Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When Will This Blog Grow Up? Part I of II

I don't even know what this means, but it looks hilarious,
and it came up as an image result for search "blog pimping".
How do we define whether a blog is successful? Late in 2011, I spoke with Rebecca of the Outdoor Blogger Network about possibly doing a few OBN articles on the topic - at what point can you (or I) say, "My blog has been a success."?  The reality, of course, is that if you have not set goals for what you wish your blog to accomplish, it can never be "a success."  Even if others consider it to be a great blog.

In writing those two OBN pieces (published here #1 and here #2), I realized that I've not gone through all of those exercises either.   I wrote about that recently here.   And so for the purpose of making sure, 10 years from now, that this blog has accomplished what I wanted it to, let's do this. 

1. Why do I blog?  This is fairly standard territory for me, but I'll lay it out.  I blog for three main reasons.  First and foremost (a), I blog to keep a record of my outdoor time, because my memory for experiences is really poor.  The days surfing, fishing, and hunting honestly just blend together unless I make a record of words and photographs.  And so I do.  The phrase "educational tool" also comes under this heading , since many of the outdoor lessons I've learned (the hard way) are reflected here.

Second (b), I like to share my opinion about conservation, environmental law, and occasionally some other issues.

Third (c), I want there to be a permanent written record (beyond this blog) of my existence on Earth. Whether that's a book or a serial column in Field and Stream, or a TV show ("Duck Dumbasses" comes to mind as a potential title), I don't know yet.  Hey, just being honest.

2. Define success and failure for this blog.   River Mud is almost 5 years old, which seems insane to me.  It's accomplished some interesting things that don't totally coincide with the "why I blog" rationale above.  That's food for thought in itself.   Into the future, "success" should be composed of the following things:

a. Continued usefulness and utility for my own purposes (see 1(a,b)) through Fall, 2017 (10 years)
b. Continuing to serve (and grow) as a resource for the wider outdoor community (my gear reviews and conservation posts have incredible staying power, which makes me happy)
c. Laying a material foundation (written material) for a larger piece of print work, most likely a book of some sort
d. Laying a business foundation (written material, relationship management, networking, etc) for professional writing opportunities in hard copy publications
e. Giving myself increased motivation to get outdoors, meet new people, see new places, and then tell those stories.

All that being said, failure might look like:
a. a blog that I do not want to write, but force the writing and storytelling anyway, or periodically neglect to post for more than 3 weeks at a time.
b. not being taken seriously by others in the outdoor/conservation community and outdoor blogger community
c. not making progress (volume or quality of material) toward a larger piece of (hard copy) work
d. failing at managing high quality relationships with potential publishers, gear partners, etc.

3. Focus and Work It.  As I type this, I can already sense, "this is the hard part."  I really want to hit "save/publish later" at this exact moment.  (post-script: I did). (one week later....)....what are some actual actions I should do on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis to ensure the success I described/envisioned above?

Per Blog Mission 1(a) (records and lessons from my time afield): 
Weekly:  a) Read other blogs and at least two print magazines to find ideas for new adventures, tactics, or writing ideas. b) Leave online feedback. c) get afield at least once. d) blog at least once.
Monthly: Reach out to at least one outdoorsperson/writer/blogger to ask for additional "how to tips"
Yearly: a) reconfigure elements of the blog that aren't generating interest or value.  b)

Per Blog Mission 1(b) (running my mouth opining on a variety of topics):

Weekly: Keep up to date on conservation issues (ethics, litigation, legislation, news stories)
Monthly: a) write a gear review. b) request gratis or discount gear for review at least once. c) write at least one narrative/opinion piece.
Yearly: a) travel (> 60 miles) to meet at least two writers, conservationists, outdoorsfolk, or bloggers.  b). Write in detail about the experience. c) Write at least four blog entries that require input/interviews from other authors, anglers, biologists, etc.

Per Blog Mission 1(c) (creating detailed records or ideas for future hard copy publishing): 
Weekly: a) Write one blog entry, however short, that forces me to write concisely and coherently.
Monthly: a) Make sure that major life events get recorded, even if out of format for the blog
Yearly: a) Participate in a writing course, public reading, or something similar to build my writing skills. b) Reach out to at least one author or blogger for tips or for a critical review of my writing. c) analyze my success at building a meaningful narrative about my life outdoors (thoughtful vs. top-of-my head posts). d) identify six new authors whose style holds a connection to me. e) submit three pieces of work to online publications.  f) submit one piece of work to a hard-copy publication.

Oh, there's more, but this post is getting too long, and if I don't quit now, I may never get around to publishing it.  Next time, I'll be looking at #4 and #5 on my list, "Increasing My Impact" and "Setting Real Goals," both of which are starting to look like they are already being handled in #3, above.  There's got to be a better way to condense it all, and I look forward to figuring that out and showing it off to you.

Thanks for reading!

I'm so glad you're here! Come in and lay - I mean sit - down!


Brookfield Angler said...

Interesting stuff, Kirk...

I admire the fact that you have an actual plan for your blog with actual goals that are both short term and long term. I think that goals are a great thing and that they are critical if you want to achieve something.

On the other hand, I have to admit that I don't see *my* blog as anything more than a creative outlet and a place to tell my fish stories to people who enjoy reading them. I like challenging people to think a bit every now and then. I like the challenge of being able to paint a picture with words. I think I told you this when we were fishing, but one of the best compliments that I ever got was from Ken G who said that I am one of the few bloggers that he reads who can tell a story so it's easy for him to imagine being right there with me. Give me an awesome compliment like that every so often, comment on the stiff I write, and I will be as happy as a pig in the mud.

Outside of that, I don't have any expectations for my blog. Sure, I get some free swag every now and then but I don't foresee myself ever looking at it as a basis for anything bigger.

Does that mean that I am not open to the idea? Not at all - I just don't think that it's realistic (for me) and if I put so much into it, and it fails, then I'll stop doing it. However, if I continue to do it for the sole reason of enjoyment, then it will be around a lot longer and has more of a potential to turn into more.

River Mud said...

You've conquered the first 95% of it - knowing why you bother with it in the first place, and saying that anything above and beyond having the blog function as your own entertainment is great but "a bonus." Just by setting those groundrules, you are likely to be successful when you look back on the blog in a few years.

Other folks are on the other end of the spectrum, wanting blogging to generate real income for them and become the central part of their work life. I think if they plan - and work - accordingly, it's certainly possible.

I guess I'm in the middle. I'd like for the blog to be its own successful "thing" on the periphery of my life. And now I've actually defined some terms for what that looks like, so we'll see in a few years if it was a worthwhile exercise.

The problem with blogging/bloggers is the 90% of folks who are "none of the above" - they keep putting together blog posts and it's like that old stupid math comic, "And then a miracle occurs!" and they are an internet blogging millionaire.

Of course what actually happens is they don't work for it, don't have discrete goals, and then all of a sudden they post something like, "we are taking a break from this blog." I've seen too many wonderful outdoor blogs go that route.

And that is a recipe for failure.

Brookfield Angler said...

"they keep putting together blog posts and it's like that old stupid math comic, "And then a miracle occurs!" and they are an internet blogging millionaire. "

LOL Don't you hate that!!

Let me throw this one out there - I think that one key to making your goals happen is to stand out in some way. If your stories and posts are just like everybody else's (not saying yours are)then it's not going to attract followers. It would also then be fair to say that a book would be out of the question, too.

But what about other ways of standing out? They say that looks are one of the first things that people notice. I know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but let's be honest; we do it all the time. With that, the look of the blog has to standout instead of looking like "just another blogger" layout. The same should be applied to the book cover. It has to be sexy!!

River Mud said...

You are pushing me out of my comfort zone! We all know what bad graphics and format look like....but discerning "uniquely good "and then to take a decent or average appearance blog like mine to that next level is scary for those of us without the skills. And "scary" is not a good excuse for inaction. Be careful might be the next one I call for coding help!

Brookfield Angler said...

HA! You can call away...I probably won't have a good answer, though.

Before when I mentioned my blog being a creative outlet, I meant not only writing, but also about looks. I know virtually nothing about website building, but have so far found it quite fun learning how to make my blog look different than a typical blogger layout.

While I am not quite there, I am so far satisfied with the results. I think the best way to learn the stuff is google. "custom background image blogger" or "no menu bar on blogger" would be search terms that I have probably used. Basically, if I want to know how to make something, I google it and play with it. That has been just as much fun as the writing part!

Devin Angleberger said...

Great stuff, you never know what the future holds.

River Mud said...

Thanks Nick - I have tried the google search for code stuff in a very limited way. Maybe I need a separate set of goals focused on my blog format...NOOOOOOOO!

Devin - you're right, and it's an experiment. You can never accurately predict success but you can put yourself in the right place to TAKE success when it finally decides to show up. Which could be next week or 10 years from now. Gotta still work on that part, ha ha.

Rabid Outdoorsman said...

Why do the words River Mud and Sexy when used in a comment thread send uncomfortable shivers down my spine!?! :) Your "sexy" enough buddy, please tell Victoria that she can keep her Secrets . . .

River Mud said...

I have tried to think of an appropriate response to that comment for the past week, and have failed.

Well played, sir.

Rabid Outdoorsman said...

HEHE! Awesome!

gfen said...

so, saying "i started blogging because i wanted free shit and now i just get drunk and scream at the Internet" is the wrong answer?