This article marks the 200th post on jonnegroni.com. In fact, it’s been almost exactly 19 months since the first post on this website got everything started. Here is my story, and I hope it serves you well as you embark on your own blogging journey.
I was sitting in a college class that taught the basics of several concentrations related to my degree, communications. We learned about journalism, broadcasting, advertising and (thankfully) public relations.
One day, we received an assignment: Start a blog.
Okay! I said with guideless enthusiasm. I was 18 years old and knew very well what a blog was. They were like online journals that you could update whenever you want (or so I thought. I had only just bought my first smartphone that year, though it had a total of zero apps).
My first blog was a mess. I logged into blogger and began typing away, writing whatever came to my nonsense of a mind. Fortunately for the writing community, my blog didn’t last more than two posts, and I moved on.
A few years passed and I was in my junior year of college. We received a “new” task for a graphic design class: Start a blog.
Ugh. I said with the voice of a jaded and cynical college student. By this point, I had decided that blogs were nothing more than online journals. Boring!
But I discovered something odd. I liked what I created this time…and it lasted more than two posts. I was more focused this time.
Read any article on the internet about blogging, and they’ll tell you what the golden rule is: Find your niche. That’s the surefire way to create an audience, as long as you work hard and write good content. Simple enough, right?
So I did this. I made another blog on blogger and called it Worth Watching. Because I worked at a movie theater, my passion for movies had started to hit its stride, so it stood to reason that this hobby should be translated to the small screen.
This is when I fell in love with blogging. I started doing movie reviews, trailer reviews, previews and anything else I could think of in order to justify blogging every day. After a few months, however, I got tired of movies, and I just couldn’t find the time to blog every day.
My lesson then was how to prioritize, and I think I learned well. I was dating a girl quite seriously back then, and with a full-time job plus school, blogging had to take the back seat.
Thankfully, life has a way of teaching you how to adapt. I started getting better at balancing my time and finding fervor in my writing. The itch to create took hold of me during the end of my junior year, as I began a new blog: Music Hunter.
For over a year, I built an audience on my Tumblr blog, which I used to blog new songs daily. Luckily, my music collection wasn’t the only advantage I picked up along the way.
I learned how to commit to a blog format and write according to schedules, rather than whatever I was feeling in the moment. As a result, the blog pulled in great numbers before I started to lose interest in the subject material.
You see, music is great to talk about, but you eventually run out of things to say or be excited about. I discovered that there is a downside to niche blogging, and I think it is the reason for why so many people give up on their blogs before they even get started. Niches are boring.
That’s why everyone has one.
MYSELF DOT COM.
It was 2012, and I had just attended a conference for PR majors. I made a lot of great friends, though I was extremely intimidated by the talent and professionalism exhibited by my soon-to-be competition. I decided that I wanted to rise above and do whatever it takes to make a name for myself, even if I’m the only one who knows about it.
I decided that I wanted to write something so great, that people everywhere would love it. I wanted to be the person who is famous because I’d be known for something I created. I stuck to that dream and knew the best path: Jonnegroni.com
To be fair, I got the idea of having a yourname dot com website from a fellow PR student who used it as an online portfolio. Because I already had a LinkedIn, I took the idea a step further: I wanted to have a website with no rules about the conversation.
I’d write whatever I thought was worth writing about.
Getting rid of the constraints of niche blogging (though you could say the niche is myself, but that’s a little too narcissistic, even for me) fueled a new passion for blogging. No longer did I feel obligated to write. I now felt obligated to contribute. To create.
I spent about two months getting ready before launching Jonnegroni.com in April of 2012. I built the site, created a logo and started writing some posts. I think I deleted every single one before even thinking about publishing them.
And then I published my first real post (I don’t count the standard “Welcome” post): Will We Have to Ditch Hulu Plus? I read it again for the first time about an hour ago, and it was quite brutal. It was about a rumor going around that Hulu was going to restrict access to people with cable. Obviously, this never actually happened, but I’m a blogger not a prophet.
I started blogging about twice a week, sometimes three. To be honest, it wasn’t that exciting. The downside of not having a niche blog is that it takes a long time to gain any sort of traction. After all, your only selling point is…you. And I was, and probably still am, not that interesting.
But I persevered. As I started my first job in public relations, my writing accelerated. I started blogging 5 times a week, getting posts completed days in advance. I started to learn what I like to write/talk about, and an audience slowly showed up.
I figured out how to create an environment where I loved to create. There was a Starbucks a block away from my office building where I loved to write outside. Other times, I walked down the harbor to toss ideas around to my imaginary friends and (eventually) coworkers.
I’d have downtimes, of course, when I’d go a few weeks without writing anything. It was an adjustment to figure out how to take a break without getting into a slump. My audience had also reached its peak, and I realized that I needed to step up my game if I wanted to maintain growth.
So I added movie reviews (something I knew I liked to do) to my format. At first, they were about as successful as anything else I published. What I realized, however, is that they build a lot of traffic long after they’ve come out. I started seeing reviews I wrote months ago being picked up and reblogged.
It’s still this way. I wrote an article back in March (maybe April) about Avatar: The Last Airbender (one of my favorite shows) that is still getting stumbled upon today. I figured out that timeliness wasn’t my enemy.
I figured out that if I worked extremely hard on the quality and nature of what I wrote, they’d be shared over long periods of time. So I started incorporating my own graphic designs into my posts, working hard to make them stand out and be durable. I was rejuvenated.
I never considered viral blogging reasonable or even fashionable. One hit wonders were not what I was interested in, but I still wrote everything like it was meant to be read by a lot of people.
So I started developing ideas and plans for blog posts that would take me months to complete. My biggest one? The Pixar Theory.
In September of 2012, I knew I wanted to write a fully formed blog post about how all of the Pixar movies are connected. But I also knew that it needed to be perfect.
That’s why I didn’t release it until almost a year later in July of 2013…And then the internet exploded…at least my corner of it.
I never dreamed that I’d write something that millions of people would love so early in my life. I was prepared to spend decades working toward that goal. Instead, The Pixar Theory took off, garnering millions of views and hundreds of millions of views throughout limitless syndication.
That all started on July 11th. On July 12th, I looked at my blog on my computer screen and said out loud, Well, what now?
I didn’t know what to do, so I did what I always do when faced with a serious life conniption. I wrote. When I was done, I wrote some more. In fact, I started writing for other websites, some of which I never would have thought I could be qualified to contribute to.
And here I am. I like to think that I’m still an unrestrained blogger and I’ll write about anything. In some ways, this article is a testament to that. In other ways, my niche really has developed, I just picked it in a different way. I didn’t arbitrarily decide, Okay, I like this topic, so I’ll just write about that.
I wrote about a lot of things, and when I had nothing to say about it anymore, I wrote something else. My niche became writing. Not me. Not movies. Not social media. Not PR. Just writing.
I still don’t know what’s next. For all I know, I could be writing about politics in a year (just kidding). What I do know is that my blog has a story, and yours does (or will) too. That story will be shaped by what you, the artist, decide to create, so make sure every word you write counts. Especially if you’re writing numbers.
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