Why many of your readers are passive?

Sixty or seventy percent of my readers are bloggers or webmasters themselves and I guess that is the case with many MMO or SEO blogs as well. Even the organic visitors – those who come via search engines – have some kind of web presence and that is the reason why they hit your blog! Basically, many of your readers are aware of things that they could do with a typical blog.

The unfortunate scenario, though, is that a lot of people who read a blog regularly stay in a passive mode of reading without contributing much to the discussion, comments, bookmarking (social and otherwise) or promoting the content via referring others to what may sound to be a useful write-up.

Top reasons why the reader is passive

There are a number of reasons behind passive readership. Naturally, the blogger himself may not be aware of many. From my point of view, the following are some of the causes behind poor involvement by the readers that the blogger should be aware of and can be corrected accordingly.
Passive blog reader
Stale topics: This is the case with many MMO bloggers whereby they might have written the content transpired out of other bigger blogs dealing with similar topics. It is okay to write ‘more’ but not acceptable to write ‘the same’ points over and again on a particular topic. Ideally there should not be any post that lacks originality though once in a while, the subject can be ‘inspired’.

Lack of proper interaction: If the blogger is not caring about replying to comments, follow up on questions etc, there is a definite chance that the readers will stay away from an interactive mode as well. Monologue is the prime destroyer! The other aspect is that the blogger does not ask enough questions to the readers that force them to comment or voice their opinion. Barbara of BWAB has this nice way of giving daily assignments to her readers that solves the said problem a bit though there could be other ways to tackle this issue as well.

Bad first impression: This is the case with the organic traffic, mainly. Perhaps the reader might have searched for something else and hit your blog accidentally. The fact that the quick scan of the content did not give him what was promised will make him to hit the back button instantly. Some of them might hang on for a while but would still not contribute with any ‘possible positive actions’.

Lack of active readership traits: This goes well with the past two points. There is a certain feeling about a blog that make readers believe that it is an active blog. The lack of those traits can cause immediate repulsion. Some of these traits include having regular and recent posts, having some comments on the posts and ‘the happening’ topics discussed. There are also the other softer facts such as the appearance and organization of the theme. Further, if the blog is not doing justice to what is promised in its tagline or site/search description, it can create a mixed set of readers only a few of them being active. The other aspects of a non-active blog include the poor statistics – especially the feed reader count – displayed on the blog that might make the blog less popular in the eyes of new readers.

RSS reader syndrome!: If the number of RSS readers are significantly high in proportion and you are syndicating your full feed (and not the excerpt) then there is a chance that they read through your posts pretty quickly without bothering to follow up or comment. However, if the aim is to have good readership – let it be passive or active – I strongly feel that one should syndicate the whole article via their feed as this gives the possibility to read the posts offline as well.

Readers in consumption mode: There will be readers who love your blog in a pure consumption mode to use or republish that information in their own blogs. The ideal and ethical way of doing it is via trackbacks and/or by providing content credits to wherever they belong but this is not always the case.

You don’t visit and contribute to other blogs: Sometimes – especially when many of your readers are bloggers themselves – you tend to get lesser participation from readers, if you yourself are not contributing well to what you read elsewhere. At the end the whole echo system has to work together and it is very important that you as a blogger participate actively in other blogs as well.

Lack of understanding of certain things: Many a times, if a blog is technically rich in terms of user interface elements, the readers tend to avoid taking any action on them. There could be a lot of readers who don’t even understand what is RSS or what to do with various social book marking links. In this case a simple user interface and easy-to-understand descriptions might help.

Technical problems: This has happened to me a couple of times. Due to the changes done to the theme code or installation of various plugins the commenting feature may fail to work. So if you don’t get any comments for a number of days, please check your theme and plugins for functional correctness. The simplicity and description of the comment fields also matter a lot. Sometimes, it could be even that the comments for a particular post are disabled by mistake!

The above mentioned are some of the reasons I could think of. I shall write about ‘getting the passive reader to do something‘, some other time. Now, may I expect some of you to comment on this post?

Comments

  1. Hi Ajith,

    How kind of you to link to my blog. I truly appreciate it.

    You’re right!. Many readers are passive. Although some prefer to stay that way, without asking them to contribute (in the comment section), many will continue on their merry way. Often, never to be seen again.

  2. Tell me about it :) but the difference is the small set of true fans for whom I am willing to spare a lot of time!

    Cheers,
    Ajith

  3. I think I can contribute another possibility “Information Junkies”. That is me, absorb as much about the topic, as needed. Maybe a portion sticks in the mental bookmark for later because I am not ready to learn that or use the item right now. I can’t wait to read “getting the passive reader to do something”. Well I commented because you wanted me to not be a passive reader and post something,lol.

    The truth is many times I would like to say good content or something but do not have anything to interject to the subject matter, so I move along without commenting.

    Well this is a nice deep subject you started.

  4. That definitely is another category of silent readers but, at least, I am glad that they are somehow reading/absorbing as much as possible :). Thanks Sherri for sharing this thought. Now, I know that silent observation is not always bad!

    Cheers,
    Ajith

  5. moserw :

    Ajith,

    Stale or repetetive content is one of the main reasons. Another reason would be the kind of visitors. Only targetted and repeat visitors actually will read the entire content and even comment on it. Another good reason is that many are not aware of the benefits of commenting. I used to be like that, read a lot of articles on a single blog and yet leave without leaving a single comment. Only when I learnt that if you have already spent time on the blog reading then another couple of minutes more in adding a comment will be useful in the long run and also since you have already read it will be a meaningful comment.

  6. You said it Rajeev. ‘Not knowing the benefits of commenting’ is definitely an issue with many blog readers those who are budding bloggers themeselves. Thanks for pointing out.

    Cheers,
    Ajith

  7. Ajith,

    Excellent post. To make readers participate in the comments, there should be good balance of all the points that you’ve mentioned. i.e You should have excellent content, network with other bloggers in your field, appealing website design etc.

  8. Thanks for your compliments Ramesh. As you rightly mentioned balance is the keyword here – I guess, I should write about the ‘need to maintain balance’ some other time.

    Cheers,
    Ajith

  9. I have to scrap the second part (getting the passive reader to do something) that I promissed as Darren has already written about it y’day 😀

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/08/29/12-tips-to-snap-readers-out-of-passivity-with-calls-to-action/

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