For those of us who write sites like this, deadline pressure is real. But bloggers reading blogs by others can be valuable time well spent.
I recently wrote about the primary reasons readers tend to read blogs. But what about the other side of the equation? Bloggers reading blogs can have an important effect on the quality of writing those readers will encounter.
For years now, I (along with far more talented and well-known writers) have insisted two things. First, writers write. That’s common sense, I know, but sometimes those of us who do write for a living (and I don’t make that living on this blog, for what it’s worth), need to be reminded that we need to write regularly.
Second, writers read. Some of us may struggle to find time to read these days. I struggle to find time to curl up with a book. That does not mean, however, that I don’t read articles or stories online. Reading that way doesn’t have that romantic feel holding a book does. But reading is reading.
The question becomes, Why should writers spend time reading? And, more to the point of this post, why should bloggers spend time reading other peoples’ blogs?
Bloggers reading blogs can get great ideas.
Those ideas can come in many forms. Sometimes, a quick scan of other blogs can help you find great topics for future posts. You don’t have to directly take someone else’s post idea. Sometimes, just reading a good post makes you think about a related topic you could write about. Voila! That’s potential new content!
If you spend a good deal of time reading blogs that cover similar areas that your blog covers, you can not only find topic ideas, you can also find inspiration on good ways to present those ideas. I’ve always loved seeing how different blogs display their content. I look at typefaces, colors, layout, writing style. You will find plenty of variety from blog to blog. Some people tend to write very short pieces with no graphics or photos. Others tend to write what looks like photo essays with posts extending toward 2,000 words. You will also find plenty of lengths and layouts in between.
I think it’s valuable to see how someone else does it.
I don’t know a blogger who hasn’t at some point, kept some little bee in their bonnet about something they’d like to change. Exploring other blogs might just spark the idea they need to make that possible change work well.
Bloggers reading blogs can pick up style tips.
Each of us writes in our own style. I write a good bit here about the Associated Press Stylebook. It’s the style guide that many newsrooms follow so that they can share their content more easily and have a reasonable degree of consistency in writing style.
But even groups of people who are following the same style guide may write quite differently from one another. Whenever I visit other blogs, aside from the content itself, I look at how the writer presents the content. I make notes about what I love about the blog’s storytelling, voice, even photos and graphics.
Then I think about why I like those particular details and whether incorporating them into the way I present my content might work here. A good bit of the time, it doesn’t necessarily match my style. But I couldn’t begin to guess how many things I’ve seen on other sites that I’ve found a way — even temporarily — to emulate here.
You’re not locked in when it comes to such changes. You might find that it doesn’t work as well on a long-term basis as you might have expected. There’s no shame in evolving back toward where you were when that happens. At least you’ve taken the time to experiment and change things up a bit. That, in itself, can be valuable.
Bloggers reading blogs can learn what not to do.
Not long ago, I asked this important blogging question: Is Your Web Layout Creating an Annoying Blog? It can happen without our even realizing it. We add bells and whistles we think will make our site better. What actually happens, though, is that we end up adding extra hoops through which our readers must jump.
When we visit other blogs, we see those annoyances much more clearly than we ever see them on our own site. We have a certain little bias within us that allows us to “overlook” problems in our own site. But if we feel inconvenienced when we visit someone else’s website, there’s no missing that.
If I see a blog doing something that really ticks me off — and I find plenty that do — I immediately think about my site. Do I do that? Do I do anything even close to that?
Looking for what you wish other blogs wouldn’t do can help you make sure you’re not doing those same things on your own site. As a result, you’ll be less of an annoyance for your readers.
Those are just a few reasons I think it’s important that we bloggers spend time visiting other blogs and websites. I believe the more we see examples of writing or the presentations of that writing, it helps us grow.
If there’s one thing you should count on as a writer, you never stop learning.
If you feel you’ve learned all there is to know, don’t spend much time looking around for the idiot in the room: It’s you.