Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Inspired, Loyal Readership of Andrew Sullivan

I am a blogger.  But when asked what I do, I have never identified myself as a blogger.  Rather, it's consultant, entrepreneur or psychologist, or even thinker and poet.  But I have four blogs on Dr. Ron on the Internet, two blogs on Ron Villejo Consulting, two blogs on a theoretical platform, plus two recently launched blogs on art.  A few more are on the way.  

So it's hard to deny that I am a blogger.  

I love to read, watch and think about things, and I love to write about them, from simple comments on posts to more substantive articles.  I am fortunate, too, to have a knack for writing.

That's one thing.

If I lived in just a fraction of an optimal world, I'd write simply for the joying of writing.  Alas, even that fraction sends me bills to pay.  The roof over mine and my family's head, plus the meals we put on our table, do not come without costs.  That old cliche 'Money doesn't grow on trees' is most unfortunate, because we have awesomely tall, widely clustered trees in our backyard.  We could live off even a modest bearing of fruit, if it were of the greenback variety.

So the fact is, I cannot blog without considering how it can help me make a living.  In this respect, I keep my business model very simple:  On Blogger, it's easy and convenient to set up AdSense.

That's another thing.

I endeavor, first, to write the best possible stuff.  Whether it's leadership, sports or technology, I rely on Google's ecosystem to bring readers to my stuff, and vice versa.  I understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in concept, but have never concerned myself about its technicality and certainly have never tried to game it.  Besides good content, I make sure it's relevant content for that particular blog.  That's my simple SEO practice.

I know it takes time, effort and patience to build a following.  That's not an issue.  But as my readership grows, I hope that more of those who like and value what I write would at least scan the AdSense advertisements and click through if they're of interest.

(image credit)
The foregoing are the thoughts that came to mind, after I read this terrific piece from Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic:  What Andrew Sullivan's New Venture Could Teach Us About the Web.  It's a kind of memoir for Friedersdorf, who served as an apprentice of sorts for Sullivan.  That is, it's full of admiration and respect, as well as awe and empathy, without making his piece anything close to melodrama.

As a guest blogger, for example, Friedersdorf was astonished by the readers' e-mails that poured in for The Dish, Sullivan's blog:
I've never received so much delightful correspondence. The Dish readership is massive, highly educated, ideologically diverse, employed in a stunning array of fields, and spread out across the world.
He asked readers what he should see on a trip across The South.  The response from readers weren't just heartwarming, but downright poignant:
I didn't just get hundreds of suggestions; I didn't just get extended essays on the geography, sociology, and competing styles of barbecue that characterize the region; I didn't just get notes from people in eleven states; I also got invitations to stay overnight with Dish readers in a dozen cities, or to stop by for dinner at the houses of their parents, or to please write if I passed through where they live so they could at the very least buy me a cold beer. I was just a guest blogger.
Sullivan is open and tactful about asking his readers for support.  Apparently they have delivered.  Not for any direct effort at sales or marketing, from what I could see.  But for the sake of good content that clearly matters to his readership.

Sullivan had paid gigs to host his blog on major publications like Time and The Atlantic.  But he's left them to have a go at making a living for him and his small staff entirely through The Dish.  That also means independent, as in no advertisements like AdSense.

I'm not there, yet.  

I am inspired by what Sullivan has done.  I may adopt his business model, or I may not.  I have to think about it, and how things go with my blogging over the coming years.

Truly, though, what I'm most inspired by is not his business model, but rather the wonderful, loyal readership he's nurtured.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD