The Mysterious Audience

When a new blog post is tugging at my mind and fingertips I am full of anticipation and trepidation. I follow countless blogs, I look forward to them, and Google Reader feels like many little presents waiting to be opened. What is on the minds of others? What have they discovered? What ideas excite them? I have always been impressed with the authors of these blogs but since becoming a “blogger” (using the term loosely) I am in complete awe. I am amazing at a skilled blogger’s ability to write for an audience that is mysterious in its scope, context and nature. It is an audience that you can never see face to face nor do they share a physical space with you. It is distant, unknown and unidentified. You may never know what drew your audience to you, keeps them with you or turns them away.

As a teacher in a classroom I have some sense that I know my audience. I spend all day, everyday with them. During the course of the year I move from simply knowing them to actually having a relationship with them and they provide endless feedback. They are continually offering up verbal and nonverbal messages that let me know if they are bored, engaged, curious, in disagreement, tired of my jokes… Are they with me? When I write a blog post I feel as if I am making a wildly insane assumption that someone somewhere is interested in what I think or have to say. It feels somewhat egocentric and narcissistic, even though when I read other blogs I never think about the author this way. The tipping point is that I have become the writer not just the reader. Suddenly I am exposing my thoughts to an audience that is obscure. I feel as if I am shouting off a mountain top to no one while at the same time speaking directly to a room filled with unlimited people. I started to wonder: How do I wrap my head around this? Do other bloggers wrestle with this? What is the secret to composing insightful posts with ease and grace? How do I move forward with this style of writing?

Thankful yet again for the EC&I 831 resources, I watched Michael Wesch’s video “The Machine is (Changing) Us” to gain some perspective. He thoughts around YouTube mirror my feelings about blogging. Wesch asks, “What version of me do I present ?” Media that by nature is reflective and confessional can fuel both anonymity and vulnerability. This validates my sense that when I don’t know who I am talking to and I don’t know the context it feels both freeing and restrictive. I suppose as with so many experiences in life it is all about how you spin it, how you perceive it. My learning in this moment centres on reframing the unfamiliar so that I am not daunted by the newness of it. So in reality what does this mean for me? I will embrace this unbelievable opportunity to write. I will try to let go of the need to fully define my audience. I will take the risk to share my thoughts and questions to hopefully gain connections, community and self-awareness. I am realizing learning isn’t for the faint of heart so if a little bit of discomfort can result in such a significant payoff then I am game.

Media do not just distance us they connect us in different ways that can sometimes feel different but sometimes that distance allows us to connect more deeply than ever before and new forms of community create new forms of self understanding. -Michael Wesch

I’d love to hear your thoughts on: What draws you to a blog and keeps you coming back? As a blogger how do you see your audience? How do you know you are connecting with your readers? What are the developmental stages of a blogger?

14 thoughts on “The Mysterious Audience

  1. I really enjoyed your post, for the simple reason that I have never really spent an inordinate amount of time wondering who my “audience” is. I assume, maybe incorrectly, that those who read my blog are other educators, principals and teachers, who are interested in reading my experiences as an elementary school administrator. But although I have the chance to see my “traffic feed” and review my Google analytics stats, I don’t honestly know who my audience is. I read and respond to comments, of course, and there are some who regularly visit and post comments, but each time I also have the chance to connect with someone new. Last week I received one of the first comments from one of my students’ parents. That was interesting to me because I maintain a separate school blog and assume that is the digital space where they read my thoughts. It just goes to show that once you click “publish,” your thoughts are available to an amazingly diverse audience. Since my main purpose for blogging is for reflection and sharing with my network, I share out through my normal channels, and I guess I take for granted how far my influence could reach. Keep in mind, though, that blogging in itself is powerful for me as a reflective tool, so if It didn’t reach a wide audience, that would be okay too. Very interesting post….thanks for sharing!

    • I am quickly realizing how blogging truly is about self-reflection and I agree it is powerful. It is a unique way to ponder and muse, and then have others share in that process. I am beginning to see it as the best of both worlds-about self and about connections. Thank you so much for you comments, Lyn!

  2. For me it is a strong sense of personal voice, I want to know who this person is that I’m reading about. I also think the writing being on a journey helps. On a more practical level a regular poster (even if infrequent) is best.

    • Regular posting is important, isn’t it? I know that if I am in the habit of checking and reading a blog and then there is a long dry spell without posts, I move on and the connection wains. Thanks for your comments, Stephanie!

  3. Great post! I think I look for two things in the blogs I choose to follow. First, that they match my interests (obviously!), but second, that they frequently challenge my preconceived notions about things, maybe shake me up a little, and challenge me to think more deeply about a subject. By introducing another perspective, it can really generate further understanding and learning. Smart people not afraid to take risks are great bloggers to follow!

    • Oh I completely agree, Kevin and actually my most recent post is about Seth Godin and I touch on the value of a blog offering another perspective…I love that he makes me think. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my blog!

  4. I’m very glad you wrote this, because you wrote “As a teacher in a classroom I have some sense that I know my audience. I spend all day, everyday with them.” I suddenly realized how blogging, which I’ve done for a few years now, is connected to my online teaching in a way that didn’t register before.

    I see blogging as just publishing without the publisher, so after a few posts I tried to stop worrying about “my audience” and figured it was really me just publishing for myself so I’d remember how to do things and have a reason to explain it properly. My blog is often my own resource for myself (“wait a minute! I did this last year…what did I do?”). I no longer think much about who the readership might be.

    But now it occurs to me that in online teaching, you don’t “know” your audience immediately, the way you do in class. If you don’t set up a pretty active online assignment first thing, it’s hard to know who you’re dealing with. There I have to worry about having “readers” and being sure I communicate with them!

    • I really appreciate your comment “I see blogging as just publishing without the publisher…it was really me just publishing for myself”. That perfectly captures the stage I would like to get to and I hope I can embrace your outlook. Thanks for your insight!

  5. My thoughts overlap with those above.
    What draws you to a blog and keeps you coming back?
    I like blogs that inform me but mainly make me think – so they may express views that oppose my own.
    As a blogger how do you see your audience?
    As many say, for my blog my primary audience is myself – I can go back and see what I thought a few years ago (or I could if I had not lost many of my historical blog posts due to commercial dissembling and my lack of back up).
    How do you know you are connecting with your readers?
    It always helps if you get comments, Tweets and other reposts – though I think there is a feeling of ongoing connection that also relies on interpersonal communication through multiple channels, and so may reside in the heads of the protagonists.
    What are the developmental stages of a blogger?
    For me, this is when blogging becomes an irregular, not necessarily frequent channel that fits with other online and f2f channels of communication. We settle to our blogging frequency and depth and make of what we will.

  6. I also really think we read and follow bloggers who shed new light on some of our preconceived ideas and offer new solutions to old problems – or at least new questions.

    The idea of audience is certainly an interesting one…I have been thinking about the blog as a mechanism for finding my voice for me, not others – as the blog evolves perhaps figuring out why people read, return, and comment will be an important step.

    I guess the only means for knowing we are connecting with audience is through comments so – Connection made🙂

    • I completely agree with you on the importance of reading the work of great bloggers. My recent post about Seth Godin talks about why I have a crush on his blog. His writing makes me think differently and I find myself saying ‘What a cool way to think about that!” Thank you so much for commenting on my blog post-I appreciate it!

  7. I really enjoyed this post! Some of my thoughts are similar to those expressed above, but I will try to explain a few of them without being too redundant.
    I love how you talked about knowing and seeing your audience each day when you teach, yet writing for the unknown audience when you blog. At first, I used to grapple with the concept of whether my blog was too narcissistic. Why would anyone want to read it? Do they REALLY care what I have to say? There are millions of blogs on the web – why would they bother to read mine? I think that that was the defining thought. There ARE millions of blogs, so if someone doesn’t like what I have to say or isn’t interested, does it really matter? In the end, I think that blogging should be part self-reflection, part-informative, but most importantly, something enjoyable. I also absolutely love the fact that blogging has made the world a more open and connected place. I don’t think that it is that coincidental that blogging and reality TV became quite popular around the same time. People are fascinated by others, and blogging is an excellent way to share with the world.

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