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2017 State of the Blogging Industry

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part 2: the motivation

What motivates a person to start a blog

Running a blog is no easy task. Whether you publish daily, weekly, or even just a couple times a month, writing regularly for an audience of humans is a tall order.

What exactly would motivate someone to undertake this effort (even if they don’t realize the full extent of the work ahead)?

That’s what we tackle in this section, and we kick it off with what bloggers were doing before they started their blogs.

What were you doing before you started a blog?

So much of what motivates a person to become a blogger is to escape from their current circumstances in some way. While not everyone is running from something, many bloggers report that quitting their job or becoming self-employed is a major motivation for getting started.

This data doesn’t tell us the exact professions bloggers held before starting their blogs, but it does give us a general idea.

It comes as no surprise that the majority of people were in a salaried, hourly, or contract role. The biggest point of interest was the number of people who were already self-employed. This is a really interesting opportunity for us to drill down into why someone with an existing business would get started blogging.

Now let’s transition to look at why bloggers get started.

Before starting a blog

What was your goal when you first started your blog?

As you can see, bloggers had a wide variety of reasons for starting their blogs, but the top six reasons stood out in contrast to the rest.

Far and away the most prominent reason bloggers get started is to become self-employed, with 24% of bloggers giving this as their reason.

Why did you start your blog?

If we drill down into each of the respondents segments, we can see a bit more detail. Here’s the graph for why bloggers got started based on those seven categories of respondents.

At a high level, a few key stats immediately stand out:

  • Bloggers without children are the most likely segment of respondents to have a goal of becoming self-employed
  • Professional bloggers are the most likely to set a primary goal of teaching what they know
  • Professional bloggers are also most likely to set a goal of building a company
  • Not-yet-professional bloggers do not stand out as an extreme high or low response in any of the top six goal categories
  • Female bloggers are most likely to set a goal of having an outlet for creative expression
  • Male bloggers are most likely to want to build an audience as they’re starting their blog

Top six blogging goals

Each of those statements simplifies the data a bit too much, so let’s break this down to find some interesting comparisons and contrasts.

Does having children change a person’s motivation for starting a blog?

The group most likely to want to become self-employed are those bloggers without children. They are 33% more likely to have a primary goal of using their blog to become self-employed than those with children. Similarly, bloggers without children are 27% more likely to start a blog as a creative outlet compared to those with children.

This does NOT mean that bloggers with children should throw out the idea that they can use a blog to become self-employed, build a company, or have an outlet for creative expression. But it does mean they seem to feel a greater sense of burden and responsibility. That might mean their willingness to take risks is a bit lower and that they have to be more intentional with setting priorities for business activities.

Top six blogging goals

Further, this provides powerful foresight for those bloggers without families today who plan to have children at some point down the road. Take advantage of the time you have before you become a parent to chase after the bigger, riskier, or more spontaneous aspects of blogging before you have the added responsibility of children to consider. Priorities change over time, and that’s healthy.

Did professional bloggers have unique motivations for getting started?

In this breakdown, we compare the primary starting goal of professional bloggers vs. non-professional bloggers (or, not-yet-professional).

From these stats it’s clear: If you want to build a company, then you can’t just use your blog as a creative outlet or personal journal. Setting the right goal for your blog at the outset will help you think through the strategies you’ll need to employ to get where you’re trying to go as a blogger.

Top six blogging goals

Does gender change a person’s motivation for starting a blog?

We wanted to look at the breakdown of male vs. female survey results for a number of reasons:

  1. We care about serving all bloggers and we know that it’s natural for our team to have blind spots. We want to work to remove those blind spots for us and for you, our customers and fans.
  2. We suspect that the motivations and day-to-day reality for male vs. female bloggers are quite varied.
  3. The Internet, especially the blogging world, is often (but not always) divided between sites clearly targeting a male audience and sites clearly targeting a female audience. Could this data help us understand why?

Top six blogging goals

Digging into this breakdown, we see some similar trends from the pro / not-yet-pro breakdown. “Become Self-employed” is about even, as is “Teach What I Know.” However, we do see some big contrasts in “Have an Outlet for Creative Expression,” “Build an Audience,” and “Earn More Money.”

Women are 159% more likely than men to set a primary goal of having an outlet for creative expression! That is the most drastic contrast we’ve seen in this initial set of answers to the question of primary goal at the beginning of a blog’s life. We continue to be interested in the differences between what motivates male and female bloggers when they’re getting started, and this will be a great opportunity for future research on the industry.

How do bloggers define success and happiness?

No state of the industry report would be complete without understanding how the people in that industry think about the broad ideas of success and happiness. After all, bloggers, perhaps more than anyone, are the people who are actively building their own future as a way to seek out a sense of fulfillment both at work and at home. Let’s unpack what exactly that means.

We asked two separate questions to gauge bloggers’ thoughts:

Which of the following factors contribute to your sense of happiness?
Which of the following factors contribute to your sense of success?

Like the primary goals question that kicked off the survey, we gave a range of multiple choice answers. The difference this time was that each respondent could choose as many options as they wanted.

Here were the overall results, split by happiness (in blue) vs. success (in green).

What factors contribute to your sense of happiness and success?

With the options listed in alphabetical order, it’s a bit hard to see what won out as the top factors contributing to happiness and success, so let’s break it down.

The top five factors contributing to bloggers’ sense of happiness, with the percentage of bloggers who selected each factor:.

  1. Creative Expression - 75%
  2. Purpose or Mission - 63%
  3. Relationships - 60%
  4. Money - 56%
  5. Physical Health - 55%

The top five factors contributing to bloggers’ sense of success, again with percentages included:

  1. Money - 73%
  2. Purpose or Mission - 59%
  3. Creative Expression - 51%
  4. Work - 41%
  5. Relationships - 40%

The answers clearly show that above all else, money still equals success for most bloggers and that creative expression contributes to happiness for more bloggers than any other factor by a decent margin. Let’s not dive into the deep meaning of our existence just yet, because these numbers are a bit confusing in their raw form.

But what would happen if we combined the results from both questions to look at the most popular contributing factors to both happiness AND success?

What factors make bloggers feel both happy and successful?

This is my favorite breakdown of the happiness vs. success data because we see clear outliers when we combine happiness and success. This graph shows us the raw number of responses to each factor, with success in green and happiness in blue.

What factors contribute to your sense of happiness and success?

The top five contributing factors to a combined sense of happiness AND success:

  1. Creative expression
  2. Purpose or mission
  3. Relationships
  4. Money
  5. Physical health

We might say that the intersection of our sense of happiness and our sense of success represents what many of us would consider a sense of fulfillment. And we, as an industry, need to do a better job of connecting creativity and purpose to our money-making ability.

Rather than publish income reports or brag about our launch revenue, perhaps we can stay more focused on serving our audiences through the work we do and carefully choose work that deeply engages us because of our personal connection to that work..

The future of blogging, if there is to be a future at all, is at the intersection of these three factors: creativity, purpose, and money. With this understanding, we have a filter through which to view all of the remaining data.

Let’s get going.


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