When I started this website in 2010, I knew what a successful blog was. It was a blog with thousands of subscribers, and ideally, enough ad revenue to “take the site fulltime” and be paid to blog all day. It wouldn’t hurt if you participated in a community with other bloggers, too.
That was a great definition of a successful blog in 2010 and I think it’s still a great definition in 2016, too. But damn is it hard to achieve. By that metric, I can really only think of a few select sites which should be considered successful. That’s kind of funny, isn’t it?
Let’s consider alternatives.
The biggest metric of success for me hasn’t been subscriber count (which is easy to say because I have a small subscriber count anyway), but more the quality of the people who subscribe. Specifically, I find the people who tell me “hey I love your blog” or “that post your wrote last week really spoke to me,” not only are those wonderful things to hear, but they also tend to come from people I respect tremendously.
So, one form of success: few, but highly respected people read my stuff > oodles of people I don’t really know read my stuff. (True, they’re not mutually exclusive, but if I had to pick one, I’d pick the first any day).
Another definition of success is longevity. I’ve been running this site since 2010 and it’s quite remarkable to be able to refer to 6 years of my public writing on the internet. I’ve had my ups and downs in terms of quality, but this is one of the few projects I’ve stuck at for this long. The posts may not make me money, but they’re a public outcrop of some of my thoughts, linkable for all to read.
The final definition is kind of a mix of the two: I feel a major success whenever anyone refers to my posts. I don’t just mean normal links from other blogs (although those are of course great), but when somebody refers to one of my posts to help them understand or reason about something. When somebody points to my post and says “this! this is what I’ve been trying to say!” There’s pretty much no better feeling of success than having a company you’re interviewing at say “I know you’re a blogger because we refer to some of your posts in our internal wiki as part of our dev process.” How much more 😍 can you get?
There’s a lot of talk about the “death of blogs” but maybe that’s because our definition of a thriving blog requires it to make oodles of money it just can’t these days. But if we change our definition of a thriving blog, we see many are doing pretty OK! I look around at some friend-blogs, like Ash (who in large part inspired me to start writing) and Soroush (who in large part inspires me to continue writing) and theirs are doing stupendously well today. Blogs aren’t dead, we just have outdated perceptions of them.