As a former magazine columnist and regular article writer long before “blog” was even a word, there was somewhat of a learning curve to understand the differences between an article and blog from an author’s point of view.
The main one I discern comes from looking at the purpose behind the writing; blogs are much more marketing, brand-building, and popularity-seeking by the blog’s creator. (I don’t say “author” because some blog content is curated or purchased and not written by the “blogger.”)
Entrepreneurs who do not consider themselves writers at all often have a blog with legions of followers. They use it as a medium to connect, network, stay top-of-mind, and build their brand. They are more focused on the SEO keywords in a sentence than on whether the sentence is well-written or grammatically correct. Traction on the internet is the priority.
With an article, even if published on the internet, there isn’t too much of an emphasis on putting in SEO keywords. (The only SEO you’re likely to find in one of my articles is if I’m writing about a book by Susan Elise Oberlin.) Also, a blog is typically between 300 and 1000 words; a standard length for an article is more than twice that.
Another distinction is that the majority of articles, besides op-ed pieces, steer clear of the writer’s personal opinion. They are based more on information, opinions of experts, and statistics. However, blogs often describe things from a personal perspective, with a lesser reliance on reporting and data.
Since the internet is a free-for-all platform, bloggers range in quality from zero to hero. Articles are usually written for large publications and go through a thorough editing cycle to make sure that there aren’t any errors. On the other hand, blogs are usually self-published or go through minimal editing. Bloggers just want to get the point across in common language, sometimes using humor to hook and engage their short-attention-span readers.
The different nuances to writing a blog and an article will help writers to target their audience better. There is a need for both and the sets of people that they cater to can even overlap, but understanding which kind of content to offer goes a long way in ensuring that your writing makes the desired impact. The key here is to make sure that reader expectations are met.
Just as I emphasize to those planning to write a book, you must first identify and understand your target reader. If you write for a magazine, the submission guidelines and editors will inform you what their readers (who they know extremely well) are looking for and you must write with that in mind. For a blog, you must be your own market research expert and editor. Through experience, you’ll learn more and more about your audience.
Tim Ferriss is a master of this art. His blog has some of the best resources on things like speed reading, accelerated learning, low budget travelling, various life hacks – all of them tied into one single theme of ‘lifestyle design’. However, you can see that in each post he is talking to one kind of people; those who want to drastically improve their lives and want to get big wins by hacking various aspects of their life.
A great tip for a blogger doesn’t typically apply to article writers: Add your personality into your writing. Be interesting. Be yourself; don’t try to sound erudite and uptight and don’t make it all business. Be original and creative with the language and writing style. Enjoy the process of writing and remember that it is easier to write about things you genuinely care about. That’s the entrepreneurial side of blogging –be enthusiastic about your topic and you’ll attract people buy your products or services (or those you recommend as a commission-paid affiliate).
I encourage you to write a blog and write articles—and write a book! Try them all! Just remember to switch gears when writing different types because the style, content, and voice should reflect what your reader wants and expects.