Random Thoughts – Good Is No Longer Good Enough

questions and goals

It’s the end of the month and I’m looking over my goals. I’ll have a list of how I’ve done against them after today is over and I can get this month’s numbers. I was also thinking about a fundamental switch that I’ve made with this journal during this month. I’m not sure if anyone has explicitly noticed, but I have made a conscious effort to change things for the better (I think I’d actually be happier if people hadn’t noticed as that would mean I was on the right track from the beginning, but I’m sure some of you have).

I came to realize that there are a lot of personal finance writers out there that are simply cloning each other these days. Not exactly cloning, but when you read what the author has written, you feel like you have already read it someplace else. While that isn’t a problem if you have been around for awhile and have an established core of readers because they read your writing first, for someone like me who has been writing for less than six months it’s a good way to tell readers to not bother coming back again.

A good example was the news that HSBC had raised its rates to 4.8%. When I first came across this news, I didn’t see any others in the personal finance realm who had posted it yet. As I began writing I realized that even if I was one of the first to post it, since I’m still not a first spot destination for most readers, they were going to read it someplace else and thus see it here as old news. Until I reach a level where I’m a first read destination (if ever), any hot topic news is going to look like old news on this site for the foreseeable future.

The same goes with articles posted on the big personal finance sites and newspapers. I won’t be able to regurgitate their news and make a few comments and expect to gather a following. The writers that have been around are already doing that and doing it well enough that anyone else that tries it is not likely to find many people reading their writing. Don’t get me wrong – If I were in their position I would likely be doing the same thing, but I’m not so I have to find something different. Until I made some changes earlier this month, that was basically what I was doing.

So if I’m going to write about something that’s in the news and I know others will pick up on, then I will have to write it in such a way that is will be significantly different than what a reader finds on another site. If I can manage that, even someone who drops by that has already read the news will find a different take on it and hopefully will therefore be willing to come back again. The other is coming up with ideas and information that is unique and just isn’t being found anyplace else. Both these goals make writing a lot more difficult, but hopefully makes it interesting enough that people who visit will return and eventually recommend it to others…that’s the plan at least…

When I was looking at how to reposition myself, I visited a lot of personal finance authors and borrowed what I liked best about their writing and sites. To my surprise , none of them would be considered the major ones in the personal finance world. Even though some of these might not be known as well, they are the ones that keep me coming back to their sites because of a uniqueness that makes them fun to visit. Here they are in no particular order:

Frugal For Life: Knows how to write pertinent articles that you can’t find written anyplace else that her readers love.

How To Be Poor: Comes up with unique thoughts on issues most people don’t even consider.

Sitting Pretty: If I could only write as eloquently…

Stop Buying Crap: Brings humor to money – a rare gift indeed.

If I’m able to incorporate those four elements well enough with my own style, then I believe that this writing venture will be a success. That is what I will be trying to do for the rest of the year…

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15 Responses to Random Thoughts – Good Is No Longer Good Enough

  1. Bored says:

    I have to agree with your assesment. Being a new PF blogger, I’ve been looking for ways to differentiate myself from the ever growing list of PF bloggers.

    I’ve decided to keep it simple…. to stick to journaling my personal finance happenings and decisions, right and wrong. Allthough not unique, reading similar blogs about others’ financial journeys is what first interested me into this blogging realm.

    So my intent is not to drive up traffic (I’m ad free), but provide for others that enjoy personal finance like I do another profile to benchmark against.

    All in all, though, I do enjoy reading most blogs, and the aggregation tool at pfblogs.com has made this tremendously easier.

  2. Bored says:

    p.s. good luck on your re-positioning… 🙂

  3. Cap says:

    hey hey, here I thought I was imagining things when I feel that the contents were changing. guess not!

    thanks for the nice words and I totally know what you’re talking about. I hardly ever mention rate changes (or never? dont remember) since no one is reading my site for daily updates.

    but yeah, if someone wants their blog to develope to a certain degree, it’s worthwhile to take a close look at what they’re doing, who their readers are.. and whats the best approach to their blogging goal, whatever that is.

    personally I’m still trying to figure out what I want (long term) out of my blog. it’s almost a year already too. talk about going no where! lol.

  4. Cap says:

    oh and yeah, starting a feature such as the Financial Challenge is nice touch. you’re creating lots o value there.

  5. Dave says:

    I’m glad you made this post. I noticed the change here recently as well. What drew me to blogging in the first place was the personal nature of the posts. Some people write eloquently, some people are quick to point out deals and some are just very good at opening up with their information.

    I’m a big fan of the last one. 🙂

    And it’s true, when I see a rate hike entry, and I already know about it, I skip the entry altogether.

  6. I’ve noticed the same things also, but I haven’t figured out how to really reposition my blog yet, oh well.

    Good luck to you!

  7. FBQuz says:

    I don’t know if I’ve been reading this blog long enough to notice any change in direction, but I will say this is my favorite personal finance site and the one I visit every day specifically because the entries are 1) well written and 2) aren’t what you find in other types of blogs – especially things like the little slices of Japanese life and culture.

  8. Bruce says:

    The hard part, as I am sure you are finding, is that posting often is much tougher when you are committed to original material. At least it is more difficult at the beginning when you are used to getting a lot of posts done by making “me too” observations.

    I came to a similar conclusion this month on my site, and I’ve been pushing myself to make 4 out of 5 posts a week wholly or almost-wholly original. I write at least 5 posts a week, so that means I only get one “me too” easy-post. What is great about this process is that I find myself branching out, reading more source material, and thinking more deeply. This makes my site more valuable, and even more importantly it makes me better at PF, which is very important to me.

    So, this change is win-win, which makes the unavailability of the “low hanging fruit” much more acceptable.

    Good luck and good site

  9. Bruce says:

    Oh, one repositioning tip. You need a better/different template. I often skip blogs with the default “kubrick” template such as you use, since they are usually very new and often haven’t really found their voice yet.

  10. Caitlin says:

    This is exactly why you are..and probably will continue to be…one of my faves 🙂

  11. ~Dawn says:

    Thanks for the mention. This is why I enjoy your site, you aren’t hiding behind anything, you are transparent and allow yourself to be critiqued.

    I enjoyed the occasional posts you have about what things are like in Japan – the phone card post was a fun read and I still remember it! Keep up the good work.

    Like life, our blogs move in the winding direction the stream takes us.

  12. How To Be Poor says:

    Thanks for the plug and nice words. You’re a great writer, so I don’t think the immediate repositioning in a huge issue. I agree that lots of sites basically syndicate the same stuff, which makes it not very entertaining to read.

    Personally, I’d love to read more about foreign ways of doing things in comparison with the American, financial or otherwise.

  13. Flexo says:

    Hey pfadvice,

    I agree with your assessments. The sites you list are some of my faves as well, and that includes this one here.

    No matter how long you’ve been on the blogging scene — or even the pf blogging scene specifically — it’s always a struggle to reposition yourself in a way that stands out. The community has grown so much in the last year, and that’s a good thing, but from what I’ve observed it’s equally frustrating for the old hats and the new hats.

  14. samerwriter says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The last thing I need is another site telling me about the latest rates at an online bank. One of those is enough.

    I do read a few of those blogs, because sometimes they write more in depth articles about a topic of interest. And some of them seem to find pretty good articles about personal finance. But to be honest, the blogs I enjoy reading most are those where the writer gives his or her perspective on something, ideally drawing on personal experience.

    Now I think that by doing so, the author likely limits his readership to those in a similar financial situation. That’s not a bad thing, though. I can get a lot more out of reading about someone like me, and about his successes and failures, then I can from a general purpose article on snowballing debt repayments.

  15. Michael says:

    I have also changed my own style on my own finance blog – I went from trying to make a blog to make money, to a blog which I say whatever has been on my mind for the day (with regards to money mostly). I can’t say it is a successful approach but it certainly is therapeutic!

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