Earlier this week I wrote a post talking about five reasons to fear your readers. As a follow-up, I’d like to introduce five more reasons to fear your readers.
The fear I’m speaking of shouldn’t be a trembling-type fear, but should just be enough to keep a blogger or site-owner humble.
1. Your Experience Doesn’t Mean Anything
Do you have a PhD, a Masters, or some kind of awesome certification that proves you can pass a multiple-guess test? That’s awesome! But here on the web, experience comes in a different package.
When you hear stories about a 12 year old professional blogger, you have to wonder what kind of skills are necessary to make it online.
If anything, you can prove you have experience just by writing about a subject in a knowledgeable and authoritative manner, even if you don’t have the paper degree in the offline world.
If someone left a comment on one of my sites saying, “I’m a lawyer, therefore you’re wrong”, I’d be scratching my head. But if I followed up on the reader, went to their site, and saw that indeed the person does have some experience (and not just paper credentials), I might change my mind. Anybody can claim to have some sort of title. I mean, look at Dr. Phil. But backing it up with written word is a lot more beneficial than a paper diploma in the offline world.
2. Your Credibility Hangs by a Thread
LorelleJonathan Bailey from the BlogHerald wrote a nice article that discusses how damaging plagiarism can be to a blog:
It only takes one bad writer with one ripped article to destroy years worth of reputation and relationship building.
Another example is the recent contest scandal where a blogger used a fake contest to de-fraud many bloggers. Not only do actions like this ruin the credibility of the blogger, but these actions also ruin the credibility of similar contests. I wouldn’t want to be the blogger having a legitimate $2500 contest anytime soon.
The reputations we have (both offline and online) hang by a thread. It’s almost discomforting how easily one’s life and reputation can be ruined.
3. Your Income is in Their Hands
Unless you have a corporate-sponsored site where the amount of traffic coming in doesn’t matter and the revenue from advertising is a non-issue, then one must be a little concerned over the amount of readers coming to a site and clicking on ads.
John Chow made the mistaken conclusion that by living on Google, one must die by Google. What exactly does Google bring to a site? Uhm, readers? And does Google click on all those ads? No. Who does? Uhm, the readers again?
The correct phrasing probably should have been, “To live by the readers, is to die by the readers.” If the readers go away, so does one’s traffic, links, and eventually your pagerank. With no readers left around to click on ads, there’s no one around to make the blogger money because eventually the sponsors will back out.
There isn’t some Google troll hiding under a bridge making a blogger money. It’s the readers who make the blogger money, plain and simple.
4. When You’re Wrong, They’ll Know It
Robert Scoble published two videos that detailed how social media was very likely going to make search engines irrelevant. The response was rather pointed and bloggers and readers alike were perfectly willing to let Robert know that his views were wrong and/or poorly researched. Scoble wrote a post attempting to get back at the critics, but eventually made an apology and admitted he made several mistakes and was going to learn from them.
Another recent example is Mark Ghosh from WeblogToolsCollection (disclosure: I am one of the WLTC contributors). His recent decision to ban sponsored WordPress themes was met with mixed criticism, and was even discussed here in a case study by Bes. In a post entitled, “Turning the other cheek“, Mark explains how many (even friends) have let him have it for banning sponsored themes on WLTC. The criticism hasn’t discouraged Mark, however, and he still won’t allow sponsored themes on WLTC (a decision I applaud).
5. Readers Have Nothing to Lose
When a blogger has enabled comments, e-mails, or similar feedback measures, the blogger has opened him or herself up to criticism. If you publish a post some readers don’t agree with, the readers will let you know about it.
With blogs, readers can post anonymously. They can fake a name, an e-mail address, and even an IP address. Readers can set up anonymous blogs and rip on governments, politicians, and other public figures. Readers can turn into stalkers and look up your physical address and start sending notes (or even visit your residence).
In a lot of these cases, readers have nothing to lose. Once you establish your blog in the neighborhood of the blogosphere, it’s hard to just pick up and move. A reader can be the guerrilla fighter who moves in from the woods and strikes without notice before quickly retreating.
As stated with my other post on fearing your readers, the fear should just be something to help you be more humble. Readers aren’t out to make your life miserable (well, not all).
The important thing to remember with regards to readers is to not take them for granted. They’re coming from somewhere and leaving that comment or e-mail for a reason.
Thank you for reading.