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Expertise, Knowledge and Intuition in Blogging

Do you post out of what you know or do you blog intuitively?

On the recommendation of Brian I’ve started reading Ogilvy on Advertising (aff) over the last couple of weeks. It’s a fairly dated book in some respects but it’s fascinating to see how many of the principles have application for blog writing.

Today I read a small section written for advertisers on ‘pursuit of knowledge’ that I thought might be relevant for bloggers writing on specialized niches.

“I asked an indifferent copywriter what books he had read about advertising. He told me that he had not read any; he preferred to rely on his own intuition. ‘Suppose’, I asked, ‘your gall-bladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where to find your gall-bladder, or a surgeon who relies on his intuition? Why should our clients be expected to bet millions of dollars on your intuition?’

This quote got me wondering how many bloggers blog on topics more on intuition than on actual knowledge on the topic they’re blogging on.

Don’t hear me as saying intuition is all bad (one of the beauties of blogging is that you don’t have to be an expert to have a voice) but having a deeper knowledge of your niche is important if you want to communicate with authority and credibility.

Of course reading books is not the only way of gaining knowledge on your topic but I’m interested to hear people reflect on these questions:

How much knowledge do you have on the topics that you write on? Where does your knowledge on your topic come from?

How would I answer the question?

The depth of my own knowledge on the blogs that I’ve written on over the years has varied a fair bit. On some blogs I blogged out of years of experience and quite a bit of knowledge while on others I’ve had a real interest without much actual expertise (and on a few blogs that I’ve let die I’ll admit that I had little interest or knowledge – they were more about trying to make money – the result was that I lost interest very quickly and they died).

In terms of inspiration it again varies from blog to blog but includes:

  • other blogs (tracked via RSS largely)
  • newspapers (online versions usually although we do have one delivered on the weekends)
  • other ‘sites’ (when I write a post on a topic I generally will do a search on Google for the keywords I’m writing about to see what others have written outside of the blogosphere)
  • books (I’m increasingly reading a lot more books and using them as inspiration for posts – this post for example)
  • magazines (I know they’re supposed to be losing ground to online publications but in recent months I’ve been drawn back to them for some reason)
  • personal experience (this is a significant factor in most of my blogs – I like to share what I’m learning and discovering)

Of course when I use a source I give credit back to it (although it can sometimes be a challenge to remember where you learnt something when you’re writing on the topic a few weeks or months later).

PS: I”ll say it one more time – I’m not against the idea of blogging intuitively. I think that most good bloggers blog with a blend of expertise and intuition. Sometimes the best posts come from a hunch instead of deep knowledge of your topic. Knowing when to go with a hunch is a real gift and can be what sets great bloggers apart from ‘good’ knowledgeable bloggers.

How much knowledge do you have on your topics? Where does your inspiration and knowledge come from? How much do you rely upon intuition?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Trevor says:

    A thought provoking post Darren – as usual.

    Intuition only plays a small part in my blogging, in that I sometimes know intuitively what my readers are interested in reading. Feedback through comments is a good guide here.

    On my birding blog http://www.trevorsbirding.com/ I mainly rely on my knowledge base gained over thirty plus years of going out into the field and actually watching birds. A lifetime of experience to draw upon is invaluable and can give one’s writing something of a voice of authority.

    This vast amount of experience is backed up by the same number of years studying books, referring to field guides, reading magazines and participating in forums and newsgroups on the internet over the last ten years. I also attend the local birders monthly meetings but not as frequently as I’d like due to distance.

    My main inspiration comes from what is right in our garden. The constant activity in our garden is a rich lode I mine frequently for inspiration. Wherever I travel I record what I see, drawing constantly on those observations for my blog writing. Most writing books and many articles about writing urge one to Write What You Know.

    What I hope emerges in my writing is a passion for my subject, and a deep desire to share that with my rapidly growing number of readers.

  2. Kris says:

    Well written Trevor,

    For me, both knowledge and intuition is important.

    I write about living in Japan as a Foreigner. That is what defines my blog. The things I learn here in Japan is the knowledge that I share. For that I choose not to do a lot of research in books and magazines because I as a one person blog could never compete with a really knowledge intense site such as wikipedia (to give an extreme example). My knowledge is of course limited, but I know more than someone who does not live in Japan. That is were I provide value for my reader I think.

    Intuition comes in when choosing what to write a post about. For me it would be difficult to blog without being guided by intuition.

  3. Dan Blank says:

    Darren – I think you really hit upon something when you described your own sources for information – there were many across multiple media. I think that new media and information overload has lead many to find a few trusted sources and a few aggregators, and rely on them as the whole story. This could equaly be said for someone who just reads the New York Times and Newsweek as their sources.

    Your approach to sourcing is directly reflected in the depth of your topics and posts.
    Thanks again.
    -Dan

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks Kris.

    I also write a travel blog ( http://www.trevorstravels.com/ ) where I relate my extensive travel experiences in and knowledge of Australia. Last January I spent nearly four weeks trekking and travelling in Nepal and my blogging about that heavily relies upon my experiences while there and reflections upon what I saw and did. I do not call upon a deep knowledge base – though that is growing as I do more reading.

  5. Chase says:

    is this post a hunch?

  6. Nneka says:

    I started my blog on a broad range of topic. I am actively refraining from blogging on the topics that I am not strong in, or for my blog have not demonstrated some degree of competence. Instead what I am doing is sharing how I am gaining competency in those areas.

    My plan is to talk more about them once I gain my experience, knowledge, and competence. In the meantime, I am considering interviews and guest blogging as a way to talk about my weak areas on the site.

  7. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks for sharing your experiences all.

    Was this post a hunch? Hmmm – a hunch based upon reading something in a related area that made sense – so I guess a bit of both.

  8. Gary says:

    Great thought provoker Darren,

    I try to blend what I know with what I feel. With 18 years in the auto industry, I feel I have a certain level of “expertise”. When I go with intuition, it is influenced by my experience.

  9. Ashish Mohta says:

    You got the exact points.Thats what i had been doing since last 10 days.Digging the blogs and seeing how it works and rather why it works.Some of them are still not solved but o well i had never given up.
    Regards
    Ashish

  10. Rebecca says:

    This post has challenged me to use both knowledge and intuition more effectively.

    To answer your question, I am probably the most analytical of the fashion bloggers and most of my knowledge has come from the books I offer on the blog. Some comes from first-hand just puzzling the thing out for myself. My readers constantly challenge me.

    Choosing my topic for any given post or series is where intuition comes in.

    Honestly, I don’t know everything and, as a busy mom, it sometimes takes me longer than I would like to do the research. But there are thousands of personal opinion fashion voices out there. I hope it’s refreshing to have a more objective alternative.

  11. Ron says:

    My point of view is similar to Gary’s above. With 30 years of experience in residential construction I have a pretty good idea of the kinds of information I think will be valuable to homeowners and builders alike, but still happy to wing it on occasion. May refine that approach as I begin to get more feedback and questions from my readers, but probably wouldn’t even be using the blog format if I didn’t have something I felt strongly about.

    I’m just getting started with this format and expect many refinements as time goes on so may answer this question differently in six months. Who knows?

    http://ronsblog.thisoldbuilder.com/

  12. Dee Stewart says:

    Gospel Fiction was created to present the information I knew about both the christian publishing and christian music industries. I’ve worked as a reviewer, marcom writer, and editor for publishing houses and lit journals for over ten years before I became curious about christian fiction publishing. Now I am a Christy Book Awards judge, a public speaker on the craft of writing, have won short story contests in christian fiction. Moreover, I’m a publicist for christian entertainers and ministers, so I get some news first. And particulary when I want to promote my latest magazine article that will appear in a magazine I began to blog about it. Then sneek in a shameless plug. :)