William Shakespeare is the shorthand we use when we want to describe a great writer. He stands for the pinnacle of writing ability.
One reason is that he mastered the art of writing for completely different audiences. He appealed to the ultra elite, to regular theater-goers who never missed a performance, and to the illiterate mobs in the cheap seats. And he managed to satisfy each audience magnificently.
I’ve written a blog series around the web about how to write for each of three different audiences: new readers, regular readers, and experts. Now it’s time for us to try the Shakespearean feat of pulling these three audiences together.
Before we move on, I want to be clear that writing for each of your audiences is not the same thing as trying to write for everybody. Writing for your different audiences isn’t the same thing as writing for Wikipedia.
Write different posts for the different groups
Not every post has to work for every reader. Sometimes, instead of trying to write one post that works for everybody, pick one of your audiences and write for them.
If your blog gives marketing tips, you might give tips for new readers on Monday, regular readers on Wednesday, and experts on Friday. To be clear about who each post is for, you could call them Marketing 101, Marketing 201, and Marketing 401.
This approach pleases all three audiences more than you’d think. New readers learn a lot all at once, regular readers get refreshers and expert knowledge, and experts appreciate the reminders and will probably send people your way, too.
Embrace the series
Series are a great way to tackle the Eternal September problem, which is one of the main challenges of blogging.
Because readers come in at different phases of the conversation, we tend to either have to constantly remind people where we are, or write each post so that someone just joining in can grasp what’s going on.
Not only that, but most blog readers are used to reading short posts, and sometimes it’s hard to complete a complex thought in 800 words. Eternal September combined with short attention spans tends to lead to posts that lack substance and offer little more than constant primers.
With a series, though, you can start everyone on the same page. Series also give you enough room to develop your thought in a little more depth.
Writing a series gives you another opportunity to please all three audiences. New readers get the advantage of being caught up all at once, and they get a great introduction to your blog and your voice. Regular readers can appreciate the longer coverage of an idea, especially since you can use the room to give detailed stories and explanations. Experts respect a good series because you can show your knowledge of the field and you have the chance to say and explain something novel.
Don’t write a series just to write a series, as it’s easy to tell the difference between a post that’s just way too long and an idea that needed several posts to cover well. A series is not a substitute for good, concise writing.
Focus on new and regular readers
Given that they make up at least 95% of your blog readers, your writing should always deliver the maximum value to new and regular readers.
This is where we tend to go wrong, by trying to write too often for experts (for example, other bloggers in our topic). In writing for experts, we run the real risk of losing everybody else.
Think about your blog post in layers. One layer of your writing should help new readers. After you have them covered, the next layer should be for your regular readers. Lastly, if you can work it in, the final layer should be for the experts.
Write as an expert, not like one
Just because you’re an expert doesn’t mean you have to write in a way that’s hard to read and understand.
Good writers know that the real challenge is writing about difficult topics in a simple, clear, and approachable way. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
If you’re able to write about difficult topics in a way that non-experts understand, you’ll do what many experts can’t. There’s no better way to establish your authority with all three groups, experts included.
The wheel has come full circle
Blogging is a new medium, sure, but it’s a medium by which we express, educate, entertain, and engage people. And people haven’t changed that much. That’s why we can learn from the past; their challenges are our challenges.
As blogging evolves, what will discriminate the remarkable and memorable from the bland and forgotten?
It’s not how well you can create spikes of traffic, but how much art you bring to the craft of blogging. It’s great to have a killer blog, but even better to have one with a touch of poetry.
There were dozens of playwrights in Shakespeare’s day who knew how to fill seats, but there’s only one Shakespeare. Which do you want to be?
This is the fourth and final part of the How To Blog Like Shakespeare Series from Charlie Gilkey. Check out the other posts in the series: