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Types of Blogs – Can we Categorize Them?

I just received the following question about categorizing blogs from Ann Handley (from MarketingProfs) that I thought would make a good discussion starter.

“A few weeks ago, Chris Brogan (writing on Shannon Paul’s blog) talked about the importance of being consistent on your blog.

Some blogs, like my personal blog Annarchy are “craft blogs,” Chris wrote. While others, like Brian Solis’s — and this one at ProBlogger — require regular and consistent updating, a constant “pulse” of information.

Which made me wonder, what are the types of blogs?

Can we categorize blogs by type of content they consistently produce — for example, news (like Drudge or Huffington), commentary and opinion, essay or “craft,” and the like? What say you?”

Over to you!

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. Ryan McLean says:

    Blogs are blogs lets get that right first.
    I think blogs can be based into their categories.
    Like you can have a make money online blog, or a gossip blog, or a hobbies blog.
    Blogs will always still be blogs but I believe you categorize them according to what their content is about. For example my blog is a make money online blog. That is it’s category

  2. Sid Savara says:

    I think for popular, for lack of a better for “mainstream” blogs in their niche this is definitely true. ProBlogger is an interesting breed though – there is definitely pulse type information, but you also put out “flagship” (to steal Chris’ description) content, relatively timeless posts.

    I would say ProBlogger for the average subscriber is defined now more as for keeping up to date on what’s going on: the HowTos etc are great for first time readers, and a bonus for the regulars.

  3. I dont think we should categorize our blogs, I mean I would love to just blog about whatever I want to, but most of my blogs are about me art, dose that mean I have an art blog? and whats an art blog?

  4. grechen says:

    interesting question…but i don’t think you have to have either a “news” blog or a “crafty” blog. i have three blogs, one is ONLY a “news” blog – it’s updated several times a day as soon as new information comes in. The other two are more like magazines – with a combination of articles or analysis (crafty posts) and quick informational posts. i am currently struggling to find a balance between these “short” and “long” posts, as the long posts take a lot out of me!! and i think my visitors will get tired quickly of too much hard-hitting analysis lol. all in all, i think you can have one or the other, or combination blogs quite successfully.

  5. A Dawn says:

    I hear what you saying. I write on a variety of topics ranging a wide array of subjects. Although my main niche is Personal Finance, there are articles, pictures, videos nowhere related to personal finance. I try to balance personal finance and non-personal finance articles (including pictures and video clips) on a weight of 50 by 50 percent, or 40 by 60 percent, or something like that. Should it still be called a personal finance blog or something else?
    Cheers,
    A Dawn
    http://www.adawnjournal.com

  6. Ann Handley says:

    Thanks Ryan and Sid.

    @Ryan –I think we are talking about two different kinds of categorization. I’m wondering about the kind of content — news, or commentary, or essay, or photo. You seem to be talking about the subject categorization. Also another way to categorize — and a more common way, I guess. Or possibly I’m reading you wrong? Regardless, thanks for chiming in.

    @Sid — Problogger is a hybrid, it seems, or both commentary and how-to. Well said.

  7. Ann Handley says:

    @the famous — Actually, I would describe your blog as more of a diary/personal blog. You write about Art, certainly. But you more seem to write about what’s happening in your life, with your art.

  8. Andrew says:

    Depends on the metaphorical knife you use to slice them up.

    You could divide on the basis of specialist or generalist, profit intentions (direct, indirect, or none), personal vs professional or by subject matter (and further slices within each grouping).

    You could use post frequency as a meaningful divider, or background colour as a (probably) meaningless one.

    Open comments or closed comments? WordPress or blogger? Primary language, quality of writing, whatever.

    What really matters for the reader, however, is “does this interest me consistently”, so I’m of the opinion that the divider is on the classic Robert Prisig subject of subjective quality.

  9. Neil Duckett says:

    the famous memo – then it would just be a ‘personal blog’ then i guess … which is a big broad category.

  10. Luke Westlie says:

    I feel that blogs fall into certain “ruts”. For instance, one of my favorite blogs, toptut.com, usually posts new content 2-3 times a week as opposed to everyday. I find that the content however is much more dense, creative, and clean. Whereas blogs like engadget, tuaw, and the like just pump out press releases and nothing to creative. I never expect anything “WOW” worthy from sites like engadget, tuaw, news.com. It’s sites like problogger and toptut that I go to for my creative and personal dose of content

  11. Ann Handley says:

    @grechen Great point! I don’t think most blogs are only one category – although my personal blog is exclusively essays. I’m sure a lot of blogs would be hybrids.

  12. Like you, I’m a little torn. Personally, I’ll judge a blog as being consistent based on the content (food, fashion etc) rather than the layout (news, tuts etc).

    Even personal blogs have common themes and a particular voice that needs to be maintained in order to be deemed ‘consistent’ or unique to keep me tuned in.

    I guess it’s a matter of me categorising the blog for myself; ‘I read this to find new recipes’ or ‘I like how X describes things’ rather than blogs categorising themselves for the public.

  13. Shane says:

    You could spends hours of time categorizing blogs but what is the point? For example, I write in the travel niche and my posts tend to be informative rather than opinion based. Would that make me a news/travel/destination blogger? Should I care how I my blog categorized?

    Regardless of categorization, a blog is about providing information, creating a community and having a conversation – more or less so depending on more on your style than on any categorization. What is more important, in my opinion, is identifying your core audience and using that information to help refine what you write about to serve that audience better.

  14. Of course we can: the blogs I read and the blogs I don’t read. Easy, huh? :P

    Now, like Ann and grechen said, it’s easier/better to categorize based on different “qualities”. Based on the post-length: short, medium, boring. Based on the content originality: original, regurgitating, copycat. Based on the “type of posts”: essays, news, rants. And on, and on.

    And that’s how you may end up (I hope you don’t) reading a regurgitating boring rant in a blog. :)

  15. eric tan says:

    I Agree with Sid. Some blogs will be talking about any topic… other blogs will be focused on one topic like what Ryan said… Categorized or not, as long as there is a market for that blog, then it will be read.

  16. Carole Cohen says:

    I’ve heard people refer to personal blogs, business blogs, aggregator blogs. And I know when I’ve signed up on sites to list my blog they ask me, frequently, what type is it. Recently this happened on the site to register my blog for blog action day. So yes, they can and are being categorized. I think that is fine, and I also think it doesn’t limit the blogger to only blogging about one thing or one category. At least that is how I see it.

  17. Ann Handley says:

    @shane: The only reason I think about this is for the exact reason to state: by knowing what you are, you can refine your work to serve your audience better. It’s likely less relevant for established blogs with an experienced writer and established pattern, but I think it’s a good question for new bloggers to ask themselves: Most people know the topic they want to blog about, but fewer think about how they will shape the content to fit it. And frankly, it’s been a question I’ve been asking myself sometimes… is [any given topic] appropriate for my blog? Why or why not?

    Anyway, I meant this purely as an informational exercise, that’s all. Thanks for chiming in.

  18. Lee Erickson says:

    I think there’s room for many different types of blogs because there are many different types of readers. Categories can relate to topics, style, news, opinion, etc.

    I do think that categorization can help readers who are looking for specifics types of content. For example, best B2B Marketing blogs, best Healthcare IT blog, best I love Dogs blog.

    For our company being seen in a specific category is what we want. I’d describe our category as B2B tech marketing.

    By sticking to a specific category and providing relevant content we hope it helps our target audience find us.

  19. Saurabh says:

    Can’t say for sure, but we can categorise blogs. But in which category my blog comes then?

  20. FixThePig says:

    Yes you can easily put blogs into categories, but who really cares what category your blog falls into if you have a successful readership and dedicated users?
    Is there really any advantage to determining what category your blog falls into?

  21. Ann Handley says:

    Hi FixThePig — see my comment above.

  22. I think that blogs can be categorized. The two most obvious are the personal (we)blog where people talk about things that only they and their close friends/family would actually care about. The other are information/news blogs that stick to a certain topic, and keep people coming back to stay up to date on topic of choice.

  23. kazari says:

    The problem with web categorisation, I think, is that it’s fractal. Each category has other categories, some of which overlap… it could be entirely possible to invent a category that only had one unique blog in it…
    for example:
    Food blogs.
    - chef’s blogs
    - food photography blogs
    - Recipe blogs
    – vegan recipes
    – frugal recipes
    – cupcake recipes
    —vegan cupcake recipes
    —vegan cupcake recipes with awesome photos
    - restaurant review blogs
    - how-to food blog
    - food event blogs

    And each of these categories could include blogs that are professional, or amateur, updated weekly/monthly/hourly, be humourous,or personal, or aggregated.

  24. robde says:

    The content provided and the community serviced defines the blog category. I don’t think you should define by content type but by the product it provides.

  25. Sarah H. says:

    Nice points kazari.

    I think that blogs can be categorized, but they shouldn’t feel forced to always remain in that rigid category. Categorizing your blog helps identify your overall purpose (which is helpful to new visitors especially), but of course the very nature of a blog is to be a little loose and flexible, right? I love categorization because it helps my my mind wrap around things better, but the problem with categorization is that it creates limitations.

  26. IDoBlogs says:

    Okay, may sound wierd but I’m a pastor/preacher, and I got a C on a preaching test once because my sample sermon points didn’t flow out of my main idea and topic. I got off track. I think a blog is a bit like that – you might cover multiple categories, but those multiple categories should surround a main thought or theme. So for me, yes, my audience determines, in part, whether I go blog style or magazine style and whether I monetize the blog or not – some blogs shouldn’t be monetized because of the type of blogs they are. Those are my thoughts.

  27. timmyjohnboy says:

    I think readers need categories to help them find the content they are looking for. For instance, when I am looking for blogging advice, I read problogger.net. If I were looking for political opinions, I’d look for political blogs on any of the news sites available. If I wanted craft ideas for my church’s Jr. church program, I’d look for a craft-type blog.

    Personal blogs are a little different because they tend to be more, I guess you could say diversified. For instance, I have a personal blog because I wanted a personal outlet of the things that interest me and I’d love to meet friends with similar interests.

  28. Thomas says:

    There are some blogs, like mine, that might fit into several categories. I generally categorize my blog into writing, photography, or website design. That’s why I’m such a big fan of tags.

    Blogging is a new technology that is still in a state of constant evolution. Only time will tell when someone is able to create meaningful and/or descriptive categories for them.

  29. Ann Handley says:

    This is a great conversation here, folks. Thanks so much.

    I’m looking less for tags and subject categories than I am for types of writing categories. For example, would you describe your blog as how-to, commentary, or essay, or photo, or video. In other words, you might write about animals in Texas: But HOW? “How to rope a steer?” (How to) or “Rodeos Should Be Outlawed” (commentary) or “Days at the Rodeo: A Clown’s Life” (essay)

  30. clarke says:

    I like things the way they are. I think post’s should categorized, not blogs. I don’t mind categorizing a post, but I would prefer not to completely classify my blog as “this” or “that.” I enjoy the freedom a blog gives me to write however I choose.

  31. TheAndySan says:

    Great question! I think that all blogs can be catagorized. The big problem with some personal blogs (*cough*mine*cough*) is that the writer tends to speak about a variety of things. To horribly paraphrase an Einstein quote:

    “Personal blogs are merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”

    I see that even personal blogs today strictly follow a main topic or focus. Abstract topics like “my life” and “my hobbies” don’t seem to last long or go very far in the blogosphere because they can be narrowed down to a profitable niche. What was once your “my hobbies” blog becomes solely an “vintage exotic car rims collection” blog. Remember your old “my life” blog? That’s now just another “how to make money online and quit your day job” blog. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I read a lot of them and enjoy what they have to say!

    The point that I’m trying to make here is that it seems the personal blog has become obsolete. In this day of “the niches rule and generalists are fools”, is there really such a thing as a personal blog? And can it make at least a little money on the side?

    TheAndySan
    http://www.theandysan.com

  32. I still don’t know what category my blog belongs too.. It’s supposed to be a Technology blog, but I occasionally post blogging tips and jokes on the weekend O_o

    So yeah, the categories on the blog are quite a mess up lol. I guess that’s why I never have a good amount of feed subscribers (it’s too varied)

  33. I suppose we can.

    I do wonder how people would categorize my blog.

  34. Potato Chef says:

    I have two blogs. One does not have a category. It is like a shotgun blast. I ramble everywhere with it.

    The second, Potato Patch Recipes, has a definite category, Potato Recipes.

    Is having a category important? It depends what you are after.

    If you are just interested in readers..then just be interesting or entertaining.

    If you want to make money, then I suggest that you focus on one category.

  35. cb says:

    I don’t think there’s any need to over-categorise. Something is useful/interesting to me – or it isn’t. Those are the only categories I need :)

  36. L-Jay says:

    I’m a big fan of categorization. I want to be able to find books in a library. I like to know what species an animal is. And I like having country names, city names, streets names and numbers so I can find my way around this world.

    I’m amazed that so many ‘savvy computer geeks’ (meaning you actually know what a blog is) are so subjective about categorization. Computers, data, information exists only because we can categorization them. The first existence of a blog is its website address – categorization.

    I think some bloggers misunderstand what categorization is. When we talk about categorizing a blog we are actually talking about genre. The Arts are the ones that use genre – e.g. film: Sci-fi, Drama, Action, fantasy, etc. This doesn’t mean you can’t have sub-genres and also cross-genres (Star Wars for instance – a western-sci-fi). Genres just group certain attributes together to create a universal understanding.

    A universal understanding is what makes us connected. ;)

  37. Shane says:

    I think that blog categorization is done for us by search engines like Google when they index our sites based on tags, key words, etc.

    Personal categorization is good in so far as it helps you to stay focused on your chosen topic. Global categorization comes into play on blog indexes and directories but I’m not so sure that is how most blogs are found. Most are found through search engines, social media or word of mouth.

  38. PhotoKungFu says:

    I guess this is what sites like Guy Kawasaki’s http://alltop.com/ are trying to do.

  39. Over here in Portugal we categorize blogs most of the times according to different blogospheres.

    Baby Blogs go to babysphere, politics go to Politicsphere, Make Money are the MMOSphere and so on, so on.

    Blogs are blogs but a car is a car and there are different categories for cars.

  40. uncle wilco says:

    SHEDblogs are they hobby or environment or gardening or just scary blogs?

  41. MLRebecca says:

    In an attempt for readers to find niche blogs, it sometimes makes sense to categorize them. If I’m a photographer hoping to learn more about my craft, I’m going to look for photography blogs. If I would like advice about how to consolidate loans, I’ll visit a finance blog. Although most people don’t want to pigeonhole our blogs into one defined label, sometimes that is necessary. There may be blogs that fit into more than one category–one part personal blog, two parts political commentary blog, for instance. Some may be the only blog of its kind!
    Regardless, I think it’s OK for blogs to cross genres. I support a foodie blogger promoting her friend, a technology blogger.
    After all, most of us bloggers have these things in common: we love to blog, we love to network, and we have something to say.

  42. Rob Voigt says:

    With art, beauty, and I suggest the categorization of blogs as well; its all in the eyes of the beholder.

    As an Urban Planner I look at blogging as a contemporary tool/technique to further my professional work, using blogs as stakeholder engagement platforms and project frameworks guided by my professional expertise.

    The blogs I have developed for municipal work are very carefully designed given the sensitive and important nature of their public service contexts. These blogs go well beyond editorializing or typical municipal blogs which are often unstructured and unfocused in their content and foster communication that is little more than email on steroids.

    My blogs are project specific engagement platforms that have significantly changed the way I manage Planning projects. I develop them to inform and empower stakeholders; include accountability measures; integrate action research methods and other Planning tools.

    So what category does this kind of blogging fit into? I also co-author Civic Blogger (www.civicblogger.blogspot.com); a site dedicated to promoting and discussing these kinds of issues.

  43. Beau says:

    I’ve recently been working on an aggregation site that cateogorizes sports-related blogs (buzztap.com), and I agree that there are both positives and negatives to categorization. I do think that is difficult to blog about a broad range of topics and maintain a consistent readership, and I personally tend to follow those bloggers that are experts on a given topic and stick with what they know best.

  44. If it’s possible, I would like to please be counted in the profitable category? :) I do think they can be categorized and they should be but I also think Google is going to have to seriously expand their current list of basic offerings before it catches on.

  45. izzat says:

    for me blog cant be categorized, we only can categorized the content, whatever the content is give us the category, but the blog is still a blog.

  46. to me it all depends on who is categorizing the blogs, I mean everyone would have a different prospective like from a businessman point of view there are different catagories , from a developer’s point of view, there are different ..

  47. ashok says:

    I tend to group blogs two different ways, depending on my familiarity with the blog’s author.

    In other words, while like everyone else I categorize blogs at first with a nod to the general content (“he blogs about finance a lot. Alright, it’s a finance blog”), over time that changes markedly if the author opens up and allows his voice to be heard.

    This is something that really puzzles me about most blogs: I feel like they’re too generic to merit an audience. All the information I and many others give can be had elsewhere; why should anyone visit a blog? The voice matters, so much so that the initial categorization gets thrown out. Calling one of my favorite blogs, i.e. http://collectionofwords.com/words a photoblog is kinda like calling Muhammad Ali an athlete. It does no justice to what’s going on over a series of entries, or the significance of the person’s actions and accomplishments.

    I’m getting into this issue because the way your prompt is framed, the question is “what do you, as a blogger, want to be consistent about?” To me, the whole game is audience engagement – you need to entertain and inform and make sure they’re feeling and actually are rewarded by reading your work. So if consistency in content helps that larger goal, great. But for some blogs, it doesn’t mean anything. And there are personal blogs I’ll always read, despite the vast amount of things that come under “personal,” because there are people I admire and want to keep up with.

    Re: your more specific query about writing style, I think posts should be varied within a blog, if this can be done. A how-to post followed by a list post or by an essay or what-not. I mean, think about your readers again. What you’re aiming for are points of entry (i.e. “home-run posts”) that get people interested, and then you want the blog as a whole to have a sense of continuity, not like you just threw up a ton of recipes all at once and instead of a recipe site it was a blog. A blog should take full advantage of the reverse chronological order.

  48. CoolProducts says:

    I most certainly think that they can be categorized, but they all tend to be subjectively categorized by the different users.

  49. CoolProducts says:

    I see sites like Technorati that attempt to categorize and I feel that this is poorly done, however, I still feel that blogs can be set into categories. They just need to have the right kind of category names. Blogs are so unique and diverse that its hard to fit blogs into the regular ideas of categories that most people would this of. Because of this, one may need to think a little out of the box when attempting to categorize blogs so that we don’t end up with 100s of different categories.

  50. Jim Houx says:

    I see a lot of people thinking of categorization in terms of subject matter. To me, this has superficial value. What has more substantial value is classifying the common variables that may change depending on the purpose of a blog. Things such as post frequency, voice, and type of content (i.e. reference material, current events, social agenda, or press release) can shed light on effective approaches and rules to follow.

    To consider a new blog approach, decide the subject of the blog and its purpose, then determine what variables would be common with other successful blogs.