Hello dear readers and a very Happy New Year to you! I want to talk about blogging and where I see it for 2016 but first... I'm preparing for a trip to Paris in a few weeks so you'll be seeing lots of French inspiration on the blog very soon as I play roving reporter in one of my favorite cities. I'm also on the cusp of this blog turning TEN years old, I can't believe it and how so much has changed in my life since I launched decor8. I'm trying to think of something special to do for the big birthday so I think I'll just celebrate it in Paris, that seems like a great spot to celebrate anything, right?
When I thought about my blog turning 10 years old, I felt a bit emotional about it at first, then excitement, and currently a bit mixed. What is next for me? I'm still trying to hammer everything out but for now, I've decided: Write more regularly on decor8 from the heart, with personal experiences, feelings, observations. Hire more writers for decor8 so there is one new story here daily. I've hired two great food bloggers who begin this month; I'm now looking for a super special DIY/craft blogger who takes gorgeous photos and makes great stuff. Email me if you have experience and are interested. This is a paid position. Expand my topics on decor8 and Rent a large open space locally so I can teach workshops, host pop-up events and creative meet-ups. Actively explore opportunities to expand into radio, video, television, products, something that feels and fits right. I need to test and explore to see what I genuinely like and what I'm good at. I don't want to do something because everyone else is doing it or because I feel like I have to do them in order to stay on top of my game.
I also wish to Travel regularly and blog about my adventures with my own photography and insights. Expand Blogging Your Way with videos that are inspiring and fun and products for the shop. Diversify coursework and cover even more topics that reach outside of blogging and social media. Maybe move to a new city or country. This is a big thing to put out there publicly, but we've been considering it. Find more joy in what I do each day and focus on what I have built, not what I need to build.
These are some of the things I'm thinking about currently for my business. There are more but this is a good start! My blog will always be the heartbeat of my business, I never want to stop blogging, it's everything to me personally. For anyone who has authored a blog for 10+ years, I'm sure that the big TEN was a major milestone for you too. I don't know a lot of bloggers who have been blogging this long as a professional choice, but I feel strongly that blogs still have power, are still important tools for effective communication and still matter A LOT.
Maybe we all read fewer blogs and are on Instagram or Facebook more frequently, but I honestly cannot find the quality of writing or the storytelling on Facebook as I can on a blog. Facebook is one big rant for the most part. And on Instagram, it's only photos that pop up and though they are lovely, I crave to know what people are thinking, not just what they see or want us to think their life looks like.
Blogging is something we shouldn't allow to become muddy through ads, tons of sponsored content and too much self-promotion because then we are pushing readers away and over to Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels - no one wants to read one post after another that a blogger was paid to write and in so many cases these days, not even sincerely write (sad to say). I personally know bloggers who have confessed to me that they disliked the products they'd written about and dumped them in th trash the next day after the post appeared - they were paid to say they liked it. But they didn't.
I don't want blogging to become THAT. You know?
I hope that anyone reading this, as I am also striving to do, will aim to strike a balance. Maybe 10% of content is sponsored and the rest isn't. Or maybe you write 5 posts in a week, and one is sponsored. Come up with some math that works for you and your finances. But be cautious because the very thing you are trying to do (become more popular and earn a good living) may be the very thing you contribute to killing (blogs in general) because you are pushing too much sponsored stuff in people's faces.
Readers honestly don't believe the typical "What I'm writing is from heart and my own experience, regardless of that I was paid to say this stuff" blurb that you toss at the end of sponsored content. We all know that it's a nice attempt at sincerity but in the end, the fact that you were paid still clouds judgement just a wee bit and that is often what scares readers away. When money is involved, readers suddenly question YOU.
Turn your blog into one big ad about your products, books, and clients... Well that simply can't last and currently, with more and more people complaining about how they're not reading blogs as much due to all THAT - beware. You could be phasing out your blog without even realizing it.
I am not just saying this stuff either. Remember, I teach e-courses (for nearly 7 years now) to bloggers and bloggers-to-be and I hear what they are saying in our private forums and even when I outright ask them, I hear ALL of these complaints above. Lots of our homework centers around what they love about blogs and what they dislike. Students even list the blogs they once read that they cannot tolerate nowadays because the content is so fabricated and soulless. I am often surprised by the blogs they've stopped reading because to me, their content still felt strong and balanced.
Yet everyone still loves Garance Dore and Emily Henderson. At least right now (blog readers are a picky bunch) and so why is that? These ladies strike a good balance between sponsored and authentic content from the heart. Their voices have remained on the blog and their heartfelt joy for what they do is still there and felt very strongly. I feel like I'm getting something when I read Garance or Emily. I'm learning something or simply having a good time - they can both be entertaining at times. But there are only a handful of these blogs that still exist that my students are still in love with and tune into regularly. A few years ago, students would list maybe 20 blogs. Now they are naming 3 or 4. That's a massive decline and shows that poorly chosen content is driving people away from blog reading and guess what? We can't blame Instagram. We can only blame ourselves because content is slipping or becoming entirely about our products or our clients.
Find balance, or rather CREATE balance, and you'll notice more readers again and you'll notice more engagement and even more interest in blogging. I believe that people are bored for the most part with what's being offered currently online.I don't see Pinterest nearly as popular as it was. Who is even using Twitter as they once did? Maybe you won't notice the same number of readers you had during the big blog explosion of 2008/2009, but you will see people coming back to your blog.
Bring your voice back to blogging, and you'll bring the right kind of readers back to blogs.
So this is my new year's message about blogging. Let us all remember WHY we started blogging, and consider what you can bring, but also consider that people love YOU and what YOU are doing and saying. And they want more of that. More of YOU. What you REALLY love, what you are doing, what makes you tick. Sure, some of that can be sponsored but try to balance what you are paid to write and what you are writing from the heart. Be an Emily. Be a Garance. Bring your heart, your expertise, bring value.
That's my blog goal for 2016. What are some of yours?
(image: holly becker styling, susanne irmer photography)