Sing your own song: defining success for bloggers and podcasters

Photo of a blackbird on a pole in the city

This blackbird sang louder than all the buses and cars in Courtenay Place

Geekiness alert… of interest to bloggers

This afternoon I’ve been at The Official WordPress Growth Summit, mainly because I will soon be running a short course for beginner bloggers. One presentation was worth its weight in gold. In Blogging and podcasting: defining success two veterans of the Web, L. Jeffrey Zeldman and Jason Snell, answered the core question that bloggers ask and ask and ask again. And then again. “How do I get to be successful through blogging or podcasting?”

Naturally these champions tell us the truth one more time. Not new but true: (a) there’s a lot of luck, so no guarantees (b) it can only happen if you are fascinated by the field you write about and if you then reach out to others who also love your topic. Passion (oh that word again) and authenticity are the very basis of success.


And when somebody asked The Question once again, either Jeffrey or Jason said, “I think we have just told you the answer to that question,” or words to that effect.

As a writer I recognise a hidden agenda: some people, even the nicest people, suspect there’s a secret, a magic trick to success. It reminds me of the early days of the World Wide Web (as we so quaintly called it back in the day), when people wanted to believe they could permanently outwit search engines with a flick of the keys. But the answer is out there in plain sight.

Sing your own song on your blog and podcast

On Sunday I saw a blackbird singing its heart out on a city pole. Buses were roaring by, cars grumbling and people shouting but the blackbird didn’t flinch. The city blackbird carried on singing loud and clear. It was beautiful.

They had a niche audience: I think I was the only one who noticed. I’m a devoted fan and would pay $5 a month to hear this passionate, creative, authentic songbird carry on and on and on.

Sing like a blackbird, o ye bloggers! In blogging and podcasting, that’s a fine way of defining success.  That is my aim and my delight. Yours too?

Blackbird on a bare tree

Another loud proud blackbird podcasting from a city cherry blossom tree. Sing loud enough and spring will come,


8 thoughts on “Sing your own song: defining success for bloggers and podcasters

  1. Many bloggers say out loud “I write for myself”. I think there is a nugget of truth in that. I too write for myself. But, I found that engagement ended up being very enticing, and I love the sense of community (even before covid happened) so suddenly I’m looking at writing beyond just for myself. You know? I still choose my topics, but I do have a peripheral eye on my followers who take time out of their day to read me and sometimes comment. So I stick to what I know and write about that but spend a little bit of time thinking whether or not that would appeal to my readers too.

    Does this make sense?

    There is a way to do both, no? Sing your own song and when someone admires/supports you, nurture that a little.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I do know. Absolutely. My first two blogs were literally databases for poems, and one was never public. And now look at me, delighted to hear from you and Dan, to hear your thoughts and talk to you. This was a common trajectory for those who got responded to my survey for older bloggers. They began with self-expression as a goal but grew to relish the blogging community.

  2. Dan Antion says:

    I enjoy the community around my blog, and the bloggers, poets and photographers I’ve met. I write what I feel like writing. If people enjoy that, I hope it means I’ve written it well. If growth comes, I’ll be happy, but it’s not a goal.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Dan, that was an interesting result in my research on older bloggers. I must revisit that survey but like you, most of us have a similar outlook. Very satisfying, and a personal concept of “success.”

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I wondered what that summit was about. I am glad to know that you are one giving advice to new bloggers.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Just passing it on here, and who knows whether our live class will happen? New Zealand has an outbreak of community transmission so we are all on edge.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        How on earth did that happen? Did a contagious Hobbit emerge from underground?

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Probably. The origin is unknown but all cases are from a single cluster, luckily.

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