Small Streams

Give Them What They Want
November 13, 2006, 10:54 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I wasn’t afraid to speak up at the podcamp seminars; and I hoped to get some reactions from panelists and audience. At the “Blogging, Buzz, and Broadcasting” session, Sri talked about how blogs evolve from comments and reader statistics, how he sees that the more food pictures he adds, the more viewers he gets. I interjected that following the reader amounts to a sort of pandering — admittedly a simplification, but one that I hoped to be provocative. Cindy replied that the very act of blogging was pandering. A simplification of my simplification, I thought. And I’ll call it a glib response for no other reason than to get a reply from Cindy, which might be tough because this blog isn’t on anyone’s radar until I begin redirecting people from the old one.

Anyway, Mark, why do you think Cindy’s response was glib?

Because, when you start a blog, you’re expressing things that you feel and you think and are part of your life. Yes, blogs become conversations. In a real life conversation people stop paying attention when you become boring. You adapt your conversation. You say more interesting things to the listener. You incorporate their responses in your posts. All well and good, but somewhere along the way, in the search for juice and hits and what not, the quantitative change of being responsive leads to the qualitative change of forgetting your own experience and your own message. The feedback loop becomes more powerful than the calm, meditative, assaying inquiries.

Don’t forget, folks, that we are using a tool that was developed for the military-industrial complex, and that tool is not neutral. I must admit that the tool does an admirable job of depicting Sri’s Rice Noodles with Spicy Tofu.

6 Comments so far
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OK, I’ll bite. 🙂

I didn’t think I was being glib in my response, but I can see why you’d say that. What I really should have done is ask you to define “pandering.” You were being glib too, so it’s worth asking.

I think of pandering as behaving in a way that appeals to others — with the connotation that the panderer is changing his behavior to be extra appealing, and also generally appealing to base or less-than-ideal emotion.

So that sounds bad. But of course, as you explain, we do this all the time, in conversations and especially in marketing and advertising — which we all do on a daily basis, “selling” ourselves to remain liked, respected, etc.

But to the question: Is it bad to alter the mission of a blog/podcast/whatever to appeal to a wider audience? Is depends on why the blog/podcast/etc. was created.

For example, I created the Build a Better Website blog to communicate with clients — to give them useful information and to give me a channel for keeping my business on their respective radars. Of course I want to keep my clients and potential clients coming to that site, so I’d be foolish not to adjust the content to match their interests and responses.

In contrast, I created My Brilliant Mistakes to amuse myself and (hopefully) others by pointing out weird stuff I saw on the web. I kind of don’t care how many people visit it — except that I do because I need validation as much as anyone. So I can’t help but notice which posts get the most traffic, and to want to make more posts that create that same response.

Incidentally, does this post of yours, with its built-in call for a response from me, count as pandering? 🙂

Comment by Cynthia Closkey

You could say my post was pandering, but it was also an attempt to begin a dialog. I didn’t want a transaction for transaction’s sake, but two people connecting.

Comment by smallstreams

Can you pander to every single reader? I don’t think so. You can respond to a collective request (“Sri, can we have recipes too?”), or you can infer trends based on traffic ebbs and flows (There’s been a ton of referral traffic from google on the article i wrote about the legal impact of offshoring). I have to agree with Cindy. i blog because I like to. I don’t blog because I have an audience (Well, gotta let mom and the wife know that my kitchen adventures are producing edible creations). Bloggers blog because they want people to peek into their blogs, don’t they? Except, I want to peek back at them, and i do that using the analytics engine. (btw. posted yourphotograph from Podcamp on flickr ->

Comment by sriram bala

Sri, thanks for the photo. It looks like I might be having a gas attack, but I think I was just trying to make a point.

Comment by smallstreams

OK, this time I really was being flip. And I think it’s an interesting conversation that you’ve started.

Comment by Cynthia Closkey

Great discussion you folks are continuing here, and I’m glad to see it happen!

My two cents; yes, blogging (or creating any kind of web media) is pandering to AN audience. Absolutely no one goes through the trouble of creating something in any medium solely for the purpose of self-realization, partly because you really can’t self-realize if you receive no feedback. If I wake up tomorrow and declare myself the king of the world, I trust that my girlfriend or the mailman will disabuse me of that notion very quickly.

Likewise, no matter how personalized or niche-ified your content, you’re not creating it solely for you. You’re creating it because the audience feedback validates you. Otherwise, you’d be hiding manuscripts in your desk drawer and burning all your instamatic photos so they influenced no one else.

The question of pandering, as we’ve come to understand it, happens when your creation “jumps the shark” and changes drastically from what it was conceived to be into what you think the public perceives it to be. This is not always a bad thing. If mainstreaming your niche content is of more value to the masses (and yourself) than maintaining your post on the outskirts of pop culture ever will be, do it — it worked for MySpace — but only if that’s what YOU want to do. Then, it’s not pandering, it’s smart business.

However, if you have a small but passionate following in something you’re already excited about, and then you start adding arbitrary daily posts about the subjects of the top 20 search items in Technorati, I think you might hear the sound of shark jaws in the vicinity.

Comment by Justin Kownacki

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