The State of Outdoor (Particularly Fly Fishing) Blogging

Hey...is this a fishing article?

Sort of.  Thought I'd write something of (limited) substance for a change.  So let's talk outdoor blogging.

So I can't help but notice that the outdoor blogging scene has exploded in the past let's say 2 years...that exact time frame may be a bit debatable, but without doubt it's grown dramatically in the past year.  In my opinion, there are a couple factors that play into this sudden rise outdoor blogging (besides vanity).

The first reason has got to be the relative ease of entry.  When I started writing this blog almost 4 years ago (June 2007, no kidding), the technology for bloggers wasn't all that great.  Yeah, Blogger & WordPress were both around back then, but believe me when I tell you they weren't as user friendly as they are today.  You had to know a certain degree of HTML code if you wanted the cool bells & whistles, and there certainly weren't all the slick looking customizable templates you see today.  Every blog pretty much looked the same, your only real choice was to type on a white background with black text or on a black background with white text.

Blogger, WP, & even platforms like Tumblr make blogging so easy today anybody can pretty much fumble through the initially awkward "how does this damn thing work" phase and be cranking out great looking content in no time.   While it was a challenging proposition in the past, one you'd not leisurely take up while sipping Dr. Peppers and chillin' in your thighty-whities; today...yeah, well...not so much.  If you can write an email, you can write a blog.

Got prunes?

The second reason is the emergence of social media.  Is anything changing the way people interact the way social media has?  Facebook's a monster (like really....a gazillion users and it knows everything about everyone), Twitter is right on it's heels, and they're both making it insanely easy not only to share a great outdoor blog post you happen to read with all of your friends, but also to introduce them to the concept of blogging for the first time.  Thoughts like this must race through the heads of soon-to-become bloggers as the light bulb begins to flicker, "Hey, if Howard can write a blog...ANYONE can."


The third reason, and honestly, I think this is one of the largest catalysts, is the Outdoor Blogger Network (OBN).  Before the OBN, there was this site called the Outdoor Bloggers Summit (OBS).  In it's early days, it served much of the same functions of the OBN, a networking hub, tips on blogging, blogger spotlights, it even served up writing prompts.  Like "they" say, it's easier to trace than draw.  The main difference was it didn't serve up free gear.  A lot of the familiar names you see listed on the OBN even used to hang out there -  The Outdooress, Flowing Waters, Northern California Trout, Murphyfish, Fisherbabe, and on, and on...(but not me, I rolled counter-culture, too kool for skool).

Where it was at...for some...

For whatever the reason - primarily disengaged leadership - the OBS abruptly stopped one day, creating a void until the OBN stepped in last year...and boy did it ever!

Start a new blog, list yourself here.

So what makes the OBN important here besides the free stuff?  In short, it created the "feel good" support that every new blogger needs.  Face it, you write because you want people to read your stuff.  There's no denying it.  If you feel you're writing to nobody, you're probably not going to waste your time and give up the blogging scene (both as a reader and writer) in no time.

The OBN format (and a little creativity) makes it ridiculously easy for your blog to not only be seen, but to go from 0 readers to a posse of dedicated readers in no time flat.  You don't believe me, check out the comments sections of most of the OBN listed blogs - especially the fishing ones - you'll notice a lot of the same names & faces over and over and over and over.  Get a blog listed on OBN, comment on a few posts or in the forum, and you'll have at least 15 followers instantly.  Bloggers need the initial positive reinforcement that the OBN can provide, if nothing more than as a confidence builder.

Want proof of points 2 & 3?  Going all Marty McFly back in time (remember, my blog started in June 2007), it took me until March 2010 (almost 3 full years) to get 34 Google Followers (those little face icons up in the upper right of my blog).  Look there today and you'll see how many I have...I dare ya.  I'd say at least 100 have showed up since the launch of the OBN.  Coincidence, I think not.

Screen shot, circa March 2010

In fishing blog circles, there are well established blogs that everyone knows like Trout Underground & Moldy Chum that have a huge and loyal follower base.  While they are extremely well written blogs, they also were early adopters of the medium and clearly benefited from the fact that there wasn't a lot of blog talent out there a few years back.  Subsequently, both got placed in pretty much everyone who was blogging's blogroll.  It was like going to McDonald's in the pre-chicken nugget days.  You basically got a burger & fries, there were no other options.  Today's outdoor blogging menu is far more diverse, not to mention much tastier.

More varieties in drinks than in food...

So in closing, what will this recent influx of outdoor blogging talent bring to us?  Will a new Trout Underground emerge? Or has it already (in an unlikely location down south)?  Who will be the voice(s) to come to the fore...where will they be from...what will they be talking about?

Or perhaps things may go the opposite direction.  Will the space get too crowded, too watered down, and create too much noise?  Will business or commerce-influenced sites take over the blogosphere?  How much is too much of a good thing?  My blogroll is dangerously long today, what will it look like in June 2012; or even better June 2015?

As likely a fellow blogger, or at minimum a reader of blogs, I know you have an opinion.  The comments section below awaits your feedback, don't be shy...


Comments

  1. Just like with most things it'll become over-saturated, but even though mediocrity gets noticed, even praised at times, quality will always win out.

    The good will get better, and the firecrackers will burn out. Sooner or later harmony will be restored to whatever realm that is; be it bloggers, musicians, writers, etc.

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  2. I kinda feel like Mel's got me pegged as a firecraker. ;)
    T-Rage, after the week (and night) I've had, your blog post this morning has made my day. You're pretty face on my sidebar is well deserved(and I hope you like it.) I just hope you were ready to burn a bridge, cause that doode surely isn't very fond of me. ( oh well.)

    And now, this 'cracker is off to harass some fish.

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  3. Good post Mike,, Funny.. "if you can email" "you can write a fishing blog" good one!

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  4. My blogroll grows by the day; we are nearing the point of over-saturation, but bloggers come and go. It is a lot of work to come up with good posts often, as I am sure you are very aware, and if someone doesn't have the time or desire to do it, the blog fizzles out. It will eventually balance.

    The blogsphere, and OBN in particular, has been great to me; both helped me meet new people in Fort Collins, and also made me a better fisherman.

    This is a solid post, Mike. Well done.

    -stephanie

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  5. There are a few gems out there in the big world with little exposure. They are searching for an identity and waiting to explode, but they probably won't...you could give them a link but no one would click it.

    Unfortunately good original writing and photography do not make a popular blog. Moldy Chum and this site grew on the backs of stuff culled from the wider world. Dedicating your free time to facebook and twitter doesn't hurt either. Not to knock the style; it's a viral world and short entertaining posts equals mass appeal.

    There is a lot to sort though. The ones worth reading will be noticed. It's up to the reader to decide what is worth noticing.

    Your point about the instant 15 followers is interesting. Out of all your readers, how many people actually show up for every single post? Is it 15-20? The rest disappear leaving only their face in the follower widget. Never to be seen alive again.

    And I still want to find away to reach people who are not fellow bloggers.

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  6. @Clif
    Funny you wrote the question about the face widget in your comment above. I actually had a whole paragraph or two written about analytics, what they do or don't mean, but I chose to edit it out b/c the post was getting dangerously long (by my standards) and it just didn't "fit" well.

    I have a nice regular base of readers...you can probably tell who they are based on the daily comments. What I was really getting at regarding the "Followers" widget (or Facebook "Likes" for that matter), is that it creates the positive reinforcement a new blogger (especially one that doesn't look at or know about the stats providers) needs to keep going. "Hey, somebody out there is reading my blog...I'm going to keep on writing it." Without it, they'd probably quit.

    Do all 200 of my Google "Followers" or 150 of my Facebook "Likers" stop by on a daily basis...well, I think you know the answer to that already.

    And yes, I totally agree with you regarding the Chum...their format made them unique and a destination, even though very little is original to them...I do have to admit though, with all of these other blogs popping up, I only really find myself reading the Chum on Fridays...

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  7. ... "reading" the Chum on Fridays... yeah, right.

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  8. Great article Mike. It is definitely something that crosses my mind from time to time. It seems as if every day there are new bloggers coming out of the wood work. There are times when I look at the OBN and wonder what makes me different from everyone else. It is slightly overwhelming to think of all the other blogs out there. I guess it all comes back to what reason we write for. In the end, if no one reads will I still write...sure, mom wants to know what I'm doing. I'll still go fishing, take pictures, and write about it.

    Very insightful post. Thanks for writing.

    Ben

    PS. Sometimes I am a bad blog friend and only read my google reader, but I am around and liking what I see...

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  9. I would like a .49 cent meal at McDonald's!!! Hey, you are right on with the OBN and gaining readers so much easier than if it wasn't there. A very well written post, Mike. And it doesn't always have to be about fishing...Ok, everyone go over to my blog and take the Miracle Whip challenge! : ) It's just a fun outlet to relieve a little stress...

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  10. I too look forward to fridays.

    btw, happy to see my ugly mug in your original 34.

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  11. To make it real, you write it down.

    Back in the day,I would say "You know, power of the pen".

    Now in eday, (hasn't grown a th yet) computer sweat required.

    Think we all get excited about "potential" and writers will always be a persistent lot.

    Why? "Because they write it down!"

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  12. You certainly have some good points Michael. When I first started, I was doing it strictly for myself because it was so easy and I've always loved to write. Once you get that first follower, I think the mood changes. You need more, you want more. Yes, it's easy to become a blogger, it's much harder to grow a responsive audience and keep them. The key, I think, is to make it different than everybody else's. If all I do is post fish pictures, what's different about that? Don't get me wrong, I like them and I think most people do, but throw a curve ball once in a while.

    By the way, where did you get that picture of me on the laptop? I would have worn a shirt if I knew it was going on such a well read blog!

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  13. It's great to see so many interactive blogs out there right now, especially in comparison to 5 years ago. Whether some write once a week, once a month or daily, I don't think there's an imbalance of information out there for fishing..I enjoy them all! Thanks for the write up!

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  14. Great post, T. You raise some great questions. And I agree with Cofisher the process by which a blog can change as those first followers start to arrive. I wish I could say I wasn't influenced by what readers respond to, but positive reinforcement is such a powerful thing. A popular post is likely to breed more such posts, thus altering the direction that was originally planned.

    Heck, my blog was originally about why I prefer the Crocodile Dundee fishing method (the one with dynamite), but that just wasn't as popular to my readers...

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  15. Great post Mr. Troutrageous. I've had blogs for more than three years and they started with a commercial focus. Since I stumbled on OBN, I have gone from a monthly poster to a 2-3 times weekly poster and I'm now writing more personally. I fought it for some time, but I'm getting swept along by social media for the moment. It will be interesting to see what comes down the flow.

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  16. Oh and Mike...not true. Everyone can have a blog, but not everyone can be a successful blogger. You have to be fluent in some type of language. Knowledge of punctuation and grammar are helpful. Some are so bad it hurts to read them. Even a dolt can post photos (not that there's anything wrong with that.) By the way congrats on the photos! If they want written content you'd better be able to write coherently. Most of all, give the audience what they want and they'll keep coming back.

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  17. Speaking of being unique...that's what I've tried to do with OJDC. I know I don't post as many fishing trip reports or fish photos as I should for a fly fishing blog, but quite honestly the fish I catch can't compare to some of the big fish out there and unless you're in an area where you have little fish and not much else, pictures of tiny brookies aren't very exciting. :)

    I try to keep a balance between "real" posts and the "noise" that I know I sometimes make. I can't help a little static now and then - it's who I am. If I think about how funny a cow's feet look at 2 a.m. more than likely I'm going to post about it. But then, I think that's what makes OJDC stand out ( or at least I hope it is) - that wacky-you-never-know-what's-going-to-show-up-there kinda thing.

    I guess this time next year I'll know for sure whether it's working and people like it, or if I should take up catfish noodling. ;)

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  18. Good questions Mike. I think that with the mediocre blogs out there, they will eventually fizzle away and die. They are mediocre for a reason and who wants to keep bashing away at something that, for whatever reason, no one is interested in. It's like music, one band that is unique becomes famous and a week later there are dozens out there that sound just like the original band.

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  20. It's interesting - we had this debate on the OBN forums a few months back (with several of these commenters chiming in). I was asking the same question someone above did, "How do we reach non-bloggers?" Some folks had answers, several others said, "Who cares! I don't need readers! Get off of my lawn!"

    I just linked my blog to FB and it's very slow going so far. I have about 80 followers, but like Ben, I've been at it for 4 years.

    The average blog flames out in about 30 months. In the 4 years I've been blogging, I've seen a lot of great ones go by the wayside - it's certainly not just "mediocre" blogs.

    For me, I choose to continue to write (what I think is) quality outdoor content, but I also study the analytics closely, and when a topic is hot to my readers (lots of google searchers), then I usually will do some more posts on the topic. They are not bloggers and rarely comment, but they CERTAINLY take the bait and read the new posts. Which is just fine!

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  21. I hope something will eventually be written about the rise and fall of the OBS and how that scenario led to the OBN and its wild success.

    I was a participant in OBS when my blog was relatively small and young (1 year old, maybe) and it connected me to a lot of other bloggers.

    And then it imploded. Lack of bloggers volunteering to help run it is probably a big cause, along with the admin's failure to utilize what bloggers DID volunteer to help out with OBS.

    Nature Blog Network is another one. It's actually more mediocre than OBS. Not a lot of excitement in that network.

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  22. Great post! It's good to know that since I blog, I should be able to send an email...my boss has been wondering why I haven't been responding to her :-)

    Not having been blogging for very long, I'm still trying to figure out how to make my "place" unique. I wrote a post about a guy who ate 25,000 big mac's...i'm obviously still trying to figure it out...ha!

    For now, I'm enjoying reading and seeing everyone else's blogs. I wasn't around when the blog market was smaller, but maybe that's a good thing...variety.

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  23. Before there were blogs, there were fishing forums. I got involved with those in 1996. In 1998 I started leaving stories that would now be called blog posts. Over the years there have been quite a few that would start leaving stories on the forums. Now they're all gone. I've watched them come and go many times.

    Back when I was in art school one of my instructors told me that if you want to be a relatively known artist some day, keep making art and don't give up. By the time you're 50, 90 percent of your peers will have stopped and disappeared.

    The same could be applied to writing.

    Some of us are compelled to put things in writing. Once, like Owl, I would wake up in the middle of the night and go work on a painting. It's like breathing, it's something you have to do.

    I didn't bother with a blog till I heard of OBN in October 2010. I went into it half heartedly, I was tired of anything that even resembled a forum. Which blogs do. Getting on OBN has changed things, not dramatically, but profoundly.

    In other words to fellow bloggers, don't force things. I can't imagine not writing things down. So I do and put it out there and some people like it, some don't. I have no clue how to read stats or what they mean. In the past 13 years I've probably made a 100 bucks off my writing, so I ain't doin' it for the money.

    As my wife says, you do it to annoy people. Well, okay, there's that too.

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  24. IMHO, I think there is a very important point being missed. I check my numbers fairly regularly, but I'm not hung up on them. Why? Because the numbers tell me that there are a lot of regular readers out there who don't follow, don't comment but still check the blog every day for new stuff. Most of my commentors are bloggers, most of my readers are not. They're out there, lurking. That's ok by me. If they are moved to follow they will. If they're moved to comment they will. Until then, please keep reading...I know you're out there and I appreciate it. As my friend Cam Mortenson told me so many times, let it grow naturally, find your voice, be comfortable with it and everything else will take care of itself.

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