I was just reading Digg and came across a (NSFW?) post criticizing some popular sites for jumping the shark. If you are not familiar with the phrase, it means something is past its best.
While you might still be building your blog up to a level where this might be a concern, it is a worthy lesson to keep in mind. Blogs that take their eye off the ball do jump the shark and the threat is there for all of us.
What causes this to happen? It seems nine times out of ten to be either “selling out” or “going off course”, not just in the linked examples but in all the cases I can think of.
Think about it, we struggle along, try different things, then hit on a winning formula. What do we do then? We can either carry on experimenting (go off course), cash in (sell out) or stick with the tried and tested (go stale) – it seems like we can’t win!
All we can do is stick to the basic principle; understand your reader. In most cases the bad effects can be avoided by being aware of what works for your audience.
Selling out is putting your advertisers, sponsors or profit above your reader. Going off course is the flip side of making improvements; make changes but test, see what gets a positive reaction, be guided by who you are serving.