The Pixar Guide to Feel-Good Blogging

This is a guest post by David Masters.

Is your blog sending out subtle signals for your readers to unsubscribe?

Most top bloggers will tell you that to hold on to your readers, you must give them value. Value means the providing information they need to solve their common problems.

For example, a photography blogger might write a blog post on choosing a new camera, which is a common dilemma for photographers. A blog on writing might include an article on how to pitch editors so they say yes to your article proposal.

That’s value.

I agree, value is a vital element for any blog aiming for high readership. But with millions of blogs out there all vying for readers, value alone isn’t enough to make your blog sticky. To hold onto your subscribers, and pull more readers in, you’ve gotta do more.

To stand out from the crowd, you must make your readers feel good. You must give your readers a warm, fuzzy feeling every time they visit your blog.


Photo Credit: Mike Turner on Flickr

Pixar is one at the best in Hollywood at creating feel-good family movies. After watching movies such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo or WALL-E, you’re guaranteed to leave the theater with a smile on your face.

How do Pixar do that? Let’s start where they finish.

Spoiler Warning: Happy Endings

Buzz and Woody escape the toy murderer, Sid Phillips, and are reunited with their owner, Andy. Nemo escapes the dental surgery fish tank and is reunited with his distraught father. Thanks to WALL-E, humanity returns to earth after hundreds of years of intergalactic exile.

Happy endings are part of the reason Pixar’s movies are so good at making audiences smile, but they’re not the whole reason.

Why Happy Endings Aren’t Enough, or Why We Need Spoiler Warnings

If movies started at the ending, very few people would watch them. They’d be boring right? That’s why we need spoiler alerts. We don’t want to know the end of movies we’ve yet to watch. Knowing the end ruins the story.

Happy endings make us feel good because they’re cathartic. Throughout a film, tension builds. The lead characters get into more and more trouble. They’re in a horrible situation, and it seems like there’s no way out.

As you watch the movie, you coime to care about the characters. Seeing them in such as sticky mess, your nerves tighten, and fear ramps up inside you.

Then, suddenly, at the climax, everything turns out okay. The tension’s released, and that’s what makes you feel good.

Happy endings only make you feel good because of the tension is released. Without the tension, happy endings would be boring.

Here’s what that means for you as a blogger.

Value = Happy Endings

When you only provide your readers with value, you’re giving them a shortcut to the happy ending. They might appreciate you helping them, but you haven’t given them a powerful emotional experience. They’re unlikely to remember you, recommend you to others, or subscribe to your blog.

In other words, if you only offer value, you’re only giving spoilers, and ultimately, that’s going to drive readers away rather than pull them in.

The Fluffy Bunnies School of Blogging

Another mistake I see many bloggers making is assuming their readers don’t have any problems. So, they blog about how wonderful the world is.

I call this the fluffy bunnies school of blogging, because in the world of these bloggers, pink marshmallow rabbits frolic about in meadows of candy flowers as chocolate rivers flow pleasantly by. (Confession: My first ever blog, Be Playful was a lot like this).

This is another way of only providing happy endings, and while it might engage some readers, it will bore many others.

How to Make Your Readers Feel Good

Follow the Pixar model.

When you’re writing the blog post, before you provide a solution, ramp up the tension. Explore the problem from the reader’s point-of-view. Make sure they understand exactly how much difficulty or pain it causes them.

Often, we don’t understand how big our problems are, or even exactly what our problems are, until someone helps us find the words for them.

Keep tightening that tension. Show exactly how bad this problem is.

When your readers are finally saying “Enough already! Show me the light at the end of this tunnel,” then reveal the solution.

As well as helping your readers solve their problems, you’ll provide them with cathartic relief.

They’ll feel a whole lot better, and they’re sure to remember you. You’ll be the blog they choose to subscribe to and tell their friends about.

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  1. says

    Great post! What Pixar/Pixar movies do with great effect is that they (like you mentioned) make the audience genuinely care about their characters – Remy, Carl, Wall-E, Nemo, the Parrs etc. It is important that your blog’s audience truly care about what you’re talking about, and what you have to say. One way to do this is to be personal – use your real name, put up a picture and a bio for the author box and so on.
    Aaron H. just posted The Do’s and Don’ts of Being an Effective Blogger

  2. says

    What a great reminder. It’s a lot like writing a novel. The protagonist can’t be all sunshine and roses or, as much as we may like them, we’ll stop reading from sheer boredom. There has to be tension, crisis, emotional involvement. What excellent insight into why otherwise excellent blog posts might not be holding readers’ attention.
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  3. says

    So true, David.

    Being helpful, addressing problems, and inspiring people is an important part of creating a loyal blog following.

    Your statement about “coming to appreciate characters” is also spot on. As bloggers we need to build relationships with our readers by sharing at least some aspects of our lives. We don’t need to “go naked”, but sharing some personal stories, experiences, or just titbits about our life helps build relationships and create loyal followers.
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  4. says

    Interesting parallels here. I will say that I think the idea of “happy endings” works a little differently with movies and fiction than with the blogging world. A satisfying conclusion from a bit of blog content needs to reach a real conclusion and have something in it that a reader can take away and learn from. There needs to be substance and something that can be held onto. I think that is the key to this idea of a happy ending, that there is a conclusion, and something to be held onto that does not leave the reader/viewer wanting for something that is not delivered.

    • says

      Robert, it’s very true that different models of blogging serve different niches better.

      However, I see the Pixar model running through your blog/brand in a broader sense. Your blog is all about problems (accidents, injuries, etc.). The solution is the business you’re promoting – “Put a fighter in your corner” and “Call us now”. There’s a nice narrative arch there, actually.

  5. says

    There you go!

    Value isn’t everything and glad to see this article is standing out from the rest :)

    Learning from the successful company Pixar is a first step to being successful.

    And they do know how to do it!

    Those movies you mentioned I guess can make you happy!
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