Blogging 101: Types of Blogs – Which one is right for you?

When I say there are four types of blogs, I’m totally lying to you. There are dozens and dozens of types of blogs, but for the purpose of the College of Blogging Series, I’m going to direct my attention at only four types: Personal, Professional, Group, and Vlog. Keep in mind though that if you can dream it up, you can blog it.

Personal Blogs

I first started blogging on LiveJournal back in 2000 in order to keep up with friends and family who lived halfway across the country. They liked seeing my pictures and reading my stories. My audience was small, intimate, and everyone who followed me also knew me in real life.

This is a good example of a personal blog. Also called a hobby blog, journal, or personal journal, these blogs may only be read by a handful of family and friends—usually people who know the blogger in real life. They do not actively seek an audience.

Personal blogs are fun and tend to be about the blogger’s life. There are no rules that dictate behavior or content. Personal blogs are simply that –- personal. You can put anything you want on a Personal blog. You can update them as frequently or infrequently as necessary. There are no limits. These are the most common blogs.

While they may center on one or two main topics (exercise, gardening, parenting) they don’t market themselves as a Gardening Blog, or a Parenting Blog.

Personal blogs have a reputation for fizzling out when the blogger gets too busy.


Professional Blogs

Professional blogs are also referred to as “Blogging for an Audience.” These are more closely associated with writing a newspaper column. These blogs want to draw in and keep an audience. They market themselves and attempt to build a community around their message. The blogger becomes an opinion expert in their field, a public personality, and often the look of the blog establishes a sort of brand around the blogger and his/her topic.

Professional blogs usually only have one or two closely related topics that they post about. They very rarely diverge from these topic lines. When a reader comes to the professional blog they know exactly what sort of posts they’ll be reading. Usually a professional blogger is an expert in some capacity about the thing they blog about. Caveat: You can be a Professional Novice. Writers who are unpublished but blog about their journey to publication would be considered an expert at being new to the business. The message would be one of exploration and the posts would revolve around learning the business.

Professional blogs must take great care to control their message and their image.

Professional blogs often pay for a specialized domain and/or web hosting. They may pay for a professional designer to build their blog for them, but it’s not necessary.

Professional blogs tend to post on a set schedule, usually Mon-Fri or Mon-Wed-Fri.

Group Blogs

Group blogs, also called community blogs, are built from bringing together several bloggers on the same or similar subjects to support a blog together.

Group blogs are ideal for people who cannot maintain an individual blog on their own. A blog with five writers could schedule one writer for each day of the work week, for example.

It is not uncommon for a group blogger to also have their own individual blog.

The only concern with Group blogs is that, to be successful, someone has to take the lead on maintaining the site, developing the “look,” understanding the functionality and usability of the templates, and keeping the blog organized and on schedule.

Readers love Group blogs too because they can get several writers in one stop. Group blogs are becoming popular amongst published authors who don’t have time to maintain an individual online presence but can offer their readers a place to find them along with other similar authors. In this way, Group blogs are also beneficial for acquiring new readers.

It is my non-expert opinion that Group blogs are going to become increasingly more popular with midlist and indie authors who will let go of individual blogs. They’ll likely group by subject matter or genre to increase exposure. It will be easier for readers to keep current on their favorite authors this way, too.

Excellent example:
The Contempts
The Elevensies- 2011 Debut Authors
Love YA Lit

VLogs

Vlog stands for “Video Blog” and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Instead of writing your blog, you produce it.

First, a Vlog is quick. The “sweet spot” is 4 minutes. They feel more personal, more intimate, as if you are sitting with your favorite author or blogger. You see their face. You see where they live. Vlogs tend to be less formal than Professional blogs with topics given as bite-sized and bulleted. Authors who vlog are becoming very popular, particularly YA authors, because the medium speaks well to an audience well versed in YouTube and video pop culture.

It can be easier for people to view a vlog on their cell phone, smart phone, or iPhone than it is to read a traditional blog entry on these devices.

As a new medium, there are some outstanding examples and many bad examples. Good vlogs feel like television, bad vlogs sound like someone rambling on someone’s voice mail.

Vlogs are also more expensive to produce and require some time spent developing the skills to become successful. For this reason, many vloggers also have blogs. Most blogging sites support video embedding in their blog posts, though most videos are originally posted on YouTube.

You’ll need a video camera, video editing software, a tripod, a well lit room, periods of silence, a good eye for visual presentation, and patience. You might say, “but my phone can take videos!” or “My webcam can take videos!” I urge you not to pursue vlogging unless you can get your hands on a decent camera. A video that is grainy with poor sound quality will actually drive viewers away from you. You want your video to feel like television, and you’re going to need the equipment to do it. After you have the equipment, it’s then just a matter of learning the software and equipment and practicing scripting, improv, and filming your videos.

Excellent examples of vlogs:
John Green @ VlogBrothers
Rosianna
Jackson Pearce
Charlieissocoollike

CAUTION!

How you choose which type of blog to create is up to you and I only have one piece of advice. What I’m about to say has caused plenty of online arguments in its time, and I’m comfortable with having a discussion in the comments, but I stand by this opinion.

If you hope and dream and plan to one day become a published author and make writing your career, you should consider giving up your “This is my life” Personal blog. In fact, I would even consider deleting your pre-career-ambitions Personal blog(s) from the internet depending on what you have posted in them.

The moment an agent or editor becomes interested in you – heck, the moment you start putting your writing out there, your blog (and any of your other online presence) becomes part of your resume.* EDIT: This is true of any career field. Writing just happens to be mine.

With that in mind, your blog should reflect your professionalism. It should be the best representation of you that you can make it. I’ve read enough agents who say they absolutely do Google potential clients, so what do you want them to find?

Further, if you are lucky and get published and find readers, do you really want readers, strangers, to see pictures of you and your kids at your house, possibly giving away where you live? Do your friends want pictures of them from 3 years ago on your blog that thousands of people are Googling? What about those posts that talk about being depressed, on medication, dealing with a death in the family, a scathing book review of an author you’re later on a book tour with, or your opinions on a controversial topic that maybe, several years later, you no longer feel so strongly about?

Even if you keep a Personal blog or a blog that has nothing to do with your writing career, I urge you to be judicious about what you choose to post. Anything you post on the internet, whether you want it to or not, whether you think it is fair or not, becomes part of your resume and you can and will be judged by it.

I believe that in pursuit of becoming a published author and public personality you give up a certain freedom. Drunken pictures on Facebook are going to be ten times more negatively received than your average Facebook user. You’ll want to be honest about yourself, but you’ll want to be careful. That’s my only advice, and you can take it for what it is worth. There are plenty of people who argue against the idea that they are a brand. When you purposefully enter yourself into the public sphere though, I disagree.


So what about everyone else?

As for the other types of blogs, the College of Blogging Series is geared towards the Professional Blog. If you are interested in Group Blogs, Vlogs, Photography Blogs, Art Blogs, Review Blogs or whatever, enjoy the advice but consider each piece with a caveat of This only applies to you if you want it to.

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Want more College of Blogging posts? Click the tab just beneath the header called College of Blogging Series for every COBS post I’ve made so far. Or Click Here.

24 thoughts on “Blogging 101: Types of Blogs – Which one is right for you?”

  1. I agree with keeping personal stuff. That doesn’t mean you can have a personal touch or even personal stories as long as they have a purpose and are told with a professional touch.

  2. Great article. I know so many people in my local professional community who underestimated the power of social media. I’ve known people who have lost a job or a client because of their facebook content or photos.

    Thank you

  3. Hi Sommer,
    Thanks for a great post. I’ve been working on a YA novel for the past few years and started a blog a few years back as well. Lately I’ve been pondering what to do w/my blog. I’ve veered off talking about specifically writing and have been slanting my posts towards what it’s like to be an artist (how long can I talk about rewriting?). From what you’ve just posted here, it looks like I should turn my focus back on the writing process, as if I was published and was speaking to future readers. Do you see it necessary for a pre-published writer to blog a few times a week? Does marketing myself as a go-to blog for writing help/advice make sense? PS I’m in the midwest as well.

    1. Shari-

      Thank you! I’m glad it was useful. There are more coming!

      First, I think it depends whether you should change back to talking about writing or continue with a new interest. The “depends” part comes down to your readers. Do you have a lot of readers and are they receptive to the artist posts? If you choose to go the artist path, be prepared for your readership to fall a little, but you’ll likely gain new followers interested in art. It also depends on if you’re not happy talking about writing anymore, then maybe the change is for YOU, and that’s ok. Readers will be able to tell if you’re not happy or interested with your topic anymore.

      Well, I haven’t published any books yet. I’ve been published as a freelance journalist, but I’m still working on my first novel. I post every day of the week, but I have a lot to say. I tend to stay away from giving advice on being an author since I don’t know what that is like (but I do direct people to OTHER people’s advice if I find it particularly useful) I keep to talking about what it is like on the journey towards publication. I share what I learn and I share ideas. I’ve been blogging for eleven years though, so blogging I feel particularly expert about and I don’t mind giving advice on that.

      Do I think it is necessary to blog a few times a week? No. You could do it once a week if you wanted, I know blogs with that schedule. Every monday, or every tuesday thursday, or every friday. You can have any schedule you want.

      I just posted another blog post in this series called “Why blog?” You can find a button link to it on the right sidebar at the top of this page. Blog if you want to, blog if you really enjoy blogging about writing, but if you don’t, don’t force it.

      In March I have a series of posts about finding your message and marketing yourself towards it. That will be helpful for you, I think. It sounds like you’re not sure what your message should be. Unless you are very good at writing and have lots of advice to give, I wouldn’t market specifically to that because you might not be able to keep that topic up forever. Maybe you could step back and market your blog towards creative self-expression where you can incorporate both the writing arts and other sort of arts. That’s broad enough that you probably won’t run out of topics very easily. You might lose some readers who are die-hard for writing posts, but you’ll probably gain plenty who are interested in a wide range of creative arts.

      Does that help? You’re welcome to email me at tellgreatstories@yahoo.com if you have other questions. I will do my best :-) Also, yay for the midwest! I hope you’re not suffering under too much snow. We just got a few inches yesterday, but it is the super fluffy snow that looks like fake snow you buy in a store.

  4. I really enjoyed your post. I agree with you that you have to be very careful about what you put out there. Even in your private life, if you are trying to gain an audience, everything is fodder for the mill. I learned this the hard way many years ago but still manage to stick my foot in it every once in a while. I’m looking forward to your next post on content.

    1. Wendy-

      Yeah, I’ve learned the hard way as well in past blogs I’ve run. I used to be very quick to thrown down with someone over an opinion I was absolutely opposed to. Now I force myself to measure and weigh every argument before getting involved and even then I am careful about pushing buttons. It is great to have opinions you believe in, not great to make your opposition personal. It is difficult sometimes.

      My posts on forming your message, your blog’s “look” and the art of content all scheduled for March. So you shouldn’t have to wait too long!

    1. Thanks Limari! Yeah, I kept a personal blog on LiveJournal for many years. Granted, I was young when I started it and I even kept it around even when I moved on to other blogs and other topics. I chose to delete it when I started Tell Great Stories. There are just some things the world doesn’t really need to know. (And they probably didn’t need to know then either, but it was so easy to be hot blooded at that age. And really easy to turn off my inner filter.)

      I don’t think you need to delete everything about the real you, but I do think filtering some information out is a good idea for most people :-) The online world makes it so easy to share information we’d normally never share with a stranger on the street.

  5. Hi Sommer,

    Great roundup of the options. I’ve just started my blog, which fits into your professional blog (new to the industry) category. Though as well as the blog I’ve added a podcast (first one coming Monday), where I’ll be (amateurishly) reading flash fiction that I’m posting there.

    This is the first week and the biggest challenge I’m facing now it’s all set up, is keeping updating it regularly while it’s for an audience of none.

    Cheers,

    Alan.

    1. Alan-

      Thanks for the comment. Do you have a link to your blog you wouldn’t mind sharing with me? I’d love to come check it out. I think the podcast idea is neat.

      I’ve got posts coming up at the end of March and in April about content and audiences. It is so, so difficult to start because you know that no one is listening. It is easy to get hung up on that, but don’t. The beginning months when there is no one or only one or two people, are the best times to work out the bugs and train yourself to set a schedule. You can tweak your look, get comfortable with your blogging voice, and most importantly, spend those first few months looking for other blogs you like that fit the same theme as your own and start posting comments at them regularly. Since you won’t be busy with your own site, you’ll have more time to reach out and get to know other bloggers. That will help draw readers a trickle at a time so by the time you’ve got a steady readership you’ll have worked out all the kinks and already started networking.

      Good luck! I can’t wait to see it!

      1. Hi Sommer,

        Thanks of the encouragement. You can find my blog at http://www.alanmurrayjones.com

        I’m already feeling how hefty a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule is. This is probably good, as it makes following your advice and ignoring the lack of readers easier – there just isn’t time to do it X-D

        Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

        Cheers,

        Alan.

  6. Yikes! I’m still trying to figure out how to change my blog around. I started it focusing on one topic, and now I want to change it around a bit.

    Thanks for the info. I think I may try vlogging.

    fingers crossed!

    1. You don’t have to get it right right away and there’s always room to change. I think letting everyone know that change is coming is also a good idea so it doesn’t take readers by surprise. I look forward to seeing your new design!

      I’ve tried vlogging a few times and I’m not very good at it. I want to get a better camera and practice some more. I like vlogs, but I am a bit camera shy.

  7. Another bonus to group blogs is partnership! I love blogging with Nora (Love YA Lit) – I’m not sure that I would have started a blog without her and I know she feels the same. It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and it’s fun to write joint reviews too (though we don’t do that as often as we could).

    1. Anytime anyone brings up group blogs, I always point them to yours. I think you and Nora have an amazing balance and chemistry. It really comes through in everything you guys write.

  8. I totally agree with you.

    It can be very dangerous to post about certain things, so I tend to filter most of what I write.

    Sometimes, though, I do post about more controversial things for the simple reason that I refuse to back away from who I am.

    Luckily, I post five days a week, so I challenge an agent to read through every one of my posts. ;-P

    1. I have another post coming up that will go more in depth about content. I think it is important to have clear lines in the sand on issues, but I think there are ways of handling it that are reputation killers.

  9. eeks! maybe i should go back and check my posts! i try not to put anything out there i don’t want people to be able to see… but… hmmm…
    also! i can’t say enough how much i appreciate the timeliness of this series!
    and! you just reminded me of something i need to get working on!!! yikes! too little time!

  10. Thanks for an educational post, Sommer. I completely agree that a professional blog, especially for a writer, means starting to think about how you come across and tempering yourself and your public image. It’s been a process for me. Even within the last year I’ve found myself on a forum or such saying something I decided later wasn’t in my best interest and wouldn’t be repeated, at least in that tone or that language. I do want a certain amount of my personality to come across in my posts, forum and blog, but only within reason. The internet public doesn’t need to see me PMS-ing in all my glory.

    1. I have another post coming up about content where I’ll talk about my own impulsiveness. I become incredibly passionate about an event or a situation that happens and my first instinct is to go to town on my opinions of it. This is like, the single worse thing I could possible do though, and altering that behavior has been a real challenge.

      I think you can have lots of personality though – and you do! – without damaging your reputation.

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