Friday, August 04, 2006

group blogs

Thinking about starting a group blog?

A few months ago I was invited to join and help start a group blog with writers from the Twin Cities. Since I already had...let's least three blogs, I said no. But with some arm-twisting I finally said yes. My biggest issue was that this was a romance blog, and I thought my presence there would confuse visitors. In the end I'm not sure it confused as much as diluted the focus.

What I learned from my stint in a group blog:

Group blogs are hard. Much, much harder than a solo blog.

It's hard for a group blog to have personality, because...well, it's a group.

Group blogs aren't spontaneous. This was my biggest frustration. You have your day to post. If you have something you want to chat about, something that's on your mind, it will no longer be on your mind next week. Lack of spontaneity translates to lack of energy. The more the merrier does not apply here.

Worry over dominating the blog keeps members from posting even when things are sluggish.

Nobody is in charge. While this seems the fair way to handle things, you almost need a host. Otherwise it's like going to a party where there is no host and everybody is wandering around looking for the beer, and the CD is stuck on Green Day's Time of Your Life.

Disinterested group members. A lot of people get into group blogs because they have no interest in having a blog in the first place, but they feel pressured into blogging. They feel a group blog will be the easier way to go. YOU HAVE TO ENJOY BLOGGING. If you don't enjoy it, don't do it.

If you build it, they might not come. Big names don't translate to visitors. Many of the most popular blogs are written by unpublished writers or newly contracted writers. I've seen some NYT writers start blogs with other NYT writers and the blogs bombed.

Having a group doesn't always mean more visitors. It could actually mean fewer visitors.

A group blog takes just as much time as a solo blog. Maybe more when you factor in the planning and behind-the-scenes stuff.

It's probably not a good idea to mix genres.

Make sure everybody is on the same page, especially when it comes to participation.

edit to add more ideas:

you can't be afraid to make an ass out of yourself.


Anonymous said...

A serious post, but I laughed my posterior off at the Green Day comment! :D Sometimes I think group blogs are harder than rocket science.

anne said...

jason: haha! glad you thought that was funny. :D

harder than rocket science....

yep. ;)

Jude said...

I can see how it would be difficult to co-ordinate and do properly. Too many cooks spoil the broth?

anne frasier said...

jude, for us it was more like no cooks. :D

suddenly everybody is looking around for dinner. "Where's the food?' "I thought you were bringing it."
"I thought you were bringing it." "I'll bring it." "That's okay, i'll bring it." "Did you bring it?" "I forgot to bring it!"

Tami said...

I have noticed most of the group blogs start to fizzle out with time. Visiting someone's blog is to get to know a little about them, and with too many people, you never feel that "cyber-connection" with the blogger, or at least for me. It also seems had for the blogger to get a voice with scheduled posts as you mentioned Anne.

One group blog that I think does work well is Murder She Writes. Not sure if any of you have made it over there, but they seem a lot more in sync with each other.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks for this alternate perspective Anne. You've made some really good points. I just find having my own thing does get a bit dull at points.

But I usually have lively commenters!

anne frasier said...

tami, exactly! it's hard to connect with people in a group blog. i think i've glanced at murder she writes. i'll have to look at it again keeping in mind your comment. i also think a group blog is different from a personal blog and needs a different game plan. i never got a good grasp of how to go about that and still keep it exciting.

sandra, i was getting really bored with my own blog about three months ago, but i appreciate it SO much more now -- and SO appreciate the funny, insightful, smart visitors. time for another group hug?

ivan said...

Well, my own blog is sort of schizophrenic anyway.
In a crowd all by myself.
What time does the ocean close?

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Group blogs can be tough unless there's something tying them together. I (occasionally) write for a group news blog about Los Angeles. The only reason it works is that there's is one centrl person tying the whole thing together. He does 95% of the posting and he vets anything that goes up. Other than that, it's pretty much a free for all. Certain people have topics, but for the most part anyone can submit a story.

It's rigid enough that it doesn't disintegrate in on itself, but flexible enough to be dynamic. None of it would work if he didn't put an inordinate amount of effort into sustaining it. I'm frankly surprised he hasn't imploded with all the work he does.

anne frasier said...

ivan, mine is schizophrenic too. i decided a long time ago that i'd get bored if i tried to stick to any kind of structure. but i think a group blog has to have a certain amount of structure, which can take the fun out of it. thanks for stopping!

stephen, that's EXACTLY what i've felt ours needed. one person driving and putting a large amount of time into it. otherwise you have people just shrugging and standing around. i cracked the whip a few times, but didn't feel comfortable doing it. not without my outfit.

Jaye Wells said...

Now that you mention it, there aren't any group blogs I check on a daily basis. A few I look at when I'm bored and have already done my rounds. I think your point about the connection with the writer is key.

anne frasier said...

jaye, that's exactly how i am. the only group blog i check almost daily is killer year.

i will start out visiting a group blog, but since that connection never grows i lose interest. it's a little like going to somebody's house to hang out and finding a different person there each time.

anne frasier said...

tami, i popped over there. god, i typed POOPED. yeah, i just pooped over there at murder she writes. :D

it's a great looking blog. i think that's maybe even more important for a group blog. it has to be visually appealing.

Kel said...

Sorry it didn't work out. Thanks for the perspective. It does seem like group blogs have popped up a lot lately and it's hard to find one that really grabs you. I find it hard coming up with stuff for my personal blog, it had to be tough blogging another place!

anne frasier said...

kel, i actually enjoyed it most of the time, and really enjoyed getting to meet the people involved, but the frustration became too much. i'm somebody who will pour myself into a project, and for me it wasn't energy well-spent.

Jeff said...

You make some good points, Anne. I think if someone is asked to join a group blog and they have any reservations at all about it they should say no.

anne frasier said...

jeff, i think in our case we didn't do enough discussing beforehand, but i'm still hoping the blog finds its strength and rhythm.

Elizabeth said... about a burst bubble! And I so hoped group blogs were the answer to all my blogging anxieties! But your advice is good to hear before getting into a group blog.

I have a few group blogs that I check often, but I tend to scroll past the writers I don't connect with, and seek out only the writers I know. Others I only check when I know my friends have a post there.

However, if you haven't dropped by yet, The Good Girls kill for Money is particularly entertaining.

anne frasier said...

elizabeth, the good news is that many group problems are fixable. don't let my post scare you away!

good girls kill for money is very nicely done!

Gregg Olsen said...

Very interesting post, Anne. I've started a group blog (two of us) with a guest blogger every now and then. I think our subject matter (True Crime)makes it easier for us because it is such a narrow genre. Anyway, we're giving it a year and then we'll evaluate if we should continue.
gregg olsen

anne frasier said...

hi gregg,
thanks for stopping by. :)

i'm kind of intrigued by the idea of two bloggers. that might work fairly well -- unless you have a big-ass fight. then not so well.