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Archive for April 9th, 2012

Friday’s letter to newsroom curmudgeons resulted in my busiest day ever on this blog, 4,882 views, smashing my previous record by 58 percent. After less than 72 hours online, the post is already my fourth most-viewed post in three-plus years blogging here. With more than 80 comments, I presume it already is my most-discussed post, though I should note that probably a third or more of those are me responding to comments.

Few things I have written have received as much praise or as much criticism (the two often go together), certainly not in their first day or two after publication. I try to make a common theme of this blog discussions of digital journalism and lessons we can learn about what works and what doesn’t. This post worked and failed in notable ways, so I should try to learn (or relearn) something from the experience:

Pronouns matter. I made some of the same points about curmudgeons in a post last fall. That post answered a question from someone asking how to “convert” curmudgeons to using Twitter. So I responded in the third person, essentially discussing curmudgeons behind their backs as him and her. That post got some attention, one of my top 40 in page views, but it only got half as much traffic as Friday’s post got on its first day. It made a difference, I’m sure, to address my post to curmudgeons, inviting people to email the link to a curmudgeon or to print it out for one to read. In another post a couple years ago, I wrote in the first person about how I redirected and rejuvenated my career. It offered sincere advice to others, and advice that stems from personal experience can be the most valuable advice. But unless you are sharing the lessons from your mistakes, advice offered in the first person always has a boastful tone, however helpful you’re trying to be. “I” is not an engaging pronoun. “You” is one of the most engaging words in our language, and it worked in this post. (more…)

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