This is the 27th post in our “How I Blog” series. To read the rest, visit the archives. Interested in participating? Drop us a note about ‘How I Blog’ along with a photo or yourself or your blogging space at tips [at] blogmedia [dot] biz.
John Evans, CEO – Syntagma Media, Blogger
How I blog is determined by why I blog and how the “why” came about. So a little background first:
I’m a full-time professional writer and author, so everything was already in place for my career in blogging (minus quite a few technical skills).
I graduated from MSN forums about a year and a half ago to the free blogging services, where I built up a small stable of blogs, including Syntagma. I was quite happy with that because, although I’d toyed with Adsense, it was more of a hobby than part of my professional life.
Then the bombshell exploded: Jason Calacanis sold Weblogs Inc to AOL for $25 million or so. In retrospect we can now see that this was a climacteric in the blogosphere.
Suddenly, income from blogging was only a part of it — WIN’s $1 million a year from Adsense took a large team a lot of work to get there. Now the permalinks emerged as a new kind of real estate with impressive asset values, a kind of pixelated acreage. Moreover, a market was forming around them with brokers emerging to mediate the business deals.
Many bloggers were driven by this event and the now ubiquitous blog network scene emerged. The Netosphere, as I call it, had arrived with more than a vengeance, more like a hurricane.
I moved my Windows Vista blog into Duncan Riley’s Weblog Empire, as he had far more experience than I did. Swiftly, The Empire Moved On and I found myself in the uncharted waters of b5media.
But this wasn’t what I wanted. The asset value of the permalinks was what really interested me, so my personal blog, Syntagma, became Syntagma Media.
I had been reading that great business book, Bootstrapping Your Business by Greg Gianforte, so decided to invest time, but not a lot of money, into what was for me a very new area.
The plan was to raise 12 blogs, which I would write, into cash cows which would finance the expansion of the business. From my own experience as a writer I knew that bloggers are not going to hang around for long if, as is usually the case, a blog doesn’t make much money in its first six months. A network needs to offer bonuses in the early days, or booster payments, as we call them.
We also give bloggers a 10pc stake in the permalinks if the network is sold and they’ve single-authored the site for more than three months. All of this builds blogger loyalty, yet still allows you to bootstrap the business. The cash cows are the key.
Syntagma Media now has nearly 30 blogs, of which I still write 10, and eight bloggers — more on the way. We have two Editors, a Blog Doctor (Adelle Tilton), and a few helpers who do this and that. Soon we’ll appoint a Senior Editor.
So, how do I blog? You thought I’d never get round to it, didn’t you?
The point I’m making is that a blog network is far more than just blogging, there’s all the tech stuff and there’s the admin. Blogging is the smallest slice of the work pie.
My philosophy as a writer is Thoreau’s “Simplify, simplify, simplify”, and it doesn’t come any simpler than that. As blogs and bloggers come and go, we’ve developed a very simple WordPress theme using the ancient Kubrick code. We can put one up in an hour, slap a lick of paint on it, and it’s ready to go. If it doesn’t work, little is lost. Chuck it. Deux Chevaux blogging in action.
Similarly, I don’t go in for endless scripts and party-piece plugins. Bare minimum is our signature style. Don’t expect bells and whistles at a Syntagma blog. Just a touch of bunting at the top. Mind you, we have been complimented many times for some of our mastheads, which are distinctive, if nothing else.
When I do get around to blogging, I use a tiny piece of software called EditPad, a plain text processor. I often hand code illustrations after uploading them from an FTP client. WordPress 2.X’s atrocious image bugware makes this a necessity, though the Filosofo plugin helps.
Continuing the theme of simplicity, I have one 3-y-o PC running XP, and a rather long-in-the-tooth laptop. Like many folk, I’ve been holding on for Windows Vista before buying new hardware. At Syntagma, we call Vista “Windows Horizon”, because how ever fast you drive towards it, it never gets any closer.
My place of work is known as The Blogorium, which contains the hardware, the office and a 3-foot trampoline. The latter is to avoid DVT, which air travellers are susceptible to. It’s very effective for getting the circulation moving when you’ve blogged for an hour or so.
And you don’t have to move much in a sideways direction, just up and down. How 21st century is that?
John Evans lives in the United Kingdom where he is the CEO of Syntagma Media.