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7 Dark Truths: Why Readers Really Become Subscribers

Posted By Darren Rowse 10th of February 2008 Blog Promotion, RSS 0 Comments

This post was submitted by Nick Cernis – the author of Put Things Off, the laid-back productivity blog.

Think you’ve heard it all before?

It’s true – if you want more subscribers, write great content and target a specific niche. It’s a lovely idea, and guess what? It really works.

But to understand why your readers subscribe (and how to hook more in), it helps to use some fun psychology. Read on and find out who’s really subscribing to your blog.

7 Dark Truths About Your Subscribers

If you’ve got subscribers, it’s likely that they belong in at least one of these categories:

1) They want to be you
If you subscribe to Problogger, the chances are high that you want what Darren’s got: a great full-time blogging job. There’s no shame in it, but before you move to Australia and buy black specs, consider this: your individuality is what makes you worth reading. (Besides, sheep look ridiculous wearing glasses.)

2) They want to be with you
There’s a well-known blog that became one of the most-read UK sites overnight due to the author’s profession: she was a London call girl. Thousands of viewers checked in to read about her candid antics. She never named names, but it still made for titillating reading.

3) They want your brain
Are your readers zombies? If you’re an expert in your niche, the chances are high that you’ve got subscribers for one reason: they’re marching to your beat and they want your brain. It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

4) They want your goodies
Is your blog like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? Are you always giving away prizes and links to free stuff? It’s a universally accepted truth: free sweeties equals followers.

5) They want your wit
Laughter is a powerful thing. Whenever a blogger makes me giggle again and again, I look for the subscribe button. Partly it’s because I like being drip-fed humour every day, but in truth I’m just jealous: I want their wit.

6) They want to stay ahead
Do you subscribe to your competitors’ blogs? You should do—it’s the best way to stay ahead. Chances are, a lot of your readers are your competitors. It’s how they keep abreast of what you’re planning and try to stay in front.

7) They want to check up on you

Last month my Mum told me that she’d subscribed to my blog. I had no idea! It didn’t worry me, but it certainly made me think. Suddenly you become very selective about what you say, and which life experiences you share. (Don’t worry – secretly they’ve done all the crazy things you have too.)

How To Get More Subscribers With The 7 Dark Truths

If you want more subscribers, just flip the 7 Dark Truths on their heads:

1) Become a superstar
If you work hard at becoming well-known in a certain field, people will want to be you and read you.

2) Become a heart-throb
If you write openly in a way that tugs on people’s heart strings, chances are they’ll want to hear from you again. It’s rare to find bloggers who spill their soul in a mature way that you can learn and grow from.

3) Become an expert
Seth Godin has the world’s most popular business blog for a reason: he’s the best in his niche. He’s also a superstar and he’s witty, so he attracts some of the other groups. If you can become a funny expert superstar too, your subscriber count will thank you.

4) Become generous
Think differently: as well as giving away prizes or links to free sites, what could you offer your readers for free that would be invaluable to them? Free website advice? Free marketing help? A free eBook? Whatever it is, make sure they have to subscribe to get it. Use the Feed Footer plugin for WordPress to add the details at the end of your feeds.

5) Become funny
There’s a famous saying: you’re either runny or you’re snot. If you can make people laugh, they’ll be more inclined to grab your feed once they’ve dribbled giggled their way to the foot of your post.

6) Become a market-leader
The 37 Signals blog is one of the most popular in their niche. If you can make something that’s truly remarkable, there’s a good chance your competition will subscribe to see what you’re up to. Competitors equal subscribers. Having lots of both never sounded so good!

7) Tell your Mum
Tell your friends and family too. They’ll want to check up on you, and will become subscribers long before you’ve had the chance to delete your post about that “incident” with the hay barn and the matches.

Go forth and use your new knowledge to gain the subscribers you deserve!

Nick Cernis is the author of Put Things Off, the laid-back productivity blog that teaches freelancers, entrepreneurs and bloggers how to live the lives they love. Subscribe to his feed or visit PTO now.

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. The seven reasons for the readers becoming subscribers are true. People are more interested in themselves and if a blog benefits them to improve, then you have a subscriber. When the blog focuses on self improve articles, then you have subscriber for life.

  2. Excellent post!

    These are some tips that can really help newb out and they should take them to heart!

  3. Great post, I will follow your 7th advice to tell my mommy :P

  4. 1) They want to be you

    2) They want to be with you

    This is just going a little bit too far ;-)

  5. I think this post followed your number 5 advice very well…to become funny. The part about buying the black specs and moving to Australia was great. And yes, there are way too many sheep.

    Thanks for the wonderful post. And you’re right…we mums have secretly done all you kids have done and more. But be careful even then. ;)

  6. Very nice post there Nick. A very true post as well.

  7. I think a lot of people are going to deny the first 2 dark truths, and even so, it might not apply for everyone. I subscribed to a technology robot blog because I like robots and would like to create a robot, not because I want to post videos about robots.

  8. awesome article, and you are so right, I want to be you!

  9. I agree with numbers 1 & 2 in the Truths bout your subscribers section. You ask ANYONE fascinated about Japan. They want to be you because you are living their dream and they want to be with you to have that awesome experience.

    Thank you for these truths. I plan to implement some of these tactics in a new blog I have in mind.

  10. Great article, I am slowly becoming a superstart =)

  11. “Make sure they have to subscribe to get it”


    Let’s say I’m not particularly interested in your blog but suddenly you offer me something I do want, but with the “catch” that I have to subscribe.

    So OK, I subscribe and take the freebie. Now what?

    I’m still not interested. Maybe I unsubscribe right away or maybe I just forget about it and you sit in one of my little visited iGoogle tabs – oh great, you have a “subscriber” who never even looks at your headlines, never mind reads your blog.

    This “subscriber frenzy” is utterly ridiculous.

  12. The reason I become a subscriber to a blog is majorly because I don’t want to miss any of their content…

  13. I read this blog because occasionally the content is more interesting than most other sites.

    not on your list, but the main reason I’m here.

  14. This post scared the pants off of me

  15. A refreshing read, thank you :-)


  16. Nick,

    Great post! People do fall for the personality behind the blog–if you let the personality show.

    My Mom won’t subscribe… she still doesn’t quite understand what one is, and is afraid they might be able to suck the life out of your computer with spam or viruses or some such.

    (Even mine? Even after I’ve shown it to her, explained it’s like a magazine article online, shown her that my Mac hasn’t died of infectious blogs yet? Aaaargh!) Love ya, Mom, if you’re reading this… which I know you’re not. : )


    Maximum Customer Experience Blog

  17. My parents have just discovered the Internet. It’s a scary thought that, right now, they could be reading my blog!

  18. Great way to ‘rephrase’ the reasons behind subscription..I’m a picky subscriber, therefore I only subscribe for this reason:

    3) They want your brain

    But then again, if I happen to come across blogs in the same niche as mine (corporate satire) maybe other reasons will become valid!

  19. Gloria says: 02/10/2008 at 2:47 am

    It’s true. I want your brain. I like being me so it’s not wanting to be you. But your brain is shiny (trademark Firefly). I like it.

  20. Right on! Currently, I’m trying to go the generous route, because it’s one of the easiest for new bloggers. Still, a few zombie subscribers helping my FeedBurner stats wouldn’t hurt :)

  21. Great article. Dont we all want to be superstar witty charming experts.

  22. Nice article..

    But frankly, i didn’t get much strong points or any points of evidence for the statements.

  23. Thanks for the kind words, all.

    @Ruchir and @45n5: People who subscribe because the content is good probably fall under category 3 (“They want your brain”). You might not want Darren’s brain, but it’s that brain where all the content’s coming from.

    @Sue: Thanks for the reassurance! I knew all along that Mums have their secrets too!

    @Chetan: Thanks for your comment. I spent an evening one day going through the Technorati top 100 and looking at subscriber numbers, wondering why they were so popular.

    So I turned the question on its head. Instead of asking, “why do most of these guys have so many subscribers?”, I pondered, “why have so many subscribers signed up to hear from these guys?”

    The result was this list. If you want evidence, just look to your favourite successful blogs!

  24. What about they are just bots? I have seen bloggers recommending the way of submitting their feeds to various RSS feed directory which will boost their feed count.

    With this, I think another point should be added, “Become a hardworking directory submitter”.

    Anyway, nice article which indeed pointed out what type of blogger that we should become to target certain types of subscribers.

  25. @Wayne: Ha! Yes, I’ve heard of this too. But I wouldn’t suggest any blogger go down that dark route. They’re only fooling themselves…

  26. Hi Nick – what an excellent post. I had no idea about the London call girl blog. But, I’m probably too old to change profession!

    Thanks for the info on the plug in also. A comment section doesn’t show up on my feeds, so I’m guessing that it will probably do the trick.

  27. Good advice, now to try and implement. How to become a rockstar… hmmmm

  28. This is all very true, most people subscribe generally because they feel that person can offer them good insight and direction in their own venture. It’s always good to hear it from someone who’s been there.

  29. This is great knowledge! I’m learning so much from this site I feel compelled to thank you….so thank you!

    This gave me another idea for a blog…more work to do now…I should really focus on one site, but if you look at what I have now, there are so many things I did wrong (at least, there is plenty more improvement to do). ProBlogger is really making more work for me in that sense, but these are still golden posts in my opinion. :)

    I do have one question though…of all the items above, which seems to be more lucrative or stand out among the rest? They couldn’t be all equal, and I would think the ‘titillating’ blog would garner more non-bloggers, thus providing it more traffic. Thoughts? Perhaps this is a secondary post on this topic…


  30. Haha, I really like this post. So true and to the point. In this sense, aren’t blogs sort of like novels that’s based on true stories? When we read novels, we are becoming a certain character and living their life, I guess it’s true to blogs to a degree too!

  31. I think they become subscribers just because they need something new to read once in a while.

    All these points are great, but sometimes you just gotta change the channel.

  32. Two thumbs up! Great work Nick!

    I see that you’ve stressed the humor-effect. Well, it really works.

    “Competitors equal subscribers. Having lots of both never sounded so good!” – this is a really good point.

    One – because it helps you find competition. And that competition will create the drive a blogger needs to take his/her blog up to the next level. And staying ahead the rest, the edge might as well be having a perfect estimation about your blog niche.

    Two – it creates quality traffic. It makes you drive traffic to anf from your blog and entangles your blog in the hungry tentacles of the squids, i mean – readers, following your particular niche.

    Also, about the whole “They want to be you thing”. This is particularly true and is the biggest reason why people subscribe to problogger:) Then again, any prominent blogger, I believe, can make use of this, as long as they know to do the right thing at the right time.

    Coming out with fireworks about who you are, embedding how professional you are in your blog posts, will ultimately make people believe in you and wanting to be you. Just my opinion!

  33. Besides, sheep look ridiculous wearing glasses

    Ah, so that’s why they all wear contact lens.

    Wonderful post Nick! Very helpful as well as entertaining. I better call Mom this weekend and enlist her aid.

    Thanks for the great read.

  34. Wow. Those reasons are scary.

  35. Yeah I agree Human Resource above. You need to come out swinging on your blog or website to have a standing chance at solidifying readers.

    Ultimately, if they like what you have to say, they will be back. I hope!

    Cruise To Cash

  36. As for the checking up part, both my parents and my grandmother have subscribed to my blog! I’m very lucky that they don’t give me crazy looks and that they actually understand what this whole thing is about (well, somewhat anyway). And since I try to maintain a professional level and never write anything I wouldn’t want them to hear, it’s all good.

    Great article! :)

  37. haha great post Darren, very fun and truth.

  38. I found this very funny and engaging. I loved how the article was titled, “7 Dark Truths….” only to have you flip the coin and explore the other side of why people subscribe.

    Thanks a lot for enlightening all of us bloggers who spend lots of time wondering the how’s and why’s of subscriber behavior. You really pointed out some interesting stuff.

    For instance, I know some of my subscribers want to be me. I know others who find me humorous while others have their heartstrings pulled. It’s very interesting how you defined the reasons why people want to subscribe.

    Excellent. Excellent. Good job!

  39. I’ll add that sometimes they want more than one on your list, for example they might want to be you, but knowing that’s impossible, may be settling for having your brain.

    I also find I have many (self-described) boring people reading my blog because they find me funny. I often hear things like, “I wish my writing was funny like yours, mine is so mundane.”

  40. ya..that part of parents and relatives are true…my mom and sis reads my blog..so i keep a check on every topic i select

  41. HAHA, well ive become a subscriber to your blog Nick. My absolute favourite was number one. Becoming Darren, Moving to Australia, and getting the black rim glasses!!!

    Certainly made me chuckle.

  42. The reason i’m here is because i love to click on my own link. lol


  43. I really enjoyed this article and tried to leave a comment but apparently Darren’s server was experiencing technical difficulties. Hope this goes through this time.

    This was a very interesting analysis that I’ve always been fascinated with. Becuase of your post, I am a little more conscious about why I am subscribing ot someone’s site. You have an interesting perspective – the dark and the light.

    There’s always to sides of the coin.

  44. Darren, you should make this your next poll to find out who your readers are :)

  45. Well said! i find it very helpful info to improve my blogs. I’ll think i will try the generous approach, maybe a contest with an attractive prize like 300G harddisk or SLI GT series of graphics card…tempting isn’t it.

  46. I agree with number 6. For some weird reason, I subscribe to the people that I dislike and also my ‘competitors’. Its just human nature after all

  47. For my personal i think the note 5 should take many reader’s mind. Only the one making fun can let me subscribe it!

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