How Amateur Bloggers Create Great Posts

While thumbing through the letters to the editor in one of my favorite magazines, I made a troubling observation. Nobody seemed to congratulate the authors on a job well done, or expressed appreciation for all their hard work.

Some letters highlighted an important point that the author missed, while others had the temerity to disagree with the author’s conclusion. How very rude, I thought!

USa Today

Indignant, I perused the other newsstand periodicals for validation of my feelings. I found none. From obscure technical journals to USA Today, every professionally edited publication followed the same pattern.

Rather than showing gratitude for tight prose and well-researched reporting, readers seemed to expect them; and they spoke up only when writers failed to meet this high standard.

Walking away from the kiosk, I realized that I was judging these professional authors by the standards of an amateur blogger. Anyone who aspires to creating high-quality content and a respectable audience, through a blog or any other medium, should appreciate the difference.

Every Writer Needs an Editor

Offline newspapers and magazines employ an editor, whose function is to ensure the publication meets a baseline quality level. An editor might make minor grammar and punctuation tweaks, or send an article back to its author with suggestions for revision. In some cases, an editor will reject an article entirely because it just isn’t good enough.

The relationship between writer and editor is intended to be symbiotic, not sado-masochistic. Working together, they produce the best possible content. Writers who refuse an editor’s criticism are generally unwelcome in the publishing industry.

Editors also decide what public feedback, if any, will be published. By and large, they decline to print simple kudos and congratulations. There are a few reasons for this policy; the most important is that such comments do not serve the readers.

Blogging has changed this time-honored equation, for better and for worse. Rare is the blogger that submits their work to a separate editor. Instead, bloggers rely on themselves and their readers to perform the editing function.

Before publishing, bloggers receive no independent review of their content. Afterwards, they find themselves in a position to sanction anyone who expresses a dissenting opinion. In the print world, this is seen as a conflict of interest; on the Internet, it’s standard operating procedure. Blogger habits, from questionable to despicable, include:

  • Disabling all reader comments;
  • Deleting individual comments that cast their work in an unflattering light;
  • “Astroturfing”, or employing shills for an illusion of popular support;
  • Ad-hominem attacks on commentators (editors); and
  • Rewriting inconvenient comments so that they support the blogger’s own opinion.

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

Bloggers exercise complete control over their editors’ comments. Editors receive no pay, only a backlink next to their comment, and the opportunity for more prominent links in the future if their feedback is acceptably positive.

Considering this system of incentives, it should be no surprise that the most popular blog comment is simply “Great post.” Despite the fact that the value of the average blog post is too low for publishing in any offline newspaper or magazine.

Professional writers exchange value, while amateur bloggers exchange flattery. That is the difference.

None is this is intended to discourage the readers who have left a comment to compliment my work. On the contrary, I appreciate it very much! Reasoned and civil disagreement is also welcome.

13 comments on “How Amateur Bloggers Create Great Posts”

  1. From what I see, many letters to the editor are HIGHLY edited. Editorials are more complete. I have been hearing Howard Kurtz interviewed on half-a-dozen shows lately about his new book on the Media. He’s admitting that the blogosphere is pushing mainstream media to not sit on stories, or the blogs will beat them to it. That is great, we ARE the media now.
    Being edited can be frustrating, I have experianced it, but the product is always better. We simply cannot see our own mistakes in grammer, etc.

  2. That is great, we ARE the media now.

    I have mixed feelings about blogs supplanting traditional news media.

    Blogs are great vehicles for personal opinion, and for discussion. When it comes to reporting the news or performing in-depth investigations, they are usually underqualified–or worse, clueless pawns in a disinformation campaign.

    Take the recent feature story on energy medicine as one example. There are simply no blogs around with both the resources and the interest to tell that story. Another Seattle Times investigation, into government censorship of court settlements, cost more than $100,000 to produce. What blogger could have managed that?

    Some people believe that the decentralization of news gathering will empower the common man. That is true to a limited degree. However, what myopic bloggers consider empowerment, military strategists would recognize as divide and conquer.

  3. Oh, you SO asked for it: GREAT POST!

    I took down the post you were looking for, but can’t remember why, so I’ll repost it for you this week, maybe now.

  4. Excellent article, actually, I think this is the second or third article you wrote that was very good.

    Keep up the goof work.

  5. “great post”

    but really, it is an interesting perspective, except that i disagree that most blogs are not worth being published. it gives more value to the “controlled” media than to the internet media. it is better to say that they cannot be published because they are so inheritly different.

    i think the internet is the best source for information. it forces people to be more honest in their reflections because all advertising for good sites for the most part are viral. you have to have good content and treat your readers with respect. and now because the internet has connected everyone the internet has form into its little sub-community of regular users that know the same sites and have the same interests. so if you do delete a negative comment someone made, they will tell others in the community about it and soon you are flamed all over the net. journalist can not be subjected to this type of critizism with out fear of getting sued for slander.

  6. Jennifer, value is a matter of interpretation, but I think you will agree that a large percentage of bloggers serve only themselves. What are the long-term societal repercussions?

    Person of the Year

    Maybe the DSM-V will feature a new section on bloggers?

  7. Nobody seemed to congratulate the authors on a job well done, or expressed appreciation for all their hard work.

    Aside from your thoughts, I’m willing to wager that it’s because amateur bloggers are, well, amateur. In other words, they’re not paid to write, and therefore it becomes a much bigger feat to accomplish what an amateur blogger does. 🙂

Leave a Comment