Blogging: “Longform” or “Sound Bite”?

I’ve read several articles on how to write good blog posts, but I freely admit that I’ve tended to go my own way.  Of course, that may mean that I’ve also lost out on followers.  There are a couple of things most articles recommend that I’d like to take a look at, though.

Divide it up

It’s always suggested that long posts be split up by using subheadings.  Now, I can actually say that I have done this, on occasion.  However, there are times when I feel that doing this would be intrusive and break the flow too much.  Subheadings are all very well if the content of the post is suited to them.  This post, for example, can use them to highlight each point of discussion.  In other posts, I believe that it would just annoy readers to put in what would amount to be arbitrary subheadings!  In a book, paragraphs work very nicely.  I’ve happily never read a book which has every paragraph preceded by a subheading (other than some manuals).  They effectively create mini-chapters, and I see no value in changing the writing practices of centuries of authors to accommodate a perception of the modern reader in which they can’t cope with anything more than snippets.  Perhaps I’m wrong and the impact of television’s penchant for “sound bites” has damaged everybody’s minds, making it impossible for the vast majority to cope with anything of length.  I find it interesting, however, that, despite the “sound bite culture”, documentary makers are still finding plenty of audiences.  Surely the television documentary is “longform”?

Images, give them images!

Yes, many of those advising on good blogging want blogs to contain images, and even videos, to “jazz up” the look and to draw the eye, and hence the mind, into the blog’s content.  Now, I’ve used images, but I’ve again tended to restrict them to where I think they are appropriate or genuinely attractive or fun.  You can see that this post has none.  Personally, I think there are times when pictures are a distraction.  Worse, some blogs use them in a way that can only be described as “dishonest”, as the images they lead with are frequently irrelevant to the posts.  There are times when I see some stunning images on blogs, only to discover that they may prettify but they don’t support or inform.  Just where is the value in that?  Would this post have any greater validity if I had led with a stunningly beautiful photograph of a landscape?  I seriously doubt it!

Honest values

This is my own view of what a blog should be about!  A blog post should present honest views above all else.  It doesn’t matter whether the writer is correct or not, as long as they truly believe what they’re saying.  Obviously, I don’t intend this to mean that blogs should be used to present attitudes of hat, such as racism or sexism.  Controversy for its own sake, used knowingly and often despite the real views of the writer, has no great value.  “Playing Devil’s advocate” on some issue is fine, if it’s part of a full exploration of a subject, balanced by the opposing view.  Using it to inflame readers and thereby push up the number of views and comments is dishonest.  I believe that a blog writer gains a better, more substantial, reputation by demonstrating fairness and honesty.  Those who employ controversy often devolve into spouting hatred and insults at all and sundry, losing any message they might once have had.

I can’t know whether I’m getting it right!  All I can do is to be true to myself.  I take comfort in the knowledge that I believe what I’m saying.  For example, if I write a book review, then it’s an honest review, not just an exercise in flattery, or the reverse.

~ Steve