Iain Dale is the most widely read UK blogger. I read him and Guido almost every day.
He announced last week that he is going to stop blogging. This has made news not just in the blogosphere, but also in the mainstream media.
Looking at some of the reasons why Iain has quit, I can understand his decision. There are times when it does get pretty challenging.
Well, I am afraid this is the blogpost where I tell you that I am giving up blogging. This decision has been coming for some time and was nearly made a month ago, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it then. Well, today I can.
There’s no single reason, but let me try to explain as best I can why I can no longer blog in the way I have been doing over the last five years. First of all, let me say what it’s NOT about. It’s got nothing to do with the Conservatives being in power. There’s this myth that blogging in government is less interesting than in opposition. I’ve never bought that argument. I think I have been quite open in making clear when I think the coalition have got things wrong, but I accept that is not the perception, and probably never will be.
I agree it is not less fun in Government. I thought it would be, but I am finding no shortage of things to blog on – in fact my challenge is the topics I miss out due to lack of time or resource.
I’ve been thinking of going through the year’s posts and counting the number of times I have criticised or disagreed with the Government. It’s several score at least.
The truth is, I no longer enjoy blogging and I think that this has been evident for a few months now to my readers. I hate the backbiting that goes along with it. I hate the character assassination that is permanently present.
I’ve always said I’ll give up if I don’t enjoy it. But unlike Iain I don’t get too bothered by the haters out there. The more someone spews venom at me, the more I think that I must be doing a good job for them to feel so threatened. If someone I respect criticises me, I take that very seriously – but they tend to do so in non-personal terms.
So I can’t see myself ever giving up because of the haters. Quite the opposite – it encourages you even more.
I no longer enjoy the pressure of feeling I have to churn out four or five pieces every day. I used to enjoy sitting in front of the TV at home in the evenings and writing blogposts at the same time. I can’t do that any longer as I am on the radio every weekday evening. And when I am in the office during the day I have two companies to run. Something has to give.
This is where I can totally empathise with Iain. Once upon a time the blog was not an “obligation”, just fun. But I do feel a sense of (mainly self-imposed) obligation to try and do around 8 – 10 posts a day, to cover off major issues and to be topical.
There are days and weeks when I am exhausted from trying to manage the blog, actually earn money from Curia, contribute to InternetNZ’s activities, do various media obligations, and a near non stop range of meetings and speaking arrangements.
Even getting up at 5 am doesn’t leave enough time, and friends have to put up with me trying to catch up on a backlog of e-mails while watching DVDs on a Friday night.
To cope with what will be an even busier in 2011, I will be soliciting some volunteers to help with certain aspects of the blog. I’ll provide details in January. I’m also going to learn the value of the word “no” and start declining speaking requests – not all of them, but some of them.
And if I am honest, I now feel that my blogging is having a negative effect on various aspects of my business and broadcasting life.
I estimate I could probably double my income, if I gave up blogging. Partly due to the extra time I would have to do business development – in six years of business, I’ve never responded to an RFP or solicited a client. It has all been word of mouth. Also the blog makes me too risky a choice for many government sector clients.
I’m working 9am to 10pm five days a week. I enjoy it. I relish it. I thrive on it. I’m running a very successful publishing company which is, I believe, on the brink of great success. I’ve achieved a lifetime’s ambition of having my own daily radio talk show. I am not about to put either of those things at risk. And frankly, I’m not going to put my health at risk either. As I said above, something has to give in this life I am now leading, and I am afraid it is the blog.
The health factor is real also. I left Parliament, partly because of the insane hours. They’re not as bad as when I was at Parliament, but it is a long way from a 40 hour week.
But at the end of the day, my challenge is to get a better balance, not to give up blogging. I’ve actually been debating politics online since 1996, and blogging is just a continuation of that. If I can get the balance right, I hope to blog until I am happily (or grumpily) retired.
I have also decided to give up all party political activities, as they too have hampered aspects of my business and broadcasting career in the past. I am, and will remain, a Conservative supporter, but that’s as far as it goes.
I made that decision after the 2005 election, and it was the best thing I have ever done. I will attend the odd party conference if it is interesting, but have managed to avoid any roles or offices.
The only party role that might interest me in the future would be on the Board of Directors, but I suspect it would be incompatible with my blogging as you can’t really have a Party Director criticising a National-led Government, even mildly.
Finally, I’d like to thank all my readers for sticking with me through good times and bad over the last five years. To the many enemies I have made along the way, I’ll just say in a very Nixon-esque manner, just rejoice in the fact that you won’t have me to kick around any longer. For the moment, anyway. For the most part, I have enjoyed the blogging experience and made a lot of friends through it.
Iain’s departure is a real loss to the UK blogosphere. I always enjoyed his blog, as he was very reasonable and fair. And it was a great way to keep up with UK politics.
, Iain Dale