Carrabis, Joseph. “Optimal Frequency of Blog Posting to Maintain Audience Share Best Determined by Audience Size and Psycho-social Distance from the Blogger.” Journal of New Communications Research 4.1 (July 2009): 95-107.
The article presents a study conducted by NextStage Evolution (NSE) regarding the fundamental features of optimal blogging. It states that the optimal frequency of blogging can be identified through the size of the audience of the blog and psycho-social distance from the blogger. It says that successful blogging contains features from the sponsor perspective, the blogger, and the audience. It discusses the financial, psychological, and emotional rewards that could motivate bloggers to continue blogging. It also identifies the concepts in which the sponsors can determine the success of the blog including the market share, branding, and mindshare. It concludes that the rise in availability of information and its sources puts a burden to the blogger.
1. What is “optimal” [blogging]?
2. What are the key features of optimal blogging?
1. The company NSE analyzed ‘more than’ 150 blogs over a two-year period. The exact number is not given. The included blogs cover many topics and categories.
Optimal, or successful, blogging is considered by this author from the perspective of non-monetary rewards. However, from the sponsor’s perspective, which does address non-economic considerations such as branding and thought leadership, “making money” is the “final and deciding metric” (p. 99). For the other two perspectives—blogger and audience—a “psycho-social” (the social interaction between two distant, or non-personal, individuals) approach is identified as the means for determining success. Similar to Mandy Sweeter’s article, the motives bloggers have to blog are influenced by emotions (reward or deficiency).
To conclude the first research question—what is “optimal”—for the blogger it is the ego-satisfying emotional reward, and for the audience it is an affirmation of worth (e.g., as a contributor) or how well “trust” is established (p. 97-98).
Note: The author describes a circumstance where a blog author unjustifiably believes his or her blog has a stronger audience than it does, and by (unsuccessfully) moving the blog, it is disbanded which causes “depression and frustration” to the blogger (p. 96). This orthogonal case analysis does not cite any data from the study except to note that “several [cases] were observed…” This is one example of poor research and citation throughout this article.
Two metrics that are factors for “optimal” blogging—for the blogger, audience, and sponsor—are “mean-time-between-posts” (MTBP) and “Posting Regularity” (PR). An increase in MTBP results in audience loss. This data is presented in Figure 4 (p. 101) and demonstrates a consistent loss of audience over a 30-day period, with significant decreases occurring at the end of the timeline; for instance, after the 30-day period, the loss doubles at each interval. To avoid this, bloggers should “maintain a shorter MTBP” (p. 100) by choosing different posting strategies, such as changing the blog’s content and using guest bloggers.
The other metric, PR, is how consistently a blog post is made. Even if the posts are spaced weeks apart (high MTBP), as long as the posts are consistently made, there will be a low loss of audience.
It is not surprising that the best method for retaining and increasing audience is “both a high PR and very small MTBP” (p. 102).
Blog content (topics and categories) is also important in determining optimal blogging. In this case, the audience’s perspective is the primary consideration. In conjunction with the posting metrics (which can be seen as the “bloggers” consideration), meeting the value requirements for the intended audience (not just the reading audience, as I will elucidate later) is achieved by satisfying the audience’s concept of trust. This is accomplished by consistent posts with the factors of topic, tone, voice, theme, post size, and use of media (p. 103, 105). For example, the posts should “stay on topic.” If an off-topic is made, it should be placed away from the other content or the audience should be informed of the anomaly to avoid violating their trust.
There are many audience groups including the small, vocal, cult demographic that will follow the blog regardless of maintaining the aforementioned, recommended posting metrics. However, the key audience for determining optimal blogging is the “transient but loyal” group. This group is more likely to “virally spread the blogger’s work” (p. 104) than any of the other groups. Therefore, developing trust with this group by consistent posting (using the factors listed above) is essential for optimal blogging and growing an audience. This intended audience is the key demographic as its size, which varies because it overlaps with other groups, is the largest of all the reading groups and carries with it the potential to reward the blogger with an increased audience (and therefore an increased sponsorship possibility).
What I learned
Despite this research article’s poor citation, questionable research techniques, and linguistic paradoxes (such as “usually and not always”; which is it?), some good suggestions were presented based on evidence from the data sample. For example, I agree that starting and maintaining a consistent posting schedule that can be reasonably continued is important to develop trust with an audience. Overall, there are ideas presented that will benefit both a new blogger, who can incorporate these concepts into his or her blogging strategy, as well as seasoned bloggers who have “hit the wall” and may want to reach out to a broader demographic to increase their audience share.