An article by Nathan Kontny has recently been doing the rounds on HN encouraging founders to start a blog teaching their user-base something as a test of whether the idea is worth continuing with. The thrust of the argument was
If you want to know if your idea is any good, first check if you even have any interest in persevering. Try teaching before you try selling.
I enjoyed the article, and it’s a neat idea (and a free alternative to the classic landing page/Adwords combination), but as an entrepeneur in the very early stages of blogging, I think there’s two big problems with the blogging strategy.
First, blogging is hard. Kontny writes that
If you don’t have the fuel to simply write 500 words, you sure as hell won’t have the fuel to keep running your business when the excitement wears off.
I love what I do. I love building stuff, meeting people, teaching and starting businesses. But I don’t love writing about it. Especially when you don’t have a following (check out my 9 followers on Twitter), blogging feels like writing a letter in order to throw it away. Crafting an article, from headline to opening paragraph, to content to closing paragraph, is a challenge, a chore, a learned skill. If you’re a founder, you probably didn’t get into it for the writing.
My point is, just because you find writing about what you do on a blog challenging, it doesn’t mean that you won’t love actually doing it. It’s just that writing is difficult, and it’s not easy to motivate yourself when you don’t have a large audience. Writing feels like time wasted when you could be doing something useful.
I see Kontny’s point that his lack of interest in the subject of his new startup rang alarm bells, but I don’t think that finding blogging hard is necessarily a sign that you should do something else.
Second, getting an audience is even harder. As an alternative to driving traffic to a landing page, blogging sucks. You not only have to write good content with catchy titles and well researched ideas, but you have to get it out there somewhow – submitting it to the right sites, SEO or paid marketing.
This is not simple, generally not free, and certainly not fast. It’s really tough to build an audience, and again, if you’re a founder, you probably didn’t get into it for the blogging. So just because your blog doesn’t pick up a great deal of attention doesn’t mean your idea is a waste of time. And conversely, people may love the free tips you give away, but does that really tell you whether or not your startup idea is a good one?
I’m not saying blogging to test an idea is never a good way to go, but as someone who is at the very early stages of building an online profile, and who knows how demanding it is to publish content regularly and get it read, I’d rather spend some cash on Adwords any day.