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I am not cool enough to leave this post without any commentary. This is a question that has plagued me for some time, and I am afraid I only can come up with sophomoric answers.

  1. It would be a signal of a poor blog, or an inability to come up with something interesting beyond posing the question at that particular time. How would I guess this? Because I am prone to it – is that an indictment of my brain? Perhaps. I’d rather argue that the benefits of complete posts sometimes do not outweigh the costs.
  2. This is demand driven. When reading blogs and other online content like Twitter or Facebook, the consumers have the 21st century internet version of ADD, and the use of cliffhangers and teasers may actually drive “customers” away.
  3. This is supply driven. Competition across the blogosphere has led us to this equilibrium. If you leave a cliffhanger out there, it allows other bloggers and content providers to draw people in to read their preferred explanation – perhaps driving traffic away from the originator of the idea. This is simply the same idea that competition drive┬áprices down to marginal cost. In a world where the money price is zero, competition would require quality to be driven up (so I have in mind some version of “effective marginal cost” if such a term were to exist). I am not typically a believer in zero-sum activity, but I heavily ration in my “connected” time, so I am sympathetic to this one. There are probably other competitive forces that I am overlooking.
  4. There is a market failure requiring some sort of tax on bloggers that answer cliffhangers or subsidy for those that use this strategy. What the origins of this failure are baffle me, but I can imagine someone making this case.
  5. Bloggers do not want to insult or alienate their readers. When I come across certain cliffhangers, particularly when I read complicated quantum physics questions, I am left with the feeling of complete and utter inferiority and lack of intelligence. The author of the question or cliffhanger obviously knows the answer, and since I cannot figure it out, it frustrates me and lowers my morale. If bloggers care about keeping their customers, then this is a bad idea. It is generally bad for business to harm the people you are hoping will patronize you. If bloggers follow up immediately with explanations and answers, many readers, I suspect, can feel good about themselves because they might say, “if I had time to think about it, I would have answered the same way,” or, “ahh, that’s exactly what I was thinking,” whether or not this is true.

If my life depended on it, I would probably argue for 2 and 5. In any case, I do not think that bloggers think about this explicitly, much like each of us does not explicitly think of the costs and benefits of every single decision we make. However, our behavior evolves to reflect this sort of thinking.

Any other ideas? And why are talk radio shows and things like SportsCenter able to engage in these strategies?

3 Responses to “Why Don’t Bloggers Generally Use Cliffhangers and Teasers to Make You Come Back to their Site?”

  1. Brian Dunbar says:

    Any other ideas? And why are talk radio shows and things like SportsCenter able to engage in these strategies?

    1. It takes an able writer to craft a cliff-hanger. Most bloggers – myself very much so – are not very good writers.

    2. You gotta have a compelling story-line for a cliff-hanger. A continued narrative. Something to thread the posts together.

    3. Radio talk shows _will_ be back after that commercial break. And it’s only a few minutes away. A blogger might post today, tomorrow .. when they feel like it.

    Perhaps the narrative and the writer matter most. For a year or so an anonymous writer wrote a blog called ‘Down at the Plant’. Ostensibly just a blog about by guy working in a factory it was really a fictional (probably) story of a guy who lived hard, loved hard, lost and gained his love back. Then blew out of town with the girl.

    And that was some good blog reading. With cliff hangers.

  2. Michael says:

    If you’re writing a blog about economics, you’re probably lucky to have anyone actually read the thing.

  3. Leonard says:

    Why do people blog? To show other people how clever they are. If you pose a question but do not answer it, then you are not demonstrating how clever you are. And in fact, if you have comments, you are asking to have one of your more clever commenters steal your thunder. Who needs that? Blogging is about me me me; you can ride but you cannot drive.

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