Monday, June 8, 2009

OMG! Blogging Isn't Guaranteed Success!

I just read this article in the NYT about the high failure rate of blogs. They ask the rhetorical question, why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?

Two reasons spring to mind: 1) Because it's harder to start a restaurant, while any jackass with an online connection can start a blog with no capital, but the fact that they can do so doesn't guarantee they have any writing talent. 2) Define "failure."

Obviously the goal of a restaurant is to generate and nurture a loyal customer base, make some profit, and hopefully expand (e.g., floor space, additional locations, diversity of menu). You can put a lot of money into running a restaurant and, if it doesn't do well, you can lose a lot.

But if you start up a blog, there are hundreds of free blog-hosting Web sites available, and if you logon via your local library or coffee shop, you don't need to spend any money for an online connection. You can start up with no money in your pocket, rant for as long as you like, and if you somehow manage to generate any income you necessarily have greater than 100% profit. But if nobody reads you and you lose interest and quit, you're breaking even (not counting the time you spent). Restaurants put in a lot of money and stand to lose a lot more money; a blogger can rant with poor typing and writing skills and lose nothing. I don't think a blogger's "failure" equates to an entrepreneur's "failure."

Sure, if you start a blog and set your goals high--hoping to secure a book deal or become a journalist for a print publication--then you can say you failed to attain those goals. In that sense there is a failure, but you've only lost the potential outcome. You're only worse off at the end because now you have proof that you need to work on your writerly skills--be a better observer, learn to shape lyrical prose, focus on timely topics--but you still haven't lost anything.

I think that propagating a headline like "the staggeringly large failure rate of bloggers" is misleading, especially when comparing it to any other business model. I would even venture to say it's a non-issue. When I started my own blog I hoped some people might find it by accident, or others would come here at my invitation and find reason to stick around. Both of those moderate goals were fulfilled, so am I more successful than the restaurants in my own city that lose their business and shut down? I would never say so.

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