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Self-Indulgence Sunday: Quantity v. Quality

We (by "we", I mean bloggers) are told that content is king. I can't even count the number of e-mails or pages I've seen insisting that frequent updates are the key to readership. If a would-be fan can swing by your page once or twice a day confident he'll see new content, he'll be much more likely to do so, which means more hits, which means more ad revenue, which means more money.

And I like money. I like money a lot. Which is why I try to write a great deal on this web page: so you'll keep checking in. At the same time, I know that if all I write is crap, you'll just never visit (well, some of my crap has been visited quite a bit, but I don't think I can rely on that). In the last seven days I've written eleven articles for this website as well as two for Canadian Soccer News and one for the Score's Footy Blog. That's a nice, round two articles per day, and I'd say that's plenty of quantity.

And the annoying thing about those fourteen articles is that I was happy with maybe three of them.

That's why it's phrased "quantity v. quality", not "quantity and quality". The two are almost mutually exclusive. The less time you spend on every article, the less likely it is to be even readable, let alone interesting.

On the other hand, I know (from experience) that if I go four or five days without posting anything, the site traffic dips hard. Even after I stop posting again it can take weeks for things to return to normal. The marketplace of ideas seems to prefer quantity, or perhaps it finds that my posts once every few days aren't any better than my posts twice a day.

I spend more time than is really healthy thinking about this. What's the right way to go?

You can probably tell that I like writing in general and writing about soccer in particular. That's why I do this: on a dollars-per-hour basis the time I spend writing for Eighty Six Forever could be better spent making shoes in Indonesia. Sometimes, as when rain and lightning canceled the second leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, I have so much stuff to get out of my head that I wind up smashing my face into the keyboard until an article full of righteous fury comes out. This usually takes about twenty minutes. Those are great times, not least because everybody loves a bit of righteous fury (even those who disagree seem to like reading it just so they can get furious in turn about how wrong I am).

But there are times when I'm staring at the screen, knowing that I really should write something and having no idea what to say. Those are the days that lead to articles about Whitecaps who didn't get international call-ups and my opinion on Canadian soccer television and other such mundane pieces of tripe: hopefully there's something interesting in there but I'm really not expecting it.

You see, I'm torn. As a reader I dislike a quantity-first approach profoundly. Some places (I think particularly of Sounder at Heart and my old hockey stomping grounds Copper & Blue) succeed in generating lots of great talent by having lots of great writers, but that's not a luxury I've been able to acquire. With the exception of the occasional (greatly appreciated) FanPosts and Russell Berrisford's terrific weekly polls, this is pretty much a one-man show. And when I read similar one-man shows by other writers, I wind up clicking "close" in disgust at the cut corners and half-baked thoughts desperately fleshed out into full-baked articles. I don't have a big enough ego to pretend that my writing is any better off.

On the other hand, I do have a big enough ego to absolutely love it when people read what I write. And, empirically, the more I write the more people read it. I don't mean "in general": if I write two decent articles a day, each of those articles will tend to get more readers than if I write one good article every two days (unless one of the articles or another gets big links). So every time I think "I'm going to settle down, recharge my batteries, and come back at this properly", I wind up thinking about the inevitable obscurity to which I'm dooming the resulting post.

I want to write less but better, but then people won't see it. Then I think to myself that I might just have fallen into bad habits. Perhaps I'm not using the extra time properly. I think of guys like Richard Whittall who write a few articles a week, each of which are brilliant and show a depth of understanding I can only aspire to. If I take the extra time to do some research, chew over paragraphs, and generally get stuff done - in short, acting like a professional - then I might be better off.

But would it be worth it? That's a question I can't answer. I think I might try it, but then I get cold feet and go back to the old conservative ways.

I don't know, guys. I just really don't know.