Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Guest Bloggers

Okay, here’s the thing. If you blog, having a guest blogger is a good thing for a number of reasons.
  • It gives you a break.
  • It attracts readers from the other person’s blog.
  • It gives the appearance of an endorsement of your blog.
  • It helps you develop a friendship with your guests.

With so many reasons why we would want to have guest bloggers, you might find it odd that I don’t like guest bloggers. That may be too strong of a statement. It isn’t like I’m going to go short-sheet their beds or something, but I’m not a big fan of guest blogging, in general.

I see a number of problems with guest blogging. The first has to do with my personal experience with guest bloggers on other blogs. I follow a number of blogs and some of them have guest bloggers. When I see that a guest blogger has written the post, I tend to ignore or skim the post, even when the guest blogger has a blog that I follow. On top of that, guest posts tend to be longer than they really need to be. It’s as if the guest blogger has a lot to say to the blog readers and he knows he isn’t going to get a second chance to address them. Some may consider it a good thing, but guest bloggers usually talk about some other subject than what the regular blogger normally addresses. As a blog reader, I don’t visit a blog to hear from other people. I visit a blog because I want to know what that particular blogger has to say. If I wanted to hear from the other person, I would visit the other person’s blog.

So how do we resolve this? Guest blogging is good, but guest blogging is bad. Guest blogging attracts visitors, but guest blogging drives visitors away. I would like to suggest that the solution is for bloggers to more tightly control guest posts. Rather than posting whatever the guest submits, edit liberally. If the post is unrelated to the theme of the blog, don’t post it. If you interview someone, don’t ask the same old questions that everyone asks, such as What’s your book about? How did you find time to write it? What did you mean on page 215? and What are you writing now? Instead, focus your questions in such a way that the interviewee’s answers follow the theme of the blog. If an answer doesn’t fit, delete it. And never post anything without providing your own comments. If you agree with the guest, provide additional evidence that supports his claims. If you disagree with the guest, provide arguments for the other side of the issue.

I’m reminded a few television shows I’ve seen in which one of the stars was injured or unable to work for some other reason, such as having a baby or something like that. The because of the shooting schedule they bring in a guest star to fill in. No matter how well the guest fills his role, the fans of the show are disappointed because the regular guy isn’t there. But when a guest shows up with the regular guy still there, the guest adds to the show. The guest should never preempt the star. It is no different in blogging. By all means, bring in a few guest bloggers, but never let them preempt you. You’re the one your readers want to hear from.