The False Meritocracy of Blogging

When I first started blogging, I would argue that it was as close to a meritocracy as I have ever seen. “The good stuff,” I argued, “almost always gets picked up and moved to the top of the heap. Good content is king.”

The structure of blogging, however, isn’t that simple. Many bloggers toil away producing quite excellent content that is never noticed. Others produce less quality content and continue to draw large audiences. Why?

As Yaro Starak explains, content isn’t king in blogging–building and having a platform is.

I’m proof of this point. It’s been a long time since I went about proactively asking for links, or buying traffic or tweaking the SEO elements of my blogs. Doing these things would grow my traffic quicker, but I know if I just put out great articles, my traffic will grow, not as fast as some, but much faster than the average blogger.

Relying on just my content to generate attention and spread through word of mouth works because I already have attention. When you have an audience and you do something, you bring in more audience. It’s as simple as that and may seem somewhat unfair, but that’s just the way it is. No matter how good you are, unless people are watching you when you perform your tricks, it doesn’t matter.

It may be our first impulse to resist the fact that well-known bloggers can expand their audiences more easily than unknown bloggers. For one, it is counterintuitive–our audience here at Mere O compared to the audience at Between Two Worlds or Evangelical Outpost is pretty small. Theoretically, we should be able to expand faster than either of them. But it doesn’t work that way.

Secondly, as Starak points out, it can seem unfair. But it’s not–the simple fact is that they have the platforms and smaller blogs such as ours don’t. As a result, they have influence that is proportionate to their audience–and when their audience evangelizes for them, they grow faster. There is nothing unfair about that (and in the case of the two blogs mentioned, that’s highly desirable–I “evangelize” for both of them whenever I can).

The principle reminded me of Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 13:11-12:

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

I think it’s fair to say Jesus understood the dynamics of media pretty well.

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