Let’s Read It Again (And Again And Again)

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Photo Credit: Steve Wall

On blogs about blogging you will often find lessons on the importance of being original.  Most bloggers will tell you that if you want to stand out, you must produce original content.  Of course this is good advice.  Of course blog readers like variety.  But then why bloggers keep on writing about the same topics as so many others?  Why is there so much repetition in the blogosphere?

If you think that this happens only because most bloggers lack creativity and/or talent, think again.

People normally publish content on the Internet because they want their stuff to be viewed. If there were zero chances that they’d reach at least a couple of Internet surfers, if there was no hope at all for them, why would they bother anyway? (Granted, some might still bother, but such quirks are out of this post’s scope.)

The truth is that there is an audience for (almost) everything.  Even for stuff that has already been done a million times before.  This applies to all kinds of content.  But why?

It seems I’ve asked too many “whys” above, so I’d better post some possible answers before you lose your patience.  Wait, let me abuse of your patience for one more paragraph. *grins* I just need to make it clear that the reasons listed below are all related to repetitive blog posts and, consequently, to blog readers’ behaviour.  However, I believe that many of them also apply to other types of content and audience.  All right, now I’m officially starting the list of reasons why blog readers keep on reading about the same topics over and over again, no matter how many times they have been discussed before:

1. Hope and curiosity

Right before starting this article, I had a quick chat with Mum and she asked me what I was going to write about.  Upon listening my answer, she promptly said: “That’s an easy one. People do it because they always hope to find some new pieces of information they hadn’t found before.”  I’d add that this is especially true when a post’s headline looks promising. Besides, many readers are simply curious, even when they don’t set their expectations too high.

2. To agree and/or to disagree

Many people feel reassured when they read posts that reflect their views on a given subject.  This brings them comfort and satisfaction.  As a result they will read more and more stuff that they can agree with.  There’s also the other side: people who will actively search for opinions they can disagree with.  They like arguing just for the sake of it.  They want opportunities to impose their own opinions and to bash those who don’t think like them.

3. Admiration and loyalty

If you’ve built a loyal readership and a good reputation, you won’t have mere readers, but fans.  Hence they will be interested in most — if not all — things you write.  Since they admire and respect you, they want to know your opinions. Look at Tad, for instance.  He often writes about social media.  How many bloggers write about the very same subject?  A lot, you know.  Still his visitors keep on coming back, reading his posts, commenting on them, stumbling them… His readers don’t want only someone else’s opinions, they want Tad’s ones, because they like and trust him.

4. Reminding

Yes, repetitive articles can work as reminders for forgetful readers.  And also for procrastinators and unmotivated individuals.  By reading the same things repeatedly, they may (or not) eventually decide to take action, even if only after a long time.

5. Other perspectives

This can be associated to reason #1.  Due to curiosity, hope or generosity, readers will give new and/or little-known bloggers a chance.  They know that keeping their mind open to different perspectives is healthy and may lead to nice discoveries.

6. Research

Some people perform only superficial researches on the topics of their interest.  Others go for a thorough investigation, thus exploring all possibilities and… you guessed it: reading all articles they can, until they find everything they are looking for.  Students, trend hunters, businesspeople and marketers are among the individuals likely to behave this way.  But the truth is that anyone who feels interested or passionate enough about a subject might do the same.

7. Inspiration

Ideas, information and knowledge can all be recycled.  Having this in mind, some blog readers search for repetitive articles on purpose.  They like wondering how such articles could be (re)used.  You can count me among these people.  When you my blog, you’ll see that one of its aims is to encourage content producers to improve on existing stuff.

8. Beginners

No matter how popular and widespread a topic is, there will always be beginners struggling to understand it.  You may skim a blog post and discard it right away, thinking to yourself that there’s nothing new in it.  But that might be exactly the kind of article that a newbie would need and enjoy.

9. Too many options

With so much information available on the Internet, you cannot possibly expect everyone to read the very same things. Not all web surfers will seize knowledge from the same sources.  Even very famous sites remain ignored by many readers. So this is yet another reason why what looks like old news for some is useful information for others.

As you can see, repetitive stuff does serve several purposes; this is why it exists and works.

It’s more than obvious that originality will always be a plus.  But one cannot be original all the time.  And this is not a sin.  At least this is what I’m telling myself now that I can’t think of a creative way to end this post…

I give up.  Better do it the classical way, that is, inserting here an invitation for comments.  So, I invite you to share your views on the subject.  Can you relate to any of the reasons listed above?  Could you add anything to the list?  Or do you think that all unoriginal posts should be trashed?

This is a guest post by Karen Zara, a writer who spends a lot of time reading both repetitive and original stuff on the Internet.



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