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In Appreciation of Silent Readers

Like most bloggers I place a high value on the conversational dimension of the medium.

I’m extremely grateful to everyone who takes the time and trouble to comment here.

I appreciate the depth of thought and ideas that people willingly offer and swap in the comment box.

I relish the sense of community that grows at a blog over time.

And I keep on trying new ways to support and develop all of it: the comments, the conversation and the community.

But that’s not to say I don’t also value, appreciate and respect the vast majority of readers who chose to remain silent.

That’s mainly because I enjoy being a silent reader too.

There are times when I opt to stay silent because:

  • There’s not time to comment on all the blogs you read
  • It’s good to savour blogs before making a commitment to participate
  • There are some blogs that are ‘just’ a good read in their own right
  • You’re not sure about your point of view and want longer to chew it over and reflect
  • There’s a value in absorbing information quickly, letting it percolate later
  • The blog seems a bit ‘clubby’ but you still want to consume the good content
  • For some reason you can’t get into the conversational groove, but still want to read
  • You’re testing out some new blogs and you’re not sure what you think of them yet
  • You enjoy reading information online - without having to converse
  • Sometimes it’s good to read from a feed without taking the time to visit

I don’t know about you but if I felt obliged to comment on all the blogs I read I’d have to reduce my blog reading down dramatically.

Which would be a pity, because I enjoy the opportunity to read - to consume - a wide variety of material with new ideas and perspectives.

It would also be a pity for those of us who write blogs, because having a healthy readership is motivating, even if those readers are predominantly silent.

How so? Well, for me it’s a reminder that:

  • people value your work, and are willing to give you their time and attention to read it
  • your words count, so you need to work at them purposefully
  • there’s something good, interesting and valid about your writing, even when you doubt it
  • there’s at least one person reading, and writing for just that one person always makes me smile
  • there’s a possibility of making a difference to the perspective of just one person, which is enough

How about you? If you’re a blog writer, how do you feel about your silent readers?  Have you explored ways to show your appreciation to them as well as your commenters? If you, like me, are a silent reader, what is it about silent reading that you enjoy?  How does it change your experience of blog reading compared to those sites where you do decide to participate?

Of course if you’re a silent reader here and want to remain so: I quite understand.  Enjoy your reading in peace :-)

Photo Credit: pompidou by ciro@tokyo on flickr

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  1. Robert Hruzek says:

    Very sneaky, er, innovative, Joanna, to solicit responses from your silent readers like this. :-D

    I must admit to sometimes forgetting they’re, you know, there. Every now and then I’ll hear from one or another and be reminded there’s a much bigger audience than the usual responders.

    Brad once told me his next door neighbor is an avid reader of the Zone. Yet I’ve never heard from him. But that’s OK with me.

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..Way to Go, Guys!

  2. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, what a wonderful way to start the week. I appreciate your silent readers too! CONGRATULATIONS on being named one of the Top 10 Writing Blogs! Yay!!!! It is a well deserved honor!

    Karen Swims last blog post..I’m Still Standing! I’m Still Strong!

  3. Janice Cartier says:

    Woo hooo Congrats!!!! Top Ten Writers Blog, Joanna. Top Ten . Good work. Party party!

  4. Bo says:

    I do appreciate the regulars who visit and often comment, but I’m happy to have so many who simply come for information about the world I write about. Funny - right now I have a lot of people looking for info about snapping turtle and the weinermobile (yeah, the latter is an American icon of sorts! LOL!)

    By the way, what do you mean when you say a blog is “too clubby?”

    Bos last blog post..Obscurity

  5. [...] everyone here for your support and encouragement, for your comments and contributions and for your silent readership Thanks a million to Jon and Becky for the nominations, to Michael Stelzner for running the [...]

  6. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Robert, glad you appreciated my sneaky innovativeness :-)

    I too sometimes forget they’re there - this was partly written as a reminder to self.

    PS Great to have you back!

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Karen, you are funny. Thank you for appreciating my readers!

    And for the congratulations. It’s mucho appreciated :-)

  8. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Janice, thank you! Feeling like I could be knocked down by a feather, so might need to wait to party!

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Bo, you paint a wonderful picture of your part of the world. I’m not surprised a lot of people enjoy exploring it.

    By “too clubby” I mean it seems like a club that you’re not a member of - like everyone else who’s commenting knows everyone else, or there are a lot of ‘in’ references that don’t make sense if you’re an ‘outsider’, or even that it’s welcoming but will be like a club… which isn’t always ideal if you’re kind of introverted and anti-social like me!

  10. Lillie Ammann says:

    Congratulations on being a Top Ten writing blog! We’ve always known that—it’s just great to have it confirmed.

    I’m often a silent reader for the reasons you listed. I read so many blogs that I couldn’t possibly comment on them all, and most of the time, I don’t have anything to say anyway.

  11. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe

    Thanks for writing about silent readers. I am, quite often I have to admit, a silent reader, too. Sometimes I read a blog post, and I simply like it. It is so convincing that I could only say “Absolutely right!” Should I write a comment just saying this? I am not sure, if this is, what is called a valuable comment. So I stay silent.
    And I very much object to you calling yourself “kind of introverted and anti-social”! When I first met you via the Web I felt very much welcomed by you. We all have different ways to express our feelings!

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Friendly Waters

  12. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Lillie, thanks :-) I know what you mean about not having anything more to say. I often feel like that too…

    …leading into Ulla’s point about valuable comment:

    Ulla, I tend to think there’s not much value to be added in that kind of comment, unless it’s a new blog without too many comments. In that case you can bet that the blogger will still be very pleased to get your feedback, which makes it extremely valuable! I guess it all depends on context.

    Thanks for correcting me about being anti-social. I’m not - I’m shy, but I try to be as friendly as possible on the web. It seems to be easier for me to make connections here than in ‘real’ life - I think many introverts find this.

    I’m glad you felt welcomed anyway :-)

  13. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, What a wonderful idea to tip your hat to silent readers. Why, I think I’ll steal it! A few of my readers who never comment have told me how much they enjoy reading my blog. It really makes me feel good, as though I am actually accomplishing something. They deserve a thank you as much as commenting readers. (And yes, one of Robert’s fans lives a couple doors down from me. When he told me that I was grinning from ear to ear.)

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Blog Design Features You Can Love

  14. Jeanne Dininni says:


    Thanks for a great reminder that all our readers are important!

    On my blog’s first birthday, I gave out several awards — including Blogging Gem and Star Blogger awards to various bloggers whose work I respected and Comment Star awards to commenters who offered feedback regularly.

    But, I decided not to stop there. In addition to the above individuals, who I mentioned by name, I also posted a communal Writer’s Notes Friend award for everyone who visited my blog on a regular basis (though I did list a few honorable mentions, who tried to comment whenever they could).

    I think it’s so important to let everyone who reads our blogs know that we appreciate them — even if they decide not to comment! You’ve done a wonderful job conveying that appreciation in this post!


  15. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Brad, I’m glad you like the idea and please feel free to steal it :-)

    It is a good feeling isn’t it, to know that people are reading and taking something - ideas, learning, reflection, inspiration - from what you’ve written. It’s very motivating and satisfying to know they’re there.

    That’s funny about your neighbour - I hope you converted him to Word Sell too!

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Jeanne, thanks for reminding me of that - it was very generous of you to create awards for *all* your readers. But you really are one of the most generous bloggers, readers and commenters that I know.

  17. Wendi Kelly says:


    This is something that my husband and I have had two very lengthy conversations about in the last few weeks. As I have written my last two posts about hearing from people from all over the world, his comment to me was that sometimes it seems that “we bloggers” are only talking to ourselves and each other and not to the Non-blogging population out there. So they don’t always feel included or compelled to comment. I am very aware of all of the readers who are silently reading, those passing by and those who are reading who don’t blog at all and this has been very much on my mind lately. Who exactly is the audience we are trying to attract?

    Especially for blogs trying to sell a product? Who is the target market? A lot of blogs are directed at other bloggers, but not all of them.For a lot of us, our silent readers may actually me a more important source then we are giving them credit for.

    Wendi Kellys last blog post..Remembering Pen Pals…

  18. Jeanne Dininni says:

    It’s very kind of you to say that, Joanna! Yet, I considered those awards to be a great way of letting my readers (and commenters) know how important they were to me.

  19. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Wendi, I think it’s a big question and the answer probably depends on what you’re trying to do with your blog - I mean what all of us are trying to do, because it’s different for each and every one of us.

    I do sometimes feel I’m falling into the blog-talk trap - which is tempting because that’s where the richest and most rewarding conversations lie. But when I think about my bigger intention - which is to inspire and encourage people to believe that their words count and they *can* write… then each and every reader matters, regardless of how they respond.

    I guess maybe it’s similar for you - that your words will touch, move and inspire, even if you never get the direct feedback to tell you so

  20. Ami (Write Out Loud) says:

    My tendency is to only comment if I think I have something important or witty to say. Unfortunately, I don’t often think I do. :)

    As for my own blog, I used to depend on comments to motivate me to write. Now it’s more important to me to get my words out there. I know people are reading them, even if they’re not commenting, and that’s what matters to me. Sure, comments are great, but they don’t make or break my desire to blog and reach out to people.

    Ami (Write Out Loud)s last blog post..How to Use Questions to Develop Your Ideas – Part 1: The Who

  21. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hi Ami

    Thanks for sharing that perspective. That’s interesting that you don’t depend in the same way on comments - sounds like you’re focused in a very positive way on your writing intention.

    Me, I’m a comment junkie I’m afraid!

  22. Ami (Write Out Loud) says:

    Don’t get me wrong, Joanna. I love me some comments! The more the better. I just don’t let the number of them influence what or how often I write anymore. (It took me several years to get here, though.)

    Ami (Write Out Loud)s last blog post..How to Use Questions to Develop Your Ideas – Part 1: The Who

  23. Debbie Yost says:

    I know exactly what you mean. I have too many blogs in my reader to be able to comment all the time. It’s hard, though, because I want to be able to support them also. I agree that sometimes, I really just don’t have much to add and “good post” seems a little lame.

    I enjoy getting comments but I do appreciate my small readership even if they don’t comment. I find that my Tuesday posts don’t usually get a lot of comments. That used to bother me, but I’ve noticed I still get the hits, and people don’t seem to have much to add. Since it’s on Down syndrome awareness either my readers have “been there, done that” or they really don’t have the experience to comment. They read for information and that’s the purpose of it anyway. Whether they take the time to say thank you or not doesn’t really matter to me. I think of those posts as more like a magazine article where you read it and move on.

    Debbie Yosts last blog post..Good News - Bad News

  24. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hi Debbie, there is definitely something to be said for just ‘being there’ as a reader. I guess you’d probably comment if something moved you strongly or you wanted to provide some more specific feedback or support. I know I read your own blog without always making the time to comment or maybe feeling I can add something, but I do try to whenever I feel you’ve written something particularly powerful or if you sound like you’re having a particularly hard day! Your last point is important, coming back to the issue of intention: we write some things to teach, or motivate, or explain or inspire and they don’t ‘need’ comments because they weren’t written with that end in mind. They’re providing a different kind of value, and knowing that at least one person has read and learned from it is enough

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