Scott H Young

The Purpose of This Website is to Lose Its Readers


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I might be committing blogging suicide by saying this, but I feel the purpose of this blog is to eventually lose all its readers.  I fully expect that, at some point, every person who subscribed to read my thoughts will eventually unsubscribe.  I’m completely fine with that.

The point of any source of information, whether it’s a writer like me, a mentor or a teacher is to eventually outgrow what you’re reading.  Get injected with new ideas, internalize the ideas you like, discard the ones you don’t like and then move on.  You move on, not because the ideas weren’t great, but because you’ve absorbed them fully enough that there isn’t anything left.

Cycling Through Blogs and Books

Very few of the blogs I initially subscribed to when I started reading online, I am still subscribed to.  The ones I have stuck with are usually because I’ve made connections with the author, and I like to see what they are doing personally, not because I still get a lot of value from their ideas.

The same is true of books and speakers.  When I started getting involved in personal development, I read and listened to a lot of Zig Ziglar’s books on goal-setting.  Now it’s been a few years since I’ve read any of his writing, and I’ll notice areas I disagree with him.

The reason I stopped reading Zig Ziglar wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy him as an author, or that I feel the ideas he shared weren’t worthwhile.  Many of the ideas he wrote about goal setting greatly influenced my own thinking on the topic.  But now that those ideas are integrated into my philosophy of life, I don’t need to revisit them as much.  The first time you read, you’re exposed to new ideas and forced to grow.  The 1000th time you read, you’re reinforcing what’s already there and stagnating.

I’m picking on Zig Ziglar a bit, but the same is true of virtually every author I’ve come in contact with and really enjoyed.  I loved their writing in the beginning, but after some time, I felt it was just a repetition of what I already know.

Another example for me is Steve Pavlina, when I first read his work about five years ago, it completely changed my thinking.  I don’t feel most of his newer ideas are as interesting, not because they are bad ideas, but simply because I’ve ingested enough of his ideas to understand them.  His popularity is probably still growing because many people are finding him for the first time, as I did half a decade ago.

A good author should be the victim of their own success, changing how people think enough that they become boring.

The Cycle of Ideas

I’m using some self-help examples, but really this is a cycle I see all the time.  I really enjoyed Ayn Rand’s, The Fountainhead, because it exposed me to some ideas I hadn’t considered before and forced me to think.  I liked Atlas Shrugged a bit less because those ideas were repeated.  Now, I don’t have any strong desire to read her other books.

I read a lot of pop-evolutionary biology books too, now I mostly avoid the topic.  Not because I don’t find it fascinating, but simply because most authors in the genre repeat the same ideas.  What starts out new and revolutionary quickly becomes the status quo.

Many of the great works in literature and non-fiction considered classics are downright boring to read.  Why?  Because they were so successful that imitation and expansion on their starting point makes them the ordinary instead of new.

Outgrowing Ideas

I believe the purpose of ideas are to outgrow them.  Not to say that they were incorrect, but to completely internalize the ones you agree with, so they no longer require thinking.  When I became a vegetarian almost 3 years ago, I read a lot of books on the health and environmental benefits of the lifestyle.

After agreeing with most of what was written, and changing my behavior, I don’t need to read more books promoting the lifestyle.  If anything, I should be reading books on the benefits of eating meat, or evidence that forces me to rethink my position.  It’s better to read books you disagree with.

The concept of outgrowing an idea often isn’t a popular one.  Many of the people view their love for a particular idea the same way they would love a person.  They cherish the idea, visit it often and stay loyal to it forever.  But ideas aren’t people.  They are inanimate pieces of thought designed to help the real people live better lives.  And if you can’t outgrow your ideas, you can’t grow as a person.


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21 Responses to “The Purpose of This Website is to Lose Its Readers”

  1. I’m still reading your blog. It’s true that people change. Both you and the reader, but you do a pretty good job of bringing a fresh take to what you write.

  2. Peter says:

    That’s a refreshingly honest thing to hear.

    It seems to me that if people are still reading self-help advice after years and years, there are a few reasons for it:

    1. They’re self-help junkies who are spinning their wheels but not really improving.

    2. They’re just reading for edutainment.

    On another note, I think part of the reason some self-help authors keep putting out new material is that they want to keep the money coming in, not because they really have more that really needs to be said – their first few books covered all their ideas well enough. It would be cynical to say that’s the only reason, but it must factor into equation.

  3. Dave Fowler says:

    Hi Scott, I just wondered whether the same principle applies to you ‘The Writer/Blogger’? I mean will you get to a point where you think you’ve used all your material from a self development perspective, or perhaps even become bored with it?
    Dave.

  4. Shanel Yang says:

    Very well put, Scott! But a great teacher is always in demand. ; )

  5. this is exactly what i have been thinking about lately, as i have found a lot of the blogs i thought to be life changing getting a little boring lately… thanks for pointing out why!

    i especially like to look for the most popular articles from these blogs because you may have missed out on the best stuff before you started reading it…

  6. Darren Rowse at ProBlogger said that most of his readers tend to be regulars for a few months, then leave. I think I can see why, and it’s not because his content isn’t good. It’s just that he posts so much on such a narrow topic, that he does a good job of quickly telling you everything you need to know.

    I suppose Steve Pavlina could eventually seem repetitive to me, but it would take a lot longer because of the breadth of topics he covers. After reading him for about a year, I still find his posts very interesting, even if they’re not shockingly new anymore.

    I wonder what blogs I’ll be reading a couple of years from now.

  7. I don’t comment much over here because I don’t generally read through all your posts or see a need to post.

    This, however, might be your best post to date (did I say that the last time I commented?). It isn’t amazing because it’s an entirely new concept. I think many of us have considered what you’re saying.

    But to actually post it?

    That’s courage. :)

    I’ve felt the same thing, particularly regarding Steve Pavlina, and I’m sure he’d agree with you. I think he might mention something about it in his post on mentoring.

    Your post said, “A good author should be the victim of their own success, changing how people think enough that they become boring.”

    Thank you for framing that so well for us.

    Having said that, I have a question.

    At the end, you wrote, “…if you can’t outgrow your ideas, you can’t grow as a person.”

    This is something I’ve wrestled with regarding people. Shouldn’t our ideas grow so much that we don’t become boring? In becoming boring, doesn’t that in some way mean our ideas aren’t growing enough?

    It seems like the practical progression would be for us to become boring because our audience has moved to other topics. But we assume an ideal person, shouldn’t that person grow so much that he or she never becomes boring?

    I hope what I’m asking is somewhat apparent. I’m a little foggy on the question myself. If you have any thoughts on it, I’d be interested. Again, thanks for sparking the topic.

  8. Scott,

    You, like me, encourage everyone to play to their weaknesses – Once you can do something well, next time you’re in that situation place that skill in your back pocket and do something else. You know what works – but you don’t yet know if there is something that works better!

    Read things you disagree with – hell, disagree with yourself and notice where that gets you!

    Doing this also keeps life interesting as you’re constantly learning.

  9. Doug Groce says:

    Every time I think I’m ready to “graduate” from this blog, you throw another piece of insight like this that gets me thinking again – is that irony?

  10. sandy says:

    Thanks Steve; what a great post. This has been happening to me for as long as I can remember. But here’s another thing. I have actually gone to the bookstore and looked at a book which I had purchased in the past. But this time the book and its words look differently to me; because my experiences have evolved since the last reading. What I’m finding is that especially in reference to metaphysical and self help materials, I can re-read them and see something totally different.

    As far as websites; there are some classics for me and I return periodically because I know when I re-visit, over time, some new things or re-hash of old things will again be revisited; and depending on my state of mind and experiences, I may just find the thing I’m looking for.

    What I’ve been seeing is how certain websites just stick in my memory as the classics, for whatever reason.

    Another thing I’ve noticed: if I visit a website and or web board and I’m treated in a flip or disrepectful manner; no matter how great the websit–I usually don’t visit again. The spirit of a website (although its hard to explain, what that is—you know it when you feel it) plays a great part in whether I re-visit again. It really bugs me when I’m asked to participate in a forum and then when I finally ask a question: I get a “flip” answer; you can tell when your question is not considered that”deep”. As a new member it often takes time for you to get to know the issues and the people; but I think many of the popular web owners forget that. The new readers often have issues with trust. How soon, once people become authorities, do they forget their beginnings.

    Right now I’m feelin your website; the spirit seems good. And that is so important to me in this moment. Thanks for posting this.

  11. J.D. Meier says:

    I’m a fan of cycles, and I expect you to grow and evolve your blog. I’m not sure your purpose is to lose your readers. I think it’s to grow your readers as you grow.

    If you’re familiar with The First 90 Days, I expect your blog to go through standard business cycles – startup, turnaround, realignment and sustaining success. I mostly look forward to the turnarounds — how you reinvent yourself and your information.

  12. Juliet says:

    Hi

    Yes, I’ve been wondering about this myself lately. I agree with what you say. Also, sometimes just another author’s different style may enable you to realise something that has been staring you in the face for some time.

    One thing though that keeps me going back for more, is humour and writing style. If I enjoy the way someone writes, or their sense of humour, I will read the same ideas if it means that I am almost guaranteed a laugh or interesting expressions.

    Juliet

  13. Scott Young says:

    I’m going to respond to the comments on mass, because it will be easier than addressing everyone specifically. That said, thanks for the comments everyone, good to know I can still stir up some conversation.

    As to reading self-help, I don’t read much self-help anymore. However, it depends on how narrowly you define the genre. Every once in awhile, someone releases a perspective that completely turns my thinking on its head, so those books are still worth reading. But, there are only so many books you can read on goal-setting or positive thinking before it becomes dull.

    As to why self-help authors continually republish, it’s a powerful business model, even if it is a less powerful intellectual model from the reader’s point of view.

    Hopefully I can provide a fresh enough perspective to keep people here for awhile, but I don’t intend for people to remain forever. I just hope I gave enough useful advice that people pass my name along after they stop reading the website.

    -Scott

  14. sandy says:

    Thanks Scott for answering; and since you want me to go away, I will, after you tell me if you came to your webblog green, for the first time, knowing what you do now, and wanted to start a webblog for a particular niche, what would you read and what would you do and what would you stay away from? and how long would you invest in finding these answers? and what niches do you think are lacking online and need someone who is focus and dedicated? If you can give your best post addressing this; I will leave and make many more referrals.
    Thank you.
    There is an old saying: “be careful what you ask for”…

  15. Thanks. You’ll stay in my RSS reader for a while, even if I don’t read everything.

  16. Scott Young says:

    sandy,

    The best weblog niche to write to is the one you have the most ideas about. Honestly, I feel there are two major directions to take when setting up a blog:

    1) Choose a business, business plan/model and center a weblog topic around this theme.
    2) Write from your passions.

    One of the hardest steps in blogging is to keep up the posting rate with fresh ideas. You can only do that if you’re passionately interested in what you’re writing about.

    If you want to apply the market focus lessons I mentioned earlier, I think you should look around for what aspect of your niche is being underdeveloped. (i.e., get an opinion and get committed to it). Steve Pavlina’s site is a response to the endless “For dummies” writing, by making his blog “for smart people”. Get Rich Slowly is a response to the get rich quick hype. Zen Habits is a response to the frantic, obsessive personal development model. Figure out what you stand for and see how you can differentiate yourself from the crowd.

    If you’re going from the money-making angle, I’d forget starting a blog and focus on how the business is going to work. What are you going to sell/refer that will generate income? How will you make money? Once you answer these questions, a blog can be useful as a marketing device. Just don’t expect to earn big bucks from AdSense just because you picked the right niche.

  17. Heya Scott,

    Being a fairly new reader here, I’d like to say that I’m quite surprised to see this post about losing all the readers. Well, I’m still gonna be here. :)

    Daniel

  18. Scott, thanks for the inspiration! You really changed my perspective about losing readership. Here is what I come out from your article…

    How losing readers can make you smile…

    Thanks!

  19. There is no need to keep reading the same book over and over. We become accustomed to its ideas.

    The same goes for any blogger. We need to assimilate their ideas into our own then move on, hopefully creating our own view of all our wisdom – Sharing it with all our friends.

    This is a great way to look at something that may be perceived as negative and turn it into a positive.

  20. […] leave a comment » The Purpose of This Website is to Loose Its Readers […]

  21. blackzero85 says:

    Aw come on… be positive. ^^b

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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