For the first few years of my hockey blog, I was anonymous. It was a conscious choice on my part, because of some of the silliness and vitriol I saw around the hockey blogosphere. I wanted a degree of distance from my writing online and my real life, and I was genuinely concerned that some idiot was going to take my words too much to heart and make my life more difficult because of it.
When I started my hockey podcast two years later, I decided to drop the anonymity. I felt like I couldn’t use my moniker when other people, namely my guests, were using their real names. And I felt silly saying my nom de plume instead of my real name. There’s something about saying it that makes it different. Finally, I felt I was ready to start trading on my name. I had written enough that I had a small reputation, and I could just be myself comfortably.
Going the anonymous route is a choice, and just like everything you do, your choices will have ramifications. But as it is your show and your site, you should have a good reason behind this choice, and understand what you are getting yourself into.
You may find it harder to connect with your audience if you put your fake name between you and them. I know of a show that uses nicknames almost exclusively (not 100% anonymous), and still claims to be by just regular people. But using only nicknames, they don’t seem like regular people, they are more like a club you are watching meet. They keep the audience “over there,” and I always thought it hurt the strength of their show.
You might also find it harder to switch back to yourself, to start using your own name when you decide it’s time. I experienced this a bit, when I wanted a bit more name recognition for myself, but was trying to wrestle the reputation of some anonymous blogger to myself. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
There are a few times you should never be anonymous, in my opinion.
You are trading on your resume:
You have sources? You have contacts? You should say who you are, so your status is recognizable. If you say you are some big shot, or have a background in a field, and that’s what your content is based on, you should be able to say who you are, so that is verifiable. If you can’t, like you are a whistleblower, or an insider who would suddenly find themselves on the outside, maybe you shouldn’t have your own show, and get someone else to post your work. Or find some other way to do it. Perhaps a podcast, where there is one less degree between your voice and the audience isn’t the medium you want to publish in.
You are taking money:
I see this happen and it makes me mad. If you are taking money from an audience, they should know who the check is going to. Perhaps in the investigative reporting world, that doesn’t work, but most podcasts aren’t of that nature. Simply put, if I don’t know who you are, or if you are just a name attached to a blacked out avatar, I don’t think you should get my money. I can’t (and won’t) write out a check to AxEl123.
There are variations on both of these, so my hard and fast rules may not apply to you or your situation. My goal, if anything, it to get you to think about why you are doing it. Why use a handle rather than your name? Do you have a reason?
I’m not convinced the benefits of being anonymous outweigh the disadvantages of using your real identity. Just think it over before you go one way or the other.