Are We All Playing the Blogging Game?





I’ve often commented that I’ve been blogging since 2001. And I don’t mean it as a brag, although I also birthed both my children naturally while pushing a snow blower in a blizzard uphill both ways on crutches. Instead, I say it because it’s absolutely amazing that I don’t have a book deal by now. Crazy amazing. What’s with these literary agents? There is so much marketable directionless nonsense and occasional whiny introspection to be found here.


At any rate, the reason I bring up the long-term blogging is because I’ve seen a lot in those years. As I look around at the state of the blogosphere — and particularly at the evolution of blogging by women — I can’t help but remember “how it used to be.” Content has changed, the major players have changed, and agendas have changed. And there’s nothing wrong with that, really, but if you are a wannabe writer, sometimes it makes you sad how much the words have lost their punch. Now, blog posts aren’t so much designed to delight or disarm, but to drive traffic and garner sponsorships. And again: nothing wrong with that per se, but a girl can long for the good old days, can’t she?


What I remember is a tight circle of woman who I read regularly. None of them knew me, let me say right off the bat, but I felt like I knew them, and so admired their words and authenticity. I include Dooce* in that circle. I loved her writing and lay it all out on the linedness. There was also Que Sera Sera, whose words and humor thrill me to this day, and Mighty Girl and Fussy and Finslippy, and someone named Sarah, whose writing was shamelessly lovely, but which I can no longer locate on the web. I never commented on these blogs, ever. It was enough to read. Plus, my blog at the time was for me, only me, and I didn’t care so much if anyone read it. There was no tit for tat. Just — for me — pure enjoyment of the words written.


Anyway, I remember in 2005, when Dooce announced that her site would start taking ads. Boy was there a hoopla. At that time, blog advertising was unheard of…I don’t recall seeing any ads on any sites I read. At the time, I felt unfazed by her announcement. She was writing good content every day, and she had readers, and if advertisers noticed, then what the hell. Good for her.


Of course, you know the story. Advertisements gave way to sponsorships gave way to book deals gave way to TV appearances gave way to consulting jobs at HGTV and who knows what else. Now, I go to some of the sites for many of the women I read way back when, and there are prominent banner ads and posts devoted to sponsors. Once again, let me say: no judgment. Just noticing. I have ads too, and I wouldn’t turn away a sponsorship, probably. It’s just that this new paradigm has opened a door to content that’s not just about being well written and true, but about whether it pleases the people paying your bills. Sadly, I noticed how it affected Dooce. Her writing — once my beloved read of the day — became stale and soulless and worst of all — hard to read. Because it didn’t sound like her anymore. And although I respect how she’s kept her content largely separate from her ads, and continues to write what she wants, there’s a certain “I’m not writing just for the pleasure of it” vibe to her posts that’s off-putting. She doesn’t feel relevant to me anymore.


I suppose I feel ditched. You know? Like hey! I thought you were writing for me and the other people who read you! Why you gotta go and make someone else important? Don’t you know that if your readership goes down, that “someone else” will dump you for greener pastures? I woulda stayed with you forever!
I’m a sensitive sort. If I feel like I’m not important to you anymore, if you’re not making me a priority, then I get hurt. Then angry. Then gone. After all, who are you writing for? Who are you writing for? Who are you writing for? Not for me, that’s for damn sure.


Please know that I am not dissing the people who make blogging their business. Who pursue sponsorships. Who take advertising. Who want traffic. I do, too. It’s when you become a slave to the wanting, and not the master. Also, I’m a writer, so I prefer to read writing. That’s me. Blogging is subjective and can mean many things to many people. I’m referring to content-driven sites with this post. Just so you know. And how I wish they all were content-driven. But again, that’s just me. Hoping out loud. What I’m trying my best to articulate is how I’ve come to despise icky motivations. The ONLY wanting sponsorships and readers be damned. The I DON’T CARE WHO MY READERS ARE AS LONG AS THEY KEEP COMING AND UPPING MY STAT COUNTER. When you are more into the game then you are the players. That single-minded inauthentic selfish crap? I hate with every one of my keyboard-pounding fingers. But if you position yourself as a fake, agenda-driven loser? Fine. At least you’re owning it.


As for myself, I want to write for me. And for you. When I began San Diego Momma in 2008, I felt the pull to bring myself into the flesh and blood world of blogging. I wanted to be part of the community, I wanted readers, I wanted to connect. My other blog was for me, just me, but now I wanted my writing to also be about you. I wanted you to like me. I wanted you to comment. I wanted to know I counted. AND I wanted to do the same for you. Because I liked you…not because you’re upping my stats and helping me draw advertising or to become the Queen of the World.


Usually. I am human after all.


So that’s the thing. It’s taken me awhile to figure it out and apparently I had to write this whole post in order to discover what I am trying to say. Here it is: I am NOT liking today’s blog game. I’m pretty sure this is also why “Survivor” makes me uncomfortable. I’m just not into diminishing a person to what how they help you play the game. To how they can help you win. Whatever it is you are trying to win. I want to be viscera, sweat and tears to you. I don’t want to be a number, someone who drives traffic to your site, who is influential or not enough to make knowing me worth your while. I don’t want clicks and advertisers and money and making YOU Queen of the World to be the ultimate prize. Above all, I want to matter to you. And I want good content to matter to you, too. Also and in summation? Statistics are soulless. Your readers have hearts.


Like I said: a girl can long for the good old days, can’t she?


*I didn’t link to any of the people I mentioned because this is not about making them click to see what I wrote about them.


33 Responses to “Are We All Playing the Blogging Game?”

  1. […] » Are We All Playing the Blogging Game? Posted on Thursday, September 30th, 2010 at 7:28 pm James23erfJohn wrote an interesting post today. Here’s a quick excerptI’ve often commented that […]

  2. Christina says:

    I so completely agree with you! I just addressed the “why I blog” question on my own site because a friend who does not yet blog asked me about it.
    I have also experienced that same transitioning of a writer/writers from authentic voices to what I guess could best be described as commercially viable voices. When that happens, I take them out of my Reader.
    Not to worry – I believe you will always be there :-)

  3. I totally feel ya’. A while back I started getting some interest from advertisers and I thought about pursuing it. Right away I started to get stressed out.

    I do this because I want to write, not because I want to market. They are clearly two different things–which doesn’t mean some people can’t combine them gracefully; but I’m not one of them.

  4. Mama Mary says:

    I catch myself getting caught up in the blog game all the time and often need a swift kick in the ass. Thanks for reminding me to stay true to myself and my four readers. Lovin’ you.

  5. I lose interest pretty quickly when blog content becomes too commercially driven. I also lose interest when the writers start sounding just like one another. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of repetition of ideas, and voice. When that happens, I stop reading.

  6. Sondra says:

    You are my Dooce.

    That is all.

  7. Laurie Ann says:

    There was a blog I read back in the day and the author was quirky and funny and goofy–all tenets I admire. She started getting lots of notice and then her quirkiness became forced. “How can I impress my readers with my high level of quirk?” Then, a book deal came and you know how that goes.

    I agree–blog from the heart, write what YOU want, don’t worry what readers will read. Heck, my blog gets virtually no traffic in the scheme of things, but I’m cool with that. It’s all for me anyway.

  8. Christina says:

    This is pretty much why I don’t venture into the money part of it. There, I admit it. Money compromises and complicates things. I have no problem supporting people, places or things that I like and would normally write about– and I write a lot about baby/child related things– but my blog is mine and I want to keep it that way.
    Keep it real and authentic… I always feel being “real” and honest gets your further anyway. Book deal or some other connection or opportunity down the road… at least you get there with your own voice, kwim?

  9. Blogging is indeed a tricky business! And when you are in business, it’s even trickier. It took me years to figure out what/who/how I was going to blog. I can’t say some things I want to say because I have a business and it would reflect badly. But I don’t have to blog about business all the time. This is why I named my blog Ramblings of a Common ¢ents Mama. I can talk about whatever I want within reason. I can’t go naming names or talking about certain relatives, but other than that it’s good.
    And reading your blog is the highlight of my day. You are the reason I was able to open up about some other things I would have left out of my blog, like 14,443 Days. If I am to show the world who I am, they have to see the personal stuff too.
    Okay, if I don’t start getting to dishing out food, the natives are going to eat me for dinner.

  10. Ginger says:

    I really enjoyed reading your perspective on this. I’ve just recently entered the public blogosphere and was very hesitant because I don’t love what I’ve seen recently. People trying to please companies rather then themselves, ugly relationships, and snarkiness. I am not a writer, but I am a mother who loves to share and talk about parenting, and I figured as long as I remember that, I’m good. I will frequent the blogs that follow my same philosophy.

    Thank you for sharing. :)

  11. Morgan B. says:

    This is probably the best piece on blogging that I have ever read. I relate to so much of it on so many levels.

    I am participating in a blogging workshop that is making me re-think my decision to blog in the first place. NONE of the assignments are about actual writing. They are all about networking and ruling the social media world.

    I don’t care how many followers I have. I don’t care about the “right” way to leave a comment. I don’t want to join a million blog networks and I don’t want to spend my days worrying stats.

    I want to spend my days sitting on the floor and playing blocks with my kids. I want to write whatever I want to write about because I just simply feel like writing. I want to read blogs- good blogs with great content. I don’t read Dooce anymore because I stopped relating too. I just don’t care about HGTV deals and big new houses that are being decorated by famous designers.

    I recently started doing freelance work for two other product review websites and I have mixed feelings about it. I only link that content to my blog if I feel it’s relevant. I do accept products and go to PR related events, but I have only written about a handful of those experiences. It feels very gray to me. I can’t decide where I stand on this issue, or even if I have to stand anywhere.

    I genuinely wish success to every blogger. I’m just starting to wonder what exactly that is.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  12. Jill says:

    You nailed it for me here D. Really and truly. It’s true … so very true.

    I feel the same. Except I do turn down advertising. I have to – otherwise, my blog just wouldn’t be me. Sure, I enjoy peeking every once in awhile at stats. But that’s it. After BlogHer, I got really turned off by the ladies who I met who talked incessantly about how much money they make on their blogs. It was their sole focus. That’s great – for them – but I’ve lost my loving feeling …

    You are funny. You are real. You are what blogging is about.

  13. This is so true–and I was hearing people who went to Blogher this summer talk about how it was all about “branding” instead of “writing.” The trend has been established, but I’m like you, preferring it old school. Without endorsements or obligations. Amen.

  14. Shana says:

    WHY I BLOG: I use my blog as a place to unload excess baggage in my brain. There’s only so much room in there and every now and then something has got to go. I’ve already had to give up multiplication tables in order to keep the theme song from The Love Boat and the plot to every episode of the Brady Bunch. WHY I READ YOUR BLOG: You’re a lovely writer that I can completely relate to and I enjoy your posts immensely. xox

  15. theresa says:

    It can be such a fine line. You amaze me!

  16. i love how honest you are about bloggers’ agendas. i am 23 and have been reading blogs since i was in my late teens. when i was 20, i started blogging but just privately to share my writing and thoughts with family and close friends. when i became a young mother earlier this year, i decided to start a public blog. if i had only known what i know now about the blogging world, i would have never started my blog.

  17. melissa says:

    i started blogging in 2006.
    i never read dooce, she was too commercial for me.
    you wanna know what is REALLY bugging me?
    i started a discussion on this site, i won’t name names. but, it’s all about brands and bloggers and money.
    i started this discussion, right? it’s called…CREATIVE WRITING. and i was going to list prompts. to write. to become better writers. so or blogs don’t suck.
    but it seems that many don’t care about the writing. they only care about what kind of products they can review and give away.
    it kind of makes me sick of blogging.

  18. Jack says:

    If you don’t enjoy blogging you won’t last very long. Very few bloggers make enough money from blogging to stick around for the long haul.

    There is a reason that a 2008 Technorati survey determined that 95% of all blogs end up being abandoned.

  19. Crystal says:

    Deb…you da bomb. No seriously, I have enjoyed reading your blog for the past, my goodness, 2 years now at least! Wow! Sometimes I have to come by less often because of life or whatever, but when I come back, you are still YOU. And I love that. :)
    And holy crap, if there is a ‘right’ way to comment, like Morgan mentioned above – I’m sure I’m in BIG trouble. HA!

  20. Morgan B. says:

    Crystal- I had no idea there was a right way to comment until I read a tutorial about it. That’s right- a TUTORIAL. The same author had a tutorial about how to Twitter. Silly me, I thought we were just supposed to read and share our actual thoughts.

    You are so right about San Diego Momma. She is true to herself and speaks her mind. It is so refreshing.

    I love reading everyone’s comments!

  21. Kel says:

    I think you are right on the mark. I started blogging back in 2005 and have changed a few times, but its hard. I love to write for myself with no regard to readers, ads, etc, but part of me thinks maybe I’m doing it wrong-with no regard to the ads and stuff so I am trying to find a happy medium…if it exists at all.

  22. Da Goddess says:

    back during the great blog war of 2003 (I think you were safely away from my site much of the time), part of the issue was with monetizing blogs and how it changed people.

    I refused to play the game and became on outsider. Guess what? I’m still here and so are you, so I guess that means we don’t have to go all corporate and be anything we’re not.

    That makes us STRONGER and much more fun.

  23. […] this way. So instead of posting my assignment, which I didn’t do anyway, I want to post the most important piece about blogging that I have ever read. A big thank you to San Diego Momma for writing this and grating me permission to post it […]

  24. I read this over at the Little Hen House and knew exactly which comment was hers above.

    I am quite conflicted on this as I want to so much to use my authentic voice, talk only about the things that interest me. And yet I am also hungry for fame and influence. I get a huge kick out of giving a helping hand to another blogger or spreading the word about a voice that needs to be heard.

    I’ve recently gotten caught up in and game and am feeling quite disgusted with myself.

    Thank you for writing this piece and giving me food for thought.

  25. Lori Dyan says:

    I just started blogging this past summer when my facebook posts got too long. I’d never spent much time reading blogs but when I started discovering new writers I noticed an immediate difference between the write-for-pay and write-for-fun blogs. Few manage to do both successfully.
    Reading about BlogHer made me feel that I’d already screwed up my baby blog (mine looks Amish compared to many) and was doing it for the wrong reasons (i.e. just to have a place to write rather than making a living).
    I’ve found some fantastic writers through my blog (yo, Morgan!) and I’m still surprised that people besides my grandma are interested in what I write, but it gives me an outlet that I need, so I’m gonna keep doing it.
    You’ve beautifully articulated my unease and given me some context into the whole blogging phenomenon. Thank you!

  26. melissa says:

    I saw your post at The Little Hen House and commented there, and I thought I better come over here too.

    I’ve been blogging since 2000 so I sometimes feel like “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than some people. Why is no one paying any attention to me?” Then I remember that I didn’t get a lot of attention then either. Maybe I need to be better at self-promotion. I just don’t want to do it in a way that feels gross to me. I’m still figuring out what works, but I think we all are.

    I honestly think that when people realize that their blog isn’t making more than a few bucks a month, they’ll realize the effort that’s earning them those bucks is worth way more than what they’re getting.

    I’d rather treat my personal site as an investment in myself. I’m paying for it and not making any money, but if it leads me to friends and opportunities outside of my website, that is worth far more to me.

    Thanks for posting this.

  27. Paige Morgan says:

    Came over from Little Hen House.

    Thank you for this post. I am a new blogger and am slowly learning about the blogging world. I said to someone the other day, I don’t think I would ever want ads on my blog, they are distracting. Yet, I would love to be paid to write and quit my day job. After reading your post, it will help me proceed with caution. As much as I write whatever is pounding the loudest in my head or heart, it still feels good to know someone is out there. I feel like I have found a few bloggers that I count as cyber friends. I would hope there is way to have a future career in writing while remaining authentic. I guess it is all about balance.

  28. Alexandra says:

    Saw this post mentioned on twitter.

    So good I RT’d it, too.

    Thank you for this.

  29. Have I told you lately that I love you? Every single post you write, I think my awe of you goes up tenfold.

    Authenticity and being GENUINE are what make me keep coming back for more. Oh, and the fact that I love you. Did I already mention that? ;)

  30. Imagine that…a post about blogging that isn’t selling how to become a better blogger by writing “killer content”, etc. This is fantastic. I haven’t been blogging as long as you, but I can definitely relate to everything you’re saying. I think you’ve just made me feel “good” about not wanting to join the race. I will continue writing for the reasons I started; because I love it!

  31. Erika says:

    Well I just love this post. I started blogging one year ago and my favorite part is when I get to sit down with an idea in my head and write about it.

    I write and I really try to stay away from the “games” It seems to me so, very High School.

    One time this summer I was asked and was paid well to help promote a new kid’s store by American Eagle. That was the single hardest thing I have ever done. I could barely write about it while keeping my voice. I acually got SO frustrated that I clenched my teeth together super hard and I chipped a tooth! I now have the cap to prove it.

    I also had the stats to prove it because nobody expected me to promote anything. The readers read me to hear my voice instead of a pitch.

    And all of this is the reason behind the writing contest I started. I just want to celebrate writer bloggers. Sometimes it seems they are a dwindling bunch.

  32. MomZombie says:

    Since 2001? I am impressed. I have shelves of hand-written journals going back more than a dozen years. The ones before that I burned in a bonfire. Since 2007, all my thoughts and feelings go online. I’ve never really understood the blogging game. I do not do ads or seek traffic. I love what you do here. Keep doing it.

  33. Alexandra says:

    Wow. 2001.

    Do you know WHAT an interesting book that would be?

    One that’s not written yet?

    The evolution of the blogger, as seen from an insider.

    I would LOVE to see what you all thought of pioneer woman, and how quickly she grew. I am jealous of your insider scoop.

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