The Reading Habit

Leveraging the power of habits to grow readership

Here’s a theory on how to grow readership. Having recently read The Power of Habit, it now seems obvious to me as to why people who blog on a schedule get many more readers than those who post only occasionally. This is something I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers observed and the basic explanation given for this is that more posts equal more traffic, especially over time as more and more of those posts begin to feature somewhere at the top of a search engine results page.

Now, while you would generally expect higher traffic with more posts, it may be argued that such a conclusion is not reasonable. Assuming that the quality of the writing is the most important factor in whether or not people want to read your site, it would follow that a blog with better quality posts should attract more traffic, rather than a blog with a regular posting schedule. I have no study to back this up, but from my experience and from having read the experience of many others it doesn’t seem to be actually the case. While post quality matters, it seems that a regular posting schedule considerably increases the readership of a site. Why is this?

I think the reason for this is quite simple: when you post regularly people form a habit of reading your site. This is especially the case with daily posts because a longer time period will not form a habit that is as strong. If you post daily and people like your content, they will begin to read your site daily, they’ll form a habit of reading your site every day. Your readers will come back again and again to your site not necessarily because they’re impressed by the quality of your content (though some of it has to have been good enough to attract them initially), but because this is what they’re used to doing. It’s what they do.

If the content isn’t interesting on a particular day, no problem, they’ll come back tomorrow. As long as something good is posted every once in a while their habit will remain strong. This is how gambling slot machines work – they keep players hooked by giving out variable size rewards every once in a while to fuel the exhilaration of winning. In the case of Web publishing, the reward isn’t whether there will be a new post or not, but whether it will be good or not. Thus, while quality posts matter in the case of attracting new readers, a daily (or regular) posting schedule matters if you want to keep them coming back.

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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