Before I blog the eBook Culture strategy I've been promising, I really need to get the strategy of Read/Write Web confirmed. Long-suffering readers will know that I periodically go through a hand-wringing phase where I question the meaning of my blog. I'm sure this is testing the patience of my readers, who probably want to slap me in the face and yell "snap out of it man!". So it's time I made up my mind, once and for all, on the question of: what does Read/Write stand for?
Read/Write Web is my personal weblog. Let's get that issue out of the way at the start. If you subscribe to my weblog, you're going to get some personal stuff thrown into the mix. I briefly toyed with the idea of starting a new blog just for personal stuff, but my conclusion is: no, why should I? Read/Write Web is my personal space, there's no need to run myself out of town.
But, Read/Write Web is also a topic-focused blog. Up till now the dominant topic here has been the two-way web (aka the read/write web). I've flirted with a number of other topics: web design, knowledge management, strategy, etc. But at heart this weblog has always been about the two-way web, or "the next generation of web publishing" as I defined it on day 1.
Who's your Daddy?
I need to decide whether the "two-way web" is still the right niche for me to focus on. There are a couple of key considerations here:
1. Is my focus on the two-way web helping my career goals?
2. Is the topic of the two-way web still fertile ground for me to explore? In other words, is it still relevant and will it continue to be?
On the first question, I have to say that writing about the two-way web isn't driving my career forward. Certainly not to the degree that, e.g. focusing on web design is driving Keith or Paul's careers forward, or focusing on KM is driving Lilia's career forward, or focusing on online communities is driving Lee's career forward (these are all people in my blogroll).
On the second question, I think there is still plenty of fertile ground to cover on the topic of the two-way web. For one thing, weblogs and RSS haven't even become mainstream yet. Plus there are lots of forks I can travel down on the two-way web road - e.g. eBooks. So if I do decide to change my focus, then I'd like to at least keep the two-way web as a topic to explore from time to time.
Writing, analysis and originality are probably my core strengths as a blogger. Those are the things that have gained me readers and a certain amount of respect. The mode of writing I favour is long-form analytical articles and those are the types of posts that have attracted the most external links (think: Microcontent Wiki, Fractal Blogosphere, Universal Canvas series, Information Flow). So my strategy for Read/Write Web has to reflect these strengths.
So what's it to be?
I've decided to re-brand Read/Write Web slightly, in order to try and steer myself into a fulfilling job or business. Instead of the two-way web being my niche topic, now I'm going to focus on web technology analysis.
At first glance, this may seem to be a more general topic than the two-way web! But allow me to explain. Web Technology Analysis is a specialist profession - like web design, KM and online community building. It's perhaps harder to get a job or build a business as a Web Analyst than say a Web Designer. But it's doable and if I put my mind to it, and focus my blog on it, I stand a good chance of achieving it. The 'two-way web' on the other hand is not a profession - it's more a vision or manifesto.
If I really get into semantics here, I'd say that the "web technology" part is the topic and "analysis" part is the focus. Arguably I'm replacing two-way web with a broader topic, but defining what I do more strictly (analysing, rather than exploring).
Dude, where's my strategy?
This is just the beginning of my own re-branding exercise and I may not even blog about the rest of it, because it's not really about Web Technology Analysis is it? ;-) Plus, I'm sure you're all bored with all my self-absorbed ruminating on blogging. So I'm going to start writing analytical articles on web technology again... very soon. That's my strategy, in a nutshell.
I'm going to do a review of all my metatags, category names, and other content (such as the About Me). Firstly I have to think of a new byline to replace "Richard MacManus explores the Two-Way Web". It may be as simple as "Web Technology Analysis by Richard MacManus". I may also do a re-design, but we'll see how my time pans out.
One final thing, I really like the catch-phrase that Keith at Asterisk came up with: One Focus, Many Offerings. It neatly encapsulates what blogging is about if you're aiming to have a 'professional' blog (which is different to say a journal-type blog). People will more than likely subscribe to your blog if they identify with its core 'brand' or niche. But it's your personality and participation in the blogging community that will connect you to your readers and keep them - and you - interested.
So I'll continue to offer a mix of professional and personal content on Read/Write Web, but focusing on the professional (and no I won't be changing the name - I still believe in the vision!).