The 80/20 Rule of Focus

Have you ever watched, in slow motion horror as a blog you subscribe to gets further and further away from what made you subscribe in the first place? I have, and it’s happening so frequently now that despite touching briefly on it in other posts, I’d now like to look at the probem specifically.

The problem in brief is that some, and by my reckoning, many, bloggers start off very focused on their core topic. But as they run dry of things to say, usually at around the same time that their subscriber base starts to really get into interesting figures, they start to wander wildly off-topic. It’s particularly common among those that blog on tech, media and marketing issues but most likely applies to all of us.

The 80/20 Rule of Focus

Unfortunately, I know about this problem from experience. Im probably one of the worst offenders. Having said that though, it puts me in kind of a good position to talk about it eh?

I think there are a few major reasons bloggers start going wildly off-topic, to the detriment of their blogs:

  • They run out of material – (Performancing prize for the first person to point out i’ve talked about this before!)
  • They start beleiving the hype – when you start to feel your blog is popular, there is pressure to produce for sure, but there is also the feeling that as people like what you say, you should air an opinion on everything.
  • They didn’t start with a plan, so can’t follow one.

Is This Even a Problem?

I feel it is, but I speak purely as one blog reader, not the many. For me, I’ve been absolutely aghast at what I’ve seen coming out of no less than three of my regular reads the last few months. And, they don’t seem to be getting better. It seems once you start down this slippery slope, it really does begin to build momentum. Right to the point where you become YATB™ (Yet Another Tech Blog).

Everyone and his dog is out there reporting that Google did this, RSS will do that, some A-lister said (insert something stupid here) — but yet despite the commoditization of tech news, specialist, knowledgeable bloggers seem destined to taste the forbidden fruit, and turn a good blog into YATB. It’s distressing.

And worse, like I said earlier, I’ve done this myself.

The inevitable

The inevitable and sad results of this straying from a blogs core topic are these:

  • As your content gets broader, so does your audience. You may not pick up more readers, but those you have start to be less highly focused on the topic, and that small, core group you worked so hard to attain start to leave. The resultant audience relfects the content: Broad and unfocused.
  • Advertisers are harder to pitch – Largely because of the above
  • You end up working much, much harder. You now have more RSS subs to read, more topics to write about, more interests to cater for – it’s kind of a vicious circle, see?
  • You become a commodity. There are lots of general blogs, particularly on tech. Can you compete, can you be the best? Most can’t.

So Where Does 80 / 20 Come In?

Well, I reckon you can see where I’m going with this right? It’s a suggestion to those bloggers that rather than start a personal blog, for when they want to ramble off topic (which is no bad thing in itself!) wish to participate in off-topic conversations on their main blog.

Try 80 / 20 – Make no more than 1 in 5 posts veer off your subject, or take your readers outside of your blogs scope. It’s not a tried and tested recipe for success, just a suggestion. It seems like a sensible way to approach the issue.

I’d like to know if:

  • You agree or not?
  • You have other suggestions
  • You have personal experience as a reader or blogger in this situation

So come on, let’s hear it. What’s the deal with wandering off-topic on blogs, and can the 80/20 rule help or not?