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The Next Level

The Next Level

“Your readers, right now — they’re bloggers. You need more regular people reading you. You need, like those women at the preschool birthday party. That’s who you need. Get more of the blog readers. Not the blog writers. That’s how you’re going to get to the Next Level.”

Periodically we have these kinds of discussions, Mr. Right-Click and I, about the hypothetical Next Level. On the Next Level, Mr. Right-Click becomes a Gentleman of Elegant Leisure while I manage my blogging empire. On the Next Level, Mr. Right-Click snaps Daguerrotypes in between rounds of golf, wears his seersucker trousers rolled, dares to eat a peach. &c.

“See, what are ‘badges’? I’ve read the whole glossary definition, and I still don’t know what badges are.” The problem with me and the Next Level, is the inside baseball problem, you see. Nobody outside of this small circle of blogging can understand what the hell I’m talking about.

“What . . . you’re, you’re not the target audience, honey,” I say. I always say this. Because, he is not the intended audience. Blogger or not.

“Wait, so are you a member of Blog With Integrity?”
“What are you fucking kidding me? Did you even read the definition? Why in fuck’s sake would you think I would be a member of that paternalistic pseudoMcCarthyism fascist –“
“Oh, OK, see, I see now, now that I read this I see how you feel about it.”
“This is what I’m talking about. How can you say what it takes to get to The Next Level if you’re not reading the whole entry?”
“I could see how maybe it would be useful for like, kids or something.”
“What? The Next Level?”
“No, this Blog With Integrity thing.”
It’s not for kids! It’s for adults!”

“No, I know.”
“It’s for women, grown women!”
“By grown women — for other women!”

“Interesting that you should introduce the paternalistic metaphor, though! VERY INTERESTING.”
“Let’s see what’s on TV.”
“OK.”

Glossary terms: BlogWithIntegrity, integrity, badges, EVENT, OMG Ponies

Comments (25)

  1. JaneSays
    Jul 9, 2010

    I sort of agree with Mr. RIght-Click. I have been reading your blog for a long time, and there will still be days I come here and have no idea what you’re talking about. For instance, on the “Why You Follow” blog, it seemed out of left field, and I surmised that something had happened that made you feel the need to ask that question. I had to look back at it and read the comments…essentially dig to find out it was about a war with some other blogger. And your lists often have a lot of inside jokes about things that I suppose have happened either on some other blog or on twitter. Sometimes I think that if I were someone coming to your blog for the first time I wouldn’t know what was going on, and I’d just move along.

    I’m no Pioneer Woman apologist, but you go to her blog any random day and it doesn’t have any secret inside jokes, and you know what’s going on. Whether that makes her generic or whatnot, I don’t know.

    The glossary helps, but if people can’t just stop by here without deciphering the code of the inner blogosphere, I fear they will just click on by and miss the really great stuff you do have.

  2. Jul 9, 2010

    This is valid. I’m not sure what my “really great stuff” is, though. Posts I write about the blogosphere get more attention than other posts, more comments. It’s hard to know what it is that people like, and if I don’t use that as a gauge, then I’m just going by what I feel like writing about. Which is more or less what I’ve been doing lately.

    I’ve been thinking about List Mondays. I’m wondering if I should chuck it. Maybe I should put up a poll. I don’t know if I should continue it anymore or not. I’m in the middle of a blog existential crisis.

  3. JaneSays
    Jul 9, 2010

    From a “layman” who has a blog completely unrelated to mommying:

    Great stuff would be college stories, Tanya, monetization, mini and Mr., random days out. I mean, I think everything on here is great and interesting until I get to the vague posts and have to decipher what happened. And that is interesting stuff once I unearth what happened! But I’m not positive most people will go through the trouble.

    I’m definitely not saying to kill the insider intrablog stuff, but the “backstory” would be great. If you had started the “Why do you follow” post, for example, with the story of what had happened, a passerby would get sucked in rather than feel like he or she is reading the blog of some club they don’t belong to.

    I’m not saying your blog should be like Sweet Valley High and describe Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s slender figures, gold-spun hair and identical lavaliere necklaces every. Single. Time. But keep in mind that for each post you write, someone who has never read you before will be reading it and might need some frame of reference.

    And please do not chuck the list Mondays…I do love it!

    Here’s hoping I made some sense there.

  4. Jul 9, 2010

    Thanks, this is really helpful. It probably would be good to do some setup. Some of this is a generic problem. I noticed when I first started reading blogs that you just have to sort of give a blogger a few months to see if you like them, you cannot really do it in a few days or weeks, generally speaking. Perhaps the more mainstream ones ARE the ones that can grab you faster than that, or they are ones who have enough of a following already that you are invested enough to be like, “what is it about this woman that people are following her?” so you stick around to figure it out. Because blogging is in medias res already, and even if you do go back, there’s always something you missed, or some post that doesn’t give you the whole story.

    Another thing I was thinking about is that I’m not much of a fan of blogs. I mean, I am a reader of them, a critic of them and a fan of the phenomenon of them. But I’m much more interested in the concept of internet celebrity, which is how I came to this whole thing, to look at it more closely — and then I realized that my skill set is well suited to this medium and that I could do what I was doing in academia better here anyway, with more reach and more commercial application, and more creative outlet. But I’ve always been kind of frustrated, just as a consumer, by the blog form. So looking at the personal blog as a consumer has always been difficult for me because it’s not been my personal choice. I’m much more of a novel reader. I like neat packages for things — not real life.

  5. Jul 9, 2010

    Ok. so this is something I TOTALLY talk about ALL THE TIME, and could literally talk about for HOURS.

    Because most of my readers are not bloggers, I never (with small exception) write about anything blogging related on my site. I don’t do memes. I don’t post awards. I don’t break down twitter fights or conversations, and I don’t often discuss blogger events/ conferences.

    (Oh, look at me, spouting off blogging knowledge like I may actually be a reliable source for information, heaven forbid anyone outside the usual circle of lapdogs be allowed to share knowledge and information with people, I mean, I’ve only built a successful blog from scratch for the last three years, but, heh, what do I know, right? I say words like dick…so I MUST be a dumb ass)

    Sorry, so yeah, blogging stuff on blogs.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE reading it like some sort of junkie, it just doesn’t fit the editorial theme of my site.

    You deal with a niche that few successfully take on with any respect or authority, and you are succeeding, so I think that in terms of your editorial angle, talking about all the fun bloggy stuff is completely warranted and in place here:)

    However, I SELDOM read blogs that re-enact blog fights or drama or the like. I mean, I KNOW what they are talking about and it bores and annoys me, so, in other circumstances, where a blog is not specifically created to address blogging or blog finances, than yeah, you wanna build a lasting audience? maybe look for content beyond the ‘ole twitter stream.

    Sorry if this seems all over the place, have had to stop writing it no less than five times because JUICE OMG I NEEED MORE JUICE NOWWWW.

  6. Jul 9, 2010

    Personally I can do without the general-interest personal blog part. I like your voice and enjoyed the awkwardness of the preschool party scene and your trying to explain what you do, but to me there’s a theme and some unity and consistency on the “personal finance” part of the site.

    And that, too, has a clearly identifiable, unique voice. (My only objection is the name–to me it’s “the business of mommyblogging”; personal finance is credit card use; saving for college; debt management; buying large appliances; using your flexible spending account.) Whereas the abdpbt personal part is too similar to the literally millions of other mom blogs out there.
    I come here for the niche you’ve chosen–the critique of other blogs, the examination of what others are doing right and wrong, the research into the shadowy world of making money off of a personal blog.

    And I think your niche is useful enough and your knowledge and interest intense enough to draw the mommybloggers who want to figure out how to make money from their sites but don’t want to pay a consultant like Gwen Bell to explain it to them. (Though maybe in time you could venture into that also.)

    Your ebook, glossary, and other ebooks you may write about mommybloggers would work to deepen your authority on the subject. Eventually you could land some media appearances and that could expand this expertise and your reputation further. (What about an ebook about the business of Dooce and her mistakes and successes? A sort of biography/case study? I bet you have enough material you could rework.)

    Here’s what Seth Godin says on his blog today: “I think there’s a transparent wall, an ever bigger one, between digital spectators and direct interaction or transaction. The faster the train is moving, the harder it is to pay attention, open the window and do business. If all you’re doing is increasing the number of digital spectators to your work, you’re unlikely to earn the conversion you deserve.”

    So you, Anna, don’t want “digital spectators”–a big, wide audience. You just need people to stop by long enough and often enough to see value in what you’re doing–value for THEM–and then fork over some money for an enewsletter subscription or an ebook or even (someday) a regular book. When you’re talking BUSINESS (not personal or memoir), there are a lot more ways to make money. And who cares if you’re not completely accessible? Yes, more of an entry point to each blog post might be good, but your audience is assumed to have some expertise already. And there’s always the glossary.

    Or you could start a new series of posts–basics of mommyblogging. What are the “ideal” ways to start out? What are the first steps? What are the most common mistakes made my mommybloggers starting out? Incorrect assumptions? (Maybe you’ve already done this and I just haven’t taken the trouble to peruse your archives. Or maybe you need to rework your archives to highlight the most popular/useful/basic material and make it easier for new readers to find.)

    Just a few suggestions from a recent (but enthusiastic) reader.

  7. Jul 9, 2010

    See, this is the thing. My personal finance blog is way more successful than this section of the blog is. It gets more hits and more comments. This section has more subscribers just on its own, but it has been around longer, and now my central feed is set up to default to a full feed, so most new people who sign up to subscribe subscribe to all four feeds, rather than individually (ie, it’s much less likely that somebody would, these days, sign up for the personal finance blog on its own, the way they did, in the beginning, sign up for the personal blog feed on its own). I usually only blog about blogging over here when it has transgressed into my personal life, which in recent months has been more often because of the whole Former Ad Network situation. But with my personal posts, a lot of times I feel like they’re stupid and boring.

    Maybe the problem is that I find myself to be stupid and boring.

  8. Jul 9, 2010

    My husband is often caught having not read my blog in weeks.

    He also has little concept of my audience. But in fairness, I don’t have a good grasp on it, either.

    But he would LOVE for my blog to go to the “next level.” Isn’t that where he quits his job, I pay all the bills with said blog, and he helps the world uphold me as queen?

  9. Sara
    Jul 9, 2010

    Anna, I disagree. I think what you’re doing is just fine. Sticking with the example of the Why Do You Follow post, I think it stood well on its own feet without any sort of lead in or back story. In fact, without either of those, it became a concept, an idea, that others in your comment section could ponder and share their thoughts, without it turning into an all out continuation of the twitter trash talk. Now, of course there was some discussion about the *actual* event that had spurred that post, but even those who weren’t involved were still able to identify and share.

    Also, I think some vague elements are likely to grab new readers even more. People who read blogs are often curious, anxious, nosy, and bored. A bit of a treasure hunt can really draw some people in. Or, it worked on me at least. When I first started reading I got a huge kicked out of trying to put the puzzle pieces of your posts together, and now that I read regularly and follow on twitter, I’m excited when I get, say, 13 out of 16 of your List Monday references.

    But then again, maybe that’s just me and maybe I’m just pathetic.

    Either way, if you start spelling things out too plainly you’ll start to sound like our favorite mommyblog reporting site.

  10. Jul 9, 2010

    Interesting. You have a point, though I won’t ever totally get rid of the personal part because I need it. I like that I can have this section to come and navel gaze and have it not really get in the way of the more “serious” part of the business section. It’s what was missing from academia, and it’s what makes blogging a better venue for me. But I do see what you’re saying — if I want a customer who is weeding through to find the useful content, then this section is of no use to them.

    The problem is, maybe I’m courting different kinds of people. Because to some people, I’m a blogger. To others, I’m a business analyst. My husband sees me as a creative writer. He thinks I should have Dooce’s following, or PW’s following. He tells people at parties that I’m the fifth biggest mommyblogger in the country (I don’t know how he got that number, and I correct him on this all the time). He fully believes not only that I should have this following, but that I WILL have this following. I don’t think in his mind that it’s a problem that I talk about blogging, but I do think he wants people to be able to understand more easily.

  11. Jul 9, 2010

    What your husband says about what you do at parties can be an annoyance but it isn’t a good reason to change your approach. How many professions are confusing and hard to explain–or just plain boring? Insurance adjuster? Or mine, editor? When I gave a talk to my nephew’s elementary school journalism club, the kids just wanted to know if I knew any rappers or pro athletes. Or other famous people. (Unfortunately, though I’ve met some famous people, they did not include Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus or anyone else of interest to the grade-school crowd. Oh well.)

  12. Jul 9, 2010

    I think you’ve got a really valid point, in that to get to THAT level, you have to branch beyond just bloggers reading you. And there probably are too many in-jokes on your various sites to get too much of that. Also, I don’t really see you as a true “mommyblogger.” You rarely blog about Mini, or parenting, or any of what I consider the hallmarks of the genre. There’s nothing wrong with that, by any stretch of the imagination, but that might be a disconnect with readers who come here looking for a mommyblog and getting the scoop on the business of blogging, or the behind the scenes look at the “community” or the inside jokes.
    But there are a gazillion bloggers out there that you haven’t reached yet, and more start every day. You have a lot of really valuable information on the PF & Tech pages for bloggers. The glossary you’ve started is a great primer for new bloggers who are coming in and don’t know the history of what’s being discussed. There is value here for people who want to start a blog, grow a blog, and make a business out of a blog.
    If I were you (and obviously, I’m not, since the success you’ve built in about the same amount of time blogging as me is light years greater, so you know, giant grain of salt here), I would focus your brand and audience building around the PF/Tech/Glossary sites. And I would use ABDPBT as the “personal” blog, to write what you want, page views and comments be damned. I would really make a point to highlight easily on this page the stuff YOU’RE most proud of, whether it got the most comments or views or whatever. Make this the space where you ignore (as much as is possible) things like stats and comments and focus those details on the other sites.
    So there’s my opinion, worth what you paid for it of course.

  13. Jul 9, 2010

    That’s a good point, too. I did worry that the glossary was going to end up spoon feeding people too much. I mean, I don’t mean to be cryptic or be insidery, I just talk about stuff that is on my mind, I tend to talk to myself a lot, I guess. It’s not like I’ve got a group of people who all know what I’m talking about, people. It’s just me. That’s the sad part. And I definitely don’t want to sound like, umm, that site.

  14. Jul 9, 2010

    I think most blogging husbands, if they know anything about it, have heard about Jon Armstrong, and are like, “I want THAT guy’s gig.”

  15. Jul 9, 2010

    I’m with Mr. Right click. And Ginger. I’ve been telling my family for months that you’re going to be a famous celebrity. I could be deluded, but you’re totally cute and funny and smart and that’s stuff that celebrity is made of. But you won’t get there attracting PW-type readers unless you provide what she provides, and that would spoil the unique fun and embedded reporter stuff provided here. So sure, fill in a little backstory, provide links to the glossary and to background threads, but otherwise just keep the focus on the business of blogging. There’s not only more bloggers starting every day but more people engaging in all forms of social media. This site is like a blogosphere water cooler when people can stop by and get the dirt on what’s going on.

  16. Jul 9, 2010

    Well, I’m not really changing my approach, though. ABDPBT was started, officially, as a personal blog. It was to be a mommyblog. It wasn’t until I got started that I realized that my interest was more on the metalevel than it was on the actual blogging. I had to break it up into sections because the audience doesn’t always want to read about metablogging issues in the personal space. The fact is, my blog does not exactly fit into any of the established niches perfectly. It touches into a bunch of different niches, but it doesn’t really fit neatly into all of them. So I have a bunch of different sections that make sense to me, but maybe not to anybody else.

    The distinction is roughly this: ABDPBT is where I talk about my personal life, my psychological life, things that affect me just on a personal level. Sometimes, this will include things that are going on in my business, but I won’t delve into too much of my business theory here. It will be more of the petty, immature side of me on this blog that you will see. On the PF/Business blog, I might snark, but I’ll be trying much harder to be fair in my analysis. I won’t be analyzing people from a personal standpoint. I will be looking at their business. I will be looking at business models.

    It doesn’t seem like a clear distinction, but to me it is. So this post, maybe it seems like it should be on PF/Business, but it shouldn’t. This is a navel gazing, Anna is self-obsessing post. Anna knows what is better for her business. Metablogging drives traffic. Bottom line. Unless I get pregnant again, or orchestrate some kind of horrific EVENT for myself, the money is not in mommyblogging for me (in all likelihood). There are too many mommybloggers, and my story is not exceptional, even if I think I’m a better writer than some of them. I don’t have an EVENT, and I haven’t been around for long enough, and I have pretty strict boundaries about how much I will reveal about my husband and my kid. I don’t think there’s enough traction for me to become HUGE as a mommyblogger.

    I could be wrong. This medium is so new. We really don’t know what will happen.

  17. Jul 9, 2010

    That’s a good idea, and it is sort of what I already do, so it suits me, of course. I don’t know what I will do. I like to hear all of the input, because I think that if you just keep going and you don’t listen to the criticism then you don’t grow. It is really hard for me to get a perspective because, like I said, I find so many of the mommyblogs just so godawful boring. I really know you’re not supposed to say that, but I do. Sometimes I will like them, but so much of the time, I just don’t get it. And then I start to think that people only read them for the drama, anyway, so to get a following you have to have a trainwrecky life, or you have to pretend that you have a trainwrecky life.

    But that’s not true of PW, so obviously I’m not getting it. Obviously there is an appeal that I’m just not grasping. It may be that I just need to go back to writing about whatever is interesting to me and forget about the rest.

  18. JaneSays
    Jul 9, 2010

    Ginger said what I was thinking. You can be a mom and blog and not have a “mommyblog”. So talk about the biz of blogging instead of the biz of mommyblogging.

  19. Jul 10, 2010

    You know, I read all of the comments, and I agree with a lot of them. But also, this blog is my favorite of yours — your outlook on life, and the way you handle things after the experiences you’ve had makes you a more interesting person than most. I like that, and I like you. And yes, some of this comes out of you stepping in stuff on your other blogs, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting to me.

    Not that you asked. I’m not really a pageview kind of gal. But while I like the other stuff you report on, your insider view of yourself is also really enlightening. And honestly, has been helpful to me as a person.

    As for which mommyblogs I read, I only read them if I like the person. The best ones are like having a conversation with a friend, even if it’s just mundane. The drama I read sometimes because I’m just! so! incredulous! but that’s not going to draw me to someone long-term.

  20. Jul 10, 2010

    Yeah, that’s true, I think I have played up the mommy side a bit as a kind of political move, to be honest. Because as much as the mommies annoy the crap out of me at times, I get even more annoyed by the factions that don’t give them any respect in the outer blogosphere. Both groups are to blame, of course — the mommies for doing the OMG Ponies routine, and the other bloggers for acting like the mommies are just shills who don’t do anything worthwhile, but it annoys me that the mommies don’t get any respect. So I often use that term to stick it to them, actually, when what I’m talking about is equally applicable to any kind of blogger, of course.

  21. Jul 10, 2010

    Well, the focus on the PF blog should be that. But what about here? I mean . . . I think these comments reflect the fact that my audience is as mixed as I am about what the story of this blog is. I think this blog is basically the story of my life, so if the ABDPBT section is the story of my personal life, that personal life is a little bit difficult to understand right now, apparently. Because my business is kind of up in the air — it *looks* like it’s going in a good direction, but the truth is, we don’t really know. I guess I just have to be more comfortable with that concept, and hope that enough readers will be willing to come along for the ride.

  22. Jul 10, 2010

    Jonna, you have probably a better idea of what is going on that most people, so when you read this section you can see me reflecting on everything — much better than Mr. Right-Click, actually, since he has no idea what is going on with blog stuff. I think what he wants is to be able to read something and not have to have any explanation. He wants to be able to just read it and put it down, but you know, that may not be how I write, at least not at present. Can I create a website with four blogs that don’t always make reference to each other? I don’t know. I don’t think I can make these blogs totally stand alone and apart from one another, because they are different aspects of myself, so if you don’t want to read tech, then you don’t have to, but I might make a reference to it, and then you’re not going to understand what the hell I’m talking about.

    And this is super blowhardy to say, but this is the way all reading works, really — all texts do this, it’s just you don’t really realize it until sometime during graduate school when you’ve finally read the entirety of the Oxford version of the Bible and all of Dante’s Divine Comedy, etc., and you start catching references to things, and you realize there was a whole world of stuff that you missed when you read the book the first time in high school. Now, let’s not kid ourselves — my posts are mostly cheap shots at other bloggers, so it’s not like you’re going to miss pearls of wisdom by not reading every feed, but my point is that intertextuality is a part of life, so it’s OK if you don’t always get everything I’m talking about. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m talking about either.

  23. Jul 10, 2010

    I like the idea of the four blogs being four parts of yourself. It reminds me of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, although I don’t want you to go all crazy and stuff getting lost in the separate parts of yourself. I would love to read more about your past which you don’t seem to want to write about. Why not? I would especially love to hear about the academic days (just posted on academic jerks myself), why you wanted to be part of it, then didn’t, and started this blog as a way of reconciling that decision. Straight memoir is what interests me most.

  24. Ann
    Jul 11, 2010

    I wouldn’t change too much of what you’re already doing. You are becoming an expert on the nuances and truths in (mommy) blogging, and I think it’s so important and fascinating. Your ability to dissect a topic and share it with your readers, in great detail, in a most interesting fashion is what keeps me coming back here.

    The one thing I’d change is what a few have mentioned: back-story/context. I work during the day, and I can’t keep up w/ some of what goes on in the blogging world. So, often I’ll come here and start reading something about which I have absolutely no clue or context. I so wish you would provide some context, links, etc for those of us who would like to follow the story, but are jumping in at the middle. Your style of writing isn’t gossipy, so I don’t mean for you to lean that way – I think your style could incorporate more context without being gossipy at all.

    I think you have a niche here that no one else really has captured in the way you have – so, my opinion is to keeping filling it – just flesh it out a bit more for those readers who need more context. (never forget the reader who may be coming here for the first time, in any blog entry)

    In a nutshell, the politics and goings-on of the mommyblogging world fascinate me and I would love to be able to come here to sort of “catch up” on what’s been *truly* happening here or there. But then also, I think your past is so interesting and I have always loved your posts about current topics as well (sex and the city etc, rants). But honestly, it’s the stuff you’ve uncovered and shared the last several months that has made me a much more regular reader now, than before. I admire your courage, your willingness to approach subjects others will not touch, and the manner in which you report relevant info about other bloggers.

  25. Mr. Right-Click
    Jul 14, 2010

    I “know nothing about the blogging world”?!

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