What Exactly Is the Plight of the Average Blogger?

desert thinker

Mike Elgan is an established writer. He’s been a technology journalist for over 25 years, even started his own magazine … and now is a paid opinion columnist. On any given day you might find Mike blogging from Eastern Europe or Southern Africa. I mention all of this to state that Mike is not your average blogger.

When Google+ launched Mike doubled down on the social site and pointed his own blog there — and now is the spokesperson for Google+ diet. His entire online life begins and ends there. He still publishes outside of that, but you will get a bulk of his writing only on Google+.

I recommend you follow Mike on Google+. You won’t be disappointed. What I won’t recommend, however, is that you follow Mike’s advice to abandon your blog for Google+.

Let me explain.

What Bloggers Fear

A few weeks ago I wrote an article called 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Abandon Your Blog for Google+. It was a direct challenge to Mike’s advice. Mike was kind enough to respond (on Google+, of course).

His counter arguments amounted to this refrain:

Google+ is more viral, gives you a vastly larger audience and a more engaged community around your blog than you can get on any other site.

There is no question to the truth of that statement. But it’s equally true for other social media networks.

We all know over-night sensations can be made on Tumblr, Instagram, or Reddit. The democratic quality of these sites makes it easy. Twitter is the only social network that resists that tendency.

Mike then goes on to say, “What bloggers should really fear is needless obscurity.” Mike calls this the plight of the overwhelmingly majority of bloggers.

That got me thinking … what is the plight of the average blogger? Is it obscurity? So I responded in the comments to another of Mike’s posts “What is a blog, anyway?” Here is the full comment:

It’s clear Mashable and GigaOm are publications, and not blogs as you’ve defined them. And I’ll concede and say so is Copyblogger. But it didn’t start out that way.

Clark started it on two posts a week and zero subscribers. The content was his educated opinion on proper, profitable online marketing. It could’ve been on any subject, but the point is it started out small.

As did Mashable. One Scottish man in his bedroom. He wanted to write about what he loved. And get paid to do it.

Which leads me to something you said yesterday: “the plight of the average blogger.” By that I assume you meant obscurity. A dreadful word, indeed, but I’m not so sure it’s the true plight of the average blogger.

You are right: Most people roll out blogs to share their thoughts. Share what they’ve learned. To give life to ideas no one else will pay them to air.

That desire to share their thoughts implies they want attention. This speaks directly into your argument for Google+: it’s hands down one of the best ways to get attention and followers, fast.

On their own domain it may take years to build an audience the size of what they can amass on Google+ in six months.

But is obscurity truly “the plight of the average blogger”? Here’s why I don’t think so.

Most average bloggers would like to be in your position. You have a body of work and experience that commands fees to live a good life off of what you write. But the average blogger doesn’t have that luxury.

He or she must blog around (or during) their obligations, namely work. This sucks, especially when they begin to taste a little bit of success. The average blogger dreams of focusing all of their energies on their blog. In order to do that, however, they need to monetize it (or move in with their parents).

Of course without the attention you don’t have the audience, and without the audience you don’t have the cash-earning opportunity.

Perhaps attention and wage are two sides of the same coin. You certainly can’t have one without the other. So this is why I put emphasis on the monetization aspect. Keep in mind, though, that was only one point out of eight — but not limited to eight — on why I didn’t think G+ was the best blogging platform.
And yes, you can get noticed through your blog and not monetize your site directly with ads (which I do not recommend as a business model) or selling products, digital or physical, yet still earn a living.

That’s exactly what I (and hundreds of others) have done. Mentor contracts, leads, and sublime job offers all have come directly through my work on my blog.

One could probably make a case that that’s possible on Google+, too. But I’ve yet to see a body of evidence, outside of a few home-grown Google+ celebrities, that suggests it’s true. I’m open to correction.

So, I’ll concede to your argument that if expressing yourself through the written word is your goal, then Google+ does make a pretty darn good place to share and gain attention.

But if you have aspirations higher than that — like building a little empire — then grab yourself a domain and a CMS. It will give you a lot more control.

Now let’s look at someone like Maria Popova of Brain Pickings.

This Kills the “Bail on Your Blog for Google+” Argument Dead

She clearly loves what she does. She started from a newsletter moved to a clunky, primitive publishing tool then to the current domain and CMS she uses.

She posts three times a day, five days a week. Her articles are heavy on research — and illustrations (something you can’t do on Google+). These are not push-over posts. In fact, she claims to spend 450 hours a month on her blog. There is no way she could do what she is doing if she didn’t get paid to do it. And it’s clear she wants to keep doing it. One way she keeps the boat afloat is through donations and affiliate links.

So while, yes, obscurity is no fun, if you can’t support yourself, then no amount of popularity can help you balance the demands of life with blogging.

Outside of that, the value of the Brain Pickings domain and the content hosted there is probably worth several hundred thousand dollars. She clearly has a media asset.

And the statement that sucks the life out of any “bail your blog for Google+” argument is summed up by +Brian Clark:

“My response is that copyblogger.com is worth millions by itself, without regard for the product lines. I’ve received 7 figure offers for just the site. What asset is +Mike Elgan left with?”

So, in the end, build the media asset. Use Google+ to glorify it.

If you love what you just read, then subscribe to CopyBot. And follow me on Twitter or Google+.


  1. says

    Hi Demain,

    The debate continues on. Gotta love this Ali/Frazier like drama…

    IMO, both sides (G+ Blogging Vs. Own the Domain Blogging) appear to be at a stalemate. I can see ample evidence that supports Mike’s reasons. I have witnessed people getting more followers and engagement on G+, and at a much quicker rate.

    But there is the undeniable factor of ownership that people like yourself and Brian Clark understandably side with. Anyone can see the benefits of owning your domain and blog.

    But what about this hypothetical scenario: What if Google+ simply added domain name capability and monetization features to their social media platform?

    Game over?

    Or perhaps Copyblogger (or a similar business) should create a new social media platform with all these features together before someone else does…

    Somebody will eventually get the KO…

  2. says

    As a writer, I couldn’t agree with you more, Demian. I’m fiercely loyal to my words and letting someone else own them smacks of betrayal. At least in my head. Heck, I even save all the words I kill when editing or rewriting my own work.

    But here’s how I really figure out what’s best (and it’s just another way of getting to the same conclusion you did):

    “Do I want to be popular or do I want to make money?”

    I don’t waste time trying to figure out how to get both. Life is simpler when you make one choice. And at the end of the day, making money is a lot more satisfying than popularity.

  3. says


    I drink the G+ Kool-aid but are 100% with you on the importance of having your own property. Here is what it comes down to… Google could change all the rules dictating the use of G+ and everything that Mike has done there could be gone in a keystroke.

    Now like you’ve mentioned he as a body of work that will follow him to the next project.

    But for me to dump my site and move to G+ only would be a terrible decision.

    Love the debate.


  4. says

    Too many good points to ask about them all.

    The downfall (or plight) of bloggers is that they want attention, but won’t or can’t put in the time (via guest posting or writing really really valuable stuff) to earn it.

    If you read Clark or Cashmore’s early posts on Wayback Machine, for example, they are pretty stunning. I’d recommend people do that…

  5. says

    I did learn something very true recently and it’s backed up in this post – focus focus focus and don’t let yourself get distracted by everything else trying to get into your head…. Your own property is in my opinion the best way to go….now focus!!

  6. says

    Great post and great debate. Your conclusion line seems most convincing to me. I must admit that I did not even know you could have a blog at Google + until reading your post. But it does make sense for many people with the limitations and concerns that you and the comments mention. Thanks for the insights and the lively debate.

  7. says

    Great post Demian. I think the security of owning your own domain is paramount. It puts you in charge, so you’re not subject to the whims of such an enormous online entity. By hosting your blog on Google+, you’re beholden to Google. An employee if you will. Most bloggers start their websites with the hope of forging successful online businesses. As Brian Clarke points out, by crafting a successful blog, you’re in fact building a saleable asset.

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