Why should startups blog?

Secretary
Photo by Anne Bowerman

A friend just asked me a simple but important question – why should a startup have a blog? What are the practical, concrete benefits?

The short answer is, you probably shouldn't have one! It takes a lot of time and mental energy to keep an active blog going, and if you spent that time on external consulting instead and channeled the revenue into AdWords you'd almost certainly get more traffic for your effort. If you don't have a burning desire to say something, you'll get dispirited by the initial lack of interest and give up.

It's a bit like choosing to do a startup instead of sticking with a salary job – if you stare at the cold probabilities it's an irrational choice. You hear about the successes, but not about about the hundreds of other blogs that get ignored despite great content.

So why am I blogging? For the same reason I'm building my startup, it's an itch I have to scratch. It's had some great personal benefits, from improving my ability to communicate complex ideas, to making friends I'd never have discovered, but those came slowly. In the first year I had posts which literally nobody read, and it took several months of daily posts before I got my first RSS subscriber! The only things that kept me going were my pig-headed stubborness and the pleasure of looking at a completed post.

After over 800 posts and five years of blogging, I now actually have an audience; 1,600 RSS subscribers and 30,000 web visitors a month. This brings all sorts of bonuses. I love people trusting me enough to invest their time checking out my projects, and meeting readers in person and having conversations that flow from my articles. The constant practice has made me a competent enough writer to pop up as a guest author on some of my favorite sites, which is both a thrill and generates some nice publicity for my startup work. I'm incredibly glad I'm in this position, but it took an obsession bordering on the insane to get here.

So don't look for hard-nosed practical reasons to blog. Unless there's something that you just have to shout from the rooftops it won't make sense.

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