The Criteria Series: Originality

2010 Canadian Weblog AwardsThe Canadian Weblog Awards have a clear set of ten criteria by which all nominees in juried categories will be appraised. Our ten-part Criteria Series, as part of our crusade for better Canadian blogging, highlights each of the these criterion. This, the fifth instalment, is about the first criterion with regard to weblog content: originality.

If you have spent much time reading weblogs within any particular genre, you have likely noticed that most of them tend to parrot the same information or rehash the same topics already covered by others within the group. If you are searching for particular content on a subject, any one weblog can seem as worthwhile to read as any other after you have spent enough time scrolling through Google searches.

The few weblogs that manage to stand out from the pack in the heavily populated world of weblogs do so because they display original ideas and original content. Does yours?

3 Factors That Contribute to
the Creation of Original Content

1. Ask yourself what differentiates your weblog from others of its kind and use that difference to your advantage.

The answer to that question will often be YOU. You are the greatest differentiating factor when it comes to your weblog. If you allow your unique perspective and experiences to enter into your blogging style, your content will have a much greater chance of rising above the rabble of people parroting the same subject matter.

Tell your readers why a topic matters. Including thoughtful commentary about the difference Skype has made in maintaining your family ties alongside your explanation of the application will make all the difference.

2. Don't let your weblog fall into the Me-Too Trap.

Many weblogs tend to fall into the trap of being little more than echo chambers for content already found elsewhere. The internet has enough bloggers and commenters jumping up to shout "Me, too!" without your help.

But I find inspiration from other weblogs! you say. My writing/art/podcasts are often fuelled by other bloggers!

Of course some of your work will be informed by other weblogs and other bloggers. Inspiration from other online content is a given, but it is not a threat to your originality as long as you strive to create something new from that inspiration rather than to simply mirror what you have read and seen. Interesting and engaging content does more than simply reiterate existing material from other weblogs; it adds to that material by offering further research and material and/or personal insights and experience.

If you want to write about your outrage over the fact that serial child killer Clifford Olson is collecting a federal pension while behind bars, but fifteen other bloggers have already written similar articles about their outrage, take some time to look at why you want to write that article, where your desire's roots lie, and maybe do a little extra research into the story's background. The article you write will gain a depth and perspective that the other fifteen parrots will be unable to compete with.

3. Write what you are passionate about.

If you are writing a weblog entry about Search Engine Optimization, but your readers get the feeling that you'd rather be fishing, then they will feel like they'd rather be fishing, too. You will find that when you lack passion about a topic, you will devolve to parroting information farmed from someone else.

It is difficult to be thought-provoking when even your own thoughts aren't being provoked by the subject matter. Write what you love, and your energy will come through.

CHEAT SHEET:
3 Factors That Contribute to the Creation of Original Content
  1. Ask yourself what differentiates your weblog from others of its kind and use that difference to your advantage.
  2. Don't let your weblog fall into the Me-Too Trap.
  3. Write what you are passionate about.

The weblogs that keep readers coming back again and again are ones that do not simply follow the herd but originate and interpret meaningful content from a unique perspective.

Taking the extra time to generate original content and offer a fresh perspective will not only bring readers back for more of what they can't find elsewhere, but it will also keep you engaged, and the more you enjoy creating your content, the better you'll be at it.

What are your thoughts on originality and blogging? How much does originality matter to you? Are there other ways to ensure that your content is original?

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Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health, Woman's Day, and Flow magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.