On Originality, Competition and Profitability

A notion that has come up in discussion on this blog and elsewhere around the Internet is that if you want your blog to be successful, then you need to treat it like a business. It’s not a hobby that you do for fun. It’s not some side gig to help generate some extra play money. If the goal is to replace your regular full-time income with the revenue you generate from your blog, then you need to think about your blog the same way you would think about a more traditional business.

Who is your target customer or demographic? What are the market conditions like in your niche or industry? What is your unique selling proposition that separates you from the competition? What expenses are necessary? What is your profit potential?

Following this line of thought and looking at the incredible vastness of the blogosphere, you also have to ask yourself a very important question. Is your objective to be completely original and unique or do you simply want to take an existing formula and improve on it? The answer may not be so clear.

Wii Would Like to Play

During an interview back in 2011, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto said:

“I think when you talk about competing against others, the problem is that you refer to something that’s been done already and try to beat it. Rather than looking at what other companies are doing, the focus at Nintendo is on uniqueness.”

This focus on uniqueness has been both Nintendo’s greatest strength and its greatest pitfall. Remember the Virtual Boy?


This “portable” game console was certainly unique with its red-hued stereoscopic display, but it was also quite the catastrophe for Nintendo. Maybe it was just ahead of its time. Take a look at the rising popularity of virtual reality today.

You have to remember that the dedication to uniqueness also delivered hugely successful platforms like the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii. Sometimes, being wholly original can be very profitable too.

But What if I Can Do It iBetter?

The thing is that with the way that technology and the Internet operate today, a steadfast dedication to uniqueness can be virtually impossible. Can you really come up with a completely original idea anymore for a blog?

Oh, you want to write about sports? It’s been done. You want a make money online blog? That’s been done too. Even if you get really specific about one topic or another, there’s a good chance that someone else has already tried a variation of it. Does this mean that you’re doomed? No. Not at all.

Just look at the iPhone.


When Steve Jobs revealed the original iPhone to the world several years ago, he didn’t reveal a device that was wholly original. Cellphones had been around for a while. Smartphones had been around for a while. Touchscreens weren’t anything new. And yet, the iPhone was revolutionary in its own way.

It is perhaps largely because of the iPhone that the flat slate form factor for smartphones, with no physical keyboards and minimal physical buttons, has become such the ubiquitous norm. Apple took an existing idea and made it better. They refined it and, perhaps more importantly, they marketed it a heck of a lot better. Smartphones were now for everyone and not just corporate folks in three-piece suits.

Curious as it may be, the competition between brands like Apple and Samsung may have coalesced the industry into a lack of originality. Everyone is copying everyone else… and a whole industry has been spawned around this, selling apps, cases, and accessories hand over fist.

The Competitive Advantage

So, what does all of this have to do with your blog? It has everything to do with your blog. By taking the bold gamble of focusing on originality, you’re taking a shot into uncharted territory. Maybe you’ll be the next Twitter or YouTube… or maybe you’ll create a Virtual Boy.

By copying models and strategies set forth by the competition, you’re also taking a chance. Maybe you won’t do it better and end up with a worthless clone that no one wants. Or maybe you’ll make the next iPhone and become the industry standard.

But you won’t know where you’ll be until you take that chance. So whether you focus on originality or you focus on the competition, keep your eyes on the prize and work toward offering your readers the best product possible in whatever way you can.

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