Popularity in the Digital Age

I don’t know how many of my readers aspire to publish publicly and have their words read by an audience. I suspect that it’s a fairly large percentage. I know this is something that I have always been drawn to, since I was young. It’s not that I wanted to be famous, though I suspect that all human beings are tempted by fame. Fame makes some very empty promises very loudly. But there are othaser good reasons to want to have an audience. In particular, having an audience enables one to give away knowledge that one has been given. Next to learning, there is nothing more satisfying than teaching. (In learning we are looking at the goodness of God directly, in teaching we are (by God’s gift) taking part in God’s self-gift to others.)

The commonality of wanting an audience for one’s writing, combined with the way that technology has made publishing all but free, has resulted in there being so much writing that finding things is incredibly difficult. Further, with so many options on offer, we all look for those voices which speak to us very effectively. Since there’s so much available, there’s a lot of sifting to find the things we really like. Thus the problem in the age of handwriting was copying, the problem in the age of print was distribution, and the problem in the digital age is discovery. How does one find an audience, which is really the question: how does one’s audience find one?

Aside from large amounts of money, there do not seem to be any sure-fire answers. At least quick answers. How does one get a sizable audience in six months without spending a ton of money on advertising and cross-promotion? Heaven knows. But it does seem to be the case that longevity is a major component of finding an audience without a ton of spending. This is for two reasons, I think.

The first is that much of stumbling into an author that one enjoys reading is by luck, and luck takes time. Over the course of several years, some people will stumble into one’s blog and like it. The other is that recommendation (posting on social media, emailing, etc) is itself something which grows with the size of one’s audience. A small audience rarely recommends posts, a larger audience recommends posts more often. Thus the few people who find one initially will occasionally recommend one’s work in a way that puts other people who enjoy it together with that work. Over time that builds, as well, both because there’s more time for that to happen but also because there’s more time for older posts to become relevant to some conversation or topic.

In essence, the key to winning the lottery is to buy a large number of tickets; the way one does that in blogging is by writing a lot of blog posts over a lot of time. Something similar applies to YouTube channels, Twitter accounts, etc.

Once again it turns out that patience is the most practical of the virtues.

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