Blogmas and its Discontents
Over on Soph Hearts, a lifestyle blog I follow (love its clean design and great visuals) — Soph explained Blogmas: 24 days of sheer blogging hell. I JOKE!! It’s a blogging trend where bloggers seek to boost their content by writing — as a community–24 posts for twenty-four days on holiday-related themes. I was unaware of this trend– but it’s been going on for at least two years? Never heard of it before. Is it a worthwhile trend?
Soph participated last year and enjoyed it. This year, she won’t be participating because of her concerns about blog quality. I did 100 days of pretty much consistent blogging last year and I can tell you from my own experience, daily blogging has its benefits — and its drawbacks.
Those Blogmas Tip Ideas
Since I was blissfully unaware of blogmas, the idea of writing daily from 1 Dec to 25 December had not even occurred to me–I have a day job, two fur children (okay ONE of them is human, though furry as hell, this lad). I’m doing well to get out of bed in the morning, especially with these damn colds going around.
Soph points out that there are currently dozens of “blogmas blog ideas” blog posts, making the rounds like one of those aforementioned colds, (okay, she’s nicer than me. She didn’t call it a virus). I went to check them out. And ha! I recall my days in college, before the computer, and recognized many of the old chestnuts from my brief year as a communications major. Take for example, this offering of blogmas ideas from Wild Hunt.
I’ll save you the click: it’s one hundred–rather dull–ideas about “what to write about Christmas.” Decorating ideas, strawberry jam recipes, gifts for HIM, gifts for HER. Oh, Lord. The hours of research and wracking one’s brain to come up with something original based on these hoary old chestnuts.
And this is one of the BETTER posts, with keyword suggestions, with data from Google Keyword Planner — it is super well-done, and I would recommend if you are a content marketer in the lifestyle genre, marketing to a Western audience. However, everyone and their CAT are going to be going for this audience. Starting from a list of Old Ideas is a guaranteed to give most writers some dead-in-the-water posts.
The Benefits of Blogmas Participation
There are two different kinds of benefits from participating in blogmas: commercial benefits and community benefits. Commercial benefits include expanding a subscriber base, potential sales through affiliate programs, more views, more likes and so forth.
Many bloggers may tout the commercial aspects. In community “blogmas” writing, together all participants in it build a signal in the audience’s information world, and may therefore rouse the sleeping giant of audience interest. My view is that I would expect that the gains in readership will be somewhat modest (but possible). The rich will get richer, as is the usual case with algorithms. The larger the blog, the greater the possible benefits since their material will likely appear at the top of search engine results.
And since the bulk of the audience are focused rather narrowly around the Christmas crisis –the cooking, the cleaning, the buying, the giving–building that signal is commercially a good idea, especially if you’re a lifestyle, DIY, cookery, decorating or makeup blog. Still, Blogmas could create more competition for audience attention. You’re going to need to stand out.
And if Blogmas-related content is not sufficiently high in quality, then readers might choose to skip over material connected to the “Blogmas” brand. I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet — Blogmas is still pretty novel and most audience members (outside of the blogger community) have no idea what blogmas is about. If you are primarily marketing to bloggers, then Blogmas participation would probably help some — hence the increase in all the “Blogmas Tip Ideas” posts.
The Community Benefits
I am a writer. I have sold professional content in newspapers and magazines; I blog, I write in the academic world and I do technical writing. I started blogging back in the 1980s and have had dozens of blogs in fits and starts during all that time but never made enough to make a living at it. One of my friends, an old hound dog journalist, pointed out to me if I wanted to really be a writer, then I had to find my voice. And the only way I would find my voice would be to commit to writing–Every Damned Day.
Writing every damned day is hard. I once challenged myself to finish 100 posts in (more or less) one hundred days — and I did that. I got 200 subscribers (from zero) which is a pretty good metric for a part-timer. But, just as Soph describes, quality will be uneven. Dragging myself out of bed in the early wee hours to get in an hour or two of content creation was hard. I’m not sure if it contributed to my later brown-out (and six month hiatus) as I ran out of gas on ideas. The experience also helped me understand that I do enjoy writing, that I do have a unique voice.
A community to write with and to write for is the antidote to burnout. Blogmas and other writing projects like November Novel Writing Month also known as Nanowrimo have shown that writing together helps us stay on task with less fatigue and greater enthusiasm. Even if the product is bad, it’s a product. It’s something to build on.
What do I mean by “community writing”?
Community writing is like NanoWriMo, attempts by communities of writers to commit to a common deadline, read each other’s stuff for inspiration and support, and grow as writers. It’s a leader-less organization, where we are all teachers and all learners. We’re all shining examples and horrible warnings.
If you’re a new blogger, struggling to committing to writing, the discipline of daily writing is Important. For most people who do this sort of thing, the daily practice helps one find one’s voice. I know I will be reading Blogmas posts with an eye to discovering new blogs and to evaluating how to help bloggers participating in this community writing effort.
There are some Better Blogmas Tips
You have to write “you.” (I have to write me.) The Wild Hunt’s writing tips would be dreary for my audience — and they are so generic that they’re more likely to cause writer’s block than inspiration. They are hackneyed, done to death.
Specladeyes’ post on a THEME within the Blogmas genre is a much better idea. She’s posting within her wheelhouse: she’s announced the theme for her blogmas posts on mental health and Christmas. She writes mostly on personal topics like anxiety–so she’s adapting to the Blogmas concept to fit her audience.
Here are what I hope are some better writing prompts.
Find fresh ideas within your own blog posts. Look over your blog posts for the year and compare the ones that did well with the ones that you thought would do well, but didn’t. Could you re-write those neglected posts from a Blogmas point of view and expect to get traction? What was wrong with them? What about your better posts? Could they get a Blogmas update? Look through your drafts. Are there old, unpublished material that you could re-work and freshen up?
Consider your audience. What are their problems and concerns, joys and enthusiasms likely to be? What could you research and write that would address those concerns — within the holiday context?
Read other people’s blogmas posts critically. What are they doing right? What may they be doing wrong? How would you approach the topic with regard to your particular audience?
Will Blogmas content lack quality?
We always have our “good days” and our “bad days” in terms of writing quality. Writing every day is not the same as posting every day–keep THAT in mind. If you’re just starting a Blogmas project thIs late in the game, you’ve missed the time for planning and thinking. It will be seat-of-the-pants flying all the way. Quality will likely suffer. But this is how one grows– by trying, trying hard, and falling short. THEN we have to pick ourselves up and go about learning from the experience.
I would suggest that if you choose to commit to participation, go for it! Then, in 30 to 60 days, REVIEW those posts and see which ones are worth keeping. You can always trash or re-edit a weak blog post. Re-editing is good for the soul — and it helps your writing style to improve.
Soph Hearts is talking about doing the 12 Days of Blogmas instead of the whole 24 day blog-a-thon: twelve quality posts in the twelve days before Christmas. I think this is an awesome idea. I joke-posted that I was thinking about doing “Kwanz-blog” instead. This would give me more time to think, research and let my posts “mature” before I post them — but I would miss the community benefits of reading and struggling alongside the community of Blogmas participants.
Will I participate in Blogmas? Yes and no.
I am going to be writing some Blogmas posts. And I’m going to be considering Blogmas as a trend and sharing some insights about the Blogmas efforts generally and specifically. I’ll also continue writing about Gutenberg, blog design and other topics related to blogging.
Thanks for dropping by.