Cherished Readers, I ask you now: Where are the rest of my Cherished Readers? You are here, and thus I truly value and appreciate you. But won’t you drag your friends, peers and enemies over, too?
Surely you noticed that my half-year hiatus (yikes) only came to a close this week. I haven’t taken the proper time to do a postmortem on where I was for those 6 months, and/or to properly address the experience and its aftermath. But now that I’ve picked the mantle back up and shaken the cobwebs off the dusty ol’ laptop, I’m noticing a few things.
1) I was hurt by my hiatus. Painful as it is to admit, I feel the metrics change. Violet on Orange Faithful, please re-announce yourself! I’ve gotten more diligent with mapping page metrics: which search engine terms bring people in, which links/photos/tags people click on, which social media links create the most conversions (i.e., the number of times people click through on my social media blurbs as opposed to angrily muting me on their news feeds and/or cursing my name aloud/taking a hit out on “that irksome Violet on Orange gal”).
2) Also, it is a rhythm change for me to get back into blogging! But on the plus side, I’ve so enjoyed it. My own mother has questioned the value of maintaining the blog. (Isn’t she supposed to think everything I created – starting from meconium – is solid gold?)
But she has a point: Blogging is a ridiculously saturated market, what with the nearly nil startup cost and the “I’m a writer too!” pandemic that’s been sweeping the human race since time immemorial. But I like to treat the exercise like a daily workout. I’ve mentioned the college class Daily Themes before, whose purpose was mostly to get you into the habit of creating output at a pace that doesn’t allow you to be precious about the polish of your pieces. This is a wonderful muscle to build, especially for those “perfect is the enemy of the good”-leaning people like me.
Meanwhile, as I try to better myself, I’m looking around and trying to get a better grip on the marketplace. I have always been a voracious consumer of blogs. I love to read about people and to be a fly on so many walls! Previously, Deepak has asked, “Who exactly is the audience for your blog?” Well, besides friends and family (I hope), there can be so many other people who stumble upon content.
Speaking from experience, I have discovered – and then avidly followed for years! – certain sites via: Googling interesting names while compiling directories at my old data entry job, clicking on sites from the comments section of other sites, randomly Googling a bizarre question and finding an interesting site, discovering an acquaintance’s or friend-of-a-friend’s content through happenstance, etc. Interestingly, the last one is probably my least common way to start reading a blog. Here, I will run down a brief list of the “random blogs” (i.e., not the work of my close friends or family) that have stood the test of time for me.
BLOG: Song of Style (Aimee Song)
CATEGORY: Fashion/style, travel
HOW & WHEN I FOUND IT: c. 2012, idly Googling for photos of Cartier love bracelets
REGIONAL FLAIR: Los Angeles (/all over due to sponsored trips!)
WHY I KEEP COMING BACK: Because it’s straight-up aspirational and clothing porn
LESSONS TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: Frequent, regular posts are key! Give those people their panem et circenses. Aimee has taught me the value of throwing out an update – no matter how small or quotidian the content may feel – with regularity and predictability. If people visit your site regularly and get nothing, they’ll get bored. If they keep finding new content, then you’ll seep into their unconscious / become part of their routine!
THINGS NOT TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: Faux-humility. She makes frequent mention of “working full-time,” which is insulting and alienating. I don’t doubt that she does some sort of consulting/freelance in her interior design profession, and that’s respectable in its own right. But most people assume “full-time” means 40 hours a week/~50 weeks a year at a fluorescently lit office (and some degree of dread/soul-sucking implied). Yet her enviable travel schedule/outré “business” outfits clearly do not jibe with that. Also bothersome: her somewhat intrusive mentions of sponsored gear or, worse, NO mention of trips or goodies that are so clearly sponsored. Then again, if Dolce & Gabbana were flying me out to Sicily to frolic in their boats while being professionally photographed, I’d sell out immediately too! Infinitesimally bothersome: Her getting incredible comped or subsidized luxury trips and then blogging about it and SPELLING PLACE NAMES WRONG (but mainly because I’m completely jealous).
GATEWAY DRUG TO (I.E., OTHER BLOGS I’VE GOTTEN INTO BASED ON THIS ONE): Rumi Neely, Chriselle Lim
BLOG: BlogTyrant (Ramsay Taplin)
CATEGORY: Blogging (solipsistic!), tutorial
HOW & WHEN I FOUND IT: 2013, when I was starting this site and wanted to know which hosting service to select
REGIONAL FLAIR: Australia
LESSONS TO CRIB FROM HIS SUCCESS: Be all about your readers! Ramsay writes in an approachable, help-me-help-you style, which is very appealing. Of course, the net effect is that WE all flock to him, making his site more popular, so everybody wins.
THINGS NOT TO CRIB FROM HIS SUCCESS: Nothing that I’ve noticed, yet. I’m too new at this category and thus haven’t gone down the rabbit hole of this genre. Haven’t been exposed to any real turn-offs yet.
GATEWAY DRUG TO (I.E., OTHER BLOGS I’VE GOTTEN INTO BASED ON THIS ONE): Again, not yet, since I mostly treat his blog as a reference material for questions I have. I’d like to spend more time on there, though, but it feels less recreational than my other female- or photo-centric blogs. (So … get more gals in bikinis in between the widget tutorials??)
BLOG: Fourfeetnine (Audrey Ooi)
CATEGORY: Mommy blog (recently), previously: dating/wedding
HOW & WHEN I FOUND IT: In 2011, through a Gizmodo post about her viral proposal video
REGIONAL FLAIR: Southeast Asia (Malaysia)
LESSONS TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: People respond to authenticity. I have a conflicted relationship with this blog. I don’t find Audrey particularly likable; she seems a bit vain (while trying to mask it under humility/seeming self-deprecation), vapid (while trying to cloak it with random references to smart-ish concepts/books she read) and EXTREMELY reactionary/defensive. Like, I’m concerned she will see this and launch a full social media campaign to rip me to shreds. Then again, that sounds like good publicity, so whatever. Anyway, at the end of the day she wins because I’m still checking her blog with some regularity some 2-ish after first discovering it. Why is that? Well, at her core she seems like a mostly good person. And credit where credit is due: She seems pretty self-aware and open about the above warts-and-all-qualities, and her entries where she talks about her struggles with motherhood/its toll on her marriage and her selfish desires (honest!) are pretty riveting.
THINGS NOT TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: The obviousness and intrusiveness of sponsored posts! Agh. Even her own web site’s banner is an image/ad copy for a Sony camera. Girl, love yourself more. I get that she has a family and she wants to contribute to its support, but this feels like a short-sighted lack of realization that she herself is a valuable brand. Allowing herself to be “rented out” by brands dilutes her innate quirk and authenticity.
GATEWAY DRUG TO (I.E., OTHER BLOGS I’VE GOTTEN INTO BASED ON THIS ONE): Xiaxue, Cheeserland, BongQiuQiu, TimothyTiah (her husband/viral proposer)
BLOG: Marissa A. Ross
CATEGORY: Comedy, writing, L.A., celebrity, wine, style
HOW & WHEN I FOUND IT: I don’t remember how! Probably about 2012. Interestingly, she is the assistant to Mindy Kaling – a fact that she is cool enough to barely ever allude to, but I probably found it through some kind of channel related to that.
LESSONS TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: The style and aesthetic of Marissa’s main site, her side projects, her Instagram and her Twitter is bang-on consistent. She perfectly conjures the retro-ish, chilled-out, stylish-without-forcing it California girl of leisure, and I’m consistently in awe. Also, she’s an excellent brander – her wine reviews and videos fill a really distinct niche for the worldly but still striving budding vino enthusiast. Also! Unlike so many of the bloggers on this list – she seems incredibly sweet, humble and graciously interactive. Therefore, whereas I follow a lot of these other blogs out of habit/curiosity/obligation, I feel genuinely invested in Marissa’s success and happiness as a person!
THINGS NOT TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: Not really any. Her predilection for marijuana and some of her more throwback music choices aren’t completely to my taste, but again, she’s so enormously likable that they don’t bother me at all.
GATEWAY DRUG TO (I.E., OTHER BLOGS I’VE GOTTEN INTO BASED ON THIS ONE): Marissa’s numerous amusing side projects: Wine All The Time, Gallivanting and Grass. Otherwise, not really anyone else in her phalanx. I suppose they feel too close, since she is L.A.-based, so other blogs don’t feel fresh enough for me.
BLOG: Filing Jointly … Finally (Lauren Gallagher)
CATEGORY: Mommy blog (recently), previously: dating/engagement/wedding
HOW & WHEN I FOUND IT: Googling something random, probably related to dating! Back in 2012 or so.
LESSONS TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: LOVE that title. It says it all. I got hooked on this blog when she was first married, and the undercurrent of “Finally!” was great, consistent characterization and branding. Even now, her funniest entries blossom from the evergreen dynamic of her being the voice of reason and having to bring her husband to heel. Yet, her obvious affection for her family and joy at being married/a mother is heartwarming and contagious.
THINGS NOT TO CRIB FROM HER SUCCESS: Sometimes the entries feel overlong. I get the sense that recapping her conversations with her husband/the humorous moments brings her joy, though, so it’s endearing and she should do whatever she likes. Again, like for Marissa’s blog, Lauren is super-likable and a gracious comment-responder, so my affection makes me say, “Keep doing what pleases you!”
GATEWAY DRUG TO (I.E., OTHER BLOGS I’VE GOTTEN INTO BASED ON THIS ONE): Not really any. I read this blog in my reader (meaning I don’t see her site layout often and so miss things like her blogroll), so it doesn’t beget a lot of clicking around. I’m not tremendously connected to the world she inhabits so I feel no emergent need to seek out her friends or peers.
And there you have it! These are the blogs that stand the test of time for me (again, leaving out news sites/aggregators and the sites of friends, family and acquaintances).
What doesn’t interest me? Celebrity (or even too celebrity-cozy/Insta-famous) blogs rarely interest me. They feel too restrained, too calculated, too filled with product placement and/or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”-type content. Some of the above are even trending that way, as I noted with the intrusion of sponsored posts.
I also hate when blogs switch over to becoming more magazine-like! I don’t like the aesthetic and I don’t like the fact that you click around and you could end up at an article written by some random contributor whom you have no knowledge/connection to. To wit: Man Repeller, Rookie Mag, Chriselle Lim . I come to blogs to read things that feel raw, firsthand and not like they were massaged a thousand times by a publicity team and professional editorial staff.