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Open Thread: What makes for a good “niche” blog and a blog “community”? Salt Lake City, Jan. 20-21

I’ll be in Salt Lake City on January 20-21 at “Alt.” That’s the Altitude Design Summit, a conference for design and lifestyle bloggers. I’m actually speaking, hosting a roundtable on creating a niche blog and building a vibrant community around it. After three years, I feel like I’ve learned some things. That said, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on any of these three  questions in preparation for the conference:

  1. What do you think makes for a good “niche” blog? What do you want or need… what makes you come back?
  2. What makes a blog feel like “community”? What kinds of things can a blogger do to nurture this feeling?
  3. Any readers in Salt Lake City wanna get together for a cocktail or latte or thrifting on Friday night the 21st? Tiki time?

  1. Ethan Argenbright says:

    Hi, I think that a successful blog is one that is of a subject that is interesting to a group of people. I know that sounds basic but it’s true. The blogs that come and go, or don’t have frequent visitors, are because they are interesting to the person hosting the blog but lack mass appeal (or, at least lack enough appeal to attract a broader audience). You’ve done such a good job at keeping Retro Rennovation a niche blog but, at the same time, you’ve kept it varied enough that visitors who are interested in some aspect of your blogs subject can usually find something of interest even if they aren’t necessarily interested in the topic of the day.

    The Forum is also a great idea. Giving people somewhere to unite in their quest for a specific item. Even if you’re not in the market to purchase something it allows you to stay abreast of what’s available and what fair market prices are.

    In short, your blog is interesting and informative. That makes it fun.

  2. Judi says:

    I discovered this blog three years ago after we bought a ’59 fixer-upper, and I was feeling a bit baffled with some details — just what paint color goes with pink bathroom tiles anyway? (Pam’s suggestion: try wallpaper!) As time has gone on, I have realized that I just am not as “into” mid-century decoration and design — or ANY era of decoration and design — as Pam or some of the other readers. But I keep visiting here daily anyway. Why?

    I think it’s because Retro Renovation comes very close to being like a good magazine, and I love magazines. Pam has offered a fun mixture of topics and has not limited the blog to just one decade or one design style. This wider range means that every reader is bound to find something that presses a button. For instance, while I was born in the 50s, and live in a ’59 ranch, I don’t really react to 50s stuff the way I do to 60s or 70s stuff, because I just don’t remember the 50s. Pam’s features on these later decades are sure to grab my attention. Meanwhile, another reader might be more interested in the posts that poke around in the era of the 40s and early 50s. Something for everyone!

    Also, we get glimpses into a variety of homes — readers’ homes, time capsule homes, homes for sale, to name a few. We see some products, hear from some experts, enter a contest, see videos of Pam and her siblings dancing in funny hats. Again, just like a good magazine, except for the dancing. (But magazines always have recipes, and I can’t remember if Pam has offered any recipes — maybe for a mai tai?)

    Finally, I just realized recently that we don’t see photos of Pam’s house all that often. (I noticed this when she did the post on cupolas. She said her garage had a cupola, but she didn’t show a photo of it. Instead, she featured 50s era illustrations of cupolas. That fit with the point of the post — many older homes were built with garage cupolas, and we can add that detail now.) The fact that the blog isn’t just about Pam’s house, but is about lots of houses, including reader houses, is a big reason the blog is successful. It’s more of an everyman blog.

    As far as what the blog needs or doesn’t need, I say, Do whatever you want, Pam, I’ll adjust. I used to get all in a tizzy when something changed, like the day the cute 50s era girl at the top of the blog was replaced with the mod gal in the mod chair. Now she’s gone too! Replaced by cats and flamingoes and turkeys. Oh well, so what? It’s fun to see what pops up next.

  3. Mr. Modtomic says:

    Hmmm..I’m afraid I must disagree. I feel like, if a reader took the time to leave a message (we all know that sometimes it can be kind of a chore to actually leave a message) then the least I can do is to acknowledge their effort. Sometimes I just say something like “I know what you mean” but I try real hard to go through all my messages every couple days to answer everybody. I don’t feel self conscience about it at all. It never even occurred to me that there should be any kind of boundary until reading these comments, and honestly…when I leave a comment on another blog I check back a couple of times for a reply from the blogger. If I never find one I might not leave any more comments as obviously the blogger doesn’t appreciate MY effort. My reader contribution is still small enough that it feels intimate. I wouldn’t keep blogging without the back and forth I have with my readership and I hope to have enough growth so that it becomes difficult in the future.

  4. pam kueber says:

    Hmmm, I think this is a tough one, Mr. M. For example, if 83 readers each left a comment, and I replied to each one, the “balance” of me compared to them would seem so “off”, at least in my mind… I think I will continue to study this issue and report back. Thanks for your input — I’ll really consider it….

  5. marta says:

    A good niche blog is one that keeps the content fresh and the subject not too narrowly confined. Meaning, pink bathrooms are great, but there’s only so much that can be said about them on a quasi-daily basis. As an adjunct to RetroRenovation, however, they make a nice part of a not-too-large whole.

    A good niche blog responds to the interest of the readers, and is able to stray outside of its original subject parameters to some extent, without morphing into an entirely different subject. Neither does it lean too heavily on the readers for subject matter.

    Personally, I like the comments to be interactive as they are here. If I want to ask Pam or another commenter a question, I feel free to do so. While a forum would be nice, they take an incredible amount of monitoring and proctoring, and it’s rarely feasible for one person to handle it all. I’d rather Pam was out gathering up more MCM wonderfulness to share than spending her energy running a forum.

    As far as community, a good blog creates its own, and a good blogger understands the importance of nurturing the community they create. It’s critical to make readers feel welcome, and insure an atmosphere of polite respect. Nothing fractures a community faster than allowing insulting and negative remarks. Unfortunately, some people can’t seem to make any other kind, and must be censored.

  6. pam kueber says:

    Thank you for the very thoughtful comments, Marta — and everyone! I actually began pulling my presentation together and this has been invaluable feedback… I plan to circle back and share my presentation with readers. Again — my most sincere thanks for sharing!

  7. Aimee says:

    Hi Pam, I am a long time reader in Salt Lake City! I moved into an early 60s home five years ago, and relied on this blog for a lot of remodeling advice. It’s time to move again. We are closing on a fab 1964 home next week with so much architectural character I’m not even sure what to call it. I’m once again turning to your expertise for inspiration on how to decorate (and how to convince the family that it IS a good idea and very 60s to put the washer and dryer in the kitchen) Anyway, if you’re still looking for cocktail/latte/thrifting while you’re in town, please get ahold of me and let me know!

  8. pam kueber says:

    I would love to try and get together, Aimee. I’ll email you separately! Congrats on the new/old house!

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