Lessons Learned from Running a Blog for a Decade

10 years ago, I thought I was starting a 4-month project

Andy Spears

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Photo by RetroSupply on Unsplash

I wrote a post today at my education policy blog celebrating 10 years of writing there.

That post got me thinking: What have I learned in 10 years of blogging about the same topic?

When I started the blog, I thought I would be filling in a gap — covering education news at a time when lots of media outlets were reshaping newsrooms and providing less issue specific coverage.

Having worked at the legislature, studied school funding in grad school, and written a book on education policy, I thought I could provide a service people would want.

Lesson 1:

Turns out, I was right.

And that’s the first lesson. Your writing (blogging) should add value. Sure, I write about topics I enjoy.

But I also aim to do so in a way that engages a target audience.

In my case, it is teachers and parents who want to know more about how politics influences education — how what happens in a state legislature filters into classrooms.

Lesson 2:

Keep going.

At first, the blog was, well, a blog. Words on a page. No ads, no email distribution.

I tracked views and eventually added an email feature.

About six months in, I added ads to generate at least some revenue. No, it’s not a lot (even today).

But, it’s something.

The larger point, though: People were reading and sharing my content.

This is hugely rewarding. Seeing an article get hundreds or even thousands of views or hearing your work cited in a key policy meeting — that’s motivation.

So, I kept going.

I thought I might have a project for a few months or a year, and it turns out, Tennessee Education Report has become a staple of the political/policy landscape in my state.

Lesson 3:

There will be haters.

Mean comments. People who suggest you go away. People who try to copy what you’re doing.

I write what I call “advocacy journalism.” Yes, I share facts and data. But I also have opinions and positions and I don’t hide them.

A surprising (to me) number of people who strongly disagree with my perspective follow me.

Sometimes, they’re not very nice. However, sometimes, I learn a lot when someone disagrees agreeably and forces me to reconsider my position.

Takeaways:

Distilling this to simple messages for blogging:

  1. Add value
  2. Keep going
  3. Learn from the haters

What’s your blogging story?

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .