Throughout the onslaught of the 2012 Aniblog Tourney, I learned quite a few lessons regarding my own site and how I view other blogs. I also greatly appreciated the time some wonderful people took to actually leave comments in each round regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the various competitors. Whether due to my own self-interests or just plain laziness, however, I only really read the feedback that regarded Anime B&B. By doing so, I undoubtedly missed out on valuable criticism aimed at others that could also apply to me. This is where Foxy Lady’s carnival idea comes into play.
Gaining and keeping readers are tasks that both new and old bloggers struggle with, accomplishments that some seem to achieve naturally. Unfortunately, talent and the creative eye don’t bless each and every one of us, and there are fatal mistakes repeated time and time again which end up pushing away instead of attracting loyal readers and commenters. So what does it take to capture your visitors’ attentions, prompting them to hit that subscribe button? Below are my responses to Ayame’s prompts regarding my own process for choosing which blogs to follow:
What do I like to read and for what reasons (reviews, commentaries, editorials)?
Just like the content on my own blog, my interests are varied and piqued by a variety of animanga blogs. The vast majority of them are admittedly editorial-based, with post topics focusing in on unique subjects the writer may have noticed in either a single episode, or in an entire series or group of series. They are also often academic in nature, including references to other online or literary works. Reading these types of posts are not only illuminating, but also inspirational. After reading I feel a strange sense of fulfillment from having read something truly worthwhile. Some good examples of these include,
2DT’s “The Post-Cyberpunk of Steins;Gate”
ajthefourth’s “Notes on Hyouka as an Exploration of Detective Fiction”
Yi’s “Fashionable Nudity in Mawaru Penguindrum”
Akirascuro’s “For The Love of The Logo”
foxy lady’s “Soul and Body: Unbreakable Bonds in xxxHOLiC and TRC”
And then there are even more specialized blogs or singular posts that hold to themes not centered on an actual show, but on various aspects of the Japanese culture that coincidentally are featured in anime or manga. This may be the official soundtracks or OP and EDs of series, or on a delicious dish that may have been featured in an episode.
Now, there are a select few blogs that I follow for their episodic reviews, but even then, these reviews lean more towards the analytical approach than just the strict summary and thoughts method that so many others tend to use. A very good example of a blogger who examines anime by episode, highlighting fascinating details I most likely overlooked, is Guardian Enzo (who also blogs for RandomC). He isn’t so much concerned with the ‘what’ as with the ‘why’, and the level of discussion on an intellectual scale stands on par with any number of my preferred editorial blogs.
What do I do when I stumble across a new blog?
When visiting a new blog, it’s mostly due to a link from either another blog, or because the title caught my interest from AnimeNano. Because I already have a fairly long list of blogs that I follow on Google Reader, there isn’t really a shortage of blogs for whatever topic I might be interested in. This is again why editorials make up the majority of my blogroll, as a generic episodic review title (ex: “Hyouka – Ep. 15″) won’t catch my eye.
The usual progression, then, is as follows:
Interesting post > Recent posts > Categories > About Me/Comments > Blogroll
If I like what I read from the post that initially caught my attention, I’ll look to see what else he or she might have written recently that I might like. Checking recent posts not only shows me other topics of interest, but also reveals the writer’s frequency of posts. If he or she only posts once every couple of months, I probably won’t add them to my Reader. Instead, I’ll either check to see if there’s a Twitter for the blog that I can follow, maybe catching any further posts that way, or just hope to see the next entry when it pops up on AnimeNano.
Organized categories are important for a number of reasons, most especially for accessibility. I’m always looking for excellent writing regarding my favorite anime and manga, and so appreciate being able to quickly check a category list for familiar titles. If the blogger only has one or two titles that I recognize, that signals to me that this may not be the blog for me as our interests are probably too far apart.
A natural result of enjoying a blog is that I become curious about the writer; what led him or her to blog about anime or manga, and what other similarities might we share? An About Me section isn’t always important for whether or not I choose to subscribe, but it does show the writer’s interest in communicating with his or her readers. Another major stoplight for me is whether or not the blogger replies to comments. Not replying to comments from the readers is a huge no-no that can either turn me away from a blog, or deter me from leaving my own comments.
And finally, there’s the blogroll. Again, this section is not a must, but similar to ‘About Me’, I like to see what other blogs he or she might follow. It’s oddly gratifying to see if we follow some of the same blogs, and any unfamiliar ones instantly get a push up from being listed on this blog that has most likely earned my affections.
What must a good animanga blog have and do?
Visually please me, or, at the very least, do not bore or distract me!
It wasn’t until my first year participating in the Aniblog Tourney that I stumbled across blogs that seriously offended my eyes, or put me to sleep on a purely visual standpoint. As Foxy Lady aptly puts it, anime and manga are of the visual culture, and as such, the blogs should reflect that. No pictures in posts, walls of texts without paragraphs, overly long paragraphs, and inattention to the entire blog’s visual theme are serious offenders of Marina’s Animanga Blog Laws. A blog’s theme doesn’t have to be extremely fancy or personalized at every corner, like delightful Daifuuku!, but can opt for simple and clean lines with only each post’s images providing the bursts of color.
Make navigation easy!
There’s nothing more frustrating than a blog not having either a search bar, nor a section for categories or tags. Not including these simple widgets presumes a lot of the reader’s future interests and also damns any of the blog’s older content from ever being read or shared again.
Provide community links.
It seems common sense, but I have stumbled across blogs that didn’t provide options for subscribing via RSS, E-mail, Twitter, or any other medium. Sure, I could manually plug in the blog’s URL into Reader, but why force your visitors to go through the extra steps? The online world is a fast-paced beast always on the hunt for the next quickest feast, so neglecting these short cuts can really bring down the traffic of a blog. Make the links noticeable and hopefully tasteful towards the blog’s overall colors and theme.
Interact with both fellow bloggers and with readers.
As discussed before, a blogger should always reply to the readers’ comments. Not only is this thankful and polite, but it can also gain future readers. And just as people tend to judge things by their covers, they often also follow by example. Seeing that simple bubble at the top of posts denoting the number of comments by other readers somehow prompts me to not only read the post, but to also leave my own thoughts. This isn’t to say that I would never be the first person to leave notes, but viewing the thoughts of others through the comments proves to me that there are other people, not just the blogger and me, that want to discuss the topic at hand.
Also, again already noted, including a blogroll promotes the animanga community and also reflects well upon the blogger. The writer is not just a single person in a room bouncing his or her thoughts off the falls and back to herself, but is part of a forum of ideas.
What blogging behaviors annoy me?
Bag the self pity. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m really not interested in the occasional post bemoaning a lack of readers, topics, or the quality in present anime. While negative posts can be fun and clever in their own ways, there’s a clear difference between negative criticism of anime and self-bashing/pointless complaining. The latter lacks depth and pride in its own possible merits.
There’s no need to sound stuffy to impress your readers. As an ever present student of literature and critical theory, I appreciate a varied vocabulary and can applaud even the most specialized topic discussions. However, there are some writers who seem to take annoying pleasure in using big words for the sake of using big words. More than half the time, they don’t even use them correctly, or just toss them out without following through with examples or explanations.
Don’t be easily offended by negative or critical comments. I’ve had my fair share of reader comments calling me out on various views and examples, but I’ve always strived to respond with a fair and open mind. They are entitled to their opinions, and I am at least grateful for the time they took to both read and comment. Unfortunately, not all bloggers are willing to take advice. They may either delete the comment, or reply in anger. This is a shame since he or she could possibly be avoiding a more in-depth or diverse discussion, and ignoring his or her own biases.
And now, I want to direct these same questions to my readers. You can respond with Anime B&B in mind (and if so, please specify), or other animanga blogs in general. Please also check out the other participants in you have the time!