Finding An Audience?

I have been trying to write this particular post for a few months now and finally reached the conclusion that I should just go ahead and write some thoughts. 

One of the roots of this article–“Finding An Audience?”–was planted while listening to one of bell hooks’s lectures on YouTube. (I’ve listened to so many, I forget which one.) In this talk, hooks commented that if her books–especially her children’s books–were promoted by the powers at be in a way parallel to the promotion of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, her books could be as popular and as influential.  

What we like, don’t like. What we know about, don’t know about. What sells, what doesn’t. All of this is highly mediated. 

Like hooks, I long for a larger audience. Hopefully, that doesn’t come across as too selfish or too arrogant. If the right person tweeted or retweeted one of my articles or linked to one of my articles, I could instantly gain hundreds or thousands of followers. Expanding one’s readership independently is difficult, and it can be expensive.

Part of the problem is that we live in an era of such anti-intellectualism and intolerance that many people are not interested in learning or having their ideas challenged. And my blog is constantly challening everyday, default thoughts. Another name for my blog could be something along the line of Transgressions. There have been many times when I publish a more controversial article than usual where I instantly loose followers and subscribers.

Sometimes, on the other hand, it feels like I am mainly preaching to the choir with my various articles. For that reason, I try to focus on unique points-of-view, my own experiences, and other things that aren’t discussed elsewhere. I have this longing to be read by more people and to engage in conversations with more people. I want my writing to make a difference, to have an impact. I love teaching and do so in the classroom and outside of the classroom. 

On a similar note, sometimes I struggle to find the words needed to express a concern or thought, especially given the pervasiveness of Trumpism right now. We need to talk and write about Trumpism, but where are the words? We also don’t want to abandon other causes. All of this makes finding an audience even more challenging and more urgent.

Another factor that makes it hard for all of us to have an audience is that there are so many wonderful articles and podcasts and videos out all the time that we can’t possibly look at everything. In this way, as bell hooks also suggests, social media sometimes functions as something of a silencing mechanism – luck and popularity and money and backing from the status quo drive who has an audience more than their ideas. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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12 replies

  1. Pervasiveness of Trumpism is wearisome. It’s almost daily in “Zippy The Pinhead.” Has it really only been 8 weeks? I have had to shut off the Trump tap. We all had lives before the latest election. I read yesterday a Greek Sage who instructs “nothing to excess.” Great advice for me! Dr. Pegoda, I look at the blog heading (some) frequent tags, happily (subjects other than Trump). Please stay fresh as ever with your frequent tag subjects, your audience is sure to build.

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  2. What you echo here, Doc, is not uncommon among bloggers, from my vantage point. It all boils down to the reason anyone of us has a blog. That runs the gamut from some level of simple literary therapy, some are trying to communicate to the outside world because they can’t do it in real time, some, like yourself, are trying to fulfill a role of teaching and informing, still others just need a political megaphone to proclaim their inherent right to free speech, I mean, the reasons are endless. Most important, every single reason is as legitimate as the next. But here’s what I generally suggest when folks are trying to gain, not only readers and followers, but people who actually reply and comment.

    I am a business guy.. owned a couple, managed many… so I default into subscribing to the idea that having a blog is like starting a business.. your customers are the readers and commenters, and like a real business, you want the return customers… and that’s the tricky part. The product you are trying to sell is yourself and what you want to say… which can be two entirely different things. I mean, what you say subject-wise may make sense to some folks and hold their attention for a post or two, but the way you say it lacks the persona some folks might find of value in an on-going way.
    But you might start in doing what you’ve expressed… establish the goal.. which for you is to educate and inform. Then try and figure out the typical target demographic for your subject. From there, visit those similar blog sites yourself and begin to leave replies all over the place. Some folks may like your replies and become curious and go to your blog. Once they are there it’s then up to you to keep them there. BUT.. and this is a big BUT… we all do this as blog readers… we are a finicky bunch. One or two posts may hold our attention but then we tend to get “bored” and move on to new blog sites. You have to accept this as the lay of the land. Plus, not everything any of us posts is a pearl of wisdom that should be inscribed in granite for future generations. I guess I am saying a lot of blogging is simple attitude in understanding this medium for what it is.

    Doc, I’ve been to blogs where you see the number of followers is like 2,000+, yet when you read the posts there’s only a few comments. I mean, in business you are lucky getting a 3%-5% response rate. With that many followers you might expect 60-100 replies for a given post. I barely see 5 to 10.
    All I might suggest is just be yourself in posting what interests you, visit other sites that have similar interests, and post there to make yourself known. My first blog, which I’ve recently let hibernate, was all about being a baby boomer and general life events. Then Trump won and now my new site is dedicated to my new purpose in life as a “political blog activist” (whatever the hell that means) in pushing to get Trump either removed from office or never gets re-elected. If I get one “fly by” reader that may follow for a post or two I consider that a success. 🙂 The followers who stay.. as you said, are like preaching to the choir… but they end up being the “anchor buddies”, and it’s nice hearing from them as well.

    Maybe in the end all we can expect from this place is that it’s another place where us humans can reach out to other humans. We pass out our resumes in the hope that we might be taken seriously in what we have to say… but the fact we are humans behind a keyboard is all the resume we need.

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  3. Actually I look for the occasional email from a reader. Most of mine do not want to leave a comment, but instead prefer to send an email. It is more private. Or they check out my profile on LinkedIn and ResearchGate and contact me there, maybe because their reasons are more anonymous there? Many people who were rejected by parent(s) really want to hide themselves, as I mentioned in a comment in another of your posts. It could be you have a readership but only very obliquely because they do not want to leave an internet trail, especially in this very bullying anti-social, days of “social” media.

    However, you may also be right. Those of us who are iconoclasts will rarely get a really fair hearing. We can only feel the “I told you so’s” later, when no one is even remembering what we said and that we said it first. But check for the reblogging of your posts. Some will reblog it but leave your name and blog location out. You just have to put in your own comment at that reblogged post with a link to the original here. Then all who read the reblog know it is not originally by that author. Of course the pretend owner could always delete your comment, but it really is not a threat to them, so they will more often just shrug their shoulders, and respond, “So?”

    However, leaving comments at other people’s blogs, and putting comments on the images you save to Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook/Google+, etc does tend to make some check you out and increases readership somewhat slowly. When I leave comments on other people’s pins I usually see a huge jump in readership for a brief period of time, but it may be limited only to LinkedIn or Pinterest or my blog and not all my accounts. If you put a board up in Pinterest dealing with education, with some of your ideas you have put into practice into your classes, you will probably get a pretty big jump in readership because there are many K-12 teachers from all over the country looking for ways to bring attention to what you cover in your classes or just to adapt your methods to their courses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is another option.. I’ve been using audio along with my posts. Some folks have the time to read, other folks might prefer to listen while they multi-task. If your strength is in the classroom then consider using audio. Just get yourself a microphone, one of the free sound editing programs.. and there ya go. Do what you do best to get the word out.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I think WordPress still doesn’t allow audio embedding as it does YouTube, at least the WordPress.com blogs. I have often wished that it would allow them, and to allow commenters to upload their comments as audio, just to remove at least part of the “asocialness” of “social” media.

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  4. Forgot another really important thing to do. Be sure to put at least one image with every post. Freebies abound at many sites, like Wikimedia, Flickr, Pixabey and Public Domain. Adding them to your writing allows someone to pin it, and leave a comment on their Pinterest/Google+/Facebook, etc site. You can do the same. It means more work, but you might be able to recruit a student to hunt down public domain images to use.

    Some who doodle might be willing to add one, or you can get your class to break up into groups to draw or find a good drawing/photo illustrating what you want to post and compete for best pick (by another class).Winners get to put a guest blog post on at your site or some other giveaway. You probably have budding illustrators in your classes. You could get permission from them to post their images at your blog site with their names on it, giving full credit in the footnotes, with a link to their website, so they get free advertisement, too.

    You can always add a photo after you publish online, and be judicious about which posts get a photo. If the photo is catchy, it may attract readers who would not normally bother to read the post. Adding photos to popular posts also might boost readership to other posts.

    I have found great photos at other bloggers sites. One blogger seems to find just the photos I can use, usually from Wikimedia, but I really have to check because he doesn’t put full credit anywhere, usually just the photographer’s name/monicker so I have to go looking for that person’s page. Sometimes the photo on right-click reveals it is from Wikimedia, but sometimes not. Usually it is, or from Flickr. He generally is very careful only to put photos on that are truly in the public domain or part of the Creative Commons.

    Finally, photos are a great SEO (Search Engine Optimizer) method. You can put good SEO tags into the alternate image title, and it boosts the likelihood a search will put your post on Google’s page 1. So can any tags you add to your post, as well as placing them in the text of headers, first paragraphs and periodically throughout the post. Complex tags are better than single word tags. It used to be the opposite but Google is constantly changing.

    How do you know which tags are good? Do a search on each one you can think of in Google and before you click on the search button, look at how many other search suggestions come up in the auto-suggestion box as you type it. Top of the list tends to be the most popular. Then look to see how many results come up when you finally get the search done. You want something that brings up as few results as possible in that case. Your chances at p. 1 will then increase. Best tags are those that optimize both auto-suggestion and few search results. So you usually have to compromise.

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  5. Whatever you do about the problem demands a strategy. But first you have to articulate to yourself what you want your blog to do, and be very specific. I do know that using your blog to get people to notice you is part of a good strategy if you want to publish books, because you can notify your readers here of a future book launch, and build an audience of readers who will give you good reviews. Getting them to sign up for pre-sale copies, or on a list to buy before you launch a book or sell it to a publisher appeals to publishers, too. Few publishers will bother to market your book these days. You have to do that for yourself. And they won’t even look at your book if you do not already have an author platform and an audience. Self-publishing has truly changed from a very risky, desperate method to a very mainstream method. The number of books that get published now has bloomed to what one could have called truly incredible just 5 years ago. The book publishing world has truly radically changed in just a few years. And it looks like a “forever” change, too. So it is truly understandable how you want to build your follower base.

    However, the “socialness” of the internet is rapidly changing, too. What worked last year may not this year. I strongly suspect that the internet may obviously segment out, in a business sense, a bit differently in the future than in the past. With the discovery of the bots that have falsely boosted “likes” for tweets, photos, etc, creating fake “trends,” and the revelation by certain IT members who revealed how Facebook and other social media manipulate us into being addicted to looking at our cell phones (see Charlie Rose this week for one person’s quitting Google over this and becoming the Chicken Little of the internet–can’t remember his name and his interview is not yet up on Charlie Rose’s website), if enough people become suspicious over follower numbers, likes, shares, etc, then buildling a follower base on your blog in pure numbers may prove to be an exercise in futility.

    Today some popular blogs do not build a numbers base but a quality base, but most businesses are still drawn to the numbers game. However a trend that is beginning to become obvious is that people may be drawn to a blog because of an attractive type of discussion, for many reasons. In your case, your blog may attract some because they feel welcome and comfortable, making your blog a sort of “Cheers” bar for certain people who like to trade ideas on the topics you raise. (Forgive me, but the term “Cheers for Queers” comes to mind, but that reason does not apply to everyone who comes here). The concept though, clearly applies to blogs on writing code or discussing how to fix hassles with Firefox, or food topics, just to name a few.

    Making one’s blog a comfortable place to stop by is clearly the way to build a quality follower base, but does it tell your publisher that it will lead to sales? They are still trying to figure that one out for most blogs. Affiliate marketing can help but you can’t do that on the freebie WordPress site. You can create an author’s page at another site that does allow it, paying the fees for a domain name and web host (some IPS companies provide the latter for free, and both, I think are supplied by the WordPress.org site), with links to this blog there, and links to your author’s page here. You get an author’s page at Amazon for free when you publish a book there (e.g. using the Kindle platform). You can easily publish one just from a compilation of certain posts with some additional writing, fairly quickly. You may need a few images, but not necessarily one for each post there. AND you need a really good, catchy title and book cover design. Then your author’s page automatically becomes populated with books you publish as they get launched, whether or not they are Kindle or with some outside publisher, because you can also sell the latter at Amazon.

    Of course, the entire reason for the numbers game is for businesses to be able to tap into those eyeballs that come to you, even if it is only for seconds. They will then find a way to figure out the quality of your followers so they can tap into them, if they stand for a group likely to buy from them. In the end, it changes how you want to measure success of your blog. You can use it to build an audience or to provide a place where you can grow ideas for another book among like-minded creative people, or, maybe both. It’s not that businesses are not already categorizing blogs now, it’s just that they haven’t cared about most categories before now, and some categories may take years to be considered important enough for internet sales. This is why you need to make sure your blog gets noticed at other blogs or websites by comments you leave there, and possibly guest blogging there.

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