One of the complaints about journal style blogs like mine is that they are too unfocused. Basically, I write about what ever enters my undiagnosed attention deficit addled mind without much regard to whether other people find it interesting. It’s almost assured that nobody will be interested in everything since some of it is only written for an audience of one.
The truly successful blogs are relentlessly and narrowly focused. My idol in this category is of course Josh Fruhlinger and his Comics Curmudgeon blog. He has taken a mild obsession with newspaper comics and ridden it to real world fame, if not fortune. But some days I bet he would love to blog about some show he saw or a cute picture of a cat he took, but his format is locked into comics and his fans wouldn’t cotton to a sudden change in direction.
The hardest part of creating a single topic blog is finding a subject obscure enough that hasn’t been taken, yet still appeals to some minuscule fragment of the blog reading public. One tack is to go even more obscure, like the now silent Silent Penultimate Panel Watch or find some hitherto unknown twist on an established blog format like Judge A Book By Its Cover does for book review sites. Some narrow blogs like The Foobiverse!’s Journal develop enormously successful communities of their own.
Besides, I didn’t have a obsession deep enough to make the long term commitment to make such a thing work. That is until the end of Times Select and the return of Maureen Dowd among the great unwashed. My Dowd fascination goes back nearly two years and I welcomed her back in this blog last month.
With Dowd again casting fresh columns onto the internet twice weekly there was an opportunity to fill a new niche on the web. A quick Google tour revealed that while many blogs praised or trashed MoDo on a regular basis, they did so in a broader political context. And none focused on her writing exclusively.
To give my new idea some breathing room from my yellojkt persona, I created a new sock puppet called Mo MoDo and gave it a g-mail address and a Blogger account. Voila, Dowd Report was born. Rather than just gush fanboyishly over every article, my gimmick was to pedantically explain the often arcane inside jokes embedded in the column, hence the subtitle "Lightly Fisking Maureen Dowd". If I came across some larger revelation, that was fine too, but the meta-concept is that Dowd needs explicating and I'm the one to do it. I knew I was on the right track when one of the very first search engine hits was for “what is judi giuliani puppy-killing, husband-hiding, all about”. My entry titled Ringtone Rudy explained that the presidential candidate’s current wife had formerly worked for a company that demonstrated surgical tools on shelter animals. I was filling a need.
But trees that fall in the woods rarely get heard. My China Sights blog gets single digit traffic even when I am updating regularly (as I haven’t lately). I had to get Dowd Report out in front of the blogosphere and that meant some blatant self-promotion. And I do blatant real well. I have a Google Reader Blog Search feed for “Maureen Dowd” that alerts me to other bloggers that discuss Dowd allowing me to comment and link on their blogs. That also gives me material for special “Blogwatch” posts to fill space between the full NYT columns.
About a week ago, I left a comment and link on The Volokh Conspiracy that resulted in over 120 hits over two days. These enormously popular political blogs have very dedicated followings and developing a fan base among them would help Mo MoDo's readership tremendously.
Yesterday, my alert system notified me that Sunday’s Dowd/Colbert collaboration had been “dugg” on Digg. For those that don’t know, Digg is a news aggregator site where readers vote on the most popular articles. Getting “dugg” can bring enormous amounts of traffic to a site. Early Sunday morning, the Dowd column had gotten about 6 diggs and not going very far, but I went and left a comment and a link using my yellojkt Digg account anyways.
The Dowd column languished on the Diggmeter until late last night it when all of a sudden it took off. By this morning it had over 400 diggs and was climbing. Since I had the first comment, a lot of Digg readers clicked over and read my reaction post.
And they hated it. Not only can you “digg” a story, you can “digg” comments on a story. You can also “bury” a story or comment, meaning you didn’t like it. As I write this, my comment’s net dig/bury rank is -50 and falling. The two comments on my comment were:
that post sucked balls.And
giant hairy donkey ballsI take little solace that the most popular comment for the MoDo column is:
That. Was. Awesome.Very eloquent, Moncal.
I don’t know whether this very brutal reaction is the result of my breaking some etiquette on linkwhoring, or whether Digg readers just don’t get what I’m trying to do, or if I just really suck that bad. Either way, traffic is still trickling in. Call me want you want, just spell my alias correctly.
I want to reassure both of my regular readers that Foma* will stay as random and navel gazing as ever. You are under no obligation to add Dowd Report to your regular reading, but it’s there if you share my obsession. And if you liked this post, feel free to
BlatantCommentWhoring™: How far are you willing to go to build traffic to your site?