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To Build Blog Subscribers, Get Narrow-Minded

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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I had an interesting conversation about blog visitors and blog subscribers with my friend Doug Karr a few weeks ago at the Blog Indiana conference.

Doug’s blog covers a wide swath of digital marketing topics, whereas Convince & Convert is of course mostly in the social media lane with occasional dalliances in email, conversion optimization, metrics, and other related topics.

As a result of this difference in breadth, I think it stands to reason that Doug has more traffic on his blog, but I have more subscribers – which is the case.

I have never run the numbers on this definitively, and I’m sure there are outliers, but I believe it to be true anecdotally. What I tell my clients who blog is that the narrower your content focus, the more likely you are to drive sharing and subscription behaviors, because it’s more likely the reader feels like you are talking directly about their situation. And the content is more relevant more often. The trade-off is traffic. 

A broader focus creates more traffic because you have more types of Google bait in the water, and you are simply appealing to a wider variety of readers.

Broad Topics = more visitors, less sharing, less subscriptions

Narrow Topics = fewer visitors, more sharing, more subscriptions

In addition to topical focus, I’d also wager that blogs with more authors – and a corresponding mixture of voices and writing styles – have fewer subscribers as a percentage of visitors than solo-written blogs.

The Effect of Content Breadth in Other Media

I suspect the same dynamic exists in other forms of media. USA Today has a ton of readers, but perhaps fewer subscribers (as a percentage of total readers) than my local newspaper, because USA Today covers such a broad range of topics it’s not a can’t-miss proposition for anyone.

TV shows that appeal very specifically to a particular type of audience (Walking Dead comes to mind) are probably DVR’d at a higher rate than more general fare (again as a percentage of total audience), because they are must see TV for that audience.

It’s why some movies become “cult classics” and why many musical acts can make a very nice living without ever breaking big. I think about Roger Clyne in Arizona, or Bob Schneider from Austin, both terrific musicians with very little in the way of mainstream hits. Both tour incessantly though, and almost always go to the same cities and venues over and over. They have a very loyal audience who will turn out and buy tickets every time they’re in town. That’s the concert-going version of subscribing to a blog.

Again, I don’t have any big data on this, although I’d love to work on a research project about it. I’m mostly just noodling. What do you think?

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