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Blogosphere Trends + Being Opinionated

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Man alive, I hate bringing you a list of blogosphere trends that includes both Lindsay Lohan and Jersey Shore—not to mention Sarah Palin. But I report the list, I don’t decide what’s on it (neither does Regator—it just calculates what’s being blogged about most this week). Then again, you might love Lohan and eagerly await the next episode of Jersey Shore. You may have voted for Sarah Palin. My distaste for those things is merely my opinion and, in giving it, I have given you a better sense of who I am. As a blogger, I am all for that. And you should be too.

If you look at the web’s top bloggers, you’ll find they have a couple of things in common: a unique voice, which we talked about recently, and opinions to share. As Darren pointed out, “Expressing opinions on your blog is like adding seasoning to food. Without it, your blog could end up being quite bland and blend into the crowd.” Reporting the facts is useful but adding commentary helps your blog stand out from the dozens—or hundreds—of blogs covering the same story. If you all have the same facts, it’s your viewpoint that will help remove you from the echo chamber. You are providing your translation of the story and encouraging your readers to see it in a new way.

Let’s look at examples of posts about this week’s top stories to see how sharing your opinions can enhance your blog and engage readers:

  1. Shirley Sherrod – Michelle Cottle of The New Republic pulls no punches in “The End of Andrew Breitbart.” She rails on “conservative pseudo-journalism” and refers to Breitbart as a “toxic tantrum.” Be warned though: This technique is not for the timid. Cottle has a long history of writing highly opinionated pieces that have, no doubt, helped her build a tough skin when it comes to antagonistic comments. The most frightening thing about going from a blogger who reports news to a blogger who reports news with a viewpoint is that you will offend someone—particularly if you phrase your opinions in such a confrontational way. But you will also build a stronger relationship with the rest of your audience, particularly those whose stance is similar to yours (and those who enjoy a healthy dose of debate).
  2. FacebookEpicenter’s “Five Things That Could Topple Facebook’s Empire” is a far more subtle approach. Since no one knows what will (or could) harm the social networking behemoth, Ryan Singel’s list comprises his own ideas about the challenges Facebook faces. This sort of opinion-sharing/hypothesizing is far less likely to ruffle feathers than the first example. While searching for a post that shared original thoughts on Facebook, I had to rifle through literally hundreds that were simply repeating that Facebook has reached 500 million users and Facebook was being taken to court and Zuckerberg was interviewed on television. They all had the same facts with nothing to differentiate one from another. That is what you want to avoid.
  3. Lindsay Lohan ­– Crushable’s “Poll: Should Celebrities Always Do The Right Thing?” shares the opinion that, due to her background, jail-bound Lohan should be allowed to make mistakes. The post follows up with “But maybe we are wrong!” and an invitation for readers to take a poll. One advantage of sharing your viewpoints is that it opens the door to the opinions of your readers and provides a venue for productive conversations. Your enthusiasm for a topic is contagious and much more likely to elicit a response than a straightforward repetition of the facts.
  4. Comic-Con ­– While other nerd blogs were rejoicing in the glory that is Comic-Con, Techland’s Lev Grossman was busy writing “The Guy Who Hates Comic-Con Goes to Comic-Con, Part 1.” It stands out among the posts on the event and the humor of it is a fantastic cloak for what might otherwise have been construed as a bit of a whiny perspective. It is fun to read and, most importantly, it is the author’s brutally honest assessment of the convention.
  5. Inception – Jim Emerson’s “Inception: Has Christopher Nolan forgotten how to dream?” post from Scanners does contain spoilers, so beware of that. But it also contains a unique perspective on the movie that I found compelling enough to share on my social networking pages. Emerson’s post shows the importance of providing supportive evidence to validate your opinion. Even those who do not agree with your assessment of a situation before reading your post may find themselves saying, “That blogger really has a point” if you provide enough reasons for your ideas.
  6. Mel Gibson – Rufus F.’s “In Defense of Casting Stones at Mel Gibson” from The League of Extra Ordinary Gentlemen is a direct response to E.D. Kain’s “In Defense of Mel Gibson” from the same blog. That is the beauty of opinions; they are likely (particularly among dissenters) to provoke discussions in the comments and, if they are divisive enough, to prompt entire posts providing an alternate position. For the record, I’m not encouraging flame wars or knock-down, drag-out arguments; I’m advocating respectful two-way conversations between adults with different viewpoints. Keeping your tone positive and staying open to contradictory viewpoints will help maintain a healthy community and positive vibe. I learn a great deal from listening to those who disagree with me, and you will too.
  7. Oil spill – “Gulf of Mexico,” which has been on trending for several weeks, has been replaced by “Oil spill” thanks to news that China is dealing with a spill of its own. How depressing. But I digress… Treehugger’s “In Defense of the Offshore Drilling Moratorium” takes the safest path to stating an opinion by defending the drilling moratorium. Sharing opinions is one thing, but sharing opinions that will alienate most of your readers (for example, a post titled “10 Best Steak Restaurants” on a vegetarian blog) is simply unwise. You don’t need me to tell you that.
  8. Steve JobsFlip the Media’s “On Media and AntennaGate” cites the author’s own history as support of an opinion, making ample use of phrases such as “I don’t think so,” “I agree with him,” and “I doubt it” to make it clear that the blogger is providing her personal opinion. There’s no need to go overboard, but be sure that you aren’t phrasing your opinions in a way that could be misconstrued as fact.
  9. Sarah Palin – From the moment you read the headline “I’m Telling You, Palin Has No Chance,” it is clear that Daniel Larison’s Eunomia post is providing a personal opinion. He acknowledges that “it’s risky to make absolute statements about anything…” but goes on to provide several reasons based on his findings. Again, this is a post that is a rebuttal to a post from another blog.
  10. Jersey ShorePortfolio’s “Here’s the Situation: Fire the ‘Jersey Shore’ Cast” provides its reasoning in the form of bulletpoints in what amounts to an open letter to the makers of the reality TV show. Open letters can be a fun and creative way to share your thoughts.

Are you opinionated on your blog or afraid of offending people? Let’s chat about it in comments.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

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Comments

  1. This post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the famous copywriter, Gary Bencivenga.

    “You will find that when you clearly stand for something, you will never stand alone. Indeed, standing for something special in your overcrowded marketplace sets you apart from armies of me-too competitors who strive to be everything to everybody, and wind up meaning nothing special to anyone.

    Using the Credo Technique is the surest way I know to attract and bond with your kindred spirits, your true believers, your most loyal comrades in arms, your best clients and friends, as I hope I have found in you.”

  2. I have a make money online blog as well as online marketing and i find it hard to put opinions into posts which are about giving out information. You can give an opinion when you are reviewing a product but not when talking about something like SEO because its supposed to be a science.

  3. Kimberly ~ Love the first paragraph. You’re right. Right off the bat although I don’t know you I already start getting a feel for who you are.

    Using your own voice is the only way to be effective in the blogging world. I’m not worried about offending people. The way I see it, the laws of attraction dictate that I will attract like minded people. Will I tick someone else off while I’m about it? Probably. But you can’t please all the people all the time anyway, so why try?

    Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not out there deliberately trying to provoke a reaction in folks who don’t think like me. I’m just being myself, because that’s who I am.

  4. suzrocks says:

    I can’t stand it when people are opinionated when they don’t know what they’re talking about- so unless I have the time to research what I want to spout off about, I tend to stay away from controversial topics. Also, my blog is just starting out, and it really wasn’t started as some controversial thing, so I don’t really want to head in that direction at the moment.

  5. Boycott says:

    I believe people are entitled to express their opinions as this I believe drives debate, it encourages people to do their own research which otherwise would they would not have.

    Having said that, people should write fairly and not lie, as not telling the truth or deliberately misguiding people fuels hatred and anger.

    What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.

  6. Opinions make life interesting… What I found is that you only start making them, once you have a readership (1,000 visitors a day). Funny that, because it actually boosts traffic when you write unique stuff…

    ;]

  7. Kimberly – I too, agree. Opinions are so important, giving a post vitality and a real sense of what you, the blogger, are about. After all, conversations without opinions would be very dull exchanges!

    I have been blogging about travel since the beginning of 2010. Though I don’t expect everyone to agree with my evaluation of the places and experiences I write about, I do want them to know that this is my honest opinion. A version enhanced to be more exciting or daring or colourful or controversial would be a cheat.

    I do think some bloggers are in danger of over-indulging their right to be opinionated, putting forward ideas that are designed to provoke reaction rather than a true expression of themselves. It doesn’t work. It almost always shows.

    Suzrocks, I think you also have it right. Know what you are talking about before you express your opinion. I would add that, when you do, make it interesting – and honest.

  8. Mathew Day says:

    Your article was quite helpful. This is a concept I still haven’t really grasped. I am great at giving facts and references but didn’t realize offering my own viewpoints was that important. It totally makes sense, thanks, you really have helped me to become a better writer. :-)

  9. Jason says:

    I’m not so much afraid of offending people, but I do think that sometimes when I discuss techniques in a heavy-handed manner, then there could be blowback. This being said, that could be a good thing, as new, or different techniques could be brought about that I have not tried, nor ever thought of trying.

  10. Jimmy says:

    There’s always at least one person that shares your view or at least finds it interesting>

  11. Daily SEO says:

    Im sorry but do not take this as criticism but I could not finishing that post for two reasons.

    1. The text was to small and I could not be bothered to increase the font size. Why should I? I am the reader the font should be readable to me.

    2. There was to much solid text. It was like reading a 1920′s book. Not one image, even a line break would here or there would have helped.

  12. Dean Saliba says:

    I normally end up picking trends that are so popular that my tweet disappears within seconds.

  13. Brandy says:

    I am not a highly opinionated person in real life, therefore I am not very opinionated on my blog. I am more this is how I feel about my life and these are my opinions but to share some of them with the world on my blog – I feel is silly since I do not have strong strong opinions about a whole lot worthy of a debate.

  14. Noel says:

    Great stuff there, Kimberly! I’m still kind of new to blogging and I do understand that putting my unique stamp on the things I write about is key to success here, but I don’t think I’ve got it quite down yet. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel like something’s holding me back, almost.

    Oh, well, whatever the case, I’ve chosen to tackle this how I do everything else in life: “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!”

  15. GM says:

    I believe that being opinionated is the one factor that engages readers to comment. We see a lot of newsblogs that basically repeat what the newspapers say, but those that really stand out are the blogs where the blogger really says something that provokes the reader into thinking or feeling something.

  16. ashok says:

    I’m definitely opinionated on my blog, sometimes even about things like Sarah Palin. But I think good opinions may not provide buzz – in fact, they may not have anything to do with blogosphere trends – but rather evolve over time, so one’s audience can see how one forms the best opinion possible.

    Right now I’m wondering about sophistry and poetry for the Greeks as represented in Plato’s Protagoras. The city is the greatest sophist, Socrates tells us in the Republic, and it is poetry (i.e. Homer, foundational myths) which establish the core of the city’s thought (i.e. “all men are created equal” resonates far more than the commerce clause). Do sophistry and poetry complement each other, or contradict each other? I don’t know if I have the right distinction in hand from the dialogue, but my readers will find out as I will, I guess.

  17. I am sure been opinionated will encourage more comments but it is hard to give opinion about SEO for example like another poster commented. SEO is a science, sure everyone will have different methods but there are general rules that no one should disagree with them just for the sake of arguing. It makes it really hard to be opinionated with science, and presenting facts normally not fun to present nor discuss.

  18. Great stuff there, Kimberly! I’m still kind of new to blogging and I do understand that putting my unique stamp on the things I write about is key to success here,

  19. courtney says:

    Yes, I do voice my opinions, but . . . I live in a small town, so first I make sure I am right, then I will not specific. So unless you know me or my town, you won’t know who I am talking about, but hopefully find the post just as interesting.

  20. There are a lot of issues and topics I’d love to be opinionated about in a blog or two, however, as I am still a public school employee I could only get away with it using a pen name.

    Once I fully retire I could see me taking the muzzle off and letting loose about a few topics like public ed politics and certain parent behaviors.

    Thanks for the encouragement about developing our own voice as bloggers. It really is critical in order for your writing to be interesting.

  21. In order to gain any ground online or in the real world, you must have your own voice. Otherwise, you’re just plain ol’ oatmeal. Boring…

  22. make money says:

    I think people are entitled to express their opinions as this I think drives debate, it encourages people to do their own research which otherwise would they would not have.
    Having said that, people ought to write and not lie, as not telling the truth or deliberately misguiding people fuels hatred and anger.
    What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.

  23. I notice really quite a number of sites which look interesting and really worth a read. There probably is nothing worse than searching through limitless blah blah sites just to locate a couple which keep ones attention. Thanks. Good job!

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  25. rososusilo says:

    well, for me express our opinion on the blog is very good. at least there will be a discussion with readers. and the reader would be interested and will return again to our blog.