Monday, November 05, 2007

Blog Advice From WaPo

National Blog Posting Month Day 5

The Sunday Washington Post in its usually useless Sunday Source section has a very good article called Be More Than a Blip in the Blogosphere by Dan Zak aimed at the amateur blogger like me. Most articles about blogging are aimed at people trying to make a living of off AdSense revenue rather than people doing it as a hobby.

Be sure to read the whole article, but here are my reactions to each item.

1. TELL STORIES RATHER THAN STICKING SOLELY TO LINKS OR PHOTOS

The whole point of blogging is writing. Some people do the link dump well, but I learned a long time ago that nobody clicks. I put in links more for my reference and sense of obligation. If a few people click through I feel useful, but I hope most readers come to read me. That is the egotistical essence of blogging.

2. CREATE A VOICE FOR YOURSELF.

This tip says either stick to a topic or a style. My interests are rather eclectic, but not completely random. I do seem to have a few kindred souls out there, which says more for the vastness of the blogosphere than the universality of my interests.

3. MAKE EVERYTHING EASY TO READ AND ACCESS.
Keep It Simple, Stupid. I’ve gotten bored with all the sidebar gimmicks that have nothing to do with people navigating my site. I keep the most recent posts way down the sidebar, because most people don’t need them. The Best Of links and Labels don’t seem to get used enough, but they are they if you want them.

4. SIFT THROUGH BLOGROLLS AND CREATE YOUR OWN.
People on my blogroll are my most frequent commenters and that is a great part of the community part of blogging. Please check them out.

5. WIDGET YOUR PAGE.
He doesn't mean weather pisies and the like. Put in things that make your site easy to bookmark or subscribe to. I’ve got all the RSS feeds and aggregator links I think I need. If anybody uses something that I could use to make it easier to subscribe, let me know.

6. COMMENT EARLY AND OFTEN.
Here is where I need more hours in the day. I hit everybody on my blogroll at least three to four times a week, but I don’t always comment. Then again I don’t expect every reader to comment on every post. This is Golden Rule stuff. I should try to read a wider group of blogs every now and then, but it’s tough to find time. This daily blogging is definitely cutting into the random recreational surfing.

7. PRAY FOR A LINK FROM THE BIG BOYS.

I got hit by Gawker for the Studio 60 Drinking Game and it did wonders for my stats, but now that that's off the air, it's not driving a lot of traffic. Every now and then I hit a hot topic. I just hope that people that hit me for a specific post come back later and read more. I’m still waiting for a break through link for the Dowd Report. I have to think it will come sooner or later.

8. NOMINATE YOURSELF FOR AWARDS.
Blogger awards are so hokey and most seem to do more for the blogs of the people inventing the awards than the “nominees. I’m sure I could sock puppet and Astroturf my way onto some nominations, but I just can’t put myself through that level of effort.

9. POST WITH VERVE AND CONSISTENCY.
Zak says to post at least daily. In my circle of bloggers that is a little ambitious. I’m less than a week into NaBloPMo and it’s getting stressful. Three to four times a week is the pace that has traditionally worked for me. It's a hobby, not a job.

10. JOIN THE CROWD.
I’m on Blogtimore, Hon which is a great aggregator. Part of the advantage of blogging is not needing to have ftf contact. That said, I would like to be more social and go to things like the recently passed Baltimore Bloggers meet-up, but I don’t have the time for fixed time events.

Again, this is a good article full of common sense advice. Those dead trees are still good for something.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Which tips make the most sense to you?

11 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Nominate yourself for awards? That's kinda wrong.

Alex said...

Creating a voice? Eh. Awards? Eh. If you're an amateur and not trying to make a fortune, many of these ideas don't matter. Big hits are often just a way to stroke your ego.

Post when you have something to post. For some creativity isn't a strong suit, for others there aren't enough hours in the day, and still for some not that much happens to us on a daily basis worth writing about.

Easy access is key. My pet peeve is people who don't provide full content via RSS.

I comment on most things that interesting to me, mostly after perusing through subscriptions in Google Reader. I rarely hit up the links on blog rolls, but usually click through on commenter's links. I've found many a good blogs thataway.

yellojkt said...

Besides being a traffic generating scam, the awards blogs don't ever have a category that fits me: Random Stuff.

I wish I had a better idea how many people read me through a rss feed.

Jamy said...

Use "feeburner" to get a handle on your RSS readers.

Linking to and commenting on other blogs seems to generate the most readers. I have always wanted readers--that's the point, isn't it? It's not to make money, it's to get my words out there. The feedback is great too.

I'm disinclined to nominate myself for awards but I think it's a fine idea.

I don't think a theme is necessary, but I've found it easier to write with a general theme. I don't feel compelled to stick with it, but it gives me some direction.

When I read other blogs, it's for content, narrative (plot), and style. The best blogs excel all three areas but I like others that are good stories even if not well-written.

dan zak said...

Glad you thought my story was (mostly) practical. It was, of course, aimed at people who WANT traffic (the "how to blog" story is as passe as blogging itself, so I wanted to approach it purely from a readership standpoint).

As for the Sunday Source being "usually useless," I'd love to hear why you think that, how you think we can do better, and what ideas you might have for us. Please e-mail me at zakd@washpost.com.

yellojkt said...

It turns out I do have a feedburner subscription. I just didn't realize it. According to it, I have five subscribers. As alex recommended, I put my RSS link in a more prominent place. We'll see what that does.

dan,
It's so rare to hear from an actual writer. Thanks for the comment. I don't know how many times I've linked to a Joel Achenbach article or blogpost and never gotten a word. I think I annoy him a little.

My issues with Sunday Source are probably an entire entry. Let's start with the abnormally high ratio of white space.

Needles said...

The complete Studio 60 is coming out on DVD for those that want to prolong the pain. It might be worth investing in if you want to try the drinking game for a series of Friday night gatherings. Who knows, it may yet be a cult hit.

dr

Jeff said...

It seems to me that in some cases, becoming a major league blogger has more to do with perception than content.

If the readers think you're a big deal then for some reason they will flock to your site and leave 100s of comments, even though your blog's content is mostly so-so (i.e. Dooce).

On the other hand, I've read some VERY creative writers who only get a couple of comments a day - only because they're not perceived as some kind of "celebrity."

I think one good way to build readership is to consistently leave comments on tons of other people's blogs more than anything, but who really has time for that?

yellojkt said...

I've mentioned that Empress Dooce has no clothes. The success of her blog baffles me. Network effect, first in a niche, and building community all are a factor. I've dropped blogs from my blogroll because the writer no longer bothered to ever visit mine once they became big time.

I prefer to view my blog as a friendly place to drop by. I just don't have time to regularly visit many more blogs than I already do.

Elizabeth said...

I'm not sure what a RSS feed is. Is it something that notifies me when you've updated?
But I like reading your blog because of your stories and because (unlike me) you post pretty consistently. I also like reading through the comments people leave.
:o) Elizabeth

2fs said...

I'm not particularly concerned with my numbers (good thing, since they're rather low...), but I can't see nominating myself for any particular awards (except, perhaps, "Most Verbose": is there one like that?). I did once experience a fairly significant jump when one of the major music blogs linked to something I wrote - and if I post a photo and mention it over at CC, that drives up my numbers too - but generally those things happen either organically (the CC thing) or accidentally. I'm not consistent enough - certainly not in topic or approach, probably not in frequency (although I've been posting more lately, and trying to have at least a few short, punch posts mixed in with my classic TL-DR stylee), and probably not in quality either.

I will say that having an RSS is important: there's only one blog I read regularly that lacks it, and at times I just forget to check it, since as I'm checking my RSS thingy it doesn't come up. Luckily, she's a good writer, so I tend to remember.

See? Too long.