Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sustainable Blogging In The Birdosphere

BB&B was birthed into the Birdosphere in 2008, back when my photography efforts were limited to the occasional digiscoping.  Unlike in 2015, there wasn't much crushing going on back then (or even proto-crushing), but I think this Lucifer Hummingbird is decent. Ash Canyon B&B, AZ.

BB&B will turn 7 years old this year.  Sure there are other active Birdosphere blogs that have been around longer (10,000 Birds, A DC Birding Blog, Nemesis Bird, etc.), but in blog years BB&B is something like 60 years old.  You see, although there is no shortage of bird blogs out there (and thank you for choosing this one today), there is a very high mortality rate among bird blogs...they just don't last.  Bloggers, for whatever reason, simply lose interest in their projects, regardless of the topic. Granted, there are good reasons for this...lack of time due to a job and/or kids, or a major life event that rearranges all your priorities, leaving your blog in the dust.  It happens.  That said, I don't think this is why most blogs fall by the wayside.

I'm an old hand at blogging now.  Sure I still don't know a thing about html or how to do anything to make BB&B look like a well-oiled blogging machine, but aesthetics aside I do have some kind of idea about what I am doing.  I am even getting used to being recognized in the field by people I've never met before, simply for blogging....which, aside from being a monumentally nerdy reason to be recognized, is weird because I hardly ever post photos of myself on here.  I never saw this coming. Felonious Jive, the Great Ornithologist, says he saw this coming from the start...but when he's not talking about birds, that guy is full of shit.

Which is not why we are here today.  Here are some tips on how to keep your blog alive and kicking.

1. Feeling like no one is listening?  Have confidence!  Assume people care about what you have to say, because they will.  Every bird blog will have an audience once it's been around long enough, regardless of your writing and photographic skills.  I know that sounds crazy but I swear its true. There are numerous bird blogs out there that I consider profoundly boring, yet its clear they get a hell of a lot more traffic than me so they are doing something right.  If you write it, they will come.

I'm equally comfortable with making fun of birders, talking about vagrants, and discussing the joys of "shaking hands" with Laysan Albatross (seriously, it's awesome).  For the birdosphere, that makes BB&B a pretty loose place, but that approach doesn't work for everybody. 

2. To niche, or not to niche?  If you ask me, I think a bird blog can go one of two ways...carve out a niche and own it (i.e. Earbirding, Anything Larus) or be very open to a wide range of topics, which is the route BB&B has gone.  Either way will give you plenty to talk about, and if your blog is going to be around for a while, you need plenty to talk about.  If you stick to the worn path that is I-went-here-and-I-saw-this, you will always have readers, but you as the writer might find that format getting stale after a while.  After all, sometimes you go birding and it sucks...I certainly am not motivated to write about those days unless it is truly horrific.  That said, if you really enjoy the writing patterns you fall into, there is nothing to worry about.

3. Take pride in your writing!  I genuinely enjoy writing, even if it is in this weird format.  I am always trying to improve my skills and trying to write in such a way that once someone reads a post for the first time, they will want to keep coming back.  I blogged extensively before BB&B started and was always stoked that my friends were into it, even if it was pretty jokey shit (and no, I am not going to link to it).  Any sort of writing can be a challenge, and a fun one at that.

4. Read!  Whenever I read a damn good book, I am always inspired to get blogging.  If you're experiencing some blogging apathy, just dive into something from your favorite author.  They may not mention a bird for the entire book, but it really doesn't matter.

Do: I like Sooty Shearwaters.  I like Common Murres. Seabirds are amazing.
Don't: After my surgery, I wasn't sure if going on a pelagic trip was such a good idea.  It still hurts me when I turn my body too far to the left and I still have to move slowly sometimes.  Luckily, the seas were calm that day!  I was really worried that bla bla bla bla bla bla....

5. A few tips, if you want to attract some new readers and keep them around:
- DO NOT talk about problems with your physical health.  It sucks to be in pain, I know, but birders do this excessively...on listservs, in Facebook groups, and in blogs.  It's really quite the phenomenon. Please stop.
- DO NOT spend too much time talking about your bird lists.  Most people don't care.  I don't want to bum anyone out, but search your know it to be true.
- DO talk about what you know.  Be it the genetic studies done that validate a new split, migration, local rarities, or your hatred of feral cats, use your knowledge and/or special interests to add fuel to the blog fire.

6. Have some kind of goal in mind for your output, just for a little extra motivation to stay active.  I always try for two posts a week, although I don't always manage that anymore.  That said, there is no reason to put up a post that you feel is mediocre or somehow incomplete.

7. Build a community around your blog.  Interact with your readers, it makes everything more fun. Comment on other people's blogs, and don't be shy about giving shout outs and linking to their content.  You know it's always a positive thing when people give props to your blog, so why not do the same for others?  You might even make a few friends out of it.

9. Not posting very often?  Then team up, and watch your bloggish productivity soar.  A lot of blogs have gone the multi-author route, and none have seemed to suffer for it. I know BB&B certainly wouldn't be the same without Felonious Jive to help me out, and it's my pleasure to have a buddy write a guest post once in a while.

Though humorously arranged, this Brown Pelican probably did not die a peaceful death.  By now it has faded into oblivion altogether.  Don't let your blog be like this Brown Pelican.


  1. It's totally true, there are some boring backyard birding blogs that have MASSIVE readership. they give the people what they want, and apparently what most people want is a Cardinal on the feeder in the snow, and updates on the grandkids.

    I believe I violate all of the criteria you iterate in #5, which explains a lot, actually.

    Congratulations on (almost) 7 years. As a bird blogger, does this mean you're becoming

    1. You are right about what the people want...and that is a scary thing.

      That said, I don't have a cardinal-on-the-feeder-in-the-snow shot, and for some reason want one badly.

    2. You ARE becoming a old person in the world of bird blogging!

  2. 10. Try to include a star wars reference in every post. It is a proven fact that birders have wide and varying interests outside of birding, with all of them loving sci-fi movies.

    1. I think most of us are in to sci-fi, on some level, because we are nerds. I would have to disagree about interests being wide and varying, but obviously I'm totally down for this (I assume you caught the one reference in this post).

    2. I probably should have indicated that I was being sarcastic about the "wide and varying interests". It seems too often that birders actually have the persona Nate is imitating below. Keep up the star wars references (yes I have caught the last few), and go for that cardinal feeder shot, it will be game changing.

  3. How am I supposed to write about what I know when all I know about is my lists?!?!?


    1. My recommended blogging format custom made for you: Tick tick tick tick tick tick dip dip tick dip dip tick dip dip dip tick, etc.

  4. Your constancy over 7 years of bird blogging has been admirable, and you're still at the top of the game! May your place on the Global Birding Ranking System ever move in inverse proportion to your longevity.

    1. Thanks Nicholas! Perhaps all it will take to advance in GBRS will be obtaining that rarest of rarities...a photograph of a cardinal at a feeder, with a snowy backdrop? But perhaps not.

  5. Right on to #7 (in the list above, but I guess to you also). Once I started commenting and engaging with other bloggers, my own blogging became much more enjoyable, and more than just public narcissism!

  6. This is great stuff man. I'm a new birder/blogger and really enjoy reading your blog and I appreciate all the tips. Ace info and humor. Congrats on 7 years, you truly enjoy writing and it is reflected in your work.