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Becoming a Negative Blogger – How to Let Your Blog Go #7

Let-Your-Blog-GoThis week we’re looking at a variety of ways that bloggers let their blogs ‘slip’ over time. So far we’ve looked at mainly things that are pretty easy to identify – but today I want to look at something that creeps into the attitude of many bloggers over time without them realizing it.

This ‘poison’ comes into most of our lives at one point or another and it has the power to bring our blogs (and lives) to a grinding halt if we’re not careful – it’s the poison of ‘negativity’.

Bloggers have a bit of a reputation for being cynical and grumpy types – however I’m not talking about our occasional rants or critique posts – I’m talking about a condition that creeps into the lives of many bloggers from time to time – ‘Grumpy Old Blogger Syndrome‘.

Before I go on – let me give a small disclaimer. You see there are a number of very successful blogs going around that have a perpetually negative or snarky tone to them. These blogs have build this negativity into their brand and people actually read them because of the voice that they’re written in.

However in my opinion these blogs are the exception and are a rare breed.

Negativity can Kill a Blog for Numerous reasons:

1. It can kill your passion for your topic - If all you ever write about your niche has a negative flavor to it then it’s very easy to become overly cynical and to loose your passion for your topic. Blogs are long term ventures, you need to be able to write on a topic for years before you become established. I don’t know about you but if I was to write something negative every day for a year on any topic I’d be ready to throw that blog in at that point.

2. It creates a culture that readers pick up on – look at the comments section of any successful blog and you’ll learn something about the blogger/s behind the blog. You won’t learn it from the comments that the bloggers leave themselves, but the tone of the comments from readers. Readers pick up on the tone that bloggers write in and mirror it. If you write a negative, angry, snarky blog – expect to see your readers mimic this. Not only this – you’ll find other bloggers pick up the same tone when they write about you. Sure, you’ll get the occasional angry comment on a positively written blog but in the main YOU as the blogger will set the tone for your blog’s community.

3. It can hurt your reputation in your niche – if you are blogging to build your own profile and reputation in your chosen field of expertise then you need to seriously consider the voice that you write in. While the occasional rant can enhance your reputation as a someone who is not afraid to say things like it is – if your blog ‘turns’ and continually take a negative view of the world this can impact the way you’re viewed by others. Personally I look up to and admire those who are constructive with what they say and do more than those who just moan, tear down others and complain.

Tips for Overcoming Negative Blogger Syndrome:

Please don’t hear me as arguing for all bloggers to suddenly become cheesy, sweet, optimistic sorts who only view the world through rose colored glasses. I’m not. What I’m really arguing for is balance. Do write in your own voice, do say things as they are and do not be afraid to critique or rant when the time is right for it – however don’t let your blog become a cesspool of negativity. A few last tips:

Say Something Constructive – before you hit publish on your next post, ask yourself if you’ve said anything constructive that your readers can take away? It doesn’t have to be a happy optimistic post – but have you given your readers something that they can go away and apply? Have you give a solution? Have you added value to their lives in some way? I find that blogs that enhance the lives of their readers are the blogs people keep coming back to again and again.

Have an Accountability Buddy – I have a couple of bloggers that I’ve given permission to pull me up on my own bad behavior on my blogs. Occasionally they’ll email or IM me and ask me about a post that I’ve written on a comment that I’ve made which signaled to them that I’m exhibiting Grumpy Old Blogger Syndrome. More often than not they pick up that I’m in a rut before I do myself.

Take Breaks - My own grumpiness is cyclical and usually is in the inverse to the time off that I have as a blogger. Take vacations, take days off, don’t work all night – look after yourself.

Get it Out – Still feeling negative? Can’t hold it in? Why not have a post once in a while that gets it off your chest. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional negative Rant. In fact when done well they can actually stimulate some great discussion and buzz on your blog. The key is to not let your normally positive blog get all rant like in every post. Focus your negative energy into an occasional rant and then let the rest of your blogging be in your normal style.

Further Reading: For a few more thoughts on how NOT to be a grumpy old blogger.

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. jhay says:

    Another gem of a blog-tip. Positive blogging, in which positive criticisms are the staple is something that could really set a blog apart from the rest.

    Another lesson to remember come my self-evaluation sessions.

  2. I believe that occasional rants add a bit of life into a blog, but balance is required, just like you mentioned.

    Another tip, is you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.

  3. Shanel Yang says:

    This is an interesting problem that I’m encountering mostly when I comment on other people’s blogs. I naturally want to help people so if I think I can help by *ahem* constructively criticizing something in the post, I’m torn between the principles of adding something valuable to the discussion that someone might appreciate and of saying nothing in case it might be viewed as too negative. Like anything in life, it’s a balancing act that I’m constantly working on to improve. ; )

    Great post and tips! Thanks, Darren!

  4. Robert Barr says:

    Negative Blogging-Funny, that’s what my whole blog is based on….I better get a new routine! :)

  5. looking after your self is very important..Its like Stephen Covey’s P/PC balance P-> Production PC-> Production Capacity..Both are important to work..

  6. Let’s all be like Steve Pavlina! What a wonderful world it would be!

  7. Jamesgillesp says:

    Personally I don’t like blogs which are negative or continually rant about topics – especially other blogs they dislike – occasionally it can be refreshing – but there was one very good blog I used to read which recently turned from an interesting blog into a continual rant against another blogger.

    Because of that I lost interest.

    But it can be entertaining!

  8. Gevil says:

    I don’t know that I agree that being “negative” is a blog killer, I think a bad attitude is. If you write against something constantly (in my instance Google) you can develop a “common enemy” relationship with your readers.

    That’s different than having a bad attitude of “everything sucks, you suck, this blog sucks, the world sucks” type posts all the time. No one wants to read a depressing blog on a regular basis.

    So, if you’re going to be negative, I’d suggest setting it up as a common enemy type play, rather than just ranting and raving like a maniac.

  9. Jenn Mattern says:

    I actually have to disagree with this post. Being “negative” isn’t always a bad thing. While I’m not that way on most of my blogs, I am on one in particular – it’s designed to be that way, and the purpose is to call out issues and be aggressive in a way other industry blogs shy away from.

    Contrary to this post, the majority of the comments are usually supportive of what I’m saying or at the very least constructive debates. Only one or two posts have really brought on commenters lashing out – and those posts being ones that have drawn in non-industry readers through search who didn’t understand the context of the posts.

    The blog has also helped to build my reputation among colleagues – not hurt it. And it’s become my highest-traffic blog, a decent earner, and has a constantly growing list of subscribers without a lot of unsubscribing going on.

    As for passion, being snarky keeps me passionate about this blog, and is the reason I didn’t call it quits for good a few months back when I considered it. I’m passionate, because I know that I can say what others might not, because I don’t have to worry about a boss or prospective employers looking over my shoulder. I’ve even gotten quite a few clients because of the blog, where they’ve told me outright that they love tell-it-like-it-is attitude because it’s refreshing.

    I’m not saying I’m the norm – I know I’m probably the exception. I blog on the PR industry, so I can understand how pushing away from the kiss-ass hyped-up tone can be appealing to a lot of readers. It’s not the same for every niche. But I think saying it’s going to kill a blog is a bit short-sighted, and I wouldn’t want to see anyone be discouraged from blogging in a way that fits their niche, audience, personality, and their own blogging goals.

  10. Jenn Mattern says:

    Ah, and in the scannable nature of blog posts, I moved too quickly to your points, and didn’t catch your disclaimer there on a second look. ;) I’m glad to see you’ve already the exceptions – sorry for missing that the first time. I think attitude is just like anything else in blogging – you have to know your audience.

  11. PR NY says:

    A combination of negativity and positivity is more realistic and practical – so long as there is intelligent analysis.

    A blog where comments are basically nothing but ‘good job’, ‘good post’ etc – becomes boring and an obvious attempt to kiss up if it is done constantly.

    Also angry blogs are vexing and really and will usually get the types of people that comment on Digg or Slashdo – angry and unintelligent!

    Usually the best bloggers are the really intelligent ones who seem to attract learned comments:

    Two examples would be the Radar oreilly blog and SEO by the Sea and to smaller degree Techcruch (depending on the reader)

  12. Roger says:

    Darren, I agree with 99% of what you write, but here I’m with Jenn. I think that avoiding negativity for the sake of keeping up appearances (questionably traffic) is counterproductive. It goes against the ethos of blogging, which is to express a personal viewpoint. To have a persistently rosy polyannish perspective is surely unrealistic for any topic. You say that “There’s nothing wrong with an occasional negative Rant.” Right. But to be consistently calculating about it is disingenuous at best, if not dishonest.

    I do get your point. For example, I love Twitter and devote a blog to it. So when Twitter is down or seems poorly managed, it’s hard to take a stick to it. But tough love is sometimes necessary.

    Passion will keep your blog alive, whether or not it’s positive. More important than trying to keep a positive spin is to stick with the basics that you have previously so well articulated on Problogger: keep posts timely, to the point and relevant. And above all speak from the heart.

  13. Jess Gordon says:

    I totally agree. One of the fastest ways to get me to stop reading a blog is to start making negative posts on a regular basis. But luckily that doesn’t happen very often with scrapbooking blogs :).

  14. If “greed” is good then being negative can be good.

    I am a positive person. You can tell by reading my blog posts. But not everything is positive. A healthy dose of negativity at the right time can help.

    The Masked Millionaire

  15. Slevi says:

    I disagree, but you kicked in a disclaimer for that yourself already as well.

    I think negative blogging even if taken to an extreme can be quite successful. The best and meanwhile ‘worst’ example probably is Maddox with his “The best page in the universe”. Going strong since the late 90′s and belongs to the top 7k most visited sites on the net according to Alexa data.

    It really comes down to the way you present it whether it’s a bad thing or not. In Maddox’ case I really couldn’t imagine him taking that 30 foot log from up his arse and start blogging positively, it simply wouldn’t fit his style and definitely would lose my interest for his writings or shall I say ramblings.

    Next to Maddox there’s multiple other great negative bloggers out there as well on various subjects, whether it be life, politics, entertainment, etc.

    It does depend greatly on the genre though, if you belong to the many blog about blogging type of bloggers it’s practically impossible to blog negatively. You’ll lose your current readers as the style changes and new readers will think just one thing: “why still blog if you hate it so much?”

    Begin writing on how much politics within your country suck though and you can pick up quite a solid fanbase, depending on which country you live though you can end up arrested for it as well as seen with various bloggers in countries like Saudi, Egypt, China, etc.

    Write on entertainment and have most of your entries be ratings of music, movies or games good for you you’re writing negative! People who rate movies like 10, definitely a 10!!, 10++, 11/10 like best movie ever!! all the time on their blogs simply suck to read. No not every movie, album or game is perfect, there’s an obvious lack of negativity present on blogs like that.

  16. Sara says:

    Timely–I was kinda ranty today and questioned myself before I hit the publish button. I go by gut ratio. When was the last time I remember posting something kind of negative? If it was in the last week or two, I’ll probably hold off.

    It can also be really fun to write an angry post, let it sit, then pull the key points into a more proactive post. All of the passion, none of the whining.

  17. Ed says:

    Agree with of a lot of what Jenn and Slevi have said. Although I photoblog, mainly music/concerts, I do try to write something meaninful to accompany the photos and give a personal view of the concert. Sometimes it’s postive, sometimes it’s not.

    When you look at mainstream reporting of music/concerts, both in print and online, so much of the time there’s a real lack of critical assessment and way too much fawning. I prefer personal blogs where bloggers take the time to be constructively critical and try to justify their views, whether the liked something or hated it. As such I don’t see negativity as a bad thing and think that it can show real passion for the blogger’s topic/niche.

  18. Jess says:

    hey Darren…can you please write something about being a humourous blogger?

    I wrote a blog recently – “what beading can reveal about your personality – take the test”

    The blog was supposed to be a joke. But I think my style of humour is perhaps not cross-cultural or something…I don’t know. I’m worried it has turned out to be a negative blog – when in fact its supposed to be funny. I’d hate to think that I offended people.

    jess

  19. blogversary says:

    This is such a true thing about negative blogs. I like the idea of having a blog manifesto wherein one thing is keeping your blog kind.

    I try when writing any post to ask myself, “Is this at all inspiring or more on the whiny side?” I try to stay away from whiny and being too judgmental.

  20. blogversary says:

    This is such a true thing about negative blogs. I like the idea of having a blog manifesto wherein one thing is keeping your blog kind.

    I try when writing any post to ask myself, “Is this at all inspiring or more on the whiny side?” I try to stay away from whiny and being too judgmental. I have two kids, they whine enough. :)

  21. Occasionally a complainathon does have its place, and as you say, Darren, some negative blogs seem to work.

    The merits and demerits of a complainablog can also depend upon the subject matter – if the blogger is complaining about serious issues that need complaining about, they will carry their audience with them. On the other hand if its just one long moan about nothing, readers will quickly depart.

    A program appeared on TV here in the UK called “Grumpy Old Men”, which was closely followed by “Grumpy Old Women”, which consisted of a lot of middle-aged-ish sort of people complaining their little hearts out over very minor things. It was enough to make me want to chuck a brick through the telly. But I guess some peeps like that sort of thing?

  22. This is great advice here. Unfortunately many bloggers do not realise this.

    Having a site is like owning a shop. What feel would you like to convey? Positive and inspiring or negative and off putting? Many times, I have left sites in a split second, that are filled with too much profanities and anger against the whole world.

    Evelyn

  23. Serge says:

    Darren, my first two attempts of blogging in 2005 and early 2007 went adrift because of my rather cynical attitude towards life, society and work. I hadn’t outlined a specific goal. In June 2007 a friend of mine pointed me on my attitude and gave me some good advice about blogging. Thanks to him I got to know Problogger and started reading lots of your articles. In July 2007 I started a new blog about photography which still exists today, and so far without posting one negative article or comment!

  24. babyfuzz says:

    Hi! Thank you for your insight. I’m very obsessive and idealistic which makes it hard for me to focus on one topic only. I feel relived after reading this: “Blogs are long term ventures, you need to be able to write on a topic for years before you become established.”

    I feel totally lost and don’t know where my blog is going because a lot is going on in there. I love reading your articles. Good luck and keep posting!