Five Reasons Why This Blog Is A Failure

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If you have a Blog, it’s hard not to pay attention to lists that rank Blogs. It’s hard not to look at your own web analytics, and it’s hard not to wonder why it’s not more popular than it is.

Most people who Blog with the purpose of trying to grow their business (which can be as a thought leadership platform or with the intent to sell directly from the content), do care about how big, vibrant and caring their community is. Those same Bloggers also focus on how they’re going to grow that audience and push the content out further to a growing audience. On a recent flight with Julien Smith (co-author with Chris Brogan of the New York Times best-selling business book, Trust Agents, and one of the co-hosts of the Media Hacks podcast), I asked for his candid feedback/thoughts as to why Six Pixels of Separation is not a more popular Blog, and his thoughts on what it would take to reach an audience the size of Chris Brogan’s (currently, Brogan’s Blog is the #1 Blog on the Ad Age Power 150 list of the top Marketing Blogs in the world, while Six Pixels of Separation sits at #22 as of this writing).

Here are Julien’s 5 reasons why Six Pixels of Separation is not more popular:

  1. Elitism. The Blog does not speak to the everyday person. Because it has been going on for so many years and has evolved over time, the main content is really geared to a more senior-level Marketer, which is limited in size. The opportunity here is to "dumb it down," as Julien says. He also senses that because I do not, personally, spend as much time as I used to at events like unconferences, meet-ups, etc… there may be a sense "on the street" that I’m above this (which is not the case – but my family life situation has changed and that’s where the focus has turned).
  2. Entry Point. If there is going to be a heady piece of content, always balance it out with a post above or below it that is more accessible, so that whichever piece of content gets more traction in the retweet or Facebook posting world, it acts as an "entry point" to keep those readers engaged (and hopefully subscribed).
  3. Simplify the content. The content is both long (usually about 500 – 800 words per post) and sometimes looks at too many various perspectives leaving little room for the content to be questioned or interpreted differently. Bloggers like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan make one, sharp and short point. As a business colleague always says: "be brief, be brilliant and be gone."
  4. Be controversial. Content that is controversial or edgy gets spread more. Think more like People Magazine. Be intriguing and get people saying, "I can’t believe he just posted that!" Create content that will turn heads, get attention and get people talking, perked up and interested.
  5. Don’t be too far ahead. Spending your time in the far future versus the near future can be too fictional/impractical for many people following along at home. It’s important to be forward-thinking but not too much into the future.

"This Blog will fail."

That was my immediate reaction to Julien’s candid feedback. Personally, Blogging is my white canvas of random Digital Marketing thoughts as they come to me. I love my Blog. I love writing. I love sharing. I love the differing perspectives offered in the comments below (of which I read and appreciate each and every one). I’m not interested in "marketing" this marketing Blog. I don’t hold Blog posts for days when there might be more traffic. I publish Blog posts as they’re written (and don’t schedule them). Julien retorted that the above is the "five fingers of death" and that is, probably, what would be required to "Kill Bill," but doing any (or a few) of the above changes would probably generate more popularity. I’m quite certain that a lot of Julien’s thoughts are not just about this Blog, but can be applied to any other Blog, Social Media strategy, additional platforms and well beyond just this way of publishing content.

What do you think?


  1. Yes, we’d all like to see our numbers trending up but shouldn’t success/failure be judged in comparison to the purpose of the blog? I appreciate what you’ve said multiple times, for some purposes it doesn’t matter how many people are listening but who. This blog accomplishes something that neither Brogan nor Godin’s do. It would be a shame to suddenly have one more of something we already have and to lose something that was one of a kind. Keep up the good work!

  2. A good blog is one where someone is passionate about what they are writing about in a style they like and communicates ideas. Unless you’re looking to make money from Google ads, why on earth would you “dumb it down” in the name of more views? Yours is a smart, prescient presence and anyway a blog is a personal thing. You simply can’t build a blog that’s real and not you. Six Pixels is a smart blog. Not elitist. BIG difference. The only question you really need to ask yourself is whether or not it makes you happy? So does it?

  3. I wish there were more blogs and podcasts and books and conferences that were geared for the senior-level marketers. Sure, we can all still learn things from Brogan and Seth, but Step is right; those guys scratch that itch and do it well already. It’s refreshing and challenging to hear the random insights from an agency owner like myself! And anyways, aren’t you always preaching quality over quantity?

  4. Mitch, I really enjoyed reading this post.
    If it gives you any comfort, I don’t read Brogan nor Godin’s blogs, although I used to. But I do read yours!

  5. I really hope you do not change a thing. I am not a senior level marketer (yet ๐Ÿ™‚ ), but I am pouring myself into learning more about the trade and how to apply the skills you talk about to our business. Without sites and podcasts like yours where you pull the curtain back and allow young professionals like myself to have access to conversations that traditionally would be inaccessible, I would be a lot further behind the curve than I am right now.
    Do you talk above my head sometimes, yes, but it is in a way that forces people like me to bring a better game.
    I can only imagine how frustrating it can be to be #22 and stare at #1, but I hope this comment and others that come along after it remind you that your content may be a little more niche than Chris Brogan’s (don’t get me wrong, I love his stuff as well), but it is essential reading for those who are trying to find their way in this space. Keeping the level of content high on this site has forced me to raise my bar, so while it may not push you up on Ad Age, I hope my sincere thanks counts for something!
    Thanks for everything you do and please, keep at it… for my sake ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Julien Smith is wrong.
    Absolutely wrong.
    No one should buy his book.
    Ok, kidding on the last one. But he is wrong.
    One of the most magnificent things about the Interweb is that it allows us to find “an audience” that is interested in hearing the value / stories we have to tell. We as in you and I individually.
    If that relevant audience is 10 people then so be it. If that audience is 100,000 people then so be it.
    What is amazing is to find that audience, share your expertise and make the world a better place.
    Pandering (even to grow one’s business) can be smelt a mile away, and one ends up either 1. attracting the wrong kind of audience or 2. very quickly becoming frustrated because the exercise is no long filled with love and passion.
    I break every single rule Julien espouses. I write 3,000 word posts every two weeks on on the subject of analytics! That is quite possibly the greatest formula for failure. Yet I have a modest audience, two books and the privilege of doing what I love. All from not following “best practices”. : )
    We love you for who you are Mitch, and we treasure this blog for all its elitist, far out there, non-controversial glory. Don’t change.

  7. Not gonna lie Mr. Joel, I’m a subscriber but you’re posts get completely lost in my feedreader. Further, I’m either shallow or something because the look you’re giving in your blog headline makes me think you’re a arrogant even though I don’t even know you. On some level, maybe that’s why I haven’t been paying much attention. Images are powerful. Yes, perhaps I’ve been shallow, short-sighted, adhd, and ignorant like everyone else scanning content but you got my attention with this post when I was perusing a list on Twitter. I relate to your reasons why “this blog is a failure”. I write for similar reasons and given that you’re not writing for every wannabe marketer, and that was never your goal in the first place, I guess that makes you a winner. You’re achieving your goals by writing, no? Isn’t that what makes someone a winner for real, achieving goals you set?
    Basically, I never took much time to read your content because I made the assumption from your pic that you were arrogant, but you got my attention with this post for many reasons and now I’m listening and checking out everything else and it’s not bad. Thank you. All the best.

  8. Julien’s criteria do not take into account the objective of the blogger or the blog.
    What if the objective has nothing to do with being popular and dumbing down? What if the objective is to get connected with like-minded people or around a few areas of interest?
    The effect of dumbing down a blog reflects in the overall dumbing down of culture. This is why art’s quality is decreasing. Same with business, etc… The reason why there is now a backlash against social media people is exactly that: too many people without business experience clogging the atmosphere. The blind leading the blind, dumbing down to talk to everybody.
    Don’t do it.
    Instead of dumbing down, learn up.
    Instead, make the most of who you are and hence contribute to maximizing the potential of human society and civilization.

  9. Well said Avinash.
    I have been a follower of your blog Mitch for some time. I follow it for many reasons. Your writing expertise. Your approach to subject material. The podcasts. And quite frankly – I find you are on it.
    I think if you were to follow Julien’s suggestions your ranking could easily plummet. The audience that has got you to #22 would vanish and the new audience may well not stay for long because they would sense you are out of your comfort zone.
    What you are doing works. Long may it continue.

  10. I don’t read Brogan’s blog. I read Godin’s once in a while. But I read this blog religiously.
    I don’t really have much to add in the way of comments, over and above what’s already been said. But my reaction to your post reminds me of a statement made by one of my teachers in (oddly enough) a voice-acting course I once took: “Don’t try to sound like someone else. Someone else already sounds like that.”
    What Brogan gave you was Five Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Like My Blog. And, really: who cares?

  11. I’m fairly new here but I like what you’re doing. I’ve got your feed on my IGoogle home page. Keep being yourself. That’s where the value lies. No one else has your perspective, ideas, personality, or interests. All that comes out uniquely in your posts. The big question here is what is success? I’d say I’m reading it – comments by people you have influenced enough to connect.

  12. Well, I am not a senior level Marketer (or even in marketing at all) but I quite enjoy your blog Mitch. I also read Brogan, Seth, and Julien’s blogs, and they all offer different perspectives. Who wants to create the same blog as someone elses?
    To me, that list reads like a way to become Smashing Magazine; a decent blog that gets lots of readers because everyone can get something out of it. But 6 pixels is more like A List Apart (I’m a web designer so I’m comparing to web design blogs); advanced content for people that want to go deeper. There might be more words, but there is more to learn.

  13. I think we should have argued about this post a bit longer over dinner.
    And that Julien’s next project should be “5 reasons to take the time to know someone before assuming they are arrogant from a picture”.

  14. Reading your blog, I get the sense that this guy is passionate about his subject. The content is surely for people that want to go deeper and get takeaways/thoughts for their daily business.
    Please stick to your objectives for this blog and I look forward to continue reading your posts.

  15. Thank you Mitch for this blog. It’s quality, insight, the difference it makes in my daily life. I am glad that you have integrity, intelligence and passion for marketing. We can sense it from your writing. I have learnt a lot from your blog and I need to in the future. This blog is like a New school of Marketing for me. One of the few I would follow ”these” days.

  16. Well said Avinash. I enjoy your blog as it is Mitch. love your podcasts too and like you because you come across as so authentic – always speaking with intelligence, intuition and a far-reaching perspective.
    I also like Julien’s smart suggestions – but only go with those that feel absolutely right for you. Whatever you do, keep provoking our thinking and sharing your wisdom. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. i think this is a great blog and one which I’d say I read almost all posts. To my mind it positions itself just where I and many want it. The content is never fluff or puff and provokes thought and reaction.
    I’ve often made changes to my approach and added to my business because of the what you’ve said. I also like that I don’t always agree – this is a blog and a place for your thoughts and opinions and I would hate it to change too much.
    I read lots of blogs and the ones I go back to are the ones that share and inspire. Length of copy etc is irrelevant.

  18. Mitch,
    I love your blog as it provides relevant and thoughtful information and perspective on marketing. While it appears that marketing involves measuring the success of the message, I think for your blog that it is important to remain true to your voice. There are all kinds of metrics.
    I read all your articles because you make me think about issues that other bloggers treat superficially.
    Thank you.

  19. A lot of these comments are really helping to shape my perspective further. I always loved Blogs (and RSS) because it is a playground to experiment with text and thoughts. I always struggled with “rules” and “guidelines” as I was concerned it would deteriorate the content into something that looks way too similar to what we read/consumer in Mass Media.
    That being said, if you’re simply looking for more popularity, I don’t think Julien is wrong. Although Blogs are new, there does tend to be some similarities with the Blogs that are the most popular. I tend to enjoy Blogging (scratch that, I love it), so I do struggle with many of the five tactics. I can see them working, but I’m not sure if I can see them working for me.
    Do you think it would be worthwhile to try it out for a short while to see? I’m still grappling with all of this…

  20. I appreciate everyone’s comments here and agree with the general reaction. And I suspect you, too, may agree with the general reaction, Mitch–you never went so far as to suggest that you are actually going to change or take the advice.
    Julien’s suggestions are not evil and they’re not necessarily “wrong,” they’re just probably wrong FOR YOU, as I think most here are saying. Those were 5 reasons this blog is not “more popular” (i.e., higher on the Ad Age 150 list, measured by number of subscribers)–which was the question you posed to him, or course–not 5 ways to make the blog richer, better, or more loved by current readers. It’s like any other product we market and sell–are you going for a broader audience with a general-purpose product or a more refined one with a more specialized product? You well know the answer, and something tells me you will not change.
    Then again, with this post one might argue that you followed all 5 tips except #3…

  21. Well, to be fair, Julien did answer your question “Why isn’t my blog getting more traffic?”. It seems like doing the things he recommends will get you more traffic.
    Now you have to decide whether “getting more traffic” is a metric you’d like to go after, and if making those changes is worth the result.
    My blog isn’t hugely popular either (probably much less so than this one), but I enjoy the freedom to post when I have something to say, to not ‘dumb it down to 101 levels’ and to share with whom I want rather than trying to get on the AdAge 150. That’s just me, though, I have no aspiration to Social Media Rockstardom.
    My quick advice to make the blog more approachable is twofold
    1) include images in each post to break up the long blocks of text
    2) use more ‘I’ statements, include yourself in the story. You know, like this post did.

  22. Mitch, why the heck do you want to be #1 on Ad Age? Perhaps it’s a dumb question, but seriously: where’s the value to you? Bragging rights? Wouldn’t you rather be known as running the best damn digital marketing agency in the world than as a blogger who sometimes hits the top of a list?
    People go to Brogan’s blog because, while he does have good ideas, he writes in a warm, soft, fuzzy tone that spoonfeeds his readers and throws up little bubbles that sometimes don’t stand up to much pressure. His blog reinforces the way they want to be and think.
    I like Chris. He’s a good writer and a good guy. He’s also a very smart blogger and probably 100x more calculating (or intentional) than most people realize.
    Seth is pointed at times, but almost always manages to blunt the harshness or else creates a slow recognition of the bite he just took out of you.
    You, on the other hand, are the challenger, the questioner, and, in some ways, the sober second thought of this space. You worry less about making people feel good and more about making them think. I think your space needs that kind of voice.
    Some of Julien’s suggestions might well help you raise in the Ad Age rankings. No harm in experimenting. But what’s your real goal, Mitch?

  23. Already been said by others Mitch but worth repeating.
    I stopped reading many others like Brogan a while back because there seemed to be less and less of value. I have a habit of passing on Seth’s great posts to others, something I have not done in months. I do not quick-scan your often lengthy posts and dismiss them because past history has told me they will at least be interesting and very often important.
    Please don’t change.

  24. I wanted to write I disagree but I think Julien answers your question correctly. As Jeremy points out though, I am not sure you are asking the right question. Is going to #1 (which isn’t a given even if you write like Brogan) really worth altering your style? The style that flows right out of your fingers. Which got you the book, the column and other great things.
    Isn’t being #1 in our hearts enough? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Who cares about those lists anyway, and like many others, I stopped reading Brogan, just get the newsletter.

  25. Please do not stop writing your blog the way YOU write it.
    Although Julien advice might make sense, I believe writing a blog for the right reason is first and foremost to share a passion. Which you do passionately well!
    If you write for a niche, so be it!
    If you climb up to 21 or 1 in the ranking , good for you.
    But do not alter your writing for those reason.
    I do read Seth Godin’s blog but I frequently find them all over the place.
    Not yours.
    I frequently read short blogs entry and find them superficial.
    Not yours.
    I frequently skip reading other people blog,
    Not yours.
    Please do not stop.

  26. Please don’t listen to Julien’s advice or… don’t listen to it too much. I really enjoy your posts and come back here to see if anything’s new in case my feedreader misses it! I’ve even quoted you in my blog (!
    It’s funny – the other night I was telling someone that I feel like Seth Godin’s blog is like marketing haiku, that he says stuff just to say it and increase his buzz hang time. I’ve unsubscribed because I don’t see the value. Honestly, sometimes I find Seth Godin annoying. There – I said it. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Parissa Behnia

  27. Mitch, your audience has spoken eloquently, and I agree with them. Keep doing what you’re doing. Besides, #22 is a celebration, given the 200+ million blogs in circulation.

  28. An interesting post and one that makes me stop and think, as yours often do. I happen to read both Brogan and Seth and enjoy them very much, as I do yours, all for different reasons. As someone who is relatively new to the world of blogging, I feel I have opportunities to learn from those who have gone before me and because each person is unique, it benefits me to broad my horizons.
    What struck me most here is that doing the things Julien suggests would seem to make you not who you are. In the end, isn’t about being authentic and maintaining your integrity? A couple of my sites are really narrowly focused and I made a decision when I started to not get too focused on building an empire, but on providing quality content to help people. I don’t see that you do any different.
    The other thing that struck me with your post is the idea of not going to meetups and such and your comment about your family. I hope you never change that. Too often those in business for themselves end up putting their family last. As someone who has done that in the past, I encourage you to not change your priorities there as it is time you will never regain.
    In the end, I think simply staying true to who you are and being authentic is what counts. I hope you continue to do that.

  29. I’m late to the comments here and think I can pretty much agree with much of what’s been said, but I would add this: Mitch, this is not to take away from other bloggers in this subject area that have been mentioned, but your blog has far more substance which is what makes it so compelling to me. The face that you love writing it also shines through and to me, that means you approach it like an artist. We need more people doing like you do.
    Regarding photos, I agree with one person who suggested you use them sometimes. I think they add a lot but only if they have personal relevence. I cop out sometimes with a stock photo (and I hate when I do that) but I try to post images that are my own or are very relevant. I really dislike when bloggers stick any old image up just because they think they habe to.
    Keep up the great site.

  30. Honestly? I recently discovered your blog, and I LOVE it! I absolutely loved your article on “Getting Uncomfortable” and have been sharing it with numerous friends and co-workers.
    You don’t want to offer the same thing that all the other major blogs are offering. Your advice and insight is perfect. I can understand how “they” say being more involved in the social media community would make a difference, and they are probably correct on that one… but putting family first is honerable, and as Kathy mentioned… it’s time you will never get back… and time others may regret losing…
    As far as dumbing down what you are saying or watering it down… maybe you’ll gain a few more followers, but in the end, the quality of what you have to say is what draws us to your blog. I just want to drink from your information well – so to speak.
    One thing you could do to make it easier to share is to include the login plugin’s and the “like” button after comments (much like Mashable’s site). Pictures ARE worth a thousand words… and maybe some more vlogs. Let us get to know the real you a bit better.
    Anyway, thanks for all the great posts, and I’m looking forward to the future ‘un-dumbed down’ ones ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Enjoy the heck out of your posts. They have helped me think through any number of things I need to be looking at.
    Success is an elusive devil and if not found then it has to be a failure right? Maybe not … you alluded to the fact that you use it as a thought catcher and publisher and that you love it. That said, the journey is likely more important that any destination you may reach.
    What exactly are your goals and how do you measure up against what you want to achieve? That is what counts the most in my book.

  32. If you are genuinely looking for feedback here one bit I can offer is: if you’re not going to spend more time making flashy posts then at least spend more time acknowledging your readers in the comments.
    Your book preaches it, and you give many calls to action. But I see a lot of good comments here that are left with no reply from you. Beyond that I agree with many comments here which say that this blog has many advantages over reading godin and brogan.

  33. I would add one point to get more conversations around your blog (what do i know though): join the comments conversation.
    Most of the time I visited your blog, there was between 5-10 comments and rarely (if ever) a comment by your self. this blog post is obviously different but…
    It feels kinda weird to leave comment on a blog when you know the author won’t take time to reply.
    My 2 cents. Great blog anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. Kris’ comment about how the advice you got, ie. Five Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Like My Blog, rings true. Especially now that I’ve just launched a blog (only a few weeks old), I’m also tempted to do what the successful bloggers are doing to reach an audience. But I’m also going to let the blog find its voice and evolve in the way that I feel comfortable. Which is what I think you’ve done – it’s grown in a way that only Mitch Joel has chosen to make it grow.
    Based on the multitude of comments you’ve received so far, it seems fairly obvious that not only do you have a following who appreciates what you have to say, but you have a following that is made up of thoughtful, intelligent, and critical thinkers. And this community of followers is something of immense value that shouldn’t be overlooked.
    Go ahead and change, evolve, try new things…but I sincerely believe that your blog won’t fail based on the reasons given to you.
    p.s. Regarding Julien’s point #4 to be controversial…does it really have to be about shock value all the time? Can’t we just post well-written, thoughtful pieces, even if it doesn’t insult or shock our readers?

  35. Mitch, what I hear underneath this conversation for you, is a classic brand question… how does a brand grow and continue to express itself in a way that is true to the brand, true to its audience, and relevant in the world?
    As others have pointed out, it is about your goals/purpose for the blog – and – it seems the questions you’re considering are also about pushing outside that ‘comfortable’ zone (as you posted about recently).
    Given that your blog represents both a personal brand and your business brand, I think there’s also a strategic question about does the Ad Age ranking matter? I think it may, given the pace of evolution in digital marketing/social media. What would be your ideal ranking? Top 10?
    What can you do to grow beyond this current blog (brand) expression, in a way that honours your brand values of thought leadership and authenticity?
    Love your blog.

  36. More popular doesn’t equal better. Not to compare you to anyone, but yours is the only marketing blog I read on a regular basis. I have read others but have left with the feeling that they are more interested in promoting themselves than starting intelligent discussions. If you want to be more popular, be louder and more obnoxious.

  37. Mitch,
    Julien is right if your goal is to drive as much traffic and publicity to your blog.
    Mitch you’re right if you write your blog because of your love of writing, sharing and storytelling.
    In my view, your reasons are far more compelling than Julien’s, since your reasons stem from your passions. Hopefully your passions intersect with the interests of others. Your measure of success is internal, his is strictly external.
    There’s a great quote about this: “If I am only for others, who am I. If I am only for myself, what am I. If not now, when.”

  38. No no no no no! Do not dumb your blog down Mitch. Yours is the ONLY blog I subscribe to purely because it never ceases to inform, educate, entertain, and enlighten me. Why do we have to pander to the lowest common denominator? Shouldn’t this be an opportunity to help raise the bar? Human nature compels us to want to be “popular” and have hundreds of thousands of followers….but really, is that what you want? Really??? When I am tired of all the “noise” and so-called “experts” out there puffing themselves up and spouting ideas that I can only call “obvious”, I know I can always find something real in your writing.

  39. Hi Mitch,
    I think it’s pretty brave to ask this question even braver to publish the answers.
    The comments, however, are proof that your loyal readers are hearing your messages and learning/adopting your philosophy: asking WHO not HOW many, asking WHY (e.g. do would you want to be #1) and valuing the real connections– even the reach is more niche–created by talking about your passions.
    The one suggestion that you could implement and test easily without changing the caliber of your posts is the “entry points”. Having some kind of tag cloud or “most popular/most shared” list float to the top would create that easier point of entry, presuming the posts with the widest reach are the most accessible ones.
    P.S. And you could try smiling more in your pictures. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  40. I’m very new to blogging and am trying to work with some local clients who have very little exposure to the nitty gritty of social media. The goal for me is to distill the millions of bits of information out there for them so they see what they need to in order to get started. This necessarily means “dumbing it down”. As they evolve (and at the same time so do I), my blog content will evolve to give them what they need to advance to the next step. We’ll see if this works. Bottom line is, I need to give the readers what they need, if I do that I should be successful right?

  41. I like this blog for those 5 reasons. This is one of the few that I subscribe to via email, and as much as I like Chris, I think he’s blogging to the wrong audience.
    Of course, I wouldn’t blame you if you tried to change, but I don’t think you should or need to.
    I think you could achieve a lot by making the blog a bit more personal. Not necessarily by being here more, but by adding a few pictures to the walls, if that makes any sense.

  42. First rule of social media is be real (most marketers use the word “authentic” but that’s corporate-speak). If you don’t follow rule #1, what’s the point?

  43. Wow, great post and lots of comments. A smile might actually be nice ๐Ÿ˜€ Who knows…
    Your blog, needs to be about what you are engaged in; life, marketing, whatever. Looking for numbers is not going to make this blog anymore successful.
    I’m not an expert blogger, I don’t have thousands or even hundreds of followers. But I believe what I have said here.
    A successful blog is one that engages a high percentage of users, not one that has a high percentage of users.
    If you are failing on this metric than maybe you are failing.
    However, if you are real. If you are honest. If you say what you want to say. Are you not running a successful blog?
    Remember, just because your numbers are “low”, it doesn’t mean you are not helpful or engaging.
    Best to you Mitch. Don’t be down on yourself ๐Ÿ˜€

  44. I am also going to have to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else’s comments here –> DO NOT CHANGE THING, atleast for now ๐Ÿ˜‰
    By not dumbing down you may not be hitting as many audience members as possible, but the one’s you do have are loyal!
    It’s like the Kiss analogy you’ve mentioned before … some will love your blog and some will hate it … and it is important to be controversial like this (i.e., sticking to an audience that is a senior-level marketer) in order to have the strong following you have.
    Love your blog!

  45. Oh yeah, being #22 must really suck.
    I had to stop reading the comments cause I had to get on with my day but clearly you have some very satisfied readers, myself included.
    YOUR failure is to compare your blog’s success to an arbitrary list. It’s a long time problem we men have: does size matter?
    #1 or #22 has the real value of People Magazine’s sexiest man alive which is to say none.
    Certainly tweak the blog…but for your audience’s sake, not for the list’s sake. Julien’s idea are fine but do not deviate for your core reason for being…you know your focus. Stay the course unless the marketplace (not a list) tells you otherwise.
    For no good reason I can think, I am proud of what you’ve accomplished here.
    Best always,
    – Peter

  46. I read your blog and listen to the podcasts on a regular basis. I wouldn’t change anything about the blog or your style. We all need people like you who think about ideas and concepts and challenge us to think along with you or challenge you with different ideas.
    Chris and Julien are good at what they do and I enjoy Media Hacks podcasts, but often I find Chris’ writing and videos as too simple and not really challenging (not that this is a bad thing).
    Continue doing what you do and live through your passion – you are successful at what you do and love what you do this comes through in the blog and changing the blog is the equivalent of following back everyone on twitter it will just give you a hollow number and statistic that will mean little in the long run.

  47. Mitch,
    I measure the success of a blog on how useful, relevant, and helpful the content is to me and others like me. From my vantage point, you are doing a good job with this and MediaHacks.
    Keep failing – as just about every post I read here helps me in some way.

  48. Mitch,
    You are both thoughtful and passionate about it.
    Your tribe loves it.
    It ain’t broke…
    Thanks for keeping us informed and providing new avenues to explore.
    Non illegitimus carborundum.

  49. “Julien’s criteria do not take into account the objective of the blogger or the blog.”
    No, but they did answer Mitch’s question ๐Ÿ˜‰

  50. I would agree to disagree with Julien. You could take the route of whoring yourself out to the masses or continue what you do best and provide great content. I always prefer short and sweet posts, but their is a significant amount of quality in the content you post. I read Seth because he’s witty and smart. His posts are inspiring and always on point. I don’t read what Chris Brogan has to say because I think he’s a joke. He reminds me of Robert Kiyosaki or some other BS “motivational” type speaker. I read your blog because the content is rich and matters. Keep up the good work and don’t worry about who ranks #1. I am sure he probably paid to be on top anyway!

  51. Please don’t start writing for a mainstream audience. Your followers are not mainstream and neither are you. I echo most of these comments and will likely not enjoy your posts as much if you adopt Julien’s suggestions…and I definitely don’t read People Magazine.

  52. As the proprietor of the “other” Occam’s Razr, I whole-heartedly concur.
    Julien’s advice would work wonders for “Six Pixels of Separation by Julien Smith.” Not so much for Mitch Joel.
    The key to selling more truffles isn’t cramming them in Pringles’ cans.

  53. I can attest to “breaking up the page.”
    I have noticed more engagement on my blog since I started writing sub-heads. In no way have I dumbed-down the content, and in fact I have been writing longer posts.
    But I made the commitment that people on my page would never see “just text.” Whether it’s an image, or a sub-head, or a pull-quote — you have to give them something that anchors the page. When I scroll, I want to see how far I have gotten, and text-only makes me feel adrift as an online reader.

  54. Hi Mitch – I don’t normally comment on blogs but I feel compelled to add my voice to so many of your supporters. PLEASE DON’T DUMB DOWN YOUR BLOG!!! As a senior level marketer it is refreshing to hear new, high level, strategic thinking! Sure, sometimes you lose me, but stretching ourselves is how we learn things and become better marketers! You can’t imagine how many “social media” seminars, webinars, presentations, etc. that I’ve heard in the last few months that don’t tell me anything new! What a waste! By reading your blog I’m ensured to always hear about cutting edge ideas from an expert in the biz. Who cares how many followers you have – it’s who your followers are that’s important! BTW, that’s one of the things you kept telling us at the recent IAB course in Calgary. Good job and don’t change a thing!

  55. I agree…It’s your picture, it just creeps me out…it’s like you’re staring into my marketing soul or something. ๐Ÿ™‚
    All kidding aside, Julien raises a few good points. (Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a few nuts.) Shorter posts that are easier to digest probably would make you more “popular” with the masses but then I probably wouldn’t be reading your stuff as much nor telling more and more people about you.
    You bring a unique perspective and a different story telling voice. One which I like and can understand. Sure I read Brogan’s stuff but when 300,000 other people are doing the same and spitting it out at every meeting, than how is that helping to move the conversation?
    Mitch, unless moving the follower, subscriber, and fan index up is your goal. Your a better man for doing things “your way.”
    All the best,
    Stefan in SC

  56. This blog might be a failure for you, but it’s awesome to me. I don’t know how many times I read your posts and how much I respect your opinion on various issues. There is a place for each and everyone of us on Internet. Some people will write long posts, others will keep it short.
    Anyways… Keep up the good work. And keep writing 500 – 800 words posts. I love it.

  57. Keep doing what you’re doing. is my hope. If you truly believe that it’s the who and not the how many that matters, at least. For my part, I’ve been distracted by life in the form of events & happenings similar to your 21-month old’s arrival in yours for these past months. A by product of that has been that I’ve spent less time in discovery mode. Frankly, I just wasn’t compelled by what I was reading out there. This post and your talk in SLC this morning were a ray of light, an opening. Please don’t dumb it down!
    What does characterizing being #21 on the AdAge’s top 150 list as a fail even mean anyway?

  58. Personally, I love your blog and one of my favorite things about it is how it’s different than most main blogs and offers more in-depth analysis and content.
    It’s all in what works for you.
    Interesting post as usual. Thanks Mitch.

  59. Mitch – I agree that Julien’s points are good ones. But I’d challenge you to think about your goals for the blog, which you didn’t share. If the only think you’re doing is to be “more popular” you’re totally right; change in the ways specified and watch your numbers soar.
    If on the other hand your goal is to inspire organizations to take actions, embrace new media, and really think on stuff, then please keep doing what you’re doing. Many of your articles can stand on their own as conversation pieces. I’ve printed out several and passed them around the office. They’re not for the newbie, but they are for the executive wondering if they should explore the social media space.
    As a very smart commenter already said “The key to selling more truffles isn’t cramming them in Pringles’ cans.” I’d only add “make your own container and make me want more truffles.”
    Last but not least, I think you could stand a re-design that included some pictures of you smiling. But if you look at my picture, you know how much I love a smiling photo!

  60. I fall in with the “too long” camp Mitch. If it’s too long, even if the content is good, I don’t have time to read.
    But that’s my preference. I tell my clients not to worry about that stuff and just be authentic. It’s obviously a good fit for you and you’re working it.
    I say full steam ahead.

  61. I totally agree with Greg O’Brien. You’re smart. You know your audience and you’re passionate. I love both your blog and podcast. Yes, your photo is a bit cool and could be construed as arrogant; but one only has to hear the passion in your voice as you interview other social media and marketing icons to know that you’re not an elitist but a professional who respects his vocation.
    I’ve learned a lot from what you have to say and am inspired by the way you say it. Thanks.

  62. Julien may be right from the perspective of marketing a blog, but as you said, you’re not interested in doing that. Considering that you’re not following that approach yet are still ranked #22 (out of how many thousands of marketing blogs?) is pretty significant in my book.
    I wouldn’t change a thing. I read both your blog and Chris Brogan’s and find them both very good, but for different reasons. Chris’ tone is lighter, appealing more to the emotional side of whatever point he’s making but with less real substance, while yours takes a more intellectual approach and often provides some real meat with respect to marketing guidance. Chris’ blog may inspire me more often but yours will make me think more often, and as a result make me smarter. Both serve a purpose and both demonstrate the writer’s passion for the subject. Your blog posts may be a bit longer than typical ones but you break them up with bold headers that make them easier to follow than many others, so I don’t think length is really an issue.
    Speaking of both you and Chris, I just finished reading both Trust Agents and Six Pixels and enjoyed both immensely and found them very useful. However, as to which book I know I will refer to again and again for guidance? Six Pixels. and I’m not just saying that because I’m on your blog right now. I’ve read much about social media/digital marketing and I find your book to be the most complete and thorough work on the subject, while also being a very easy read that lets your personality shine through (perhaps more so than your blog). So, thank you for this excellent work.
    …but I think the responses here may be on to something regarding your photo. It does come off a bit elitist and unfriendly, which is not the attitude that comes out fo your copy. Chris Brogan’s photos make him look like the guy you want to hang out and have a beer with — not that I would recommend that approach for you, but a little bit of a smile wouldn’t hurt. : )

  63. People read blogs for a lot of reasons. And I like Six Pixels for what it is – – not pablum for the masses. Thanks for writing what you want to say and I hope you keep it up.

  64. I have been a regular reader of your blog since I discovered it a few months back. However this is the first time I am dropping a comment. I guess its because of the jealousy that was immediately aroused in me to protect the beauty of this blog. Your blog is best as it is. When I open my computer I go to six pixels of separation before i consider Chris Brogan or Seth Godin. There is something completely unique about your thoughts which is basically reflected in your blog posts. Thats why it is six pixels and not Chris Brogan or Seth Godin! While I completely subscribe to dynamism and openness to change, I think any change in six pixels should not destroy the idea of SIX PIXELS! After all we all keep coming back because of that idea that is DIFFERENT.

  65. I remember having similar conversations with the Canadian rock band The Tea Party years ago. Their music was difficult and dense, they used unique instrumentation and the videos were pieces of art. They found away to create popluar music without being trivial or obvious. But they weren’t million sellers or at the top of the charts with every release. And who cares.
    The Tea Party made music for their fans, for the intelligent music person who wanted dense and difficult, who wanted boundaries broken and something different.
    The definition of insanity is doing different things expecting the same result. If you chose a path less traveled, don’t expect a crowd to follow you right away.
    You offer dense and difficult material. You make me think and act. You raise my game and challenge me to think of ways to better explain what’s rolling around in my head.
    The Tea Party could have worn different clothes and done simply hooky rock songs but chose a different path. Not even needs to be Nickelback and for that I am grateful.

  66. Doesn’t anyone else see that Mitch has successfully followed the suggestions here in this post and got a huge response in the comment thread? I feel like most of you have just read his “This blog is a failure” header and skipped the meat of his post.
    This post was controversial, an entry point, non-elitist and simple. It’s a pillar post that made me think, as Mitch often has, “How can I print this out or something and frame it to remind me how to do this?” Following the five suggestions isn’t pandering or selling out, it’s refining the art. Mitch, you can certainly retain your voice while inserting shorter entry point posts and People magazine-inspired shockers here and there. There is spectacle in good media, and blogs can be good media. I look forward to seeing the #22 blog rise to challenge “The Seth” and “The Brogan.”

  67. The AdAge Power 150 is a good measurement framework for search ranking, popularity, engagement and buzz. It’s not the end goal, but provides a goal that makes one formulate a holistic, measurable blog plan.

  68. LOL Craig… you NAILED it. Julien, Chris and I were discussing the irony that the thoughts presented by Julien are the core of how this post was constructed, and look what it did in terms of spreading the idea.
    We were also wondering if someone would pick-up on that and comment… and here you are.
    I had not intended that to be the outcome, but it is a fascinating truth.
    The comments here have all been amazing too – what an amazing extension of an idea.

  69. I am trying to add more in the comments area, but as I have Blogged about before I just don’t want to do the whole “thanks” and “I agree” type of thing. So, please bear with me as experiment to see how to add value in the comments as well. Most of the time, I’mm simply blown away by the additional thoughts and I sit here just nodding my head in agreement ๐Ÿ™‚

  70. I agree with many comments left — and was going to point out what Craig said above (much better expressed than I’d be able to).
    Yes, Mitch, I think your blog could benefit from a few shorter posts focusing on a single important idea once in a while. Other than that, I would keep it exactly like it is today.
    In some cases I think it’s a matter of choosing between being relevant and being popular / making the top list. Chris Brogan doesn’t create value for me, your blog certainly does. Perhaps it’s time someone creates a “Top Elitist Marketing Blogs” so you can appear on top too…

  71. Avinash is absolutely right. If you write about stuff you know and love the audience will follow. It may not be a huge audience but who cares? I get a few hundred visits a month on my blog and I am pretty happy with that. I talk to people who are interested in hearing what I have to say. Look at Twitter for a second: you have thousands of followers but you only interact with a handful of people. What’s the value? Is it real? We need to let go of ego a little bit and start building connections that really matter.

  72. Well, good for you for getting feedback.
    I didn’t agree with all of it. That is, I saw where he was coming from, but I think some of his points like your blog not being dumbed down are what makes it appealing.
    I’m by no means a social media expert, but I love reading your perspective because it goes beyond the simplistic. That’s what makes it stand out.
    So, a big part of my job is that I write, and I worry a lot about stats and which stories are most read – and it drives me insane that the *fun* stories get far more hits than the stories that I put a ton of energy and effort into.
    But, someone told me to focus on who I’m writing for and make that my top priority.
    I try to remember that. (though I also get a little stats obsessed if we’re being honest)
    Also – re: the picture. I like it. I’ve always thought it makes you look like you’re from New York. (that’s not a bad thing. Just an impression)

  73. I know you well enough to know that you’re just messing with us. I also know you figured out who you are and what you get out of providing your insights to people through a variety of social media channels long before now. I also know that you’re not really in a race to be number one with this blog. I have read Godin and Brogan over the years. But it’s populist stuff designed to appeal to the masses. Nothing wrong with that. It is what it is.
    Look, you and I have talked music a lot over the years. So, who do you want to be: A radio-friendly unit-shifter or Nirvana?

  74. If the measure of success you’re shooting for is huge traffic, then the points you’ve re-made for Julien are spot-on. OTOH, in order for those arguments to matter you need to BE shooting for a kind of least common denominator audience, which is not only anti-correct for senior-level marketers, but will chase them away .
    So the issue is deciding what your blog’s mission is. Julien, as usual, has made completely accurate points and assessed your weaknesses well. But I fear you’ve taken his suggestions/ideas at face value, rather than ask yourself some hard questions.
    So . . . for you, in this case . . . what IS failure?
    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP on Twitter

  75. I agree completely with Elliot – a little bit of engagement wouldn’t hurt. Otherwise you just come across as a broadcaster (intentionally or otherwise), and that very often puts people off blogs. It does me.
    But at the end of the day, write for *you* first, your readers second. Otherwise it’s not really you, is it? Those that enjoy will be here; those that don’t, won’t. And I see less mileage in the AdAge Power 150 list every day (since when does a “Top 150 list” have more than 1,000 blogs listed?). The real value is what you offer and how it benefits readers.

  76. To Julien: First of all, what is the definition of a successful blog? Appeal to everyday person? Having the most number of everyday persons? A lot more people reading a blog doesn’t necessarily mean more success, at least not to everyone. Certainly number speaks for itself, in terms of reach, not success.
    I think the question is how many people reading Mitch’s blog are taking action as a result of reading his posts. It’s the proportion, not sheer numbers.

  77. I don’t think so, Marc:
    1. The real question is whether Mitch wants his blog to become popular at this price, i.e. dumbing down, etc..
    2. He wouldn’t have asked his readers if he had his answer.

  78. Smile? I think we’ve heard you smile on the podcast and there’s maybe some *old* pics of you smiling on your flickr stream… but a smiling Mitch on the SPoS blog?
    Next we’ll be getting an animated gif switching from the cool Mitch to the smiley Mitch ;-p

  79. Well, out of all of this, the sentence that stood out for me was:
    “I do not, personally, spend as much time as I used to at events like unconferences, meet-ups, etc… family life situation has changed and that’s where the focus has turned”.
    *That* is where you will reap the most rewards; maybe not in “numbers” but in happiness and quality of life. Best wishes!

  80. Well here is a surprise the people that comment (current readers) don’t want you to change a thing. Your have been writing to an audience (whether consciously or not) and they have found you. If you change your voice others may come but some that are here will go. Are you more corporate feeling than Brogan or Julien? I think so but that is not bad. Having seen all three of you present recently that professionalism and polish is appreciated and speaks to an audience that may not listen to another style. All three of you are evangelizing and the more styles of messengers we have the more likely the message gets where it needs to go.

  81. Yes – I agree that you shouldn’t change a thing. I think there’s a six factor: authenticity. Sure – your blog may not have some of the other 5 elements, but the sixth factor (authenticity) more than make up for that “lack”. Besides, I think there’s another measurement of success for a blog – reader loyalty. Popularity and numbers are not everything, yea? If you have 100 readers, for instance, as opposed to 1,000,000 readers but these 100 readers are your die-hard fans, who’s to say you are not as successful as a blog with a wider readership but perhaps not as many loyal readers? Keep doing your thing because some of us love it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  82. Really sounds like Julien wants you to write the way he does. Which makes sense – it’s what he knows.
    If you’re a failure, what are the rest of us? You don’t display your subscribe count or flaunt your traffic numbers, but I’m betting they could crush my measly 300/month visits and 30/avg subscribers. I call my blog a success because I’ve made friends through it, and grown awareness of some things I wanted to.
    How are you measuring your success, I wonder? Business opportunities? Traffic? retweets? You can’t really define failure without first defining victory.

  83. If you measure success by raw numbers, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
    This is particularly true when your blog is about social media, where it seems like there are millions of self-proclaimed experts with the exact same goal as you.
    The key isn’t to be more “real” or humble or simple or controversial, it’s to have quality content that’s unique. There has to be a reason for people to read your blog in addition to the more popular ones.
    If you have that content, those original ideas, on a regular basis, people will start linking to it and start subscribing, and your numbers will go up.
    But considering all the competition you have, the mission won’t be easy, no matter how good you are.
    You could choose to develop a niche (for example, going local), which will focus your traffic, but won’t cause it to grow too much. Or you could just keep doing what you’re doing and stop complaining that you’re Number 22 among hundreds or even thousands.

  84. Yours is one of the few marketing blogs I read completely. I wouldn’t change a thing. Today’s blog (5/14) did catch my attention because you started with the short piece before the longer blog. It didn’t feel right. Cute tactic on the part of the job hunter, but I missed the in-depth analysis. (Such as what else did the applicant offer that got him the job once he got in the door for an interview?)
    I would stop following you if all posts were short and clever. I want to know what you’re thinking.
    Thanks for a very thought provoking post.

  85. Hi Mitch,
    Who’s your audience? Like many of the other commenters, I think Julien’s advice is great if you’re looking for mass popularity. But then you might lose some of the people hanging out here now.
    I recently ran my blog through Hubspot’s blog ranker, and it said that my writing was at a university-level (aka, elitist and not simple enough?). I thought about this for about 2 minutes, and realized it was just fine for me. My aim is thought leadership, and my goal is to provide content for my clients, colleagues, and prospects. Might I lose a few people? Sure. But you can’t be everything to everyone.
    The quality of your content rocks (and the writing’s great)–so I’d just keep doing what you’re doing.
    Have a great weekend,

  86. I’m not comparing Six Pixels of Separation to Chris Brogan’s Blog. Chris has – without question – one of (if not THE) most engaging Blogs online. He’s a constant giver of valuable and actionable information. He reminds us all of everything that should be common in business. He pushes us to build connections and be human. He’s not only a good friend, but a huge inspiration. There are few Blogs that I actually make an effort to read all of the time. Chris is one of those (and I’m never disappointed). The thoughts posted in this Blog post were not in relation to Chris’ Blog, but a question of what it takes to grow to that kind of passionate and caring audience.
    We should all be much more like Chris. The world would be a much nicer place.

  87. Your post reminds me of a blog post from Jason Cohen ( that although focused on company blogs, can work well for personal blogs too (not sure where your blog fits). Cultivate cheerleaders, don’t try to get the whole stadium to be a fan.

  88. Hi Mitch
    #22 is relevant to what?
    Only you can decide if you need to try to grow readership.
    I would say you could take the advice that I enjoyed listening to…
    “I am more interested in the brands ability to connect authentically with people who care the most” M. Joel
    maybe today that means #22
    Brian Frankson

  89. I visit many blogs for different reasons. There is a reason I visit the Twist Image Blog, I love the information and the perspectives provided, in the format provided.
    Don’t change it.
    And thanks for doing it.

  90. I enjoy your blog, content and frequency. I listen to your Six Pixels Podcast as well as the media hacks segments, where some of your colleagues could clean up their language. You always ask the right questions probe, and search out varying opinions without demeaning them. Quintessentially polite Montrealer that you are, I find you share truly valuable perspectives and information in a way that not only the top digital marketers understand but the way someone on Spadina or Front Street understands. Thank you for your obviously great content.

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