How Choosing Monthly Themes Can Grow Your Readership

By Chris Gardner. Photo by Liz West.

I’m a firm believer in being as transparent as possible to your readers. Let your audience know that you’re not some magical, creative, and beautiful mist floating around the internet in perfectly lit spaces wearing amazing clothes. You are a real person who blogs at night, and on weekends, and in your pajamas. Let your readers know that just to the left of that photo frame is the pile of junk you scootched over to find some blank wall space, as well as a bunch of tape and string and other tricks. Doing so makes you a real person, and people want to follow real people, not anonymous tastemakers.

The same applies to your blog content. Let your readers in on your editorial process. Be honest about what you hope to accomplish--that you’re going out on a limb and trying new things--and that you do lots of planning about what you publish.

I’m a big fan of picking a monthly focus to guide your content. Developing the vocabulary of your areas of interest and highlighting a new one every thirty days informs your readers of exactly what makes your design blog different than the other thousands of design blogs. It reminds them why they read your site in the first place.

So, pick twelve (make that eleven) things you’d like to talk about this year, and plan around them. And then next year, repeat the ones that need revisiting, and switch others to cover new areas. Think about how your favorite magazines cover topics throughout the year and try to emulate them. Or, if you can only come up with five, assign them to each day of the week. Talk about this thing on Monday and that thing on Thursday, etc.

Now make sure you tell everyone about what you're doing. Be open. Say things like, “This March, we’re covering all things _________,” and “It’s Friday, so I’m back with another _____________.” This develops rhythms to your blog, and teaches readers what to expect. It also shows new readers that if they come back, they’ll get more of the same content that inspired them to come to your site in the first place. And that’s the real benefit - stumblers will become casual users, and casual readers will become regulars, and regulars will become superfans, commenters, and collaborators.