Why No One Cares What You Think (And How to Stop Being So Freaking Boring)

image of moulin rouge, paris

It’s time for a little tough love, okay?

All that stuff you’re publishing … all those blog posts and videos and podcasts and white papers … it’s not getting you anywhere, is it?

You thought it would. People told you to get busy online, to say what you think, to publish lots of content, because if you do, people will find you and love you and support you and everything will be perfect, forever and ever and ever.

But it was a lie. Not totally, no, because publishing great content is crucial. But there were a few critical pieces missing.

  1. That no one cares what you think
  2. That being boring is a sin punishable by death
  3. That you have to connect with readers before you start teaching them

What? Nobody told you that?

Bummer. Because really, those are three of the most important things you need to know about creating content that works online.

Might as well talk about it now and get it out of the way.

Here we go:

Your readers are self-absorbed little punks

They don’t mean to be, but they are.

They’re busy and stressed and searching the web for ways to just escape. They don’t want to learn anything when they’re in escape mode. They just want to feel something other than boredom or fear or inadequacy.

So all that content you created to teach them something?

Yeah, they look at it for a few seconds, discover it requires actual thought (the horror!), and start hunting for the Back button.

That affiliate review for the supercool product you really do believe in and would happily sell without a commission?

Eww. You’re just another one of those evil con artists trying to scam them out of their money.

I know, it’s not fair. You deserve better.

But it’s the truth.

The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get past it. Because hiding underneath all that self-absorbed punkishness is a person who desperately needs you and will love you until the day they die — if you can actually help them.

And you can help them. You just have to know how to grab their attention first. So let’s talk about that.

Don’t be boring

That’s a really important point, so let me say it again in all capital letters:


It’s Rule #1. Violate it, and you don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200, proceed directly to jail and rot there for eternity.

Is that an exaggeration?


Is it graphic?

Sure, maybe a little.

Could I have found a more polite and still accurate way to say it?

Yep, absolutely.

But it doesn’t matter. Here’s why:


You can make almost any mistake, and people will forgive you if you’re interesting. Yes, you’ll get the occasional member of The Righteous Minority for Moral Authority who hates everyone and everything, but you can safely ignore those folks.

Everyone else will thank you for keeping them awake.

Is offending people the only way to be interesting?


It’s just one way, among many. You can find a whole collection of ways here.

Personally, I find hyperbole and brutal honesty to be an effective way of reaching people. If you don’t believe me, watch pretty much any comedian.

But it’s not a requirement by any means.

Here at Copyblogger, the majority of the popular posts aren’t offensive at all. (Just mine. ;)) Scroll through that list at your right and you’ll see that virtually all the most popular posts cover topics our readers are totally obsessed with. (Topics like creativity and grammar and writing tips.) Posts on those topics have a big head start on becoming popular.

The most important word in the above paragraph: Obsessed.

If you want people to give a rat’s fart about your content, first you have to understand their obsessions.

That’s the secret.

But it’s also the thing most bloggers suck at more than anything else. Yes, that includes you.

To prove it to you, here’s a little experiment:

The crybaby experiment

You know those crybabies who whine all the time and drain you of all your energy and make you lose all faith in the human race?

You probably know several. All of us do.

Well, here’s the experiment:

The next time they’re whining at you, force yourself to NOT react.

Don’t judge them. Don’t think about what they’re saying. Don’t fantasize about punching them in the face. (I know you’re tempted.)

Instead, listen very closely, and then reply like this:

You mean (insert paraphrase of their complaint)?

If you do it correctly, they’ll say, “Yes! Exactly!” Any other response, and you fail the experiment.

So for example:

Crybaby: I’m writing all this stuff, but nobody is commenting, nobody is tweeting, nobody is linking to me. I’m doing everything it tells me to do, but none of it is working, and I just can’t figure out why!

Me: So you mean, you feel like you’re invisible?

Crybaby: Yes! Exactly!

Got it?

Well, here’s how the experiment applies to creating awesome content …

The secret to grabbing anyone’s attention

Listen to your audience’s complaints, and then repeat the complaints back to them in a pithy way that proves you understand them perfectly.

The End.

No stories. (Yet.) No trying to fix their problems. (Yet.) No input from you whatsoever.

Just pure empathy … at least in the beginning.

As you master this technique, you can eventually weave it into stories and advice and opinion without anyone realizing what you’re doing. But for now, just transform yourself into a slightly more clever version of a talking parrot. Nothing more.

If you do it right, and you get the “Yes! Exactly!” response, you’ll have an instant connection with the person. They’ll be tuned into you like nobody’s business. Here’s why:

We’re all searching for someone who “gets” us. If we happen to come across one of these precious people, we pay more attention to them than anyone else in our lives.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.

If people don’t feel like you “get” them, they don’t care what you think. It doesn’t matter how brilliant, eloquent, or hard-working you are. Even a great headline won’t save you. They’re not listening.

So prove it. Prove you understand them better than they even understand themselves.

And then teach them, persuade them, entice them, or whatever you want to do.

Never before.

How to create content people love

It’s simple, really:

Talk about stuff they’re obsessed about.

Notice I didn’t say “interested in.” If you want your audience to swoon at your content and immediately begin making up little love poems about you, being merely interesting is no longer enough.

You have to be irresistible. Like a seven-layer fudge cake to a chocoholic.

And the easiest way to achieve that?

Connect yourself to their existing obsessions. Using your superduper empathy skills developed in the last exercise, make a list of the things your audience is obsessed about. Then resolve to write about nothing else.

Do that, and you won’t have to fight for attention.

Do that, and you’ll certainly never be boring.

Do that, and you can finally start getting the results everyone said you would.

Got it?


There might be hope for you after all. 😉

Image by Francesc Pozo

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Reader Comments (96)

      • says

        You’ve misunderstood what he meant. A person might be a crybaby in the instance that they’re whining. I’ve merely written I realized I had a problem after reading this article. Everyone has problems.

        • says

          No, I think you misunderstood what I meant. :) I didn’t call you a crybaby to put you down. It was a joke in reference to the post. What I meant is that Jon made an impact to you by explaining your problem to you in better words than you could, gave you a solution and that’s why his post was an “eye-opener” for you. NHF Ali. 😉

  1. says

    Nobody said marketing was easy. Dumping material into the search space without understanding what your audience enjoys reading and watching is not strategic. It might sound very cliché to say look at the keyword research but it can really give you a nice understanding as to what your audience wants to see. If at the very least it will put you in the right area, after that is up to personality to make it shine.

    • says

      Yep, keyword research is an important tool. You do have to be careful with it though because some of the numbers can be misleading.

      For instance, blogging-related terms have surprisingly little search traffic. The only popular terms are related to how to create a blog, so you would think everyone in the space is a newbie. But it’s not true.

      In my experience, the best ways to get to know your audience are studying popular posts in your niche, reading and thinking about comments, and doing telephone consultations with readers to hear about their problems. Very, very few bloggers do those things, and that’s why so many blogs are so disconnected.

  2. Heraldo Gomes says

    Awesome post, Jonathan!

    That’s why I am an obsessed fan of Copyblogger’s content.

    Thank you!

  3. says

    I totally get it, Jon!

    I’ve been doing this for a while, spending hours to write tutorial articles with screenshots and explaining how to solve a problem, but not so many people cared about that.

    However, when I started to write about problems, just as you mention, without having a clear focus and giving advice without a clear solution, the traffic exploded.

    So strange! But now I understand why and I will try to keep a mix between the two of them.

    • says

      Well, it depends on the severity of the problem. If it’s just a slight annoyance, a post showing them how to get rid of it will probably get immediate response, but if it’s a horrific problem, and they’re obsessed with finding a solution, the post will probably get a big response.

      So, I don’t really think it’s about the clarity of advice. If anything, giving people clear answers should actually increase your response.

  4. says

    Given the internet short attention span, boring is a scary word. Being entertaining and feeding our audience on their obsessions should work. Though, in my opinion, it takes some serious effort and more importantly, will, for the bloggers to find the obsessions of their readers. This is where the gap falls.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right. For most bloggers, it takes a year or two to really understand their readers. You can accelerate it though by making a conscious effort to listen and watch and think carefully about what’s happening on your blog and other blogs in the niche.

  5. says

    This is great advice. What I like most is that is applies to much more than blogging. Do you handle the customer service side of your business? The experiment exercise could really come in handy. Thought about writing a book? Want to know how to sell it or get lots of downloads on your give away copy? Go back and read this post again. Same applies. Thanks Jon for some really useful stuff (as per usual :-))

    • says

      I was hoping someone would notice that! Major brownie points to you. :-)

      It even applies to things outside of business. Relationships, negotiating with salespeople, pretty much any human interaction.

      In my opinion, being able to empathize is THE most important life skill. Sad how nobody teaches us how.

      • says

        but…but…but… it’s so much easier just to dismiss them as crybabies, and go back to my Magnum Opus on the fascinating subject of mohair dryrot prevention – which I’m sure will go viral, as soon as it’s finished!


      • says

        In my opinion, being able to empathize is THE most important life skill. Sad how nobody teaches us how.

        I. wholeheartedly. agree. with. that. Absolutely.

        Unfortunately, I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate that into my writing. Fortunately, your post here reminded me how and why, and maybe…maybe…what to do.

        Thanks for writing about this, Jon. At least I have a better idea what to do, and it’s just a matter of doing it.

  6. says

    No one really wants to learn. No one really wants to be taught. No one really wants to change. No one really has time to read. So, what then? What you’re saying is listen and repeat what you heard? In other words, it’s interesting and NOT boring if you’re simply repeating what they’re thinking.

    Gee, that sounds too easy.

    • says

      It definitely does sound too easy especially since you would first need to have an audience to engage with in order to repeat what they say. I’m sure this method was implied as a face to face approach anyway, so it would be interesting to know how this translates online.

      Jon is right to a certain extent with regards to people though as most don’t want to learn anything new, which I personally found out the hard way. Most actually want things handed to them on a plate or a simpler solution to their problem.

      There’s an old adage that goes: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

    • says

      It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Most people have a really difficult time putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and completely forgetting about their own perspective.

      Also, people ARE interested in learning and change and all those good things once they feel understood. So, it’s not empathy or advice. It’s empathy before advice.

      • says

        So, it’s really about getting their attention first by relating. Everything is just so much “content” until we relate with the content provider. Then they want to learn, change, and grow.

        Okay, I get it Jon. People don’t open up their “eyes” until you splash a little water in their face. I’m the same way.

  7. says

    Thank you. I feel like this post was written just for me. I, too, have been trying to give my peeps great stuff they can use, but I find that they respond like crazy when I write about their challenges as entrepreneurs… or even as human beings.

    What I love about what you wrote about being boring was that you didn’t say I have to be fascinating and compelling. My writing does. And this is a relief because sometimes I feel like the most boring person in the world. Or rather, my life is. But before I bore you with the details, I’ll just sign off with… Wow. That was one great post.

    • says

      Yep, people will always be more fascinated with themselves than they will be with anything else, including us. So, it definitely takes the pressure off. :-)

      As you get good at this, you can also start introducing more of your own personality and perspective later. The ultimate combination is having an audience that feels like you understand them AND they are totally fascinated with your own story.

      But the first is definitely more important than the second.

  8. Claudia says

    OMG! I really love this post! As a creative working for an engineering company I bang my head on the wall trying to make technical “stuff” readable and interesting. THANK YOU!!

  9. says

    I love the article and totally get it, but I’m thinking about starting a blog and I’m not sure where to start. How do I know what I need to empathize with if I don’t have an audience yet?

    • says

      Ashleigh, usually the best place to look is a site that already has the audience you want. Go hang out, read all the posts, read the comments, answer some comments. For some topics, there are great forums that are also excellent listening posts.

      And don’t neglect Twitter. If you do topic searches, you’ll find lots of complaints and problems that you can start to zero in on.

      • says

        To Jon and Sonia- my favorite “Dynamic Duo” of the blogosphere;
        How right on you both are!
        If I may add one teeny weeny point to your excellent blog, Jon – Dale Carnegie (remember him, anybody?) observed in “How To Win Friends and Influence People” , “One of the deepest urges in human nature is the desire to be important” . It’s that feeling of importance which is so powerful.
        To illustrate how much people hunger for esteem, I once sat down with an old acquaintance of mine from work who launched into a rant about all about her various problems at home with her family. I sat across the table with this woman for a good 45 minutes just listening to her vent her “issues” ; occasionally responding with just nods or short questions. I never said anything other than that. When it was time for us to leave, she smiled and said, “Gee Paula-I never knew how interesting you are to talk to!”
        I’m curious about your comment Sonia, about using Twitter for “listening”. I’m still trying to get the hang of it , but how does one carry on a conversation like that in shorthand??

  10. says


    Just what I needed to hear today Jon, thanks.

    What you called ‘The Crybaby Experiment’ is a great way to handle discussion, too. It gets straight to the point, and ensures you and your audience (or client) are talking about the same thing.

  11. says

    Really love the way you right = ), never been boring since I first read your articles. I enjoyed it, and thanks for another great article. Little by little I should be applying this to my writing style.

    Thanks a lot!

  12. says

    You know what I hate? People who publish posts that get you all worked up then don’t deliver the goods. All you did, Jon, was work us over with a baseball bat. Then you left us bleeding. OK, you’ve got one gristly little tidbit – the Crybaby Experiment – to grab attention. But then what? Haven’t you got something with a little more meat? Like how to get people to actually visit your site, just as an example. I’m not seeing it, Jon.

    • says

      Jack, you mean you hate it when you feel like the blogger has studied copywriting so long that the headlines are better than the posts themselves? You feel frustrated because they suck you in, and you really think they are going to solve your problem. But then you get to the end of the post and you feel like you haven’t really learned anything new? Yeah, that’s frustrating.
      (Is that what you were talking about, Jon? I suppose I could have been a bit more pithy. But I think that’s the gist of your idea, right?)

  13. says

    This post hits home!
    So a great writing framework might be to start by paraphrasing a complaint in a catchy title/headline, and then simply expand on the idea with much pith and excitement in the body!

  14. says


    How wonderfully refreshing you are. Since I have years of training (as a psychotherapist and
    consultant) this approach seems right on. REALLY ENJOY YOUR STYLE OF WRITING. YOU ARE

    I’ll let you know how your ideas work for me. Got nothing to lose.

    Paula Leslie, LCSW, BCD
    Essential LIfe Strategies

  15. Brian says

    Well written, Jon. The campaign to banish boring content should be supported by writers, managers, art directors, account execs, planners, media buyers, social mediorologists, web developers and anyone else who communicated for a living.

  16. Laroquod says

    Interesting to read here that because I find affiliate reviews unethical, that classes me among the ‘self-absorbed punks’. Who is more self-absorbed — the person who rationally judges a reviewer by whether they are on the take, or the reviewer who deludes themselves into thinking they can be impartial when their financial bottom line is at stake? I leave it to you reasonable people to divine the answer.

  17. says

    Jon, what if what your audience is obsessed about isn’t what they’ll admit to, or share across their social networks?

    According to my stats, the topic my audience is most obsessed about is “getting a raise”.

    However, money ranked low in a survey I posted about what they want. And my money articles are not shared as much as the ones about networking.

    • says

      This happens in every niche. Personally, I like to get people on the phone for a consulting session and listen to them talk about their problems for a while. They rarely say exactly what’s on their mind, but if you listen long enough, you can read between the lines. You can sort of do the same thing with comments if you have a lot of them, but in my opinion, nothing beats phone or face-to-face.

  18. says

    I recently listened to an interview Dane Maxwell did with the folks from Internet Business Mastery – he talks about connecting with your target audience directly (by phone, in this case) and asking a few intelligent questions to find out what their “pain points” are.

    He does this to find new business opportunities, but it would work for serious content creators as well… You’d be able to find out what they’re “obsessed” about with a few thought out questions and come up with killer content.

  19. says

    Good stuff!! A blog that only talks about what you think is cool is a journal, not a blog. Journals are never popular with readers, no matter how much content they contain.

  20. says

    Printing this! So would you recommend talking about their pain points first? I would love to see an example of this in a blog post and a newsletter so I can apply it betta.

  21. says

    I enjoy trying new ways to writing to see which styles gets me noticed better, I think it depends on what niche I’m writing about, my personal blog suits me ranting & swearing but that isn’t going to sit nicely with folk who come to my MMO blog. 😀

    Maybe I should try the gloating style that some big guns seem to achieve success with. :)

  22. Red B says

    This is very informative, engaging and freaking hillarious!! Ive been laughing all the way through. lol.. It’s been a while since I read a blog like this, so honest and so true, just awesome! Thanks for sharing this Jonathan!

  23. says

    What you’re promoting is called reflective listening and it’s the reason people will gladly plunk down over a hundred bucks an hour to see a therapist. Master it (it isn’t hard) and your spouse and kids will love you. Like a spouse or parent who doesn’t listen, we tend to think about what our readers “should” want rather than what they do. Thanks for reminding me what is so obvious from my clinical practice and personal relationships, but hasn’t (yet) been applied to my blogging.

    Are you saying, Jon, that we need to really listen before we write? 😉

  24. says

    This is quite possibly the most helpful post I have ever read on Copyblogger. And I’ve been helped quite a bit by these posts.
    One thing I have noticed on blogs is that I don’t have to be obsessed with a particular issue myself in order to find it interesting. If it is obvious that the blog’s audience (and author) is obsessed with something, I can find myself unwittingly empathizing with their obsession, even if I don’t share that obsession personally. On the other hand, I have read plenty of posts where the author obviously tried to write something relevant to the audience but never connected with anyone’s obsession. Those posts inevitably fail miserably.
    I’ll have to spend a lot more time thinking over this very powerful principle. Thanks Jon!

  25. says

    That being boring is a sin punishable by death —> “boring = punishable by death”: I was just imagining how many people would be dead by now if that were to be true & executed throughout the world!

    Very creative way to get your point across. Cheers!

  26. says

    I don’t care too much for this advice of treating people like low IQ pleasure seeking zombies. Sure, if you are a popular big name brand with a well established audience, you can do that. But for up and coming Bloggers, I think people will respect you and come back to you more if you show that you are a respectable and intelligent person.

    After all, if you adopt a honey boo boo strategy, then when you look in the mirror you are going to see a honey boo boo.

    • says

      You misunderstand the post. The point here isn’t to dumb down your content. The point is to talk about things your audience is interested in. You can (and should) do that in an intelligent way.

  27. says

    This is really amazing Jon! You’ve hit the nail on the head; I have been having such a problem and couldn’t figure out why but for sure you have saved me. I’m very much impressed with the crybaby’s dialogue quote; He isn’t alone many more are coming and this will be of much help. I look forward for the next!

  28. Martin Goulding says

    Jon, you are speaking tongue in cheek here, right? You would have to give people more than empathy correct ? That gets boring as well, real fast, you would have to back it up with substance otherwise your audience are complete morons, is this what you are saying Jon, surely not ? If it is and just taking you at your word and also reading some of the agreeable responses it seems to suggest that the whole game is to exploit., which does seem odd to me. But then again I’m new to this arena and perhaps need to cynic up, any way it moved me enough to respond, so please enlighten just a little further, thanks mate.

    • says

      Take another look. The post says you need to build empathy BEFORE you do anything else, not that it’s the ONLY thing you do. So, build empathy, and then give them value.

      As for exploitation, no, only stupid marketers do that. Smart marketers learn how to influence prospects to buy products and services that will really help them.

  29. says

    Great post,

    I know myself from my own experiences online this is true. I get lazy and only want to read posts about stuff i’m obsessed about and that can do something for me. I want quick answers and don’t want to be bored reading through a long post. I want them to get to the point quickly to keep me interested.


  30. says


    First of all, tremendous post, because the writing isn’t boring – it’s fabulous. I love your tone and your authenticity and your empathy all weaved together….it’s a great example of what you’re suggesting inside the post (your objective, obviously).

    Question: when launching a new product to a new group or to affiliate databases, do you suggest going so far as to hold off on the product launch BEFORE building a deeper relationship? I guess you could only answer that on a case by case basis, but would enjoy your feedback.

    thanks for your brilliance,


    • says

      Well, relationships can be built relatively quickly. A good launch sequence can take a prospect from suspicion to believing you’re an authority within about a week. It just comes down to the quality of your marketing.

  31. says

    Oh boy… this post really hit home. We’re all looking for ways to improve our marketing efforts, especially with our content and our blogging skills – that’s why we’re here right? We all want to be interesting and I particularly find ‘cheeky’ copywriting like yours Jon the way to go. It’s trying to find that right balance between delivering useful content that will actually help someone and trying to make it interesting (and maybe humorous) at the same time. I’ll bet you that all the really good stuff – like the articles you’ll find here – are written by professional writers. If you’re not (like me) you just have to work at it harder and keep learnin’ through copyblogger.com of course.

    • says

      Well, some of the articles here are written by professional writers, but you’d probably be surprised. The majority of guest posters are just rather serious hobbyists hoping to go full-time at some point.

  32. says

    Hi Jon

    Wow, you really said it like it is. Were you talking to me? Your post has definitely left me with something to think about. The trick here is to find what they are obsessed about, that I am also interested enough in to write about it. I guess I need to start asking myself some questions. Then again maybe the audience is obsessed about a subject but don’t know until they actually run across it. Example; I am interested in how the mind works to make certain people react in certain ways. Naming it …becomes I am obsessed with psychology. So would my audience also be obsessed with psychology or would it be how to keep from becoming insane? Maybe not quite in those terms, but psychology covers a broad range of events to produce certain reactions in individuals pertaining to what their circumstances are in life. Does it become one subject for each situation, such as “why does my boss treat everyone so badly” or “why does my boyfriend cheat on me” or “why does my friend lie to me” or “why does my family try to control me”? Do I need to deal with each situation as an obsessed audience?
    Thanks for the great post.


    • says

      You need to look for topics your audience is obsessed with as a whole. For example, only a small percentage of bloggers may be interested in how to put a subscription box in their sidebar, but nearly all of them are interested in how to get more traffic. So, write about traffic (which is what I do).

  33. says

    I’m reading Nonviolent Communication (by Marshall Rosenberg) right now. It has loads of examples and advice on how to empathize, if anyone is looking for some further guidance. Even so, I had not thought of letting empathy guide my blogging, so thanks for the light bulb!

  34. says

    Great post, Jon! I always enjoy reading you because you tell it like it is. You don’t sugarcoat things.

    I write on a variety of subjects, mostly from entertainment to social media. I keep working on improving my copywriting and am aware that just being eloquent, without being irresistible, isn’t enough. What I noticed, in general, was that I get a huge amount of traffic when I use strong words in the headlines, like: agony, warning, enemy.

    Your “Headline Hacks” come always in handy and always do the trick! :)

    • Carrie says

      Hi Jon,
      Can you explain in more detail how to execute the crybaby experiment in a post? Are we supposed to write posts that only talk about crybaby’s problem and our empathy? But no solution whatsoever? How do we do that and still offer value? Thanks!

  35. says

    This has got to be one of the best blog posts I have ever read in a while! It may just be the best, but I’m so blown away right now, I’m forgetting a lot of things so we’ll just have to say its in my top two!

    You’re totally right! People don’t care about you! I have always known this, but never really figured out how to cater to the cry babies! Beautiful post, look for my track back, my readers have to see this for themselves!

  36. says

    It’s as if we have always expected everyone else to see things the same way we see it. We all write a blog post because it “Interets ourselves, forget about what everyone else thinks”. i like this new point of view. It’s a huge paradigm shift. Its going to be a challenge however by focussing on new ideas and listening to potential readers will open our minds even more.

  37. says

    Brilliant post! Thanks for giving us a super-concrete way to improve our content. I see I’m not the only person out there with the “nobody reads my content” complaint… 😉

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