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Two Styles of Blogging

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of April 2006 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

Over at Kottke.org Jason (and his guest blogger Greg Knauss) reflected last week on the two types of bloggers (found via LexBlog):

  1. Referential – ‘uses the link (sometimes referred to as ‘link blogging’) as his fundamental unit of currency, building posts around ideas and experiences spawned elsewhere’
  2. Experiential – ‘inwardly directed, drawing entries from personal experience and opinion’

It’s a useful distinction to make – I’m sure there are other variations or ways of classifying bloggers but most blog posts fall into one of these two camps. I say ‘blog posts’ because in my experience many bloggers use a combination of these two techniques and I’d be a little hesitant to label these bloggers as one or the other.

My own blogging style covers the full spectrum.

Referential – I have some blogs which are almost completely referential, to the point that they are used by their readers as archives and hubs of information collected from around the web. These blogs are sometimes critiqued as bordering on spammish – it’s a criticism that I’ve listened to and grappled with but one that I’ve also balanced with comments from readers who say that those blogs are useful to them as they cut down the amount of time that they need to put into researching the topics.

Experiential – On the other hand I have blogs that are purely experiential. In fact I started one last week that is an experiment in how a blog will go with no referential posting at all. In fact I’ve taken it to an extreme and am breaking a lot of my own blogging rules (some would say it’s not even technically a blog because it doesn’t have comments and doesn’t have outbound links) to see what will happen. I’ll talk more about what I’m learning from it in a week or so.

Refperential (or should that be exferential) – The majority of the blogs that I run are some somewhere on the spectrum between purely referential and experiential blogs. ProBlogger is a prime example of this – my aim is to write something that is experiential every day (or every second day at the least) and at the same time I post ‘newsy’ type posts daily also which are largely referential. I’m sure that there are readers who would want more of one or the other but I find that the combination works.

Both styles of blogging have their own strengths and weaknesses. Referential blogging is a little less high maintenance (although if you don’t know where to find good stories it can be difficult) whereas in most cases Experiential blogging takes more time (unless you’re writing short original pieces). Experiential blogging can attract a lot of attention and incoming links (if done well) whereas unless you’re high on the food chain referential blogging doesn’t really bring in the links.

My advice to new bloggers trying to find their voice as a blogger is to consider a number of factors including:

• Personal Style – each of us have our own personalities and preferences when it comes to writing. While I would argue it’s important to stretch yourself from time to time it’s more important to find your style and work from that place. If you prefer one above the other then go with that predominantly.

• Topic – some topics lend themselves very well to referential blogging whilst others do not.

• Competition – take a look at what other blogs and websites in your niche are doing. If everyone is writing in a referential style there might be a gap there which you could attempt to fill.

• Audience – sometimes your blog’s audience will make it abundantly clear what type of posting they want. I have one blog where I constantly get requests for posts in the opposite style to what I write predominantly on that blog. As a result I’ve attempted to readdress the balance.

The key for bloggers is to experiment and find their own balance after considering these factors. Over time you might need to tweak your approach but as you find your own way you’ll then be able to develop a workflow and rhythm to suit it.

What style of blogging do you predominantly use?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I wrote about this about a year ago on my blog: http://jergames.blogspot.com/2005/08/linkposts-revisited.html , and first http://jergames.blogspot.com/2005/08/linkposts.html .

    I called the referential blogs “linkposts”. On the one hand, most of the most popular blogs are basically:

    – Link
    – Pithy comment and analysis

    I think it’s lazy and much less interesting than blogs that have actual original content. But if you have enough people working at it and doing a good enough job, you are basically a news outlet. And if you click with your users, you get popular. However, now that most of the popular ones are established, it is much harder for new ones to break into popularity.

    On the other hand, a whole lot of blogs start off as something else and then end up as linkposts by default because they no longer have anything to write about. That’s when they should pack it in.


  2. I think most now-a-days use the first type more.

  3. […] ProBlogger: Two Styles of Blogging […]

  4. Good thoughts.. I’m mainly an experiential blogger. Only when I find something totally useful do I write “referentially.”

    I like the advice you gave at the end with the competition and audience. I’ll keep an eye out for the audience factor as my readership grows. Great point about competition. That angle/nicheiness seems to make or break blogs in my opinion.



  5. I think, first way is more simplу but second is more effective.

  6. I only have one blog and it’s Experiential. It does take a lot of time since it’s all original material plus the posts tend to be long anyway. Incredibly, I have no competition after a year of doing it. The few referential postings I do put up tend to be popular for the light reading involved. I should try to do more of them.

  7. I wrote about this the other day (in fact, LexBlog cites my entry as the source) and I would point to blogs like Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit (and really most political blogs are this way) as a Referential style blog. And quite obviously, not spammish.

  8. […] A veces las coincidencias son tremendamente sorpresivas. Hoy estaba pensando que es gracioso la forma en que los blogs pueden divirse según su manera de ser escritos, cuando, de repente, encuentro este artículo de Kottke.org via Problogger. Según el post y según estaba pensando yo ( y seguro que tu lo habías pensado alguna vez), existen dos tipos de blogs, los referenciales y los experimentados. Según Kottke.org: El bloguer “referencial” usa los enlaces como elemento fundamental, construyendo los artículos en base a ideas y experiencias de diversos lugares y usando mucho la frase: Mira esto. Los bloguers “referenciales” son reporteros, crean indicadores y pedazos de información. Pueden y suelen incluir añadir su propia información e incluso anécdotas personales. El enfoque “hacia fuera” de su blog es lo que les distingue. […]

  9. http://www.searchengineguide.com/searchbrief/senews/007379.html

    is a good example as any of a useless referencial blog post, where the post title is identical to the WMW thread title, body text is just a plain link to the thread, the author of the blog adds nothing new to the discussion, the link isn’t even live, instead surfers are encouraged to discuss the topic in his own forum, where I’d have to run a search to find a thread where the topic is being discussed. *rolls eyes*

  10. […] I think I’m starting to settle into blogging now and get a sense of what my blog is about and how I write. Recently I added ‘asides’ to my template because I wanted a way to be able to make quick, kind of off-topic posts without disrupting the ‘flow’ of my blog. (Well… I see it as a flow anyways!) Not sure how well that works for RSS Reading people out there… hopefully not too disruptive and annoying. I’ve definitely fallen into the ‘navel gazing’ demographic of bloggers, for better or worse, but asides give me a little more flexibility and allow me to keep posting little interesting snippets even when I have little blogging time on my hands. […]

  11. There are two kinds of bloggers. Bloggers who divide bloggers into two kinds and bloggers who don’t :–)

    I’m mainly an experiential blogger writing a niche blog on customer service. I usually try to tell a story which makes a point leading to a benefit. I find myself impatient with other blogs who compose a post of “links of the day,” but then I find myself clicking on them anyway. Most of the other bloggers in my niche lean more toward what I refer to as “instructional,” perhaps a subset of experiential. For readers interested in business blogs, I think there’s room for those styles and others.

    Great blog. I’ll be reading…

  12. I write what I have to say –if topic is to include a link it is important, relevant or it’s left out. I assume readers get my style, seriousness and know that if a link exists they will appreciate. I sort of don’t get your point. But then: I object to mega-media creating blogs, so maybe your point will seem different in twelve months. I am, however, clueless how to get IN-coming links. Any opinion, method?

  13. I favour the Experiential approach, with a few carefully selected links but only if they’re good ones

    There are too many people out there using the Referential approach and basically just “blogging about other people blogging” … I feel that most reader’s would gain little useful information from that

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