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The Silent Majority (I Hope): Do Only Bloggers Read Blogs?

by Gip Plaster on July 26th, 2010

Are bloggers an incestuous family who write only for themselves and tell each other what they already know?

That’s not true, I don’t think, but you have to admit it: Sometimes it looks like only bloggers read blogs.

And to be honest, I mean mostly bloggers, not only bloggers.

Take a look at the frequent commenters on most of the blogs you read. How many of them are also bloggers? It’s most of them, right?

Of course, there could be a reason for that: Bloggers use other people’s blogs to promote themselves. A carefully-worded comment from me on your blog could cause one of your readers to visit my blog, sign up for RSS or email updates and perhaps even comment on my blog.

Comments, as you know if you’re one of those other bloggers reading my blog, are like gold to bloggers. They don’t make us any money or even directly get us any more traffic, but they prove someone is reading. In the early days of a blog, nothing is more important than that.

In fact, I admit it: I sometimes comment on other blogger’s posts hoping it will gain me a reader or two. And it works.

I do have some ethics, though. I don’t comment unless I really have something to say, whether it contributes to the conversation, gently redirects attention to a more important aspect of the topic being discussed or just offers a fellow blogger some probably-much-needed encouragement.

But does any of this do anyone any good long-term?

Think about it: If most blogs are read only by bloggers, can this system work?

If your target audience already knows as much about your subject as you do, why bother to talk about it?

And if your readers are already as much of an expert on a topic as you are, who will buy your information products or subscribe to your premium content, if you offer any? Will those other bloggers buy from you out of curiosity, pity or a sense of obligation? Probably not, actually, but if they do, does that really serve the world?

I wouldn’t be able to continue blogging if I really believed any of this is completely true. Regular folks without blogs — who know nothing about SEO or suspicious IP addresses and who don’t use your CommentLuv or get trapped in your Akismet — are reading, they just aren’t commenting very often because they don’t know how important it is.

The RSS and email subscriptions to my content also prove to me that a few people are at least receiving — and perhaps even reading — the posts I put up. But I know some of you who are regular readers come to me from bookmarks or Twitter and aren’t subscribers. I’d like everyone to follow me by email so I have an email address where I can thank you for subscribing, but not everyone knows I want to do that.

And occasionally — when I’ve written something really good, I suppose — someone without their own blog comments on one of my posts, proving that I already know the answer to my own original question.

Yes, regular, real, (perhaps) normal people without blogs of their own to promote do sometimes read blogs, offer comments and subscribe to feeds. The real question is this: How many of you are there?

The only way to find out is for you to step forward and identify yourself by leaving comments on posts or emailing me with your questions and opinions. I hope you’re a silent majority, not the minority.

Plain ol’ readers matter to me, but I may be in danger of forgetting about you because of your silence. Judging by the content I see, some other bloggers already have.

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From → Writing Life

18 Comments
  1. finallygettingtoeven.com permalink

    Good morning Gip!

    Good thoughts this morning and I must say that before I was a blogger I was a huge reader, (for 2 yrs even). But you are right, I didn’t leave too many comments unless someone got my ‘goat up’. I just figured that there was enough commenting going on and why did the blogger need one more. Plus I didn’t want to leave my e-mail because I imagined my in-box being filled with all kinds of garbage that I didn’t want.

    Now that I am a blogger- guilty of trying to drive traffic to my site but also because I now feel like part of a community and the same people that I am interacting with in the comment sections of other blogs I am now conversing with at my own.

    I have begun to branch out big time into other areas that ‘touch’ on the same things I enjoy and I am opening up a whole new world, making even more friends which is broadening my horizons greatly.

    Have a wonderful day!
    (ps- guest posting today over @ improvedconfidence.com)

  2. Kate permalink

    Hi Gip,

    I have often wondered this myself, hoping you will get some of the shy silent types adding their 2 cents worth!
    Kate
    Kate recently posted Timesaving in the 21st Century- Really

  3. anon permalink

    i’m not a blogger (yet) but i read your blog and dozens others every day
    thanks for writing!

  4. Hi Jan and Kate —

    Thanks for posting today. I’m glad you’re still reading!

    I’m looking forward to seeing who else comments. Or if no one does, I may be proving my original point.

    Gip

  5. Preeti @ Heart and Mind permalink

    Gip,

    Found you from Arvind’s blog. This is so ironic as I was talking to Zenguy, my husband he said mostly bloggers are readers and customers for other bloggers, it is so funny.

    I think you raised some good points, I do have some loyal readers who does not have a blog or anything to sell, even I was simply a reader for year before I decided to blog. But it is interesting to ponder about!

  6. Here’s another blogger commenting 🙂

    I do know that I have non-blogger Facebook friends who read my blogs but usually don’t comment because they aren’t already registered! So there’s a natural barrier to commenting.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your guest post over on Arvind’s site. Recently, with all the wonderful blogging superadvice coming from all directions, I have been second-guessing my own posts. But if what I love to write isn’t brilliantly popular, it is still what I love to write, and it’s special because it is uniquely mine.

  7. Hey Gip, I have pondered the same questions along with a few related ones. For example, if my target audience is mostly people over 50, how come nearly all the commenters are clearly younger than that? Could it be because I comment on their blogs or because my blog has a different slant than some or because they have parents over 50 or some other reason?

    I try not to agonize too much about any of this and to see blogging and mutual exchange of comments as one way to build a supportive community.
    Madeleine Kolb recently posted Medical Myths That Can Kill You

  8. Preeti, it’s nice to have you here. I got your email, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    Jess, welcome! I look forward to seeing you more around here.

    Madeleine, you have some good questions, too. I read one blogger who recently mentioned that most of her readers are young females. But I noticed that most of her commenters are young males. Does she have the wrong idea or do commenter demographics not relate at all to reader demographics? Hard to believe.

    Gip

  9. Luke @ simplifi.de permalink

    Well, as a blogger who also (as you pointed out on Twitter!) comments a lot on other people’s blogs. I do it partly because of the link backs, yes, but mostly because I really want to build relationships with people and participate in the simplicity/minimalism community.

    I have thought about this subject before, too, and I think the issue is partly related to the fact that (a) we are generally a lazy people, but bloggers have more of a motivation to comment, so they do, and (b) bloggers have no technical barriers keeping them from commenting, where the average, not-so-techie person does.
    Luke @ simplifi.de recently posted Know the Power of No

  10. A very apt question.
    Makes me wonder whether people do read and according to the surveys net readers are above average in the lazy department.
    Could it be the info overload or the fact that we are so instant addicted that reading is now a chore?
    Perhaps it is that we do not have time to make a comment or maybe we just do not want to be heard?
    Out of the billion plus users of the net the 120 million bloggers have something to say and perhaps they support each other. It is great to be the voice in the wilderness but better to have feedback as well.
    Andre recently posted Comment on The Root of All Evil by admin

  11. That’s not true on my blog — but I have noticed the majority of commenters have some type of online presence, be it Twitter or Facebook or Myspace or such.

    Few commenters are nowhere online.
    Ari Herzog recently posted How I Organize the Blogs I Read

  12. ayo permalink

    hello gip,
    how are you?
    i found you on sibyls blog and you’ve got an interesting blog here.

    now to the subject:
    whilst there’s an element of blog promotion, traffic… i think bloggers commenting on other blogs promotes networking, builds relationships, creates an identity/brand….

    i tend to receive emails and comments from non bloggers on my blog but there are a few projects i’ve done that wouldnt have been completed or turn out successful without other bloggers joining forces lol!!!

    do have a lovely weekend

  13. I’m a blogger now, but two years prior, I did a lot of blog reading for my work.

    I’m a psychotherapist, and also offer a lot of workshops. I found blogs to be one of my best sources for current information on topics I’d be teaching about.

    Sometimes I’d comment, and had some interesting conversations start as a result. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of starting a blog.

    These days, building traffic to my blog is one reason I comment — let’s get real! I don’t read blogs that don’t interest me a lot, though. And I don’t comment unless something stimulates my thinking.

    If bloggers even only think from a self-serving perspective: if someone comments just to comment, it really shows!
    Jacki Dilley recently posted Working With Worry

  14. Jacki–

    I comment to build traffic, but as you say, I don’t bother to read blogs that I don’t like either. We’re all supporting each other, I hope.

    Gip

  15. Perhaps this is too simplistic, but perhaps bloggers comment more because they find it easy to communicate in the written word and like to express themselves?
    Jo@simplybeingmum recently posted Simple Top Tip Tuesday – Laundry

    • Bloggers are often trying to promote themselves, but I think we also comment more because we understand how commenting works and automatically realize it is available. Lots of people don’t know it is offered or don’t know what they have to do to sign in.

      And of course, we like words. We like to see ourselves talk. It’s a job requirement. Thanks for the great comment, Jo.
      Gip

  16. OK, I’m commenting on a post that’s a year old. Yes, I’m a blogger but I’m not trying to build traffic to my site; I don’t even submit it to search engines. Yes, I’m a minimalist but that’s rarely the topic of my posts. I talk mostly about living and traveling in an RV. Lately, I’ve been talking mostly about my attempts to improve my health. I know I have nonbloggers reading my posts because I get email from friends and family referencing something I said in a blog. And I get comments from people I don’t know, so the word gets out somehow even though I don’t promote. I comment on blogs only when feel I can contribute; if someone already made my comment I don’t do a “me too” comment. I’m commenting today to say I’m working my way through all your posts from day one and enjoying the process. Thanks for being you.

    • You’re welcome. And I’m enjoy the new comments on old posts. I appreciate them!
      Gip

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