Why aren't over-40 bloggers as visible online?
Reading through all the thoughtful comments in one go on my is there ageism in blogging blog post was a fascinating read.
To recap - in my original post I asked if there was ageism in the blogging industry as I'd noticed all the featured bloggers in an industry magazine had their ages included - and the oldest person I found was 32. If their age hadn't been included it wouldn't have even occurred to me, but, as they were, I felt, at 42 myself, a little bit excluded.
I've been blogging for eleven years. That's eleven years of experience. And no, I'm not one of the blogging or vlogging powerhouses, but I've seen the industry evolve and like to think I've adapted and kept up with the changes. In other words, I know stuff, too.
I've learnt a lot of my more recent social media knowledge and gained inspiration from the younger generation so I'm not against them at all.
However, as I follow their online life I'm noticing that some of them are getting married, getting pregnant and having babies and it occurred to me that actually, my life is different to theirs. My children are fourteen and nine. Well past the nappy and pram stage. So where are the bloggers in my age group and above? It would be nice to read their posts, too. (Not instead of, but as well as.)
So, because Post 40 Bloggers shared my post (thank you!) I had some insightful comments from writers and YouTubers over the age of 35.
A number of points came out of their comments as to why we don't see so many over 40 bloggers which I'm going to attempt to summarise now:
1) Many bloggers don't mention their age as it isn't relevant.
As Judy says: "I don't want to impose a limit on my potential audience."
Absolutely. I have never mentioned my age before the ageism blog post. I didn't think it was relevant at all. It's the magazine that thought it was relevant, otherwise, why mention it? Which further serves my point in part one of my follow up posts about ageism and blogging that it's not readers who find the age of the writer relevant. It's brands and the industry.
What readers like is to find people with similar interests, or similar life experiences, or writers who can inspire...Age never comes into it. As Arlene said, "I don't really care about the age as long as I can relate to what they are saying."
Zoella (I know I keep using her as an example) is 28 - over ten years younger than me. But she's just been on a trip to New York. She's not my age but I enjoyed her vlogs because I'd like to go with my husband and children. I particularly enjoyed seeing what she ate out there (I'm all about the food) - that's why I could relate to her vlog.
On the other side of this, however, is an interesting point that Jill makes. A particular subject matter could make a blogger less prominent in a noisy online world. Jill has a book blog and she knows many older bloggers and authors. But, she says, "I suppose we're 'hidden' because our blogs are defined by subject and not necessarily by age." And whilst she doesn't restrict her reading according to age she is "drawn to books that have more relevance" to her - which might include her age.
But as BlogQueenDiane rightly points out in this brilliant quote of hers, "It's the joie de vivre you have that counts! You can be a boring 20-year-old or a full-of-life 60 year old; totally up to you. Blogging is a great motivator to get out there and live life to its fullest so you have interesting things to write about and stories to share with others."
2. Older bloggers are not as good at promoting their work.
Obviously that's a huge generalisation but promoting our blog posts and our videos feels boasty. Or that we're trying to draw attention to ourselves. Something that a lot of the older generation, particularly women, find alien. As Elizabeth says, "we need to learn how to stick our heads a bit higher over the parapet."
I was one of these people who didn't publicise my work until I read a blog post by Emma Gannon. She said, you have to tell people you exist. This inspired me to write this post you have to market yourself - you cannot build an online business or brand based on hope. Hoping someone spots you and, for example, retweets your blog post or pins it to their Pinterest board where they've a million followers. Since then, I've been a bit more active in promoting my work. And, guess what? My blog and Instagram have both grown.
But by promotion I don't mean spamming. And that is, I know, also what people are worried about - being seen as a spammer. So, why not try share behind the scenes of your work? This behind the scenes is a natural way of doing it - the story of how you came to write the blog post, the book, the article, the photograph, the artwork...chat about it online. Take pictures. For example, as I write this post I'm commenting on twitter about it, about how I'm finding it difficult to get my thoughts in order (and I really am!) and it has generated conversations. Posting the finished article will be a natural progression of that conversation.
MsXpat says, "some of us need to be better at promoting our content and joining more networks etc - I says this because I often wonder if I am doing enough..."
Maybe some of us also feel a bit intimidated. As Charlotte says, and I'm sure she's not the only one who feels like this: "I am rather....let's say, shy to blog, as all the blogs are from younger women and I often ask myself if they are waiting for my 'vision of the world'."
To anyone who feels like Charlotte I would say, yes - people are interested!
3. Some people have moved on
When I first started blogging many of the people I was in a group with were a little bit older than me. I was used to being one of the youngest, I guess. We've drifted apart now, but I don't know any of them that are still blogging. Some have successful writing careers and have books published. And others have gone on to other, different, things.
I could be wrong, but I think I'm the only one who has carried on with blogging and turned it into a profession. An author on twitter, who used to blog, said many people my age and above have used the blog as a stepping stone.
Toni Hargis says, "A lot of the older bloggers have either moved on to other (better?) things, or gave up as the comments and interaction dried up."
I can understand this. Blogging, for me, is a full time job and takes up a lot of my energy. But some people see blogging as a hobby, or as supplementary income....As Joanne Mallon says, "a lot of us have day jobs and so our blogs tend to be a lower key hobby on the side. There definitely aren't many full time bloggers over 40, because quite simply the brands have very little interest in us."
4. Over 40 readers don't look online for people they can relate to
There is an argument for there not being the audience. If I want to connect with people with similar interests and so on I do look online. But, that's because being online is an interest. Not everyone spends hours chatting on twitter or scrolling through Instagram looking for connections.
As Linda Libra Loca says, I feel like blogging and especially YouTube are made for a younger audience. In my understanding the main reason is that people look for someone that they can relate to, and women our age don’t focus on the online community as much. And how could they, juggling kids, a job and a marriage! It is much easier to be invested in the online community when you are in school or Uni.
Although this may have been the case, there is beginning to be a shift. Poshyarns, Rebecca was like me and had a blog in the earlier days. Rebecca enjoyed the community the blogs provided but "as shiny bits of the internet opened up" the blogs tailed off including her own. Now, however, she says:
"I feel a real pull to find a similar sort of community again. A sort of extended Instagram, not too curated but still thoughtful and considered. Honest and human. I'm really enjoying writing a blog again but would love to find more my tribe, who I suppose, really and truly are a little older than most of the highly polished, key word stuffed blogs I'm finding."
5. Which makes me think that maybe over-40s (and many under-40s) are put off by blogs that are too polished and too driven by the need to rank highly in Google
As Rebecca says above, when blogging started it was because of a need to find connections, to discover tribes connected with our passions. During the following decade brands became interested in these communities. And so came the rise of the blogging superstar along with lots of pounds and dollars being thrown in their direction.
Magazines started to lose readers as people would click onto YouTube or read blogs instead. Advertising and marketing strategies were changed to include 'influencers' rather than the traditional celebrity.
In turn, these influencers became more glossy, spent more money on photography and filming. And now people are saying blogging is dying because the trend is to consume on Instagram what used to be in magazines and on blogs.
With a massive dose of generalisation here many of these more mature generations didn't 'get' the whole influencer thing. They also didn't get social media (and indeed, some of the questions asked by the politicians at the Facebook congressional hearing demonstrates that vividly) or why people needed to bare their soul online.
But, things change. And trends have a habit of turning full circle. Joanne said on Twitter to me yesterday "I think we should celebrate the fact that we are not the face of mainstream blogging - we're an alternative to the mainstream, which is where blogging started out after all." So, now as certain blogs are becoming more aspirational rather than inspirational with content that can be read quickly on Instagram instead - maybe the need for connections, for tribes, the need to be inspired, to read and soak up words for pleasure (and words that have been used to tell a story rather than rank on SEO) rather than the instant fix of Instagram - people will start connecting more with the more mature bloggers...
Some of whom have been here, honing their craft, all this time.
Huge thanks to Post-40 Bloggers for sharing my article on their site. As Melinda Fargo, Ed-in-Chief of Post-40 Bloggers says in her comment:
"The inspiration for Post-40 Bloggers came from attending another blogging conference where, again, there was little to no representation of our 40+ demographic."
So, if you are looking for more mature bloggers I would start there.
My original post: Is there ageism in blogging? (Have a read of all the comments, too.)
Part one of my follow up: Age & Blogging (Part one)
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