It’s Blog, It’s Blog! Help me not to suck…

I’m asking for help from the hivemind, given the wide array of experience you have in writing for blogs, reading blogs and probably eviscerating shitty blogs.

I was on the phone with my publisher the other day when she made an obvious statement that had previously had no answer other than, “No shit.”

“The problem most of your reviewers had was that by the time the book comes out, the examples you list for the students are dated,” she noted. “That’s a problem with this book that we need to address…”

My answer was the more professional version of “No shit” but even as I said it, I could feel Admiral Ackbar wheeling around in his chair…

“That’s a problem with any media textbook, though,” I argued. “Given the time from writing to press, there’s no real way around it…”

It was a trap.

The idea that marketing had (screaming red flag) was that to address this problem and distinguish us from the rest of the books in the area was to have me run a blog that would update features, engage readers and talk about stuff that was important in the field.

I was hesitant, give that a) I don’t know how to build a blog. I got lucky enough to join this traveling circus after A had already established a tone, built an audience and got people interested… and b) See point a.

So I had two basic rules going for me going into this agreement:

  • It’s got to be about the readers’ needs, not my desire to tell people stuff.
  • It’s got to have useful tools on it, not just shit for the sake of having shit.

Their response was that I couldn’t cuss, so I’m a bit limited there.

So, here’s where I’m begging like The Fly:

  • Tell me one of a few things about your best and worst blogging experiences as writers and readers.
  • What options should or shouldn’t be on there?
  • What tools are helpful for sharing and engaging people and what are just bells and whistles for the sake of bells and whistles?
  • How do you gather readers and how do you keep them?
  • What is the best bit of advice you can offer?

I know not all blogs are for the same purpose, but I figure if you can tell me what you like and don’t, I can fake the rest of it.

Thanks and have a great weekend.


5 thoughts on “It’s Blog, It’s Blog! Help me not to suck…

  1. Luckily, building a blog is no longer the sophisticated, tech savvy enterprise it once was, so you have that going for you. Some of the features of a blog that keep me coming back:

    1. Fresh posts each day. There are any number of blogs that just sit moribund for days, weeks or months on end. If new content doesn’t show up from time to time, I’m likely to lose interest. There are lots of other things on the internet to go look at. The tricky thing is not to have too much fresh content all the time. If I’m out of touch for the weekend and I come back to a blog that blew up in those 48 hours, it can be overwhelming. I don’t know what the right balance is, sorry.

    2. It’s tedious, but explain common concepts and terms from time to time if you’re running a specialty blog or have a sidebar that spells out initialisms. Too much inside terminology or abbreviations can get tiresome PDQ.

    3. An archive of past posts. Regular readers probably won’t (and really shouldn’t) find each and every post immediately riveting and pertinent to their lives right that second. But weeks or months later, they might find an article and say to themselves, “You know, I think Doc’s Blog has something on this a little while ago. Let’s go check.”

    4. Keep an eye on the comments sections and don’t be afraid to get rid of the shit-stirrers (trust your gut on this one; you can apologize later).

    5. Recruit contributors who are also interested in your blog’s subject. A variety of voices keeps you from feeling like you have to do it all or that you’re just doing the blog to hear yourself talk. Some blogs get contributions from other people who have blogs, but who for one reason or another might not want to talk about your subject on their own blog.

    6. Don’t forget to ask for help.

    7. Never listen to advice from that dumbass gratuitous.

  2. “…It’s got to be about the readers’ needs, not my desire to tell people stuff….”

    The readers need to be told stuff — but you dastn’t force them to admit it. They need you to tell them stuff — by general agreement, including you, your publisher, and your publisher’s notion of “them”, else the whole issue would not have arisen, or at least not with respect to you.

    So go forth, with total confidence but without hanging out a shingle, and tell them stuff. It’s What You Do.

  3. Be sure you put a search function in, and think seriously about your tags and categories when planning. You can add them on the fly after you’ve been blogging for a while, but you need a general theory of The Blog and those help.

  4. Good advice from everybody thus far. You’re already attracting some good readers by being on FD. Better than bad, that’s good. 🙌

    Yes to comment moderation. It takes more work than most people realize, but it’s totally worth it. Expecting “the readers” to police themselves online… well, one of the trainwrecks in that area is nola-dot-com. If you’re in the mood to don a virtual hazmat suit & dive into that cesspool, it’s exhibit A in how well that really works. If it’s just your specialty (specialties) you’re blogging about, it’s not that hard, but one look at some of the free-for-alls out there will show you why some of the bigger online publications are eliminating their comment sections. On a smaller scale, though, it is a manageable task. Don’t feed the trolls.

    As far as attracting traffic to your blog: when I first kick-started mine, I treated it like a diary that happened to have a comment section for the first 8 months. You’re already one-up on me there: you’ve been blogging here for a long time, and FD’s gathered a great bunch of people who will likely follow you to your smidge of the virtual world once you get the linkage out. Don’t knock that. And don’t be afraid to promote the site. It doesn’t mean drop your URL at EVERY opportunity. Doing basic stuff that shows you’re not a bot like thoughtful comments on other’s blogs or through other SM outlets (like FB or Twitter) is a good start. You’ll find a way that’s appropriate for what you want your blog to be.

    Go forth and, as my former synagogue choir motto says, fake it ’til you make it. Which is pretty much what I did. 😉

  5. You actually make it seem so easy along with your presentation however I in finding this topic to be actually something that I feel I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely wide for me. I’m taking a look forward on your subsequent post, I will try to get the cling of it!

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