Why Two Of My Favourite Photography Blogs Lost Me As A Follower

Up to a couple of years ago I followed far more photography blogs – especially when I was predominantly shooting film.

But I decided to unsubscribe from probably the two biggest and most prolific, despite them both still publishing interesting new posts.

Before I explain why, let me tell you what I value most about blogs.

In an increasingly hectic and rushed world, and with the majority of online activity being via instantly updated social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, blogs can be an oasis of calm.

Places we can visit in our time, read and enjoy at our own pace, and become part of a community of others who appreciate not only the same core subject matter of the blog, but this whole more laid back experience.

Where social media is fast and fleeting, all surface with little feeling, the blogs I enjoy are slower, deeper, more thoughtful.

Blogs are akin to an enjoyable meal, in a favourite intimate restaurant, with stimulating company, rather than social media’s McDonalds drive-through grabbed and stuffed down your throat on your way to somewhere else.

Also with blogs, we’re free to choose or own themes, and make the whole look and feel of the site welcoming, and a place people can read without distraction.

Not so with social media where you’re a slave to the site’s own layout, branding, advertising, and the constant stream of incoming updates.

In addition, blogs can be a place where we gradually get to know the author over time (or if they have extensive archives we can read, over less time!). The bloggers can become people we genuinely regard as friends and who we enjoy conversing with.

I love that a blog is an ongoing unfurling of the writer’s thoughts and feelings, an ever evolving journey we can be a part of.

With all of this in mind, I left the two blogs in question for two major reasons –

1. Adverts.

I value blogs as retreats from the general chaos of the internet (and life generally!). Very little invades our lives as much as advertising we are not interested in.

Which for me is all of it – if I need something, I know where to go to get it.

A recent post online suggested we see 5000 ads a day, others claim the number is even higher, perhaps up to 10000.

To me, ads are the scourge of the internet, and can make reading an otherwise excellent and worthwhile site a painful and frustrating stop-start experience, as you navigate through relentless waves of ads to read the small islands of worthwhile text in between.

I wouldn’t mind if say a blog about vintage cameras featured an ad in the sidebar about a friend of theirs who hand makes leather straps and bags. The ad is not only highly relevant, but it’s also supporting a friend and fellow photography enthusiast.

But when the ads are random attempts by whichever ad service they’ve gone with to try to sell something they think is popular, it’s a major turn off for me.

Some claim that ads help pay for the running costs of the blog.

Personally I feel there’s a clear distinction between commercial blogs and personal blogs.

With a commercial blog, your posts are likely already targeted at certain markets, with ad placement in between to make you money. That’s not for me, but fair enough for those who pursue this approach on a business level.

But if you’re writing a personal blog, then keep the ads out of it.

The (minimal) hosting costs of a blog are part of the privilege and advantage of having a place where you can write freely and connect with other people on your own terms, and not be just another tiny voice drowning in the oceans of social media, on other people’s sites.

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2. Guest posts.

As I mentioned above, one of the pleasures of blogs is getting to know the author over time, and understand their unique take on the world.

A guest post once in a while is fine (I’ve written a couple myself in the past for other blogs who’ve asked me), if it adds to the blog.

But for me, a guest post should a) only be occasional, so the bulk of the new posts are written by the main author and b) be of at least as good quality as the original author’s.

Unfortunately, the blog in question seemed to be trading on his name and the popularity he’d built up, then churning out dozens of guest posts that were usually pretty poorly written (with equally mediocre photography to go with it), and obviously just submitted by the writer to try to increase the audience of their own blog.

So overall the quality of the writing on the blog became so diluted I didn’t bother sticking around for the one in 10 posts by the original blogger that I did feel were worth reading.

I really don’t understand why someone would diminish the excellent reputation they’d built up as a blogger like this. Perhaps someone can explain in the comments below!

Finally, a couple of examples of blogs I do still follow, because they haven’t taken either of these two routes above.

Transactions With Beauty – Shawna does promote her own work (books, for example) in the sidebar, which I feel any creative blogger is more than entitled to do. If you like the writing and photography on their blog, you’re probably going to enjoy their books/prints etc too. Otherwise, there are no ads, and whilst Shawna does quote other poets, and give us links to explore more, the surrounding writing and thoughts in the posts are all her own.

Down The Road – Whilst Jim Grey has experimented with a few minimal ads in the past, he’s never had them in the middle of the blog posts, interrupting the flow, and a couple of months back decided to remove them entirely. All he has currently is a little button to make a donation, if you wish. Plus again, as far as I’m aware from being a reader of many years, every word on the blog is his own.

What makes you stop following a blog you previously enjoyed?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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20 thoughts on “Why Two Of My Favourite Photography Blogs Lost Me As A Follower”

  1. Dan
    Totally agree with your observations regarding ads – they really are (at the least) a pain and get in the way of not only blogs but websites in general. Just look at the UK’s Daily Mail website as a bigger example.

    The only way I am happy to navigate an ad-ridden site is in conjunction with a nifty bit of software called PiHole. Free to download and use, all you need is a working Raspberry Pi, install PiHole on to it (fully automated) and shortly afterwards you have a fully fledged network-wide ad blocker.

    Having used PiHole I could never go back to a web browsing without it.

    1. Thanks Dave. I can’t bear those ads that keep shifting around and so they give you a little letterbox window to read the text through – for a few lines – then kind of pop up again underneath.

      Another pet peeve is when a subscribe box pops up after reading for only a few seconds – especially on a site you’ve already subscribed to!

      I don’t think it’s hard to create a simple, distraction free experience for the reader, but increasingly few blogs and websites do so.

      PiHole sounds like a great fix for you.

      I tried AdGuard for a while but it seemed to slow things down. Now I generally just avoid sites with too many ads!

      1. Dan, technically ad-blockers shouldn’t slow down your browsing experience, as they are stopping ads from downloading thus saving you from data you don’t need. In my experience, PiHole has certainly sped things up for me, due to less browser data having to be transferred to your browser. As PiHole runs on a separate machine, it certainly will not hog your PC/Laptop/Mac resources, unlike AdGuard.

        What might be worth a try is using AdGuard DNS servers. Not as comprehensive as PiHole but should have a positive benefit on your browsing experience.

      2. Thanks Dave. Actually in recent weeks because I’ve only really been visiting websites that don’t have ads, it hasn’t been a factor. I know if I go on a commercial site there’s going to be ads, that’s fair enough. And as I said the personal blogs I follow don’t have ads.

  2. Thanks for the link to my blog, Dan!

    I still keep those blogs you mention in my reader. I’m not interested in everything they publish but especially when the site owners publish I read what they have to say. I try not to block ads on small-business and personal sites, but when the ad experience disrupts the text so much that you have that stop-start experience you describe, I do block the ads.

    1. Always happy to mention the blogs I enjoy Jim.

      You can probably guess the two blogs I was talking about, I’ve seen your comments on both. I just don’t think it’s that hard to create a blog that’s free of distraction so the reader can appreciate the text and pictures easily, and the writer maintains a consistent voice and standard.

      It’s frustrating when a blog you previously enjoyed goes downhill in this way.

      1. Every blog has to make its choices about how it will move forward, but that doesn’t mean all readers will like it and stay on. I’ve lost readers over time with some of the directional shifts I’ve made. It hurts a little but that’s how it goes. But I’ve also gained readers who like what I’m doing.

      2. Yeh, we all need to evolve and stay true to what we want to do with a blog, but I think there are basic elements of design we can maintain, so readers find our sites easy to read and free from distraction. For me that’s the starting point, then the content itself, because you can have a blog with excellent content that’s awful to see, read and navigate, so loses readers for those reasons alone.

  3. Very articulate blog post Dan. I agree with you, and thank you for those links. I like the Reader feed that WP.com provides us. It is said that many people today share articles with others more by the headlines than actually read the article, or at very least skim it. I find that once you follow a blog for a hand-full of posts you will know to keep following it or not. So maybe 1% of the blogs I follow stay in my feed – because those I actually read more posts than headlines.
    Because of social media, you are right, we have a culture of being fed information. So the blogs I follow educate and inform me of what I want to learn about things I already know or want to know.

    1. Thanks for your input Frank.

      I’ve been through phases in the past where the number of blogs I followed got out of hand. I remember having a Tumblr blog maybe 10 or 12 years ago now when it first took off as a platform with its simplicity of use and clean look, and I ended up following perhaps a hundred other Tumblr blogs. And because generally they were only sharing a quote or an image or two per post, and multiple posts per week – sometimes per day – I was seeing hundreds of new posts in my feed every week. I couldn’t keep up, however much I liked them. I purged a load of them, then eventually just stopped following anyone, as it still felt too much.

      These days I prefer far fewer blogs, and ones where I’ll enjoy the vast majority of every post they publish. I know there are blogs – perhaps with a group of writers or around a diversity of topics where only some interest me – where it might be worth following them to read one in three or five or 10 posts. But I just can’t be doing with sifting through all the chaff. So I stick with those that deliver for me consistently, and I that I look forward to seeing new posts on.

      As for social media, it’s all far too fleeting for me. I read a depressing article the other day about teenagers being “phone bored” and swiping mindlessly through streams and feeds without absorbing any of them…

      https://www.thedailybeast.com/generation-z-is-already-bored-by-the-internet

      I’m just so grateful that there are still bloggers out there who write more in depth and worthwhile posts I want to read.

      1. Yes, Dan, what you share is about what is described in the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. That we (artists) should only follow at most a dozen others who we highly get much inspiration from. Even do this on Instagram and the like. Because it’s all about being intentional with our valuable time and attention.

      2. Thanks Frank, that book’s been on my wish list for a while, I keep hearing about it. Absolutely agree about being intentional with time and attention. “Do less, do it better” has been a kind of mantra for me for some years, and adapts to all kinds of areas, eg buy less, but better (so it lasts longer and you enjoy the higher quality), eat less, eat better (fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, less sugar, meat, dairy), and so on.

  4. A timely post, for me. I just dropped a well written and often interesting photography-related blog I have followed for a number of years. I dropped it because of my particular bête noire – politics, by which I mean not just politics per se but also politics masquerading as things like art, science and or economics.

    1. Doug, yes I know politics on both sides of the pond have been increasingly all over social media, and this has cause many to tune out. I have little time for it myself, I certainly don’t think if you’re on a photography blog for example you want to be reading anything political, our hobby is an escape from such things!

      1. I am not sure that it is possible to avoid politics in the photography realm, so many photographers are explicitly political about their work, usually of a leftish persuasion. What is more, most of the blogs that I read have contributors who are worked up about some issue or another, and it may come out in their comment or blog.

        I think that what is really poisonous though is “party politics”, simply because adherents are convinced that their version is the right version, a bit like the famous quote about opinions (and everyone having one), it just becomes circular and dull.

        Contrarily though, I find myself attracted to the work of photographers and artists who steer clear of the act of telling all of their opinions. For instance, my latest subject of appreciation has been Saul Leiter. Most of his work is derived from the streets near to his home, and just from looking, you can tell that it isn’t political. I have watch several interviews and a film on him, and I have bought a couple of his books, and they are a delight.

        On the other hand, one blog that really annoys me, is also perhaps the most influential on my personal pursuit, I have mentioned it here before. I have RSS’d to the site and disconnected several times but always end up going back. This is a blog, with no advertising, seemingly very little design either, in short very old fashioned, but always interesting. The host is an unreconstructed lefty and he regularly makes party political statements, I switch off and about a month later, I find myself going back manually, just to see what he is doing, until I sign up again.

        However, I agree with Doug that in general it is best avoided, it is best left to the more immediate social media systems, that I take no part in whatsoever. Indeed, I have disconnected from a good number of blogs for the same reason as Doug.

        I also, failed to mention until this point that I agree with Dan, regarding what we know as social media, I don’t engage with any of it, a policy which began with MySpace and has continued to this day, I have no accounts with any of them.

        There is another phenomenon with RSS and blogs that is interesting too. They are very often, probably most often, the work of one person, although there are a few co-operative type sites like the film shooters collective, where several contributors work together. So consequently, when one signs up to them, it is usually on the strength of one or two posts, but because the instigator/s is/are inspired at this time, it takes a while to find out whether they continue to stimulate, and then of course, they might run out of things to say and just stop posting, my Feedly stream is littered with such abandoned projects. In other words, they self police themselves.

      2. Personally, politics, like advertising, I’m not interested in seeing on blogs that I like to read, certainly not photo or poetry or other creative blogs. I like blogs to places of inspiration and escape!

        Re the ghost town blogs, yes even though I follow less than 30, some of those haven’t posted in over a year, and many not in months. There aren’t many that post regularly, for whatever reasons. Some are good enough when they do post to stay subscribed through the dry spells… As I said in the original post, I’d rather read more infrequent posts of great interest and quality from the original author, than have regular posts of mediocre quality from guest authors, that over time just erodes one’s interest in the blog entirely.

  5. I often wonder if advertisers know how ineffective their “targeted” ads really are. I run an ad blocker extension and rarely see any, but every now and then a site comes up loaded with annoying in-your-face ads (often autoplay video) which to me is the signal to click away; no content is worth putting up with that.
    So when Facebook, for example, claims an ad will be seen by X million people … I have to think that’s a lie and that businesses should re-evaluate their marketing efforts.
    I’m reminded of my Dad going through his magazines the first time just to tear out the ‘insert cards’ before he would read any article; he found them that annoying. Not exactly effective if people never see it, eh?
    I think they could possibly turn back the clock a bit to fixed-location, rotating ads and stop trying to shove what they “know” we are interested in in our faces. Whenever I see suggested items they rarely are relevant, possibly because of how closed I keep my data.

    1. Oh those autoplay videos are horrendous. Why would anyone want to have a video they haven’t chosen to play just start automatically, often down the page so you haven’t got to it yet but can hear someone rabbiting on but don’t know where it’s coming from. Ghastly, and I instantly Ctrl-W to close the tab!

      I was thinking about a good example of targeted marketing and came up with one. Our family has membership of both the National Trust and RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), both of which are conservation charities, so naturally their members spend a fair amount of time outside in all seasons visiting their sites and reserves. Both have a monthly/quarterly magazine, which usually has in it ads for outdoors gear and clothing shops like Millets and Mountain Warehouse. Indeed on the occasions I’ve bought something from Mountain Warehouse (for a coat/fleece/walking shoes/boots etc for myself or kids), I’ve saved up a 20% voucher from one of the mags to use.

      To me this is a very logical and useful way of targeting ads, and everyone benefits.

      Imagine if the same magazines operated like most site online, and inside were ads saying “this stay at home mum makes £3k an hour” and so on. They’d rapidly lose readership and none of the ads would ever be followed through…

  6. I subscribed to both the blogs above, when you recommended in a previous post, and I read and enjoy both. If I want to hear about what people are ranting about i scan twitter for 60 sec or less lol. I get behind on my reading but that’s because I want to take my time and make sure I can reflect.

    1. Yes absolutely, I’d rather read less and read it fully and properly, than skim through twice as many posts and do the writers a disservice by not giving them my full attention.

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