Single Subject or Brand Blogs vs. Generalist Blogs

Amongst bloggers in recent years there has been a decline in single author generalist blogs, be they professional or personal, and an increase in single subject blogs. Amongst tech bloggers, there has been a great deal of single brand blogs.
As a generalist semi-profession, semi-personal, semi-photography, semi-commentary blogger, I am always amazed when a person can keep a regular single subject blog up for longer than 2-3 years. Most of the personal bloggers I know have burnt out and then gotten reinvigorated by looking at different facets of their lives or by moving on to new passions. But what is a single subject blogger or even worse a single brand blogger to do when they are burnt out on that subject or brand?
Dan Carter of decided to close his blog this week. Dan writes:

“After what has been a up and down 2 years I am announcing that World Of Nokia will be closing it’s doors for the final time on 5th June 2010 when the site will no longer be updated.
Both myself and Christian would like to thank you all for your support shown since day one and for everyone who has helped build the site up with comments, links or advertising,
Seeing as this is the final post I thought it only right to explain the reason behind the closing of the site and to be brutal its the fact Nokia have stopped being as creative as they once were not that long ago. The N95 was a modern masterpiece with the exception of the poor battery life but since then there has been a total lack in creativity
Nearly every phone launched until the new C/X series was a small update of the phone it was surpassing which itself was only a few months old (just how many versions of the 5800 and N95 did we really need??)

Over the past 2 years just concentrating on Nokia, all the phones ended up feeling pretty much the same due to the tired Symbian OS which only now on the new Symbian 3 due out in September has some chance of doing well. In fact when talking to Christian tonight about the Nokia N8 he said
“its too far off for me and runs Symbian which is putting me off”

In response, I commented:

May I make a recommendation? Keep the domain name, you never know what the future will bring AND don’t just put your writing effort into someone else’s site, but get your own blog and write about what you love right now.
With your own blog about whatever, there is no pressure to blog about a certain brand or even about mobile, but whatever you love.
Good luck!
smiles, jen ;o)”

All commentary about personal branding aside, I do think if one is a passionate person and is interested in observing the world around one or creating a space online, then having a string of single subject blogs or writing for a string of group or contribution blogs may end up being frustrating both for the blogger and their readers.
I will advocate my 2nd Law of the Internet in this case – “Own your Own Stuff”.
I encourage anyone who has graduated from or wants to graduation from occasional posting or to get their own domain, of which does not have to be in your name but can be an idea or conceptual name, and then set up a self-hosted blog in that domain and blog. Blog about whatever.
If this week you want to blog about mobile and Nokia or Apple, then blog about it. If next week or month or year, you are super passionate about Peruvian butterflies, then pay your domain registry & hosting and keep blogging be it about Apple, butterflies, politics, relationships, brands, travel, underpants, or whatever.
Put own your own creativity and consolidate it into one place, and if you must use tech tricks such as tags, categories, and .htaccess files to drive the SEO traffic to your new generalist blog.
Why? As a gift to your regular readers. People subscribe by RSS or Google Reader or Feedburner, etc, and they will want to keep reading you. Treat your regulars well, give them a consistent RSS or Atom feed.
Also as a gift to yourself. Allowing your own intellectual and creative curiosity to grow and flourish by the ability to explore new ideas over time rather than be limited to a single subject or brand.
Earlier this year, James Burland, a creative from the UK that I admire greatly did all but shutter his “Nokia Creative” blog to move on to his “iPad Creative” blog. While I love James’ various passions for creating on the devices he is most excited about right now, I would love to see him for the long term not commit to a single brand, even if it drives more traffic in terms of SEO, but instead have one central blog of James’ thoughts on how to create with [_______insert name of device_______]. Otherwise in 5 years’ time, where will some of his best pieces be?
Ok, my inner Micki Krimmel will now argue to me that none of this matters to the reader, they don’t care and technology will solve the problems of aggregation of all of our content for the reader to find over time. Someone else may argue that in 5 years time, James won’t care about the iPad but will think his blog about it is a quaint relic of a different time.
Be that as it may, one of the great breakthroughs of the internet age is that if we want to, we can all be creative producers, so why not set up our own channel that is not dependent on one idea, subject, or brand, but instead a channel / blog / site that allows one to grow in one’s passions and creativity over time and still allows the readers to consistently follow and participate.
Dan, I hope you set up your own space that allows you to blog about whatever suits your fancy right now without apologies and allows those of us who read your writing to continue to follow you, even if it is sporadic.

4 thoughts on “Single Subject or Brand Blogs vs. Generalist Blogs

  1. This post happened along at just the right time. I let myself feel the pull of specialist blogging a while back. It wasn’t until I realized how much I really didn’t like only blogging about libraries or user experience that I freed myself to get back to the kind of blogging I enjoy most. It may not be high traffic, and it might not draw a high number of readers, but it keeps me centered somewhat, and now that the pressure is off, I can remember why I fell in love with blogging in the first place all those years ago.

  2. Hi Jen. Thank you so much for including me in your excellent analysis. I’m this close to registering!
    I do get what you’re saying and it does make perfect sense. However, I’d like to chuck in a couple of points that might clarify my perspective.
    1) Nokia Creative is still very much alive, it’s just a matter of focus and right now there are good reasons for me to focus on iPad Creative instead. That will most likely swing back again by the end of the Summer.
    2) I love art and design but I’m also a little obsessed with industrial design, branding, technology and futurology. I like to be a part of a technological movement, to be able to look back and say to myself, “yep, I went along for the ride, and it was a lot of fun”.
    3) Twitter is a powerful tool for aggregation. I view my Twitter account as my primary online presence. In short, if I publish something that I think is meaningful I’ll be sure to let people know via Twitter no matter where it’s located – they don’t have to subscribe to my blogs RSS feed, I’m ‘really simple’ and I’ll do the syndication when necessary. ^_-
    4) Blogging is a bit like spinning plates except there is no gravity. If I stop spinning the Nokia Creative ‘plate’ it doesn’t fall and smash it just sits there patiently waiting for my return. Sure I’ll lose plenty of readers but the ones that I care about will pop back from time to time just to check.
    Thanks again Jen, it’s good to work through these ideas from time to time.

  3. Well said Jen, but I would expect nothing less from you!
    Nothing is forever, and that goes for URLs as well, which in the end is what we’re dealing with. when someone starts a blog on a topic, a couple of evolutions happen. First, their interests evolve, and this may mean a change in the blog itself, or the creation of another, or altogether stopping. Another is the evolution of a reader. Where they may start reading about your take on the topic, they can become more interested in YOU yourself. Thus it is sad when some blogs go away or ratchet down, and you lose something you have come to enjoy.

  4. Wow… I love your phrase “single author generalist blog” so much that I’m going to steal it… I’ll give credit, of course 😉
    I really think that if blogging really *is* dying, it’s because people have gotten so caught up in the whole moneymaking / brand-building aspect of blogging. And actually, I have a lot to say about all that so thanks for giving me an idea for my next blog post!
    Glad there’s other generalists out there 🙂

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