Starting a Blog Part 1: What to blog about

Filed as General on November 24, 2005 11:57 pm

by Duncan

Welcome to part one of my new series on starting a blog, both aimed a people new to blogging and perhaps as a handy refresher to those who are currently writing a blog but who want to start a new blog up. The posts won’t necessarily be daily, but they will be regular as we explore each stage of starting a blog.

Part 1: What to blog about
Often what should be the most simplest of things can often be the hardest as well, and choosing what to blog about can be really easy for some people, and really difficult for others. Take The Blog Herald as an example, I’d been reading blogs for 2 years before I launched The Blog Herald, and I knew from the first time I read a blog that I wanted to write one, but I couldn’t figure out on what, so eventually one day in 2002 it dawned on my that I liked blogs so much I’d write a blog about blogging…but we’ll leave the rest of that story for another day, but it does prove a point, sometimes knowing what to write about doesn’t come easily.

Personal vs Topical
There are essentially two sorts of blogs, one is a personal diary-style of blog that is written in the first person and relates to happenings in your immediate physical world and other thoughts and bits and pieces on things. For my why of thinking this is often the hardest style of blog to write, particularly if you are over the Age of 25. Teens seemingly have little of no inhibitions in relation to this style of writing, but for me it was something I wasn’t comfortable in doing. People who are naturally extroverts will be more comfortable than people who are more introverted.

A topical blog on another hand is a blog that may include opinions, but is focused on a particular subject (or topic). Political blogs where amongst the earliest of this style of blog, but the range of topics now covered go beyond anything I’d care to try and articulate in this post. There is literally a blog for every topic now, but some topics are better catered to than others.

Finding a niche
Marketing yourself under a personal blog to the blogosphere is a lot more difficult than writing a niche topic blog, because unless you are particularly well known, or have exceptional writing skills (and even this isn’t a guarantee), its going to be a lot more harder to gain attention in the blogosphere as opposed to a topical blog.

Before I go on though, I should mention there is a variation to the personal blog rule, and that’s writing under a pseudonym, or with a catchy blog name for your personal blog. Marketing is the key, and names like Dooce are more interesting as compared to say Heather Armstrong (no offence of course Heather), catchier, shorter, easy to remember….easier to market.

For the first time blogger though, unless you are extremely confident, I’d recommend starting with a topical blog. Even if it eventually ends up on the blog graveyard later on, its much better to develop your blogging skills on a topic as opposed to writing about yourself as an individual. Naturally the topic would reflect one of your interests as well, perhaps its a hobby, or a sport you play or watch…something along those lines. General rule of thumb: the more niche the better.

Google it
Google your topic area once you’ve settled on something and see what others are writing about it. Use the keyword(s) and search with “blog” on the end as well, and browse. Take hours if necessary. You’ll figure out pretty quickly whether
1. The topic has a high number of blogs or low number
2. Whether, in your opinion, there is room for your blog, in particular if you have a different point of view from others

These don’t have to prevent your starting a blog in that area, but its important to know your market, and you can also gain inspiration from other blogs.

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  1. By Loren posted on November 25, 2005 at 7:06 am
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    Duncan, great introductory piece and I’m looking forward to the continuing installments of your series. Here’s a quote from an entry I placed on the Search Engine Journal, referencing your post:

    One addition to Duncan’s piece would be not limiting your competitive and market research to Google search. Instead, look into similar topical listings and trend measurements on other blog search tools such as Technorati, BlogPulse, Blog Search Engine and IceRocket while also checking out what other blogs may fit into your niche category by flipping through some blog directories like Blog Catalog (albeit chock’d full of ads) and Blog Wise.

  2. By Jorn Barger posted on November 25, 2005 at 8:05 am
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    Another possibility is the original one: log all the interesting articles/pages/sites you find in the course of your surfing, with your personal reaction.

    This becomes a personal archive to augment your bookmarks file, and a multidimensional reflection of your individuality.

  3. By Catherine Collingwood posted on November 25, 2005 at 10:08 am
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    This was the approach I took setting up CathColl.net, and it has worked well for over two years. One caution, though, is that this approach probably isn’t the best idea for those after huge readerships. For those, you need to have a niche and fresh material.

  4. By Mr. Real Estate posted on November 25, 2005 at 10:38 am
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    Speaking of starting a blog, the first review for Jeremy Wright’s new book, Blog Marketing, is out now at Blogcritics (http://blogcritics.org).

    Here’s a link to it: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/11/24/232502.php

    Enjoy.

    Cheers,

    John Mudd
    http://insiderealestatejournal.blogspot.com

  5. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on November 25, 2005 at 10:43 am
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    Also Google Alerts and Technorati Watchlists give lots of material, as does Memeorandum in areas of tech and U.S. politics … as I point out in a follow-up piece on this subject.

  6. By Ainslie posted on November 26, 2005 at 8:11 am
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    I think the one of the most important factors is that you have to enjoy what you are going to write about.

    It doesn’t matter if it has been done before, but it does matter if there is no enthusiasm for your topic in your writing especially in your first blog.

  7. By Lisa Boucher posted on December 2, 2005 at 3:59 pm
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    What’s a blog? Sounds like something you’d need to scrape off your shoe.

  8. By Jumper Bailey posted on January 9, 2006 at 8:39 pm
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    This is an excellent start, and as a new blogger, I look forward to learning more from this series.

    I am also in the process of developing a helpful series of my own. Though not an experienced blogger, I believe that my “newbie” perspective can be of great help to new bloggers.

    Here are some of the issues I am currently working on, and I look forward to any help that any of the more experienced bloggers out there may be willing to lend to a “newbie” such as myself:

    LEARNING TO PONTIFICATE

    - Proper wording for papal bulls and fatwas
    - Where to get a good used miter
    - Linguistic shortcuts to use if you don’t speak Latin
    - Strategic use of excommunication to enhance your credibility

    USING VIDEO TO ENHANCE YOUR BLOG: LEARNING FROM THE PROS

    - Mastering CSI-style camera whoosh
    - Using soundtracks to heighten dramatic tension
    - Placement of the corpse (why you should use a live model instead of a real corpse)

    THE UNTAPPED AUDIENCE

    - Reaching the non-computer audience
    - Reaching across the language barrier (Hint: Babelfish!)
    - Correcting misunderstandings caused by Babelfish
    - Repurposing your posts as graffiti
    - Avoiding graffiti-related prosecution

    THE AUDIENCE AND YOU

    - The importance of ironic detachment: You want them. You need them. But you must act like you don’t care.