Northern Voice: Questions about Problogging

I just came back from the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada, and on the first day I held a session about being a full time blogger. Amazingly, three dozen people showed up to listen, and had many questions about getting involved with a blog network, or making it to a full time income on their own.

With so many resources in the blogosphere, I thought that everyone knew everything they needed to know.

For learning about blogging, we have Problogger.net, for finding a blog related job, we have Freelance Writing Jobs, and for learning monetization, we have John Chow, so why were there so many questions?

It seems that misinformation is one of the biggest issues, as well as feeling like probloggers are holding back the best secrets for themselves. Bloggers also seemed confused over the different advertising programs, and the business model surrounding bloggers and blog networks.

I really enjoyed talking at the Northern Voice conference, and felt like my session was well received. I tried to answer every question I could, and I hope to recount some of what I said on the Blog Herald as I have time.

If you are a blogger looking to go full time, either through your own blogs, or thanks to a blog network, what are your biggest questions?

Web Design Critique: Blog Herald Blog Layout

Kaspars over on Konstruktors.com, has put up a very interesting and informative post looking at the user experience of the Blog Herald. I really enjoyed that he put up images of previous versions of the Blog Herald.

Even more interesting, he ripped apart the current design, and even more interesting to me, he came up with a suggestion on how it can improve, at least in the header area.

I have always enjoyed the designs of the Blog Herald, but with the interesting themes being created now for WordPress, the bar seems to be raised, and continues to be so. Should the Blog Herald continue to try to redesign in hopes of pushing the envelope, or do people in general hate change, and enjoy our current look.

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Blogging Mistakes: Ten Things to Avoid

There have been many articles written on the mistakes you can make with your blog, but none sum it up as nicely, in my opinion, as the one written by Alan Johnson over on John Chow’s blog.

He provides ten things you can do to ruin your blog, and they are all great tips that everyone looking to monetize their blogs should follow.

1 – Working on something you are not passionate about
2 – Diving right in
3 – Expecting momentum to last
4 – Expecting results overnight
5 – Not promoting your website
6 – Using website promotion as an excuse to ignore content
7 – Doing a bad job of monetizing your website
8 – Putting all of your eggs in one basket
9 – Spreading yourself too thin
10 – Not maximizing results

I have had issues with many of these, and while Alan makes some great points in the post about how you can go about avoiding these issues, there is no real step-by-step guide to making a successful site that will make you a fair bit of money. Blogging is hard work, especially when you are looking to turn a profit. I highly recommend checking this article out if you want a good quick start on what to avoid.

What would you add to this list, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Best Blogs: News or Opinion?

As the blogosphere continues to develop, I notice that there are really two main types of blogs: opinion and news. You are primarily one or the other. News blogs include sites like TechCrunch, while Freelance Switch is based around the various bloggers opinions.

While both types of blogs have huge audiences, it got me wondering which type are “better”. I define better as able to grow faster, easier, and monetize better. News sites seem to depend on either being first to report on something, or being known as covering everything in a niche. Opinion blogs depend on the expertise of the writers involved to share their thoughts, advice, and sometimes their own personal takes on news effecting their niche.

Opinion based sites don’t have to be the first to report on something, as people go to their sites to see the personal thoughts of the individual or small group. For a single author site, I have to lean towards opinion based blogs being the better choice. News sites require connections, a strong connection to the niche you are covering, and the ability to jump on a story before anyone else hits publish. This can be quite difficult for most bloggers, and require resources that they may not have. The ceiling on news sites seems higher though, bringing me back to the question in the title of this post. Which do you think is better, news or opinion blogs?

I have written many blogs that are news style, opinion style, and tried to mix the two as often as possible, but I have found that people that come to a site in hopes of finding factual news, don’t like having a heavy dose of personal opinion, while those looking for opinion hated when I just reported the facts. So please, when commenting, don’t say a mix of the two is the best answer, unless you are willing to explain your response.

Have your say in the comments below.

Scoble Gets Ads on His WordPress.com Blog?

Normally, someone getting advertisements on their blog isn’t a big deal. People add advertisements to their blogs every day, and the fact that it is Robert Scoble changing over to the “dark side” isn’t all that interesting to me either.

If his new employers want to re-design his blog and put advertisements on it, who am I to complain?

What is interesting to me is that the Scobleizer blog is hosted by the WordPress.com service, which usually abhors any type of advertising on their blogs.

Are VIP members able to break the “no-advertising” rule set forth by Automattic? Yes, they can! Do they deserve to break such rules just because of who they are? Is Scoble more deserving of putting FastCompany advertisements on his blog than you putting a banner from your favourite web host on yours?

While I think advertising has to be strictly controlled and moderated on WordPress.com, so as to not become like Blogger’s spam filled archives, I don’t think that people like Scoble are more deserving than anyone else to display advertising on their hosted blog.

Maybe I am jumping the gun here, and Scobleizer will be moved off the WordPress.com platform? Well, I think that is highly doubtful, as GigaOM has advertisements on it, and is a WordPress.com hosted blog.

The fact is that I am an idealist, and I believe that the same rules should apply for everyone, at least as much as possible. Sure, Automattic might be earning a fair bit of cash on some of these VIP blogs, but I highly doubt it.

I am not questioning Automattic’s decision to let Scoble add advertisements on his blog, but instead I am wondering why they don’t make member blog advertising a higher priority? Would you be willing to give up 20% of whatever revenue your blog could make through an advertising system managed by WordPress.com? I am pretty sure I would be willing to take such a deal.

I would love to know what you all think of WordPress.com’s no advertising policy and what effect it has for you as a blogger? Truth be told, if it wasn’t for WordPress.com’s no advertising policy, I would probably push to have all of the Splashpress’ blogs moved over to their system.

Interview with Gyutae Park of Winning the Web

gyutaeface.jpg

Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions.

I am sure you must be running on a little bit of a high from winning a competition against Tyler Cruz, the owner of a blog with a larger readership. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself, your blog, and the recent competition.
Gyutae ParkSure. My name is Gyutae Park and I run an Internet marketing blog over at Winning the Web. I work full time as an SEO but am extremely interested in working on some of my own projects while marketing and monetizing them as much as possible.

Winning the Web officially launched in mid-October of 2007 and has seen huge success attaining a subscriber count of over 350 in just 3 short months. As many know, one of my main strategies in promoting the blog has been to create some crazy contests and competitions that generate huge amounts of buzz, links, and attention. In my first contest I bought a John Chow review to promote a contest for a free John Chow review. [Read more…]

Blog Design: Does it Really Matter?

As I continue to look around the blogosphere, I see posts almost daily about design, blog design, and sites with great design, and as I gear up to have my own blog, Xfep.com, redesigned, I wonder if it is really important to have a powerful, beautiful or striking design. Isn’t content all that really matters?

I remember back when there was a fair bit of talk about ugly sites doing better with AdSense and certain other advertising programs. In part this was because the usability was a nightmare, and people were more often than not, accidentally clicking on advertisements. These days, as private ad sales begin to make up the bulk of many bloggers incomes, a professional design helps sell the “whole package”.

What I mean is that you can have great content, tons of readers, but if your blog design looks very basic, or amateurish, certain advertisers won’t be a interested in having their brand associated with yours. In a perfect world, the design of your blog wouldn’t matter, especially if you were a great writer, but from what I have seen, it can limit your ability to get to the upper levels of earning potential.

It is strange though, as I go through the process myself of dealing with a redesign while at the same time reminding my readers I have an RSS feed available, and would love them to subscribe. Pushing a redesign through while pushing people to my RSS feed is almost like pushing two opposite non-complimentary goals. Most RSS readers will never see the design, except maybe to check it out when I post about its launch.

I write this post to see what your thoughts are. Does blog design matter to you? What are your favourite blog designs? And do you think that blog designs can limit the earning potential of a blog?

Have your say in the comments below.

“The Secret” of Blogging

Recently, a friend of mine showed me this video called “The Secret“, where it tells you that anything your heart desires can be manifested through the law of attraction, be that positive (which is what most of us want), or negative (those things we shouldn’t dwell on).

This idea really interested me. The basic premise was simple, through concentrating on the things you want, the universe will eventually give it to you. If you are a negative person, always concentrating on debt, don’t be surprised if things happen that cause you more debt. If you are positive, focusing on the life you want to live, then the universe can unfold in interesting ways to provide that lifestyle for you.

With blogging, you also need to have a positive attitude. Sure, there are snarky bloggers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are negative, but instead playing a role online to entertain in a different way.

What I think bloggers really need to focus on are their goals. We are fresh into a new year, and so this is the time to do that. Don’t just write them down once, but instead, read them every day. If you want more traffic, more money, money contacts, and more content, then you need to set goals for yourself and continually remind yourself of them.

While I don’t believe that the universe will magically make it happen, I am sure something sticks in your subconscious mind, and helps you slowly make movements in your life that will get you to where you want to be.

I never thought I would be a full time blogger, and then when I was guest blogging for Darren Rowse, I changed my mind, and decided that writing every day was something I wanted to do for a living. I then risked everything by turning down part time job offers, hoping for the full time blogging job that would get me out of the sales industry I was in, and low and behold, it happened.

I am living proof that you can make your dreams a reality, and while you might think this post is cheesy, I hope that you will at least heed my advice, write down your goals, put them next to your keyboard, and read them every day.

Failure to Convert a Passion to a Blog

One of the things I am always telling people who want to pick out a niche to blog in is to follow their passions. I have done this with numerous topics, and achieved varying amounts of success. One thing I have noticed over the last few years is that I have something I am unable to convert to a blog, despite loving reading, writing and talking about the subject.

Since I was around eight years old, I have been in love with science fiction. I used to “design” my own Star Trek universe ships on paper. None of them were really ever any good, but I was passionate about the source material. Thanks to a show called Babylon 5, I lost a girlfriend, a long and funny story. The point is, with all my knowledge, and passion for science fiction, you would think that I would be the perfect person to write a blog based on how I see the niche, but what I have found out, through constant struggle is that I can’t get any traction in writing about it.

I love to watch the shows, read the books, and talk about it to other science fiction fans, but when it comes to putting my fingers to the keyboard to type out a review, all that passion slips away, and I can’t seem to find a groove where I can consistently put content out into the world.

I really don’t have a reason behind this issue, and I have never come across a subject that I couldn’t make the time to post about, and yet one of my biggest passions isn’t converting well into a blog. It isn’t a problem with desire, as I would love to share my passion for science fiction with people, and connect with others that feel as I do, but for some reason I get all jammed up when it comes to writing a blog in that niche.

It is almost as though I can’t convert this hobby of mine into a blog, and that makes me wonder if there are others out there that have a passion that they have tried to blog about, and just couldn’t sustain it for some odd reason or another. Has anyone come across this problem? Have you found a solution? Am I trying too hard, or is this just one of those times where you just have to keep your hobby, a hobby, and not a blog?

Blogging Story: What is RSS?

So over the Christmas holidays, my uncle and I were sitting around in the basement, with my cousin, Mark, and he wanted to know if either of us knew of any software that would help the military organize their information in a better way. We talked about Basecamp, and a few other pieces of software, but of course we knew that the military would only accept software from a big box company like Microsoft or IBM, despite the amazing advances that other companies have made in the software space.

As we were going over the features that Basecamp had, I pointed out that it supported RSS, which for me was kind of cool, though I didn’t know how it could really be useful for collaborative software like Basecamp, I still thought it was worth mentioning. My uncle looked at me and raised an eyebrow. He didn’t know what RSS was.

My uncle is not a slouch academically, or even technologically. He helps pick out some of the equipment that the military will be using next, and his computer set up at home is fairly high tech, but RSS was foreign to him.

I went on to explain that RSS is like being able to subscribe to a variety of sites, as though they were newspapers, and your RSS reader, is like the house they are all delivered to. All the content you want is pushed to you, rather than having to go to each site, find it and read it.

Despite showing him an example of how useful it could be, he didn’t seem to really understand how it could benefit someone like him. He didn’t see the inefficiency of going to a dozen different news sites to get the content he wanted. He was worried he would miss something by subscribing to RSS, or that he would be getting too much of the things he didn’t want.

He also didn’t see the business model behind RSS, asking me if only certain content was pushed through, or if the content was limited in any way. The idea seemed totally strange to him, and despite sitting with him for half an hour, showing him how useful it could be, the end result was the same as the start: he didn’t understand RSS.

As a blogger, I constantly try to push people towards my RSS feed, as I want to keep them informed each and every time I write a new article, but here is my uncle, a man in his 40’s, unable to wrap his brain around why I would want to do that.

Has RSS really gotten to the point where it is well known enough by the Internet users at large that we can, without an informational page, push people towards it? Or should we bloggers be explaining what RSS is, and what the reader will get so that we can continue to teach those that don’t know, what they are “subscribing” to?

My hope for 2008, is that RSS becomes more ubiquitous, and pervasive online, and that next time I mention it, I don’t see a raised eyebrow from someone that does hundreds of tasks online each and every day.