What Makes a Good Blog?

Focus, personality and reader comments are key to building an audience, say popular bloggers

The Internet contains nearly 3 million active blogs, according to one recent count, with topics ranging from politics to movies, to food, to the emotional ramblings of high-school teens.

With so many blogs, how does one become popular? What qualities will distinguish a blog from the massive congestion in the blogosphere?

Blogs become successful because of specificity and passion, according to Kevin Donahue, co-creator of Fanblogs, a college football blog described by Forbes.com as the best blog dedicated to a single sport.

“Repeat visitors feel an ownership and loyalty to the blog. They will police comments, pointing out when someone is out of line.”

“Have a single focus about a topic you really enjoy, and put a little of yourself into it,” he says. Fanblogs prospers because college football already has a loyal fan base. “And that passion translates into a loyal readership.”

Reader comments are a significant factor in blog popularity, according to several bloggers. Hart Brachen, creator of the snarky, ironic blog The Soxaholix says, “People who leave comments build the community aspect that really helps a site become more than just one blogger writing into space. Comments let you know what’s working and what’s not, and inspire you to keep at it.”

Daniel Kasman, a writer for the popular film discussion blog MilkPlus, agrees. Posted comments will keep a blog “fresh and full of discourse,” he says.

Lockhart Steele, the managing editor of blog publisher Gawker Media, says that after a blog develops an audience, readers will submit tips and fact-check stories. They basically “do all of the work for you.”

Dedicated readers also keep a blog’s integrity in check. “Repeat visitors feel an ownership and loyalty to the blog,” observes Fanblogs’ Donahue. “They will police comments, pointing out when someone is out of line.”

But before a blog is able to rely on its readers to help it succeed, a blogger must sometimes wait months, or even years, before a regular following develops. While some bloggers believe that they’re going to attract regular commenters within days of launching their blogs, Holiday of Fanblogs says, “it doesn’t happen like that.”

Modifying a quote from the movie “Field of Dreams,” he says: “If you build it, they will come … slowly.”


A webzine produced by the Digital Journalism class at New York University in Spring 2005. Instructor: Patrick Phillips, editor & founder of I Want Media.

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