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April 12, 2008

What’s your blog workspace?

I wrote last weekend about my problogging setup – which is essentially my blog workspace.

If you missed the article, it looks like this:

Today, however, I’m in St. Cloud, MN, about 80 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul where I live and work – blogging with a large cup of hot java from Caribou Coffee and living off of their free wi-fi. My blog workspace today looks like:

Caribou 041208

I’m always interested in where bloggers blog from and how they setup their workspace – whether it’s a home office or a local coffee shop or drinking establishment.

Darren Rowse, over at Problogger.net, even released a video showing his “Problogger HQ”.

Not long ago, Darren profiled several sets of Blog Workspace photos:

So what’s your blog workspace look like?

Post your links to photos and/or descriptions here and I’ll feature in an upcoming post.

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April 7, 2008

Business School for Bloggers: How to Make Money With Your Blog

I am frequently asked about how to make money on the web, especially how to make money with your blog. I find a wide variety of answers around the web, some of them get rich quick schemes, PageRank games, and SEO illusions, but there is only one answer that I want to shout to the roofs, but few people listen.

Blogging as a business is business. It takes business training and skills to make money with your blog.

That’s it. That’s the secret. John Chow, Guy Kawawasaki, Darren Rowse, Seth Godin, these princes of blogging didn’t get rich with their blogs by just having blogs. They used their business sense and know how to make their blogs work for them. They understood that a blog is just another tool in the business arsenal, a business card and resume all wrapped up in one, offering a business a powerful communications tool. In order to make your blog work for you, you have to understand how business works.

To have a “successful” blog and to make your blog work for you, you have to have skills and training in advertising, marketing, economics, finance, writing ability and language skills, public relations, networking, everything any business needs. These are the skills you bring it to your blog to make it a success, earning the money you deserve.
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My Problogging Setup

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I first wrote about my home office setup in How I Blog: Matt Craven back in May 2006 when I was still the editor of The Blog Herald. Things have changed a bit since then.

Bryghtpath LLC Office 4-08 Thumbnail

Computing Setup

I generally blog from my home office – though sometimes from the local Starbucks or Caribou for that java fix. I can also write from the deck (I have two at the house) or from the living room/dining room area. It just depends on my mood at the time.

I’m still a Mac user. My current main computer is a 17″ Macbook Pro tricked out with the glossy screen, max RAM (3GB in this one), and the largest hard drive they were selling in March 2007 when I purchased it. This is my first Intel mac. I actually had no plans to purchase this but my trusty 15″ Powerbook G4 from the winter of 2005 died during a client trip in Dallas.

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April 5, 2008

NY Times: Bloggers are working themselves to death

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Tomorrow’s New York Times will carry a story focusing on professional blogging – and outlining how the 24/7 news cycle that is the internet is literally causing bloggers to work themselves to death.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

Maybe that has been their blogging experience, but it certainly hasn’t been mine.

I’ve been through the blog startup phase when we launched what was then The BlogMedia Network – and lived through its maturity with our purchase of The Blog Herald and the launch of other sites. I won’t deny that I worked alot and occasionally had sleepless nights. So did everyone else that was involved in this effort from our end.

But I don’t believe that the lifestyle that is portrayed in this article represents the bulk of the bloggers that are making or seeking to make a living through professional blogging.

Witness this focus on Matt Buchanan from Gizmodo from the NY Times story:

All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.

He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.

I realize it’s difficult for the New York Times to look past the high-end competitive blogging industry at the rest of us – but they should have. By focusing in on Arrington and Buchanan from Gizmodo, they’re looking at a very small fraction of the industry – and certainly not most of us that make a living through blogging or other online revenue sources.

When I was blogging full-time back in 2006, my days consistent of a 5-6 hour workday during the day coupled with a 2-3 hour timeblock in the evening after my girlfriend had gone to bed. Weekends generally saw 2-3 hours of work a day coupled with an hour or so producing the podcast. By my math that’s a 55-60 hour workweek at its worst. And for that I made a six figure income…

How did the New York Times article make you feel? Are all of you working as much and in as poor health as the New York Times says you are?

Update (6:46am): Howard Lindzon probably has the best comment on this in his post on the matter:

I read The New York Times business most days and if this is Sunday Time’s worthy, we are f@#ked. They are officially out of money or ideas. The article only proves one thing…that the New York Times has allowed itself to get caught up in the hype, not real journalism. There is no real link betweeen blogging and heart attacks.

Update (12:43pm): Tony Hung, former editor here at The Blog Herald, and a MD in Canada, weighs in with some medical information.

Others: Blogging Stocks, Worker Bees, Howard Lindzon, Tony Hung

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March 27, 2008

Drilling Down Your Blogging Niche?

Over the past year alone, I can’t count how many hundreds of people who have told me that they’ve just decided to make “beginning blogging” be their blog’s focus. They wanted me to tell them what I thought of their plan.

I told them they weren’t done, yet.

Yes, this news can be crushing, but let’s look at the example of creating a blog for beginner bloggers. Most summarize their blog’s plan of action with this purpose statement:

I want to create a blog to teach beginner bloggers, people who are totally new to blogging how to blog. It will cover the basics, step-by-step of blogging, including how to monetize and build a successful blog.

The target audience? Beginning bloggers. The style? Step-by-step introductory basics. Content stretch? Monetization and commercialization of blogs.

Good start. But not done yet.
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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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March 14, 2008

What Are You Not Doing With Your Blog

When Aaron Brazell put his blog up for sale, he got a rude awakening of what he was not doing with his blog that would have made his blog more marketable, thus worth buying.

Recently, I started thinking about what I’m not doing with my blog that I should. I do a lot already, and I also am an advocate of organic marketing, natural marketing and viral techniques rather than grasping and desperate. So what more could I do to increase the diversity of those who read my blog, keep readers happy, and continue to be a source for information on blogging and WordPress?
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March 6, 2008

Bloggers Warned of Scammers

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You might be familiar with the “Nigerian” 419-type scams that have been flooding our inboxes for some time now. The story is simple. Someone tells you they need help transferring funds offshore, or that you’ve won millions in a lottery. Once you respond, they ask you for all sorts of information, and might even ask for small amounts of cash to help move the alleged money that is supposedly coming from another country. Some people have even gone to the extent of travelling to other continents in order to claim the money supposedly stashed somewhere.

Later on (sometimes weeks or months later) you will learn that you’ve been taken for a ride, and the perpetrators have been sucking money out of your gullible pockets!

Well the perpetrators of this crime are a resourceful bunch. Now the scam has evolved into something that affects blogs and bloggers as well. We were alerted by our former editor, Tony Hung, of this new take on an old scam. Basically, the scammers purchase ad space or text links from your site, and then send you a check for an amount greater than the agreed price. They then ask for a refund.

From F-Secure:

If you fall for the bait and sell something for $2000, you’ll receive a check for $3000. The perpetrator of the scam will then claim that a mistake was made and ask that you refund $1000 via money transfer.

So you send $1000 via money transfer, which cannot be stopped… and in the end when it finally clears, the $3000 check ends up being a fake.

It’s an old fraud that uses technology for a clever new bit of social engineering.

These messages are being sent to website contact addresses and are including the site name in the body of the message. This results in a message that feels almost personalized and might potentially lower the guard of the recipient.

Tony says bloggers should watch out for advertising deals that sound too good to be true, and should always wait for checks to clear.

As always, we would advise using common sense in these types of dealings. For instance when negotiating with direct advertisers of an unsolicited type (meaning we were approached, rather than the other way around), we usually ask for information first before invoicing them for the ad space subscription:

  • URL and anchor text of the target site.
  • Other text, if applicable (such as with paragraph ads).
  • Creatives (images, animations, etc.) to be used, if it’s a button or banner ad.
  • PayPal email address.
  • Name(s) of the company(ies) or individual(s) behind the site.

While this is usually just for reference, it also helps us become selective with the ads we feature. Information also helps us learn more about the companies advertising with us. We wouldn’t want any inappropriate content to be displayed on our sites, would we?

Then again, if you’re the type who likes scambaiting as a recreational activity, or if you’re the adventurous type then you can probably scam them back, like what the folks over at 419eater do. But remember that this can also be time-consuming (I know, I’ve tried it!) and could be dangerous if you actually slip up and disclose your real identity or other information.

Again, common sense is usually the answer!

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February 26, 2008

Thou Shall Not Blog

Bloggers Rights graphic by Lorelle VanFossenOver the years, as blogging has grown from fad to trend, I’ve traveled the world talking to other bloggers, many sharing stories of how they were confronted with new job contracts, agreements, and policies that state: Thou shall not blog.

My first response is always, “Why not?” Oh, I get an earful. It ranges from business practices to government limitations, and everything in between.

Here are some of the reasons why many people can’t blog.

Violation of Non-Disclosure

Let’s face it. We’re human. We make mistakes. We go forth with the best intentions and screw up. Often without thought. Knowing this, many businesses won’t risk the slip you may make as you free-wheel your thoughts publicly and disclose some of their proprietary information. Fear of disclosure is a huge issue for companies, a big incentive to bring out the papers for signature, banning blogging.

And there can be big money in such disclosures, too, an incentive for those to blog trade secrets.
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February 25, 2008

Don’t Sign Away Your Rights

Many bloggers dream about getting a recurring guest blogging position. Whether paid or unpaid, many bloggers toil in relative obscurity for years before being offered a chance to write for a large site.

However, the excitement of being offered a new writing position often causes bloggers, as well as other writers, to make serious mistakes. When they receive their first contract, they either do not read the document carefully or, in a desperate bid to please their new employers, sign the contract with little regard to the rights that they surrender.

However, when you sign your name to a contract, you are bound to it and signing a bad contract can have long-term consequences that can both limit the rights to your own work and the scope of your future projects.

No matter how good of a deal the contract seems to be, it is worth taking a moment to read through it and watch out for the rights that you may be giving away.

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