesn’t matter – I just miss the more laid back and authentic tone the blogosphere had 7 years ago as opposed to how obsessive so many people are nowadays with making a living from blogging. I feel like we are missing this balance. Profit and authenticity can co-exist, we don’t need to be in the run for the pot of gold at the expense of losing ourselves and our true voices in the process. In fact, in my experience, these things tend to work very well when they come together.
Again, don’t get me wrong: I love many of the aspects of this new blogging reality we have today, including the true connections we still make with other fellow bloggers – and I hope more and more people can benefit from the financial possibilities it brings us, it’s all good. But I’m still in it for the ride. And for the true connections. For the unexpected doors it opens, financial and otherwise. For the fun of it. For expression. For all of it. And I wish more people were in it with a similar approach and mindset.
And with this, I officially come back to blogging after a long hiatus for personal reasons. But apart from the personal issues that kept me away from blogging in the past few months, something else motivated me to write all this: I’ve personally made the mistake of trying to find my place in this hyped money making blogosphere, thinking what I was doing before no longer had a place in this new scenario (when in reality, it was working just fine). But not very surprisingly, that made me lose my voice and authenticity – along with part of the pretty decent income I was making. It’s not so much that I started doing things differently: the truth is, the more I worried about doing what, in theory, I was “supposed” to be doing based on where the blogosphere seemed to be going towards in order to keep my income flowing, the less motivated I felt to write. I lost focus on what I was already instinctively doing right just by being myself. So I took a step back to think this over and this article was the result of this process. Income or no income from blogging, I’ll be the change I want to see in the blogging world (to reference Ghandi’s words). I think adapting is important, but you can’t lose yourself in the process. I hope this inspires you to do the same.