A while back someone asked me why so many investment bloggers stop blogging.
I didn’t have an answer for him.
Bloggers stop blogging for a lot of different reasons. But, that wasn’t the question? The question was why investment bloggers stopped – especially good investment bloggers. Why, once established, and with some number of regular readers would an investment blogger stop blogging?
I still don’t have a good answer.
My own experience with blogging has been mixed. I’ve had some wonderful exchanges with readers and especially with other bloggers. But, I’ve also had a lot of listless exchanges. A lot of people write to you – they don’t comment so much on my blog as email me directly – with questions that aren’t really questions. See, they want a certain answer, and if you don’t give them that answer – well, I’ve found almost everyone to be exceedingly polite. However, very few people are exceedingly interested in actually changing their mind. Very few people write to me asking for advice with the intention of actually allowing that advice to enter into the equation. It’s a strange feeling. Someone writes to you, you write back, they thank you profusely, etc., etc., etc. but you also know they’re going to do exactly what they intended to do before they wrote you.
I must sound awfully jaded. But, it really is a strange dance you have to experience to understand. It makes you wonder about the silent majority of readers who don’t write. Has anything I’ve written ever made a difference to them – ever entered into their thought process at all – about any stock, investment, approach, etc. I really don’t know. And I had intended to be a source of information (and improvement) rather than entertainment.
One thing I’ve been very lucky with is the cool-headedness of people who email me (and comment on the blog). When I first started the blog, the specter of ranting readers was the thing that worried me most. I’ve read other blogs. I know that people with the most extreme views will tend to be the most vocal promoters of those views. I know that the anonymity of the internet encourages more ranting, more raving, and more ad hominem attacks then ever occur face to face.
And yet somehow this blog has tended towards civility.
I didn’t expect that.
If the most vocal readers are as cool, calm, and collected as those I’ve exchanged emails with – the silent majority of readers must be on sedatives.
Overall, I’ve been impressed with my readers. And somewhat less impressed with myself. It took a little while to find my voice, and even then, I wasn’t very good at balancing the blog format, my readers’ interests, and my own interests. On several occasions, I made grave mistakes – usually by writing about something that interested my readers more than it interested me. My biggest mistakes in this area were when I had the most traffic data available. Knowing what drew the most readers was more of a curse than a blessing for me. Some of my worst posts were written with half an eye towards what I thought people wanted to read about. That was a mistake. And it was mine – not theirs. The problem wasn’t that people wanted to read about certain inherently unimportant topics as much as that they wanted to read about topics I wasn’t well-suited to writing about.
The balancing act of writing for yourself and for your audience is tough. In some ways a blog makes it tougher than it is in other media. However, a blog does make it a lot easier to put something, anything out there. Whatever your doubts about a certain post, topic, etc. you’re never very far from posting something.
If you’re writing a book and you’ve got the same doubts, you might very well shelve the whole project mid-way through, without any feedback at all. With a blog, you’re constantly taking baby-steps and you’re constantly getting feedback.
What’s been my worst experience with blogging?
(Yes, I’m interviewing myself now; do you have a problem with that?)
My worst blogging experience was when I was – pretty early on – putting my posts in a lot of different places in a lot of different forms, because one website or another would ask if they could use it. I always said yes. For the most part, that worked out okay. It’s never quite as good as when you have it on your own blog, because you don’t have the same level of control. While one or two high quality sites ran things I wrote, there were some sites that really weren’t up to snuff – and I should have said no to these sites. In the beginning, I don’t think I said no to anyone.
One site distributed my posts in all sorts of places, including message boards for individual stocks. It got me traffic. For a brief moment, I even thought I should do the same thing myself. I quickly learned that wasn’t a good idea. All in all, it was a horrible experience.
This blog isn’t really a place for people long or short a certain stock to make their case. The emails I got during that period were the least intelligent, the least fun, the least everything.
It completely sapped my interest in the site.
What’s been my best experience?
(Thank you for asking)
Writing to and hearing from people who are new to investing, or new to value investing.
In this respect, the podcast was a lot of fun – and almost all of my best email exchanges came from people who listened to the podcast. Other aspects of the podcast were less fun – especially as that’s not really a good medium for me (if you heard any of the podcasts, you’d know what I mean). But, I have to admit, I did get the highest highs from the podcast. Nothing I did for the blog ever quite rivaled some of the stuff I did for the podcast in terms of interesting me. Whether it interested others or not – who knows?
So why do bloggers stop blogging?
I’ll get back to you on that one.