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My Search for the Perfect Cafe [And What it Taught Me about Blogging]

Warning – Tangent Ahead…

As I’ve been Twittering lately, I’m currently on a search for a good local cafe to blog from.

While there are plenty of cafes in the area we’ve moved to – this morning’s ‘cafe crawl’ showed me that it could be more of a challenge than one might think to find one to call ‘home’. I visited 4 (I’m buzzing on coffee now) and none of them really hit the mark.

Good Cafe Good Blog

As I went from one cafe to another I started to compare my search for a new cafe to blogging (as I tend to do). In particular I began to think of how it might compare to a reader finding a blog to read.

Here’s a few random thoughts on what I want in a cafe and what blog readers might be looking for in a blog:

I want a Cafe (Blog) With a Friendly Welcome

At the first cafe I visited this morning I was greeted by the waitress with a grunt. Not a good start and something that I couldn’t really get over despite other nice things about the establishment. First impressions matter in most aspects of life and whether it be a cafe or a blog, it’s owner needs to consider how those entering it feel. While a cafe can be a more personal space than a blog where readers stay a little more anonymous – some bloggers write in a much more friendly and personal style.

I want a Cafe (Blog) with Good Coffee (Content)

the primary thing that I go to a cafe for is my drug of choice – caffeine. While I’m no coffee snob, I do like a good latte and if I don’t find one I tend to move on. If a cafe can’t get it’s core business on the mark it might as well give up in my mind. A blog’s core business is it’s content and if it can’t get that right – well what’s the point? You can work on your blog’s aesthetics, SEO or other aspects as much as you like – but unless you deliver on the content front – you’ll never get anywhere.

I want a Cafe (Blog) with Consistency

when I visit a cafe I don’t want to have a good experience of the food, coffee and service one day and a poor one the next. I want to know when I go through that door that I’ll get a certain standard every time. A blog needs to establish a certain level of consistency also. This doesn’t mean it becomes ‘bland’ – but rather readers like to know what they’ll get when they visit both in terms of topic and quality. While creativity, the odd off topic post and a few surprises can add a little spice to a blog – the majority of blog readers do like consistency and will become frustrated with a blog that goes all over the place.

I want a Cafe (Blog) that is Affordable and Accessible

I don’t mind paying for a coffee, good service and a good atmosphere – but a cafe doesn’t need to be a fine dining experience and if it costs me too much I’ll find a more affordable option. Some blogs ‘cost’ their readers too much – they ask their readers to jump through too many hoops to participate in them. For example, one pet peeve of mine are blogs that require me to register to comment. While I understand the pressure of comment spam, putting this barrier in front of your readers will cause many of them to refrain from participating.

I want a Cafe (Blog) where my Needs are Met

in one cafe I visited today the owner greeted me in a friendly manner, gave me some personal attention and showed me to a table (good start). Unfortunately it went down hill from there. I asked if I could use the power point under my table to charge my laptop and he frowned and muttered something about how he doesn’t run a net cafe. I asked for a glass of water with my coffee and he told me that they only serve bottled water (I think that that’s illegal here). Later on I asked if they had a bathroom for customers – they didn’t (he told me frostily). My needs were not met – I won’t return. A blog needs to meet the needs of it’s readers also. While you can’t meet every need that every person has – you can go a long way to give readers value for the time they spend with you.

I want a Cafe (Blog) where I Don’t Feel Out of Place

I’ve been spoilt. Until last week I was living in a fairly inner city suburb where there were a lot of cafes that I felt at home in. People like me (whatever that is) sat on the tables around me. The music was the kind of stuff I listened to. The whole vibe was a lot more on my level. Today’s cafes were…. different. It’s the suburb we’ve moved to and no fault of the cafes really. We’ve moved to a middle suburb (in the East of Melbourne) where lots of older people and families live. The result is that the cafes serve an older type of customer, the music is ‘golden oldies’, the staff are coming from a different place. Now I’ll emphasize again that this isn’t the cafe’s fault (and I do like ‘older people’ – but it illustrates that people do like to find places to hang out that they feel at home in and where they have a perception of ‘fitting in’. A blog can’t appeal to every person – but there are ways of appealing to readers, being inclusive and highlighting that they are not alone. Create spaces on a blog for readers to interact and they’ll feel a sense of community that can convert them to be loyal readers.

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. At least you’re in Melbourne where there’s an abundance of cafe’s to choose from, good analogy too..

  2. So it looks like you’ve found a new unserviced niche (hip cafe in a middle suburb). That’s a blogging lesson too. :)

  3. acca says:

    That’s great comparison. And it’s oviously you like to blog from cafe, as you said in another post :)

  4. Blogguebo says:

    Very nice parable, Darren. :) Love the idea.

  5. Markus says:

    That’s really a great comparison. You wrote that in one of the cafés mentioned above? :)

    Here in Germany it’s not very difficult to find a nice café, but it’s not common to go there with your laptop. But recently more and more people with pc’s in Starbucks and McCafé.

    I hope you found a nice place to drink your coffee.

    Best Regards

    Markus

  6. Good luck on your café search!
    (Great article too!)

  7. WTL says:

    I can certainly understand your troubles – while there are a few decent cafes in my area, they *all* seem to play music too loudly, which makes the patrons who are conversing speak rather loudly.

    Most fortunately, I have an understanding with a close-by pub where I can hang out for hours, merrily working and watching the world go by.

  8. Kevin says:

    Great points. Funny, I am in the process of doing the same, evaluating the local coffee cafes and looking for the right fit.

  9. Patrick says:

    I also linked blogging with a cosplay cafe, keke.

    http://fma-anime.org/blog/?p=235

  10. Arjewtino says:

    It’s also pretty awful when the cafe (blog) takes forever to tend to you (makes the RSS button hard to find), burns the coffee (spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes), and offers stale pastries (old content).

    This analogy can go on and on and on…

  11. Mr. Meninga says:

    Nice analogy!

    There is quite a few cafes around my area, but they are almost all cookie-cutter chain type cafes. Nothing original to inspire anymore.

    I think to some extent, people have become used to taking the internet style coffeehouse for granted. The idea used to have such a neat appeal to it, and now it has become a bit overdone.

    What we really want perhaps is that hidden gem…the perfect coffeehouse that somehow doesn’t become popular….

  12. Hi Darren,
    And then, of course, you’ll want to check out the virtual cafes, won’t you? Cuppa Joe would love to invite you to get the coffee scoop and listen to some cool music at his blog. Cuppacinjoe is man of the froth who enjoys his zany taste of coffee with friends. You’re welcome to stop by anytime :-)
    Thanks.

  13. Frugal Dad says:

    I visited a new establishment today, sort of a high-end sandwich place with a small bakery and selection of coffees, etc. I grabbed a small cup of Seattle Roast and connected to the free Wi-Fi (my main reason for visiting). I was soon surrounded by a large group of elderly ladies just back from a weekly bible study. The conversation bounced back and forth from politics to the results of their husband’s colonoscopy – and I had forgotten my headphones. Needless to say, it was tough to stay focused!

  14. Scuse me waiter, but what if i don’t drink coffee?

    :P

  15. Caryn says:

    Some excellent points. I especially liked the one about making blogs accessible to readers. This afternoon I visited an interesting new blog. It was well-designed, had content I would enjoy reading on a regular basis, and seemed friendly. Only thing was, every single blog post showed only a few sentences on the first page, and required me to click on a link to see the rest of the post. Once on the post, there was no next/last post to make surfing easier, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except for every post I wanted to read I had to go back out to the main site and then click on the link for that particular post. Such a pain! Another site listed only one post on the main page, and the archives were very difficult to navigate. If I’m shopping for blogs to add to my feed reader, I want to be able to read a few posts so that I can see that the content is applicable to me, well-written, and consistent. If it’s difficult to navigate, I’m just not willing to take that time.

  16. Love the analogies Darren. I especially agree with the hassle of having to register to post a comment being a turn off for a blog.

    Hope you soon find a new “home”/cafe to your liking!

  17. Learn SEO says:

    This reminds me like 4-5 years ago when I used to go on cafe’s. But my pick to find the proper cafe was not to be quiet or the owner to be friendly, it was mainly to take-over the cafe (a bunch of punks is what we were, of course in a friendly way). Where we could stay late even after the closure of the cafe, prepare our own coffee and even use 2 computer at a time (yeah, referring to net cafe’s).

    I have to admit, even tho mostly was waste of time spent infront of the computers where i started first coding on mIRC scripts and addons..it was the place where i started everything, and with fun.

  18. Chris says:

    Spot on. To continue the analogy, the food and price can be fantastic, but if the service lacks that’s what sticks in my mind.

  19. Robin says:

    Hey Darren – have you moved to Box Hill or something?!! Shoulda stayed in North Fitzroy (I noticed your PO Box) :-)
    …I suppose Fairfield is too far away for you
    Cheers, Robin

  20. Rob says:

    Hey Darren – I’m a fellow Melbournian and know you’re really spoilt for choice. It sounds like you may have headed more towards Hawthorn, Kew or Malvern, in which case there’s some great ones in Glenferrie Rd (Hawthorn) or High Street (Malvern/Armadale). I’m probably telling you stuff you already know though.

    But I’m addicted to this blog which goes one step further – searching for the best eggs – http://thebreakfastblog.blogspot.com/

    Good luck.

  21. Tech Slice says:

    It’s hard not to find a good cafe in Melbourne.

  22. He he he, I wrote a similar post just the other day called 5 Ways Blogging is Like Running a Cafe. What do they say about great minds?!

  23. Jon Griffith says:

    Good advice, and follows the same advice that one reads in books like the E-Myth Revisited.

    There’s a local coffee shop in my area (Scottsdale, AZ) called INZA, which really has only one thing going for it. It has free WIFI. Mind you, I’d never mooch the wi without chuggin’ a vat o’ ffeine, but having free WIFI will capture my business before pay-per-use WIFI will.

    The problem I find with INZA is that they don’t fulfill the rest of the picture as you outlined in your article. There’s no consistency, there’s no welcome (until you’ve been coming there for a while), there’s limited power for laptops, and the service isn’t that great.

    I have looked on some of the wifi spots on the net and I can’t seem to find an authority that’s accurate on the current state of WIFI in Scottsdale, AZ. I’d love to know from anyone out there if they know of some excellent coffee shops that are modeled after the bullet points above…

    http://www.executiveapprentice.com

  24. Kelley says:

    I have been reading you for a while but today’s post moved me to comment.

    Seems you have been reading my thoughts. Pulling some freaky ninja moves to extract exactly what I was thinking today in an office surrounded by people.

    But you put it so much better than me. The post in my head was full of profanity, but the coffee was better.

  25. Caitlin says:

    Darren, could you please tell me how I can change my blog so that you don’t have to be registered to comment? I can see from my traffic stats that people sometimes go to the comments page (even when it’s empty) but don’t go on to leave a comment. I love getting comments!

    If I alter this then what are my alternatives for dealing with spam? I get a fair bit of spam already and I am afraid that the problem will get worse. Do you know where I could get a plug-in for word verification for example?

    I use WordPress.org.

    Thanks.

  26. BW says:

    Excellent analogy.

    You raised a lot of interesting points in this post. I especially agree with the ‘registering to comment’. That is a big ‘turn off’ to me.

    Hope you find you coffee spot – maybe you need to diversify into the blog cafe experience!

  27. Darren Rowse says:

    Robin and Rob – yes I moved away from cafe heaven (North Fitzroy) out East. Not too far from Box Hill actually – good guess.

  28. Darren Rowse says:

    Caitlin – I find that the plugin Akismet catches most spam pretty well. Here at ProBlogger I also mark any first time commenters to go to the moderation queue. Seems to work for me and I’m getting hundreds of comments a day.

  29. Miracle says:

    You’ve stolen my secret Darren haha.

    I just recently redesigned my blog to have a coffeeshop feel to it.

    Good luck on your search for a good coffee shop.

  30. Sangesh says:

    Hey Darren, you’ve got a great sense of humor ;)

  31. Adam Snider says:

    I can’t stand blogs that make me register in order to comment, either. Probably 99% of the time, if a blog requires me to register in order to comment, I won’t comment. My opinion on the subject at hand has to be VERY strong for me to take the time to register in order to comment. Most times, I’ll simply move on, and not ever come back to that blog.

  32. Darren Rowse,

    You are welcome to visit Blue Chip Café & Business Center in Gothenburg, Sweden.

    You will get a friendly welcome. I have learned from my time in America. Good customer service. We have a guest book you could sign if you want. We know several of our customers by name. (I have got friends with some of my blog readers, and I will try to meet several of them when I visit America next time.)

    We have good coffee from Italy (a mix of Robusta and Arabica). I am not a professional barista, although I am member of an European specialty coffee association. (I personally think my blog content is pretty good, but I want to get constructive criticism and feedback.)

    We have affordable prices. We trade value for value. You have a good margin on tea and coffee, so be prepared that you could get a special price on other things if you are a club member. We want repeat and loyal customers. (You have to register to comment on my EGO blog, but you could use a openID if you want.)

    We could meet your need and we strive to exceed your requirements with services including e.g. free WLAN for our customers, water if you ask (it is common to drink water with coffee in Italy), outlets for charging your mobile phone, hooking up your laptop, etc. We have office services as copier machine, fax, conference area, package courier and so on. (I want my blog to become a start page for your net surfing.)

    We want our customers to feel at home and at work at the same time. Blue Chip Café & Business Center wants to be “the third place” (after your home and your office). We have mix of young and older people, entrepreneurs, employed and job seekers. I like to play music from the 20′s – 30′s. You get in a good mood listening to this kind of music. We have had jazz sessions, classical music, blue grass, etc. (I really want to interact with my blog readers by comments, email, Twitter, Mixx, etc. I have guest bloggers now and then.)

    Darren Rowse: This business idea could serve an universal need. At the historical coffee-houses you had an outlet for what you are asking for. We want to become a modern version of an historical coffee, with our own twist to it. We will create an online community for our members, so they could both interact in cyberspace and in “meat space” (physical meeting place)…

    Could we continue the discussion? Please contact me.

    http://claimid.com/lyceum

    All the Best,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in Spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden

  33. I totally cannot believe one of the cafes you went to had no washroom?! I only have three letters for that: WTF! How can a cafe not have a washroom?! What goes in must come out! WTF!!! I can’t emphasize “WTF” enough. A business that serves beverages most definitely needs a washroom; you should’ve done it Adam Sandler style and took a leak outside his front door (after paying and packing up your things, of course).

    Anyway, good post about cafes and blogs!

  34. shawn says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. I really enjoy how resourceful your blog is and continue to refer to you as a source of creativity!

  35. Frank says:

    Great post Darren, live in Geelong , work in Melbourne, just around the corner from Lygon St. (best coffee in Oz maybe)

    Was thinking about your other post re $$….string of thought….. live in great area, excellent local facilities, comfort zone, work hard, success, move to new, bigger house, still have to work hard to pay mortgage, out of comfort zone, can’t find good coffee place, sad but excited about new challenges, find new coffee place- all is good in the world!

  36. Caitlin says:

    Thanks for the tip, Darren. Someone else has mentioned Akismet as well so I definitely need to check it out pronto.

    However, I still can’t see where in WordPress software I can make the site open for anyone to comment. I have gone to options >> discussion to change the settings but as far as I can see I’ve checked the box that says anyone can comment.

  37. Analogies aside, I actually got kicked out of a cafe the other day in Portland, OR, for being there [blogging] too long. I asked the barista (owner) what the limit was, and she said ’3 hours per cup of coffee’. That’s fine, except the place was completely empty, and I was considering frequenting the place. Or maybe that does fit the analogy?

    Ah, the hard life of working from coffee shops…

  38. Ah – now I shudder to wonder how our coffee this morning ranked then ?!!

  39. Nickie says:

    What an excellent post! So much of this is what I want in a blog or cafe, too. It’s interesting that when I look at the blogs I read, most of them do satisfy some of these needs. Thanks for the analogy, which I plan to use to improve my own blog.