How many bloggers to change a lightbulb?


Image by Tanja-Denise Schantz

The question should be – is FOMM a blog, a topical weekly essay, Citizen journalism or the random musings of a flawed human being who craves attention?

When posting it on the WordPress website, I am reminded that FOMM is not a conventional blog. It’s those endless reminders from the SEO plug-in. For those who have no idea what that means, Search Engine Optimisation is the key to more hits and making it further up the tree of Google rankings. SEO is a nag machine – you already used this keyword – don’t do that. Almost every week it gives my screed a low score for readability. You reckon?

If you are engaged to write short, entertaining blog posts for a company, SEO is essential. If you are being asked to post 10 to 20 times a week you need SEO to penetrate the on-line miasma of ‘Content’.

The way I was brought up, content meant happy with your lot in life. What it means in blog marketing terms is to write entertainingly and splatter keywords throughout your Content. The more times you say ‘widget’ when writing about a widget the higher you will be ranked by Google’s search engines. It’s an insane marketplace.

There are 600 million blogs and 1.7 billion websites out there. They write about anything from Taiwan’s right to independence from China to why the bristles always fall out of shaving brushes. This is not counting the untold numbers of communiques from people who bypass the whole process and just send an email to a list of readers.

Joy, an environmental activist, starting emailing friends about five years ago when the Adani coal project and climate change deniers were unfortunate bedfellows. Joy tells me her missives are sometimes known by readers as ‘Joy’s blog’.

Joe Dolce, who wrote the novelty song ‘Shaddup Your Face’, wrote a weekly letter for years. I know this because a friend shared one of his long, eccentric emails with me and I subscribed.

Famous songwriter Eric Bogle writes a kind of a blog which he simply puts out there on his Facebook page. Sometimes they are, as he’ll say, grumpy old man rants. Other times, Bogle writes with great sensitivity and hits a nerve the way his best songs do.

This is the goal of bloggers – to grab the reader’s attention and hold it to the last word, Alluring headlines have their role to play and I must confess this is not my strong point as a writer. My strength (if indeed I have one) is that I post every Friday, no matter what else is going on in our lives (even on holidays, says ED, somewhat testily).

Daffodil-loving Ange is what I’d call a sporadic blog writer – the best of hers are when she and hubby hit the road and share the trials and travails and lovely images of their travel. I think they are still missing luggage from a trip to the Red Heart (but the daffies are out). My favourite Ange quote comes from a late 2021 Australian road trip.

“I’m so excited about travelling again I even ironed my Lorna Jane cargo pants.”

Australia’s oldest regular blogger Everald Compton, 90+, posts most weeks. Everald’s election-eve analysis of the state of politics and forecasts of things to come was almost 100% on the money and worth re-reading.

Everald, whose CV includes professional fundraiser, inland rail promoter and National Seniors chief executive, has a few favourite causes. In his latest blog he (again) calls for the inclusion of our indigenous people in Australia’s constitution.

Let’s be clear when distinguishing blogs and bloggers from writers who share their opinions about politics, sport, culture, indigenous affairs, climate change, the environment et al.

A blogger in the commercial sense of the word writes interesting (short) articles for companies that are trying to grow their on-line businesses. Let’s say you have a micro-business that makes useful but not indispensable tools. You’ve invented the perfect toenail cutter and employ a blogger to write enticing copy.

“The Toejam fits snugly into the palm, its laser-guided cutting blades fitting beneath the curviest toenail. Its in-built sensors sound an alarm if you are about to engage with flesh. The Toejam comes with a tiny vacuum attachment so you don’t leave toenail parings all over the bedroom floor. The wife really likes it!

The deputy director of On-line Engagement (OE) fires back a terse email to the contract blogger.

“You only mention Toejam twice – for text of this length you should use the brand keyword at least six times. Also, the brief asked for 150 words so you are 95 words short. Try again and please, what does your wife have to do with anything?”

You can find on-line copy of this ilk designed to sell everything from green tea to rocket launchers. Yeh nah, FOMM is not a blog of that ilk.

Oberlo’s research reveals that micro blogging platform Tumbler is the king of Content, home to 488 million blogs. Its closest competitor, WordPress, hosts 78 million new posts on its platform every month. Four or sometimes five of these are mine.

Nine out of ten Content generators use blogs to sell stuff. Businesses with a blog receive 55% more visitors to their website than those that don’t. They also produce 67% more leads every month.

I decided back in 2014 if I was going to write a newspaper-style opinion column I’d need to write at least 800 words and settled on 1200. The on-line wisdom at the time was that short and fluffy works.

One of my early unsubscribers informed me: “Sorry, Bob. It’s TMTR.” I had to Google that and found it was slang for Too Much To Read.

For those who wish to write blogs that aren’t merely advertising avenues, experts like Databox now recommend writing blog posts of between 1,500 and 2000 words, as the average blog post length has increased over the past seven years from 800 to 1,200 words.

It’s hard to find an objective list of top blogs and when you do, many are mainstream media blogs, ranked by audience size rather than by content.

There are a few independent blogs in this Top 50 list from Feedly that cross over into my own list of recommended blogs (Pearls & Irritations, The Conversation, John Quiggan, Michael West).

The best blogs start as a simple on-line diary, usually generated when the writer is visiting new places. There are many great travel blogs including Nomadic Matt, The Blonde Abroad, Salt in our Hair, Little Aussie Travellers and Ange’s Around the World in 99 Days.

Last time I wrote about blogs and bloggers I mentioned the famous Swedish centenarian Dagny Carlsson, who recently died at the age of 109. She started blogging age 100 under the name Bojan after becoming “bored with retirement. Her posts were short, to the point and often cheeky. At 106 she advised people to “stop whining and get a grip. Dagny’s last blog post was on January 28 when she wrote: “like a cat, I have at least nine lives, but I do not know what I should use so much of life for.”

Frivolity aside, if you live in a country with a repressive regime, writing a blog is one (dangerous) way of keeping the world informed. I discovered (in 2017) the word blog in Farsi looks like this – وبلاگ. Iranians who didn’t like the way things were going in their country started وبلاگ’ing (blogging) like crazy after the 2000 crackdown on Iranian media. Although they are taking risks, rebel bloggers living in autocratic countries know their story will be picked up by libertarian journalists in democratic countries.

It’s the Internet, eh.

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