Oh audience, where art thou?

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I’ve always been used to writing with an audience of only one in mind: myself. All of a sudden, that’s changing. Readers: this blogger needs YOU! (Or, at least, people like you.)

An audience of one (and a bit)

It’s been over six years since I set up my first blog. I currently run three: this one (now primarily a daddy blog), a TV blog and a group site focussing on the sport of cycling. Like many other bloggers, I write because I love to write and not because I hope to make a living out of it. Putting finger to keyboard is a form of therapy for me – it’s a creative outlet and it allows me to make sense of the jumble of thoughts that I laughingly call my brain.

I will admit that, like the vast majority of bloggers, I check my blog stats far more often than is healthy. I rejoice every time I get a new follower (which happens less frequently than Ice Ages). And I am constantly surprised by which posts attract the most visits and comments.

My three most popular posts ever on this blog remain a Sherlock episode review, a post about new words being added to the Oxford English Dictionary and one about Yuri Gagarin. I wouldn’t hold up any of these as one of my finest pieces of writing, but there you go.

Conversely, my best posts frequently go relatively unnoticed. My personal favourite from the last few months has been read by fewer than 100 people. It doesn’t matter, because it resonated with me and I found writing it immensely satisfying. It could have been read by exactly zero people and I wouldn’t enjoy it any less.

An audience of (hopefully) many

However, as of last weekend, I’m now also a TV blogger for the website of Metro, which Londoners will know as the free newspaper which constantly litters Underground carriages. As a paid writer – I still laugh when I call myself that, it sounds so professional! – I now have an obligation to write a certain number of blog posts of a prescribed length every month, and to make them engaging enough to enough people that my services are still required by the editorial powers-that-be.

That means writing with the needs of an audience wider than myself in mind, ideally one comprising several tens of thousands rather than a few hundred.

It requires a different mindset. I can’t just write about random US imports on Sky Atlantic watched by a small niche of viewers – although I will continue to do so to some degree. I need to dip my toe into the mainstream more often, covering the kinds of shows and topics which appeal to millions rather than thousands.

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I’m no stranger to that: I’ve written popular reviews on populist programmes such as The Apprentice and Doctor Who. But I need to find a balance between writing more broadly and not getting drawn into things I actively dislike, which is never going to work.

So I won’t be penning weekly reviews of Downton Abbey or Strictly Get Me Out of Here Factor on Ice. I’d rather stick my feet in a vat of boiling tar and eat a pair of kangaroo testicles while being forced to listen to Miley Cyrus on repeat. (On second thoughts, maybe I wouldn’t go quite *that* far. There’s only so much Miley a man can bear.)

But it’s an interesting challenge. First and foremost it stretches my writing skills outside of my comfort zone. And then there is the financial bonus of a little pocket money to boot. I’ve already decided what I’m going to spend my first six months’ earnings on, should I last that long. As incentives go, that works for me.