Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

On writing and editing for the web

May 1, 2012

I wanted to share this very useful post from the Econsultancy blog on writing and editing for the web – 20 things the author has learned from writing 2,000 blog posts. Some of the early tips focus on marketing blogs but most are applicable to all topics. One of my favourites:

There are thousands of marketing blogs out there, and lots of them are just writing the same articles, which are often straight write ups of the same press releases which reached my inbox.

This is not to say there’s no value in press releases, or that we never just write about a survey or a piece of news we’ve seen, as these posts can be useful sometimes.

However, the best content, and that which is most popular on the blog, and keeps traffic coming in long after being published, is that which is original.


Experimenting with Tumblr, and should your magazine be on it?

November 10, 2011

I’m sure I’m not alone in my tendency to get a little obsessive with new toys. A few years ago, when Twitter was still fresh and shiny and I was web editor at Best Health, it wasn’t unusual for me to stay late and spend hours browsing and scrolling (this was before Twitter had decent search abilities) looking for Canadian women with the right interests to follow – and, hopefully, to follow us back.

Lately, my obsession is Tumblr. You may have heard of Tumblr as that thing the kids are into – and you’d be right, as it’s definitely packed with teenagers. But I’m not really an early adopter when it comes to technology – more like a mid adopter – and I’m convinced now that Tumblr is going to hit the mainstream. So convinced that when I decided to finally start a blog oriented around my freelance writing topics (shameless self-promotion: A Health Writer’s Notebook focuses on health, fitness, nutrition and travel with some beauty and food thrown in, and lots of pretty pictures), something I’d been planning on for months, I settled on Tumblr as the platform to use.

So what makes Tumblr different from everything else? For one thing, it’s ridiculously easy to use – it puts the Facebook “like” button to shame for its one-click-ability. Think of Tumblr as a hybrid of Twitter (you follow people, they follow you back, but it doesn’t have to be reciprocal like Facebook; reblogs are a major component of the culture) and a blog (reverse chronological posts with dates, you can post at will, it’s out-of-the-box easy to use with preset templates).

Other than the reblog, perhaps the most important feature is the Tumblr button you can add to your browser’s menu bar – click it while visiting any web page (though this can be blocked) and it will give you an option to share that link with your followers; or a photo from the page; or, if you highlight certain text, a quote. You can also easily post video, audio, a chat transcript or just plain text; the beauty of all of this is that Tumblr automatically preserves the original link in your post so that credit is given where it’s due and people can follow a post back to its original source. (Of course, this depends on users not deleting that information, but the good intention is there.)

The question remains: I’m busy enough with everything else – why should I be on Tumblr? And perhaps you shouldn’t – very few Canadian magazines are. (I’ve come up with three so far – En Route, Flare and Worn – but I’m compiling a list, so if you know of more, please let me know.) But know that a number of US magazines believe Tumblr is driving subscriptions, and Tumblr’s pageviews and signups have been growing this year at a ferocious rate – as of the end of September, they’d surpassed 30 million blogs and Tumblr now competes with WordPress on monthly visits. My recollection is that Twitter’s true move to the mainstream was Christmas 2008 – when people had a bit of extra free time to play around – and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens with Tumblr this year.

There are downsides, of course. For one, Tumblr currently hosts all its blogs – unlike WordPress, you can’t install it on your own server. This makes perfect sense for a community platform, but for a media brand it means giving up a certain amount of control. Tumblr isn’t as customizable as other blogging platforms, though it’s getting there, and there are some excellent themes available for under $50 (though many are free, the quality isn’t as good and they don’t stand out as much.) And Tumblr currently doesn’t offer a way to export posts (though I’ve heard of third-party widgets that will do it for you), so what happens on Tumblr stays on Tumblr.

That said, especially for brands with sharable, bite-sized content available for use – think great photos, news snippets, quotes and recipes – Tumblr’s a great place to be. It’s easy to use and it’s fun. At the very least, I recommend signing up for your brand name, if you can still get it, even if you don’t plan to use it right away.

These articles have more information on Tumblr:

Tumblr tips – Jaclyn Schiff
Tumblr is the next great social network – Steve Rubel
What media companies should learn from Tumblr’s success – GigaOM
Journalists, take another look at Tumblr – Teaching Online Journalism
3 ways publishers can use Tumblr – eMedia Vitals

Are you using Tumblr, or have you played with it? Any thoughts?

#MagNet11: Meg Pickard on blogging, part 2

June 16, 2011

Meg Pickard‘s afternoon session at MagNet was “Building a Business Case for Blogs”. Below are my tweets from the session.

Don’t let mistakes online tarnish your existing brand value.

Blogs are excellent to reinforce authenticity and transparency.

Blogs can: Build engagement and get people emotionally invested in what you’re doing.

Blogs are really good at putting a personal face on your organization.

@megpickard‘s background is in anthropology. Looks at structures of community and social in media world. Perspective.

The Guardian has a site section where readers can pitch ideas that they want to read.

Blogs are very good at gaining the love of search engines.

Existing, off-the-shelf blog platforms like WordPress are already SEO-optimised. Makes things easy.

Be creative with blogs. @megpickard recommends blogging for cricket matches (they last for days…)

Blog vocab: “above the line” (journalism space), “below the line” (commenting space). Pay attention to both.

Blogs a good place to experiment. The Guardian used Google Translate to put Egypt live-blog into Arabic on the fly (refined later)

Andrew Sparrow: “If journalism is the first draft of history, live-blogging is the first draft of journalism”

Clay Shirky: “The problem isn’t information overload. It’s filter failure.” [Opportunity for editors and magazines.]

news stories answer questions, tie loose ends. Blogs ask questions, unpick things.

Build a blog for your actual audience, not the audience you wish you had.

Zuckerberg: “Communities already exist… think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.”

With blogs, readers are part of the entire publishing process, not just reading the end result.

If someone comments, they’ll probably come back to comment again. Engagement begets engagement.

Commenters on your blog will add keywords, too. Good for SEO.

Blogging is a long-term engagement and hard work, but builds engagement with readers and matures over time. Not a quick fix.

When you set up blogs/topics, ask: “What are we going to write about when nothing is happening?” You have to have an answer.

Team blogs need to have similar tone, feel from each writer. Shouldn’t feel like disparate voices.

Get creative with blog pay models, beyond per post/word/PV. Compensate for engagement (comments), inbound links, social buzz.

Commissioned blog pieces that go into editors’ picks get paid more.

Measure everything you can. The more information you have, the better picture you can draw for your organization.

There’s no magic formula for blog metrics. Every blog has its own needs/goals.

Don’t just stick with CPM. Consider sponsorships. Guardian music blog: Orange for three months’ sponsorship.

Find the right sponsor that wants your particular audience = higher $ value.

Good Q: What metrics do you make available to sponsors? A: metrics they need for proper picture of what they’re buying.

What to do when blog doesn’t work? @megpickard’s blog post on end of Guardian Local

Give readers notice if you’re shutting something down.

When killing a blog, let the writers wind it down too. Don’t just end things abruptly.

Shocking! “Social media doesn’t need to be sociable” – value in lurking and using social info (eg tripadvisor) without engaging.

Very cool – Guardian Zeitgeist – “what is most interesting on our site at the moment”

#MagNet11: Meg Pickard on blogging, part 1

June 15, 2011

At MagNet last week I was honoured to be the official host and introducer for Meg Pickard of the Guardian, who presented two sessions on blogging, both of which I live-tweeted. The first was called “Building Readership for your Blog” and my barely edited tweets from the session are below.

Waiting to introduce @megpickard in her first of two blogging sessions today.

We can’t just do twitter because we have to do twitter, says @megpickard. Don’t do things because your rivals are.

Always think about how social helps you extend and amplify your editorial.

Only 1/3 of the Guardian’s web traffic is from the UK. 1/3 from Canada/US, 1/3 from rest of world.

The Guardian has 54 blogs, plus blog networks.

What makes a blog? Timeliness, hosted by an individual, display, plus interactivity – makes it diff from just publishing on web

Narrowly focused blogs can be good for SEO because of higher targeted keyword density, says @megpickard.

Downside of narrowly focused blogs: can be hard to find topics without being repetitive.

Advantage of broad topics on blogs: easy to write, encourages casual discovery and experimentation.

Downside of broad blog themes: hard to explain to readers, content may never find its audience or stride.

Broadly themed blogs can also be more challenging for SEO – less keyword density, less focus.

What kind of blog to avoid? Narrow focus, infrequent posts.

Bloggers don’t have to be famous, they have to be engaged and have personality, ability to be consistent.

At its heart, a blog is a conversation, a way of developing interactions with readers.

Good bloggers need to be engaged + knowledgeable about, interested in, aware of their subject matter. Discussion is key.

Bloggers have to be aware of the wider context of coverage and discussion online and curate/link/highlight as needed.

Andrew Sullivan: Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics…. it is, in many ways, writing out loud.

Common ingredients of a great blog post: good, SEO-friendly head; illustration/image/video; clear, descriptive blurb…

…good metadata (keywords, location, byline); engaging intro; external and internal links

The longer the blog post, the more you need to break it up with something pretty to look at. (images, etc.)

Short blog posts: <250 words, links, roundups, quotes, at least daily. Little and often.

Make use of services like Delicious that will auto-post links to your blog. Easy updates.

Long blog posts: 500-800+ words. “Think pieces”, perspective/analysis, reflection, live blogs, reports/write-ups.

If you do longer blog posts, make the words count.

Sometimes a blog post is a snack, sometimes a full meal.

More keys to great blog posts: human tone; encourage engagement by appealing for expertise or insight; ask questions; participate

“Don’t light a fire and then walk away” – make sure to participate in comments early.

RT @halifaxmagazine If you bury readers in links, they won’t click any; give them a few good ones.

@megpickard showing as example of magazine using Tumblr as a blogging platform.

Tumblr a good option for teasing the print edition. Less useful for writing longer posts. – in addition to their blog. Tumblr and blogging are different strategies.

Another example – Note: no commenting on Tumblr. You can favourite or reblog.

@megpickard is live-tumbling as a demo to the crowd. – personal collection of stuff. Good example of playing with new/fun tools.

@megpickard started by saying everyone in room would have blog by 5 pm. I think everyone will have a Tumblr.

RT @sftcurls_blog: @kattancock there are some Tumblr themes that allow you to add Disqus for comments.

This is important: “Be of the web, not on the web”

Hoping people will arrive at your site and never leave – not a good web strategy.

Blogs are good for engagement, and advertisers these days want engagement.

@megpickard quotes @jeffjarvis: “Do what you do best and link to the rest”

Audience question on choosing between blogs, twitter, tumblr, etc. @megpickard: why not do them all?

Another great @jeffjarvis quote: “If you can’t imagine anyone linking to what you’re about to write, don’t write it.”

RT @sparksheet By not linking you’re getting in the way of the user’s web experience (invokes @jeffjarvis)

Don’t try to be the last point on people’s web journey. Be the first.

RT @sparksheet When people click your outgoing links, it means they’re trusting you to send them on a journey -@megpickard (great metric!)

Community keywords: interacting, regularly, context

Make engagement better by nurturing conversations you start. Lowers need for moderation.

Commenters are like children – give them positive reinforcement, don’t reward disruptive behaviour.

Very important online: be transparent about affiliations, perspectives or previous coverage of a topic or individual.

Moving backwards

January 16, 2009

Generally in the magazine world, if content is shared across platforms it goes from print to web – rarely, with the exception of letters and some user-generated content, does it go the opposite direction. But brings up a very cool example of exactly that: a printed collection of blog posts called “Things our friends have written on the Internet 2008”. Go and check it out, it’s a creative idea and something you can take inspiration from for future multiplatform projects.

Weekend links: October 4

October 4, 2008

How to know if you should fire your social media consultant (Mashable)
How amateur enthusiasts are using the web to lead the way in furthering our understanding of the solar system (BBC)
Poll: Young people who use landlines are more conservative than those who use mobile phones (Collision Detection)
Set your blog on fire (
Secrets of viral fame (, with thanks to Lisa Murphy)
The cost of free copy (Folio)

How to pay bloggers

September 18, 2008

Payment terms for bloggers is a bit of an uncertainty in the industry right now. Do you pay them by the word? (That seems dangerous.) By traffic numbers? By number of posts? By the hour? Do you pay them just to write, or are they meant to promote the blog as well, or to interact with other bloggers in their community? These are all tough questions. is trying an interesting new strategy – they’re asking readers to “tip” bloggers when they like what they read through a system called Tippem. It’s part of their Open Salon user-generated content section (still in beta), and in theory it’s an idea that I like – you’re letting readers pay their content producers directly, sort of like sending Thom Yorke a few bucks when you listen to his newest album – and enjoy it.

But in practice? I’m curious to see whether it will take off. After all, everyone likes a bargain, and nothing’s a better bargain than free content.

Would you pay a blogger if you liked what you read? And if your site does have bloggers, how do you pay them?

The perils of anonymous blogging

September 15, 2008

There was an interesting post last week (warning: it’s long) on the blog Canadian Medicine about anonymous blogging and why it’s not a good idea for doctors. The author, Sam Solomon, tells the story of an American pediatrician who was blogging under a pseudonym about the medical world and whose identity became public to unhappy results.

It’s a good example of how the supposed anonymity of the Internet is often anything but.

Now here’s a good use for a magazine website

September 11, 2008

Thanks to Corinna vanGerwen and Ivor Tossell for passing on this new feature on Wired: they’re blogging, from start to finish, the creation of a feature story on Charlie Kaufman, which will run in their November issue. 

Obviously anyone interested in journalism will be interested in this blog. But Tossell posed the question (on Twitter): would this kind of thing appeal to non-journalists, i.e. the general public?

Specifically? I don’t know. But in general? Yes, I personally think that any devoted magazine reader would be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at their favourite magazines. And I think this is a great use of a magazine’s blog – it’s a way to add personality to your brand and to develop community, making readers feel “in the know”. Blueprint used to do a great job of this before Martha killed it.

What do you think? Would you read this kind of content, and do you think your users would?