In our survey of older bloggers we wanted to discover something about their motivation, rewards, and feelings around blogging. First we asked why they blog, and gave them the chance to choose several answers. 117 people answered this question.
Any blogger may have several reasons for blogging. The three most popular reasons chosen by these older bloggers were “to express my creativity” (44%), “to connect with like-minded people” (42%) and “I just enjoy it” (40%). This result is reinforced if we realise that other options may combine both a creative motive and a social motive for blogging: “to entertain others”, “to share my passions”, “to share my knowledge”, and “to get feedback” all involve both creativity and sharing.
While we can see obvious trends here, even the least common reason may be highly significant to the person who checked it. All of these reasons are valid reasons. Let’s take a closer look at various trends.
1. The creative blogger
The number one motive older bloggers named for their blogging was “to express my creativity” (44%). Other reasons linked to creativity were ‘to get feedback’ (5%), “to improve my writing” (25%), and “to tell my story” (30%).
- “Mostly I just feel like I need to get my thoughts into words, and if someone likes what I write, that’s a bonus.”
- “I think I secretly have always wanted to be a writer.”
“I guess I represent my point of view and personal experiences to the world. Others may or may not feel some connection with some or all of them.”
“It’s all about just writing.”
“An outlet for more creative writing from my ongoing business writing as a marketing executive.”
“I like to take photographs. It seemed a waste to have them just sitting on my computer.”
2. The social blogger
The next most popular reason for blogging was “to connect with like-minded people” (42%). Numerous comments here (and elsewhere in the survey) emphasised the importance of the social benefits, for example:
- “When blogs were ‘invented’ I instantly connected with the dialogue, the conversation that can occur.”
- “I am amazed at the community blogging has created for me. This was an unexpected benefit of blogging.”
- “To see who is out there.”
“Sharing my letters to my mother with my family and a few friends.”
“A regular letter to an old friend who lives far away. I have made new friends this way.”
Other answers suggest that there are quite a few sociable-creative bloggers in our group, who love to express themselves not alone but with an audience of peers: “to entertain others (20%)”, “to share my passions (30%)”, and “to get feedback”.
- “I have recently made the decision to blog more often in order for my voice to be heard.”
- “To express my views; enjoy connecting with others whether or not like-minded”
3. The cheerful blogger
“I just enjoy it.” This is not your usual answer to a survey question about motivation, but it occurred to me that among bloggers there may be people who can’t, or won’t, or just don’t analyse why they blog. Maybe the reason is too complicated or too simple. Maybe it keeps changing. Or maybe the enjoyment they derive from blogging overrides any other motivation.
People could choose three answers, so perhaps “I just enjoy it” may be just an afterthought for some. But for others, the enjoyment factor was paramount:
Blogging is fun. I travel a lot in my own country and want to share my experiences and encourage others to visit this amazing land.
I live alone, but I’m not lonely — but I have loved the Net since I was introduced to it in the late 1990s when I was required to email my column for a group I belonged to…been through many systems, but now it’s much easier and I just love to have this option at home…
Personal reflection: I was secretly delighted that 40% of respondents selected this answer. Surely at any age, the fact that you just enjoy a harmless activity such as blogging is reason enough to spend your time and energy on it. With advancing age, many people feel free to abandon an old hierarchy of hobbies, and to ignore a little voice that says <such and such an activity> is not worthwhile. As it turns out, our Older Bloggers Survey shows that most of the people blogging find it very worthwhile indeed.
4. The teacher
“To share my knowledge” and “to share my passions” were each chosen by approximately 30% of respondents, and comments gave more detail about those for whom teaching was part of their motivation.
- “I wanted to create a “safe” place to share my love of mobile devices.”
- “To share passions and knowledge and attract recruits to the ideas.”
- “I originally started writing from a more traditional view of ‘living sustainably’ and noticed how tricky I found it to change my habits and thought it might be helpful to share this so that others can see that it is not easy but we should try anyway, and that every change makes a difference.”
“I have taught and practised art. I obtained University degrees later in life. I write fiction and non-fiction. I love travel, and have visited many countries, and lived in a few with different cultures to my own. I believe I have something to share with others.”
5. The helper
“To inspire or help others” drew 30% of responses.
Some comments showed that this motive may overlap with the 9% who said they blogged “to find support, therapy, or catharsis.” Perhaps this is because many bloggers have had their own struggles in the past, either with a disease such as depression or alcoholism, or a new venture or life situation. They decide tell their story in a blog in order to help others: thus the person who needed help at some point becomes the helper.
- “I started to share my experience of depression, in the hope that it would help others, and mental health is still a core topic for me. But I share music too, plus other ramblings that come to mind.”
- “Good therapy to write about my life.”
- “For support. I’m an ‘elder orphan’.”
- “I do it to help, but not inspire. Yuk!”
6. The entrepreneur
Among the older bloggers in our sample, 7% stated that one of their reasons for blogging was “to promote my business.” However, for this group of bloggers, not one cited “to make money” as a reason. For writers, “to self-publish” is a reason to blog, and this was chosen by 12%.
- The main blog is my pottery business
- I’d like subscribers to buy my book
- Because I submit my writing to traditional publishers, I want to show through my blog that I have a platform of readers in place.
COMPARE WITH RECENT SURVEYS OF MARKETING BLOGS
7. The learner
One motive that I hadn’t anticipated cropped up frequently in comments (and also in the next survey question): unprompted, six people cited learning or cognition as a reason for blogging.
- “It allows me a reason to dig deep with research on something I’m interested in.”
- “Blogging keeps one’s mind active in old age, hopefully delaying age-related dementia.”
- “To learn … general, about the internet, people, places in the world …”
- “Also to keep my brain active in retirement.”
- “To learn from others is a big part of why I blog.”
- Blogging is about keeping ME inspired. It provides the impetus to stay engaged, keep setting goals, keep feeding my curiosity. I didn’t want my days to drift aimlessly. A blog about continuing to constantly challenge myself forces me to actually do exactly that!
The reason for blogging changes over time
Frequently in this survey, participants explained that the purpose or topic of their blog was something that evolved. Commenting on this particular question, they said:
- “Started out as a diary for myself, friends and family. Became far more enjoyable when I started to treat it as a social network.”
- “I used to blog to keep my writing sharp and to practice what I preached to my writing students. Then it became a way to document things in my life as well.”
“Historically I began to keep in touch with friends and family. Blogging has brought far more friends and taken me down byways I would never otherwise have travelled.”
- “I started out writing a journal of our travels because I didn’t want to forget a special part of our retirement. When it was suggested that I should publish it I chose instead to blog as I wanted to see if anyone would read my musings.”
“I started blogging to practice writing, to promote a group I ran with my wife and to see about making money, but over the years it has changed.”
Summary: older bloggers blog for creative, social, pleasure-seeking, changeable and individual reasons
This small group of older bloggers tend to say they blog to express themselves, to connect with others, and just because they enjoy it. But their reasons change over time as their own lives change or perhaps they discover other aspects of blogging.
But there’s no such thing as a typical blogger, because each may have a distinct and idiosyncratic combination of reasons for what they do. For example:
- “I like writing when I have summering to say. I also just like playing around with apps and gadgets. Creating a new blog on a new platform is fun, until you realise you have nothing to say.”
- “I love to write. I never used to write into journals or [diaries] much and always wondered why. When blogs were ‘invented’ I instantly connected with the dialogue, the conversation that can occur. It inspires me to write more, both for myself and for others to read me.”
Please do share these reports in any way that suits you. And please tell me, and each other, what you think.
Text and cartoons by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0.