A couple weeks ago I asked you to take another survey, this time sharing details about who you are as a person. This was borne from a conversation between some blogger friends who discussed the importance of knowing who your audience is. While optimistic, a lingering worry in the back of my head was that my audience was so random and varied that I wouldn't find any patterns. I was wrong.
It's easy to avoid honing your message to a small audience, because as a blogger you're truly grateful for every reader, and you dread the thought of alienating anyone. What helped me get over this hump was the realization that whether intentional or not, I AM writing for a certain audience. If I do focus on a subset of my readers, people outside that audience will read anyway (I'm nowhere near being a parent, but I like reading parenting blogs), and the target audience will enjoy the blog more.
Almost 400 people responded to the survey, which was a really tremendous turnout. I expected that number to be closer to 100, given the depth of the answers I solicited. I read every single entry, some of them many times over, and took notes to make sure I was paying attention to patterns.
The first thing I did with the data was graph the ages. Here's what that graph looked like:
My youngest reader is 14, and my oldest is 74. As you can see, the bulk of my readers are between 21 and 28, with huge spikes on both of those numbers. Interestingly, there's also a significant spike right around 53. My theory is that people are drawn to my site when faced with major life changes that are offering less than desirable options. There's 21 when people are just leaving school and want reassurance that they don't have to get a boring job, there's 28, which is about the time you start thinking "okay, I have to get serious about my future and figure out who I am" and then there's 55, which is retirement age. I've gotten emails from people about to retire, talking about how they don't want to sit around and do nothing as is expected of them.
So this is good news to me. I'm really passionate about going against the grain and following one's desires at these junctions, and I'm glad people are coming here to see what I have to say about it.
Next I filtered for highly engaged readers (purchased something AND left a comment) who were male and in that age range. If it were up to me, every single reader would be a member of the Swedish bikini team, but the truth is that most of you are guys.
I took the entries and manually read each one carefully, evaluating for three criteria: "Is this person interested in travel?", "does this person seem interesting to me?" and "are they geeks?". From my first readthrough of responses, these seemed to be patterns, so I wanted to make sure that held true for my core audience. As it turned out, 78% were geeks, 93% were interesting, and 78% were interested in travel. I wanted to know how geeky people were to gain an appreciation of how technical I can be in my posts. I evaluated for interestingness to see whether people had boring lives that totally needed to be turned around, or if these were mostly people who had good lives but were interested in tweaks. And last, I wanted to confirm that the requests for travel posts were coming from my core audience.
Basically what I got from that is that I'm writing to a more sophisticated audience than I expected, and that my audience is really interested in travel.
Next I carefully reread the responses of the people who fit all these criteria, as well as the previous age/sex/engagement criteria. I was hoping to tease out some patterns, but they were glaringly obvious. My readers tend to have really cool lives, but are lacking in one area that they're trying to tighten up. Typical is someone who has a good career and friends, but wants to find a great girlfriend, or someone who had great hobbies and a great girlfriend, but needed to get more serious about money. The other big themes were freedom and independence. Many people mentioned these words.
To sum it up, I'm writing to twenty-something-year-old men who are high achievers in some areas, are excited by travel, and are looking to take their lives to the next level, usually by increasing their freedom. That's a slice of people I have tremendous respect for, empathize with, and am eager to connect with. Good! I hereby dedicate this blog to you; expect to see future posts tailored towards you.
If you're not in that demographic, consider getting a sex change, some new goals, and acting really maturely or immaturely (depending on your age). Or just stick around because I love you anyway.
I'm writing this on the plane to Bogota, but by the time it's posted, I'll be there already. Five continents down (North America, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America) and two to go (Oceania, Antarctica).
My final gear list is ALMOST complete for 2010. At least 50% of the gear is changed from last year... I'm just trialing new backpacks now. I actually threw away my old Deuter, but wish I kept it to give away for a contest or something. It was a bit sad to toss, but you have to be ruthless to be a minimalist!
RV is almost ready for the next post about it. I have really gone overboard on some of the upgrades, half to show what's possible. I don't think a more decked out Rialta exists.
Special thanks to everyone who has been tweeting my posts, sharing them on Facebook, clicking the like button, and commenting. I really appreciate your help in spreading the word...
Picture is some plush cats at Kiddie Land in Harajuku... you know... because they're all the same and I'm trying to find which of my readers are all the same? Yeah, it's a stretch.
That was the strangest cold-read experience I've ever had. :)
(I very rarely leave comments anywhere on the Web.)
Your demographic report is hilarious. It describes me perfectly. 21 years old, I lead an awesome life, love travel, but am lacking in one area: But I'm working hard at it!
I consider myself basically a lot like you Tynan, except that I don't have an independent income stream going. I am tied to a one year job contract, but hopefully by the time its over I will make enough to cover my food expenses (where I don't skimp) and travel related stuff.
Nailed it on the head for me too. 21, love to travel, trying to figure out a business I can run from college before I graduate to support a good lifestyle.
Love seeing the results, your breakdowns, and your thoughts about why certain age demographics are attracted to your content.
Looking forward to more tailored posts in the future, although I connect with the majority of the content you publish. Keep it up!
Eight years ago today I started my blog. It actually started as a livejournal blog which I used to chronicle my third (and successful) attempt to get onto a polyphasic sleep schedule. I had no readers and had no intention of attracting any. I had just remembered how hilarious my attempts to get on the schedule were in the past, how hard it was to remember the memories created in varies states of sleep deprivation, and thought that recording the experience might be a good idea.
At that point in time, polyphasic sleep was a hot topic. The internet was dotted with anonymous reports of success and attributed reports of failure, but until Steve Pavlina did it, no public blogger had ever gotten on the schedule and written about it. Steve has a large audience, so all of a sudden lots of people were interested in polyphasic sleep, and many of them found my site.
Before I knew it, I had a hundred or so people reading my blog every day. I saw an opportunity, and without really thinking about the ramifications of attracting an audience, I started sharing some of my crazy stories. The Ghetto Indoor Pool story hit number one spot on Digg (I think it was one of the top 10 stories that year), and I got a ton of readers from that. Before I knew it, I had five hundred, and then a thousand daily readers.
Eventually I moved to my own domain, 'betterthanyourboyfriend.com', which I had bought because I had a half-cocked plain to put up "lost dog" style flyers all over the city trying to find girls I would want to date. Eventually I bought tynan.net and moved the blog there because a survey showed that no one wanted to link to a site called "Better than your Boyfriend". Finally a year ago, with the sleuthing help of Todd, I bought tynan.com, where this blog will probably live for the rest of its years.
People often see someone succeed, and then try to copy what they do, in order to succeed at the same thing.
One of the problems with that is: you're not them. What works for them might not work for you. Let's not underestimate how very different humans can be in character, physiology and psychology.
This happened to me when I first read Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Work Week. There's a passage in there where he mentions that nothing puts him to sleep quicker than reading a few pages of fiction in bed.
This is the exact opposite of what fiction does to me. I've literally stayed awake all night into the wee hours of morning, all because a work of fiction (mostly books, because only they last a whole night) kept me awake. Good fiction grips me more than almost anything. It inspires me, shows me the possibilities I didn't see in reality, touches me emotionally and in my mind I become part of the fiction, and it part of me.
Point being, while fiction puts Tim Ferris to sleep, it keeps me awake. Reading fiction doesn't help me fall asleep.