March 25, 2008

Blogging is About Writing – and Not

Blogging is about writing. That is a fact. You can video blog, podcast, and do all kinds of fun things with your blog, but it is the writing that makes or breaks a blog. What you say in the blog posts, descriptions of visual and audio elements, and what words you offer search engines for their indexing to help people find your blog.

However, blogging is not just about the writing, albeit it is a large part. Blogging today is about so much more. Are you ready? Do you know all the things you have to know about blogging before you start blogging? Or after?

Whether you are a new blogger or long time blogger, these are the things you are going to have to learn about in order to blog in today’s world.
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Should You Allow Major Media to Publish Your Blog Posts?

Filed as News with 16 comments

I need your help.

Several times over the past few months I’ve been approached by major media companies looking to utilize my blogging skills. Sounds great, right? Not really. Because in all cases, they expected me to do it for free.

We’re not talking about excerpts from my blog. We are talking about original articles (within my blogging genre) that appear exclusively on their Website.

Sure, they’re willing to give me a byline and a link, but at the end of the day, who really wins? How many people truly care who wrote what. These days, most readers hardly know what blog they are on, let alone who wrote an article. And even if people click on my link, we all know that only a small fraction of page viewers will click-through.

Additionally, I might be hurting my blog’s content by “giving away” good concepts and content.

So let’s recap:

The media company gets good content for free.

I get my name “out there” and a few click-throughs.

Is it worth it? This appears to be a growing trend: major media relying on free content from bloggers. There are even free Websites like Blog Burst that will set it up.

I’m not stupid. I know that even if I decline these offers, the next guy will jump on them.

As bloggers, are we wise to take these opportunities? And if we do, could we potentially be selling ourselves short?

I don’t have the answer. Do you?

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March 24, 2008

What is the Status of the Blogosphere?

Filed as Features with 4 comments

I usually stick to the blogs I’m subscribed to in my feedreader and don’t actively look for new and interesting blogs. This has mainly got to do with the fact that I am currently subscribed to more blogs than I can actually keep up with. However, over the past few months I saw more blogs than ever as a jury member of the Dutch Blog Awards 2008.

The longlist consisted of hundreds and hundreds of blogs I had never ever read or even heard about. Going through the list and deciding which blogs should make it to the short list was a really interesting process.

If you have to evaluate hundreds of blog how long do you take to judge one blog? If you are not familiar with a blog you should dig into it, read some new posts, read some old posts and evaluate the overall structure. However, it is impossible to spend, let’s say, thirty minutes per blog, so how do you quickly evaluate a blog and give it a fair chance.

This was one of the hardest things while evaluation blogs. However, I think general points apply when you come across a new blog: do you like the tone of voice, the style, the design and the topic? What criteria do you use to judge a blog? And most importantly, do these criteria change per category? What happens if different jury members use different criteria? The whole judging process was as interesting as choosing the winners itself.

Two days before the final award show I received a phonecall from a major Dutch public broadcasting station. They asked me some questions regarding blogging and the blog awards but after answering unclear random questions for almost twenty minutes it finally became clear to me what they were aiming for. So I asked him: You are asking me what the status of the Dutch blogosphere is?

That is one intriguing question, what is the status of the blogosphere? Do you determine it by quality or by quantity or a mixture of both? The overall quality of newspapers is often determined by the amount of papers available and the diversity. The trick is, even the biggest countries have less than a few thousand newspapers. So how can you use criteria such as quality, quantity and diversity in the blogosphere?

The question has stuck with me ever since.

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Easiest Website Builder Ever?

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Joomla, Drupal and WordPress, oh my!

These words might mean something to you, but they mean absolutely nothing to the tech-deaf layperson. Make room for WebNode, a quick and dirty way to build a Website or blog, relatively painlessly.

For folks who can’t be bothered with downloads and uploads, WebNode allows you to build a feature-rich Website using drag-and-drop functionality. After a free registration, users choose from several dozen customizable templates, and round out their online destination with series of gadgets and widgets.

I realize that most readers of this blog are far too sophisto for this type of site builder. However, if you’re like me, and often looking to get people off your back who want you to build them a blog, here’s your out. Using WebNode, even a third grader can accept Paypal payments and create an RSS feed.

Webmail, domain forwarding and basic statistics are among the add ons.

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How to Talk to a Blogger

Romance Writers of America and bloggers meet to talk about web publishing - photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossenI’ve arrived in the southern part of the Mid-Western United States for WordCamp Dallas and have already started meeting fans and friends. While I love to talk blogging anywhere and any how, I’m finding it interesting how some people are having trouble talking to a blogger. This goes beyond “what is blogging?” This is when you are a blogger confronted with another blogger and you want to ask questions, but you don’t know what to say.

I’ve had people rush up, all excited to talk to me, then stumble with their words, unable to get out anything intelligent. I know they are brilliant people, but talking blogging requires some planning, especially when meeting someone you’ve come to know so well online. In person, the dynamics change. One person asked me to tell them how I got started. Hm, let’s see, how do I sum up 14 years of blog struggles in 10 seconds or less? Another person said, “Well, so what do you blog about?” Since I knew that they knew what I blogged about, we both know it’s an awkward question and that they are just trying to say something until something better comes along.

Another popular question is “Where do you find things to write about?” How do you come up with blog stories and articles? While the answer can be interesting, from one blogger to another, we know where blog stories come from: anywhere and everywhere.

While these are good questions to ask, they are not the questions bloggers should be asking other bloggers. Let’s put the nerves aside and look at some tips on how to talk to a fellow blogger about blogging.
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Why Not to Switch to Partial Feeds

When people first discover that their content is being scraped, they often overreact. When they do, their first action is usually to alter their feed to change it from “full” to “partial”, thus turning off the flow of content to the spammers.

However, in doing so they also turn off access to their site’s content to their legitimate subscribers and, generally, wind up doing more harm than good to their site. Worse still, though they do limit the impact some scrapers have, they don’t stop the problem itself and fail to mitigate against a whole slew of others that are repurposing their content.

In short, truncated feeds are not just a great way to turn off readers to your site, but an largely ineffective way to solve the issue of content scraping and spam blogging.

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March 23, 2008

12 Reasons Why You Should Start a Blog

Filed as News with 11 comments

On the fence about starting a blog? If you’re thinking of jumping into the blogosphere, check out Mohan Mittal’s 12 reasons to start a blog:

#1 – You Do Not Need To Know HTML

One of the biggest hurdles many hopeful website creators face is they don\’t know to design a webpage. Blogs overcome this – all you do is type into a box, and the blog software automatically converts it into a webpage and publishes it on the World Wide Web for anyone to see.

#2 - You Are ‘Forced’ To Keep Your Content Fresh

Blogs are essentially online diaries. It doesn’t make sense to write in your diary every month or two. Similarly, running a blog itself ‘forces’ you to update it often. And refreshing your blog often makes it more useful to readers and consumers – and by extension, to search engines who are in the business of presenting *their* clients with valuable resources.

#3 – Your Blog Is AUTOMATICALLY Optimized For Search Engines

Search engines love fresh content. But that’s not the only way blogs are powerful tools to rank high. Indeed, most blogs are structured to offer a high degree of search engine optimization.

All sections of your blog are linked together. The terms used as link ‘anchors’ are keyword-optimized. Categories can be created to host themed content. Navigating through your blog is intuitive. Archives can be customized, and generate hundreds of pages of content that act as ‘search engine spider bait.’

#4 - You Get A Built-In Linking Structure

With very few exceptions, most blogs are structured to be a tightly integrated network of links – to other sections of your blog! It’s quite easy for a visitor to get ‘lost’ within your blog… without ever leaving it.

Calendars link to posts on specific dates. ‘Recent Post’ listings point to your freshest content. Archives connect all your earlier posts. Search boxes let browsers look for certain kinds of content. And it all happens automatically, without you spending hours on creating a link structure or sitemap!

#5 – You Generate Multiple Content-Rich Pages

Every post you make on your blog is content. And by intelligently setting up your archiving preferences, you can turn each post into many different forms of content, each on a page of its own. Blog regularly for a few months, and you could end up having a 100+ page website – all filled with relevant, keyword-optimized, themed content!

#6 - You Can Keyword-Optimize Your Blog Extensively

All parts of your blog’s template can be customized. And a very powerful way to do it is by inserting relevant keywords. It’s a do-it-once job that will give you ongoing benefits for as the life of your blog. You can include keywords in your blog title, description, blog post headings, trackback links, comment invitations, archive titles, and category names.

#7 - You Create An Online Community

If your blog is on a specific theme, you can build a loyal readership and develop an online community. You can even take it a notch higher by tying it in with a forum or membership site. Ask for comments, suggestions, ideas and feedback, or invite reader participation. Pretty soon, your blog will be growing organically – even if you don’t write a lot!

#8 - You Initiate Conversations With Readers

Of course; the first step is yours – to initiate a dialog with readers. You could do it with your blog post, asking a question or by inviting comments and interaction. Your blog will be read by an audience that’s already interested in your subject or theme. This conversation will be priceless to you, the blog owner.

#9 - Your ‘Inbound Link’ Process – Trackbacks

Blogging is about distributed conversations online. Links are an integral part of such an informal network. Trackbacks are a kind of blog technology that makes it possible – and simple! Your blog will benefit from the inbound links a trackback will bring, and you’ll also get extra traffic from other sources.

#10 – You Can Syndicate Your Content Easily

Getting readers for your content is good. Getting your content out where many more readers can see it is GREAT! Syndication (via RSS feeds) is built in to most blogging platforms, giving you a quick and easy way to get a wide readership for your blog posts.

#11 - You’re Creating Stuff Search Engines LOVE

Search engines exist to offer their audience a compilation of the best resources on a subject or keyword. Your blog is the answer to a search engine’s prayers! By sticking to a theme and presenting the content in an organized, structured, intuitively connected pattern, your blog will be appealing to search engines in a way only a very professionally planned and designed website can ever hope to be.

#12 - You Get ‘Alternate’ Traffic Sources

Remember what we saw about blogs being linked and networked together? Bloggers like to share opinions with others. And when they ‘talk’ about you, they are going to point to your site, or a post on your blog, to show their readers what they mean. They become ‘alternate’ traffic sources – for YOU!

Other tools like blog rolls, furls, favorite bloggers and more can drive sporadic – but sometimes big floods – of traffic your way. And best of all, it’s effortless and costs you nothing!

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Micropatrons, Welcome!

A few months back, Jim Kukral (whom I know to be an avid Blog Herald reader) wrote to us about a new ad/tipping system he has developed, ScratchBack, which basically allowed people to send small amounts of money to a publisher in exchange for a text link or image. I thought of it as a mix between text links and tagboards. But the more important question I had was whether micro-tipping systems like these were viable.

So here we are trying it out. As announced by our Marketing guru, David Peralty, on XFEP and as shared by Jim Kukral himself on the ScratchBack blog, we are implementing ScratchBack widgets on several Splashpress Media blogs. We’re initially starting out with a few sites, such as Blogging Pro, Forever Geek, 901am, Blog Search Engine and Gadzooki–actually those sites where it’s easy enough to add the 200px-wide widgets. The Blog Herald is included. You might notice the widget on the middle sidebar of the site, labeled Patrons, right below the News column.

So if you’d like to tip us, please feel free to do so. For $5 you get a Google-friendly (as they say) link from us, and you get that warm fuzzy feeling that you’ve helped us Splashpress Media folks spread the good news about new media.

It’s a bit like advertising with us, but at less expense. Do consider, of course, that direct advertising has its benefits. For one, our current ScratchBack setup is an auto-scroll one. This means that older links are pushed down as new ones come. So you’re not assured of how long your link stays there. Also, we’ve set it up such that there are only five slots, so link space is limited.

This brings me to the question whether to go for fixed duration vs. auto-scroll. And there’s also the issue of whether to stick to five spots or increase to accommodate more tippers. Then there’s also the question of whether $5 is a good price point to start with, or to vary it depending on the popularity of each site. And then there’s the placement of the widget itself. Too high up on the site and it can be too obtrusive. Too low and it would be practically invisible.

The big consideration is to find a balance such that the tipping system doesn’t dilute the value of the direct advertisements (so we don’t piss off our advertisers) but still be valuabe enough for micropatrons to send in tips. Any ideas or suggestions would be welcome.

So again, micropatrons are welcome!

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March 22, 2008

Small Niche Bloggers Gaining Corporate Attention (And Getting Free Stuff)

Despite the fact that blogs are gaining “respect” within government as well as the media (at least in sports), it looks as if some of the smaller players are attracting the attention of corporations trying to find a way to generate buzz about their product.

While some companies try to bribe blogs to post about their products, it looks as if the smart ones are courting weblogs on the “C-List,” who may be easier to get a review than their A-List friends.
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More Pets Take to the Blogosphere

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My parents love their cats. A LOT. But the day I show up for dinner and they tell me that Jack, Callie or Penny are blogging, is the day I get them some serious professional help.

Just cause animals can’t talk (at least none I have met) doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to say on the Web, at least according to a growing number of pet owners.

With 120,000 blogs created each day, is should come as no surprise that the medium is already going to the animals. Dogbook and Catbook, extensions of Facebook have also been well received, attracting thousands of two-legged – and four-legged – visitors.

Where’s my chew toy? I have to make poopy. Darn earmites! Riveting stuff.

Maybe I’m just jealous that some mange pooch has more subscribers than me! Perhaps I’ll just roll over.

What do mental health professionals think about the trend? Visit CNN for more.

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