Accounting and/or financial blogs are a big deal. As the world evolves and becomes faster paced, long-lived jobs will disappear. We accountants will adapt by piecing together a career from many project-length opportunities. I believe it will be a matter of professional life or death for accountants to get on top of evolving current events and stay there. For there to be life, we all need to make life-long learning a lifestyle.
The ability to think will separate thrivers from survivors and hangers-on. We accountants will need to think critically (buzzword for analyze and understand what is going on), creatively (inventing solutions) and practically (applying cutting edge skills to implement solutions).
How will we learn to think these ways and grow our thinking? Independent blogs commentaries like The Summa, and re: The Auditors, and TaxGirl. Blogs provide input to fuel critical thinking, seeds for creating thinking, and energy for practical thinking.
So, I want to encourage accounting/financial blogging. Then along came this e-mail. from a Summa reader, asking about my blogging process. Although I don’t reveal his identity, I’m already aware of his writing and his unifying message. He has a lot to contribute, and I think he should blog. So, I wrote this blog piece. His comments/questions are in emphasized green, answers in normal font.
A simple answer is 20-30 hours, but it really depends. Posts, which frequently become essays, start with a four hour time commitment and grow from there. Some of the technical essays I did on IFRS could took a week to ten days of writing for a 6,000 word essay. And this was on top of my already having mentally planned the structure of the essay. If you aren’t already an expert on something, add research time.
An important factor in budgeting for time is your expectation of the blog post’s permanence. Quality essays that will still be read a year later require more time to create, or else it will be GIGO.
What takes most of the time is good writing. When I’m on, I can do 200 words per hour of really tight, clear prose. I’m an experienced, trained writer, having worked on instructional materials for years (students require very clear writing). My recent post (On Being a Blogging Professor) took 4 hours to write, and it was a little over 800 words. My essay on Economic Consequences and the Political Nature of Accounting Standard Setting was written over a two week period. I also had it reviewed by an outsider before I published it.
Blogging is a lifestyle choice. I have a day job. E-mail takes another 20 hours per week. But blogging frees my soul! I don’t begrudge it 20 hours per week.
It takes a long time to learn how to blog, so plan on a learning curve. Fortunately, you get faster and better at it over time.
How do you decide if it’s worth it?
Worth is relative. I’m an academic and I don’t have anything to sell. I’m doing it because it is my professorial responsibility to give back to the world, the accounting profession, or at least anyone who wants to learn from me. That means, I evaluate The Summa’s success by readership and, to a certain extent, by influence.
At first, my readership goals were based on what I knew–academic journals. Academic journal articles might be read by anywhere from 10 to 30 people (and many of those are in the review process to determine if publication is worthwhile). Practitioner articles are read by more people.
I decided early on that if each of my essays was to be ready by 25 people, I’d be satisfied. Now, I figure anything less than 300 hits is a disappointment. A popular essay can have 1,000 reads, and my most popular essay of all time is zeroing in on 10,000 reads. Counting hits is problematic, because a lot of readers won’t travel to your blog site. They’ll read your posts from RSS feeds or via e-mail. I don’t know that these can be counted.
Having a post or essay quoted by newspapers and other blogs is also a mark of success. I’m thrilled when an essay is quoted by others. Some recent posts have been republished on other sites. Also, as long as I am a recommended blog (that is, recommended by other blogs), then it is worth it. I’m especially pleased when I’m well thought of by the really high readership blogs.
I had enough work on the IFRS issue that I became recognized as an expert. I was read and quoted by people around the world. Yes, that made it worth it. Even if I never have any other essays as successful as those, then I’ll be happy with this part of my career.
How do you decide what to write about?
There are a lot of factors here. I could write a book on it.
Originally I identified three general areas in which I would write: (1) education, (2) financial accounting and regulatory issues, and (3) cleverness. Mostly, though, I write on financial accounting & regulation. That means what I write about is an issue of current interest.
On a daily basis, an essay topic could be sparked by something written on AECM, or something in a newspaper, or something simply simmering in the back of my mind. I make extensive use of Google news alerts. There’s never time to write about everything of interest. At any given time I’m juggling 4-8 ideas. There are simply too many things to write about. I’ve started at least 30 essays that never got published. I could see that they wouldn’t be good enough to make a contribution.
For me to write on something, I need to have something worthwhile to say, something I’m proud of, something I’ll stand behind months or years from now. It must be something I think I have figured out, and others have it figured wrong. I do try to figure out what my readers will find interesting, and that’s what I focus on. If I write something and it gets a quick popular response, then I’ll write something else on it. Success begets success. Readers will teach you the topics you should write about.
What are the demographics of readers?
I don’t know for sure. My blog host doesn’t provide detailed statistics that would let me answer it. For a while, most of my readers came from New York City, Washington, and London. Usually, 60% are from the United States, 40% from the rest of the world (most months I am accessed by readers from at least 100 countries). I am read by professors, students, practitioners, regulators and others. But I don’t know the relative percentages.
I hope this helps.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht