I was skyping a friend in New Zealand, never let it be said that, in retirement, I don’t keep up with technology. The fact that it has taken me this long to try out this form of newness might belie that statement but, here I was this morning, skyping with the best of them. It was a memorable experience although not necessarily for the right reasons. For a start the pixellations and that irritating mismatch between picture and sound that I remember from years ago is still there not to mention talking at the same time or not talking at all. A lot of – sorry, go ahead, no you go, type sentences. And the fact that he was drinking a glass of red wine at 9 o’clock in the morning, my time anyway, all counted against him and this was before he told me what he thought of my blog.
We started normally (if I can use this word for this novel experience) enough by talking about our current musical plans and ambitions. But then the conversation took a strange turn. We started talking about blogging – my blogging. He began by accusing me of not being anti-social at all – now that hurt – as I wouldn’t be writing a blog about my life and telling other people about my life if I was truly anti-social. He had been reading some of my blogs and, while he wasn’t exactly fulsome in his praise of my efforts, in fact no praise at all, at least he was reading them. He’s playing havoc with my Google Analytics stats. As he said his efforts alone were probably responsible for my placing on the first page of Google. No complaints there then except when he stops reading my blog my popularity will plunge. And he surely will stop as he told me this morning when he’s finished reading my blogs he will never read another retirement blog in the rest of his life because they are ‘incredibly boring’. Mine excepted of course I suggested. I’m still waiting for his affirmation and the conversation finished a couple of weeks ago but it seems unlikely that any will be forthcoming. What he said was that my blogs would only be enjoyed by people who knew me because they could hear me in my writings and I guess by deduction if you didn’t know me then you wouldn’t enjoy my writings. This, he helpfully explained, was why I only got comments from ‘friends’. Hmm, not sure I wanted to hear this but there it was coming across the air waves, 13,000 miles away courtesy of Skype and damned indeed with faint praise and I still don’t get a comment for the site. I must write another blog on self-esteem -boost your self esteem by Skype.
What he went onto to say was that, in his thorough analysis of the state of the nation in blogging, which he had never looked at before, he could not for the life of him understand why anyone would either write or read a blog. With friends like this etc. The writing bit is easier to explain simply because a lot of writers have said clever things about why they write. For example it has been said that J.D. Salinger only wrote to make sense of things for himself. Or a couple of months ago screen writer Anthony Horowitz said in The Observer, “I tend to get stressed about everything – that is how I am. But if it all comes out on the page, well, at least it’s got a home.” yep, I can go along with that. That’s what this blog is for me, cheap therapy. As to why people read blogs or anything else for that matter, that’s a different story altogether and one I don’t know about.
My friend is retired although his wife still works. They have a fabulous house the like of which, setting-wise, (I can’t show you a photo of his house because he’s so paranoid, he thinks people might find him maybe on Google Earth or some such – when I asked him to post a comment on my site he said he wasn’t joining anything. I explained that he wasn’t joining a club I didn’t need his credit card details, just say something nice or even anything at all) you can only find in New Zealand – I’m a bit biased because we love the place. My friend describes himself as either a sociopath or a psychopath, so that’s nice. He says he is genuinely anti-social. Retirement has certainly opened new doors for him as a retired person in New Zealand (he emigrated from Leeds in 1991).
Anyway, I digress, he had looked at the top retirement bloggers and offered me his recommendations on how to be top blogger. The trick was and the way to get lots of comments on your blog (I get hardly any so I could hardly say I didn’t need any advice) was, wait for it, to pose a question to your readers. The one he quoted went along the lines of – this is what I did today, what did you do? This, according to my friend, unlocks the door for people to tell you about their lives rather than having to read what you do in your retirement life. As we know people do like to talk about themselves so maybe he’s onto something.
So if this is the key to success then I decided, well, that’s what I will do, won’t I? In fact I will fill the whole blog with questions, won’t I? Do you think that is what I should do? Should I fill the whole of my blog with questions? Will that help my readership? I’m not sure, what do you think? Can you let me know? Bloody hell, this is boring, isn’t it? It fact it could become addictively boring, couldn’t it? It’s like the equivalent of Australians or Americans continually speaking in questions by the sentences rising perpetually at the end, isn’t it? How much longer can I go on like this?
So this is an issue of readership and what you need to do to increase it. If my readership were measured in terms of number of comments stopped by this marvellous bit of software called Akismet I would have had over 85,000 comments, yep, that many. Unfortunately they’re all rubbish, all spam but it’s one measure of success. To be honest some of the strategies recommended by the experts for increasing readership are ludicrous – key word density for example, look it up, it’s ridiculous, even more so than asking silly questions every sentence. But it does raise the question, yes another one, how far will a person go to achieve fame and fortune? To put it another way how far will you prostitute yourself to achieve an audience?
Maybe I should be looking at promotions, free offers, give away products or out-sourcing to India or something to raise my readership but then again I really can’t be arsed. Read my experiences of retirement or not, it’s just therapy.