The blogging informavore’s dilemma

According to this Slate article, I’m an “informavore.” You probably are, too.

The informavore is a new breed of hunter-gatherer, who forages for information online.

“On the Internet,” writes Slate’s Michael Agger, “we hunt for facts. … [W]e assess a site quickly, looking for an ‘information scent.’ We move on if there doesn’t seem to be any food around.”

The dilemma for an informavore who also happens to blog (and hopes for a modest readership) is that blogs aren’t very good sources of information. That’s according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who is the primary source for the Slate piece. Nielsen suggests that most blog postings are limited in their value to building business.

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value.

So, what’s a blogger to do in a world of informavores? Can a blog succeed only by linking to and sharing information? Agger argues that “a thoughtful blogger who tags his posts can cover a subject well.”

I tend to agree with Agger. I enjoy reading blogs that don’t necessarily follow the readability (scannability?) formula designed to cater to informavores:

  • bulleted lists
  • shorts paragraphs
  • lots of white space
  • bolded words
  • subheads
  • etc.

This is a subhead (in bold type, no less)

So, maybe blogging success equals thoughtful posts plus thorough taxonomy.

Based on my own experience since the first of the year, the theory that informational posts are of more interest seems to hold true. For this blog, posts that offer information of value to my main audience (higher ed folks, marketing and PR types) seem to be the most popular in terms of unique visits.

Since the first of the year, the top five posts (in terms of click-throughs) have offered something of value to the online community I interact with. Here they are, in order of number of unique visits. (Interestingly, each of the five links has an average time-on-page that is less than the site average. I’m not sure what that means, but I think it means that since I provide links to other information sources, as a good informavore-centric site should, they find the info they’re looking for and click through to it.)

  1. The habits of social network addicts pointed to a study comparing the characteristics of hardcore Facebook, MySpace and Twitter users. That’s obviously of interest to higher ed marketers.
  2. My “breaking news” post about the Northern Illinois University shooting last February.
  3. as a PR measurement tool.
  4. Friday Five: Q&A with Roy Adler and Tom Hayes, authors of ‘University Marketing Mistakes’.
  5. Book review: ‘University Marketing Mistakes’, a follow up to No. 4 on the list.

Each of these posts includes a morsel or two of info that I thought would be of interest to readers of this blog. Still, I don’t think I would ever beat Google, Digg, or any of the other info-portals. Nor do I hope to.

One thing blogs can do that those sites can’t is provide a bit of human voice and context to the data.

But maybe that isn’t the point anymore. Maybe it never was.

Now playing: Ladytron – Predict The Day
via FoxyTunes


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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