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How to Build Community on Your Blog By Giving Readers Jobs

Creating Passionate Users has a great post on building community which I think can be applied to building community around a blog.

“The best way to grow a user community is to get even the beginners to start answering questions. The more they become involved, the more likely they are to stick with it through the rough spots in their own learning curve, and we all know that having to teach or explain something to another person accelerates our own understanding and memory of the topic.”

It reminds me of something that I learned in my early days of being a church pastor (tangent time):

Many churches have a welcoming strategy for new people that aims to ‘serve’ the new people in any way that they can. They go to extreme lengths to do welcome people in ways that make them feel included but that keep the visitor passive.

I found in my early days of church work that we had a much higher rate of integrating new people into our community if they were given a job right from the start. The jobs they were given were always small but they didn’t allow new people to remain passive for long but instead encouraged them to belong by actively participating.

So at LivingRoom (the community that I currently lead) you are asked to bring something to eat/to share from your first or second visit and are even encouraged (not forced) to lead (or co-lead) a night’s discussion in your early days.

In contributing in small but real ways people almost immediately felt like they’d invested something in the community and were more likely to continue to do so over the long term.

I’m pretty sure that a similar thing applies in building all kinds of community and can’t see why it wouldn’t apply to blogging.

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AdWords offer $50 free Ads for New Advertisers

Have you ever wanted to test out AdWords to promote your blog?

Google are currently running a promotion where you get a $50 Ad coupon when you sign up here.

thanks to Jaro for the tip via email.

The Blog Herald Sold

Congratulations to Matt who has just announced that the Blog Herald has been sold…. again (it could be the most bought and sold blog going around with another sale or two).

There’s no mention of who bought it or how much it was sold for but Matt has decided to sell it and other blogs that he’s developed over the last few months in order to get into blog consulting work.

It will be interesting to see how the Blog Herald evolves with it’s new owners and management. I’ve heard whispers about who will be involved and am fascinated to see how things unfold.

Hopefully it will not slow down in momentum which happened after it’s last sale.

Finally, Matt reflects upon the lessons he’s learnt from his involvement with the Blog Herald:

  • “First, when following an existing blogger with a strong voice such as Duncan Riley, make sure that you have a solid plan in place for how you will be filling the void left by that voice.
  • Second, having many different voices involved in a site is a very good thing. The current stable of bloggers at The Blog Herald rocked my world – they made the site the success that it was.
  • Third, underpromise, and overdeliver. For a number of reasons, we had made public some changes that we were going to make – including a new theme and some new bloggers – and then this took us months to actually pull off. Next time around, I’ll say little about what we’re doing until we’re ready to unveil it.
  • Finally, to hell with the haters. Listen to your audience, but make sure that you’re following your own heart – your own advice. We had folks telling us to do just about everything except pay attention to our core. Ignore them. Do it your way.”

PS: it will be interesting to see how Matt and his team go with their consulting work. Since hearing about his plans to sell up his blogs to do this kind of work I’ve been wondering how a blog consulting business will go without having some active and well renowned blogs to leverage. I don’t think it’s impossible – however I’ve seen a few others go the blog consultant route in the past 12 months and find it pretty hard going.

All the best with your endeavors Matt – if you put the same level of work into your new ventures as you did into the last few months of reinventing Blog Herald you’ll do well.

PSS: Aaron has an audio interview with Matt at Technosailor.

The Humble Blogger

Slacker Manager has a great post today on The Honor of Humility which I think is well worth reading for bloggers.

I’m not sure whether blogging attracts big egos or creates them – but most bloggers that I know struggle with it at some time or another (or at least should). I’m as guilty of it as the next person and have had a few times over the last few years where I’ve needed learnt a lesson or two in this area.

I like Brendon’s approach to humility because as he says it’s often equated as being weak:

“Humility has historically gotten a bad rap. A lot of folks seem to equate humility with being a pushover. Far from it (for example, Gandhi was humble and physically small, but he was no pushover). From my management-oriented point of view, humility is simply our ability to see that we can’t do much on our own. For example, I know that any credit given to me is really a reflection of the willingness of my staff to take action. Generally speaking, my role in our sucesses is relatively small. If we fail, though, I’ll assume more “credit.””

As bloggers we often go on about collaboration and the wisdom of the crowd but then quite often go on to act alone and write as though we have a monopoly on truth.

Questions for reflection on 2006 and beyond

Devon at Ink in My Coffee has written a nice list of 17 questions for writers to reflect upon as the end of the year approaches – I think they are a good list for bloggers (and anyone actually) when reflecting upon a year of blogging and getting ready for the year beyond.

I do a similar reflection at the end of the year on numerous aspects of my life – including my blogging and find that setting the time aside to reflect and set goals this way actually helps me achieve more. Without it I tend to meander through life and any successes that I have tend to be accidental.

Found via Anne at the Golden Pencil

22 Ways to Get Your Brain in Gear

Ririan Project has a great post with 22 Ways To Overclock Your Brain which should be essential reading for all bloggers wanting to get their brain in gear for some great blogging!

Blog Gestation Periods

Earlier in the week I was asked the following question:

‘How long does it take a blog to come of age?’

It’s a question I get asked regularly, usually by bloggers who have been blogging for a month or two who are wondering how long to stick with it.

I always struggle to answer the question so today thought I’d try doing so a little differently – with a tangent (hold on tight – this could be a little freaky)….

Here are the gestation periods for some of some mammals:

  • Mice – 19 days
  • Rabbits – 33 days
  • Foxes – 52 days
  • Lions – 112 days
  • Goats – 151 days
  • Baboons – 183 days
  • Humans – 267 days
  • Whales – 490 days
  • Elephants (Asian) – 645 days

As you can see – in the animal kingdom there’s a fair bit of variation between the length of time between conception of birth.

In a similar way different blogs have a large variety of gestation periods (at least the blogs I’ve been involved with have).

For some – it seems like a matter of weeks between the first post to that day when they burst forth with a flurry of inbound links from bigger sites and quickly build a loyal readership.

For others the growth is much slower and takes a long time, adding readers one by one rather than in leaps and bounds.

Of course the analogy of looking at animals breaks down when you look at the size vs days. In the list above it’s the larger animals that take the longest and the smaller ones that don’t take long – however there’s no such pattern with blogs!

How long did it take for your blog ‘take off’?

Google Reader Creates a new ‘A List’

After months of frustration with Bloglines and an increasing array of bloggers reviewing Google Reader very positively I decided a couple of days ago to make the switch – at least temporarily to test GR.

I’ve been using it for a couple of days now and am getting used to it’s features.

  • I do like that it marks things as read as you scroll (although part of me liked the way Bloglines did it too)
  • I would like to see it speed up a little (particularly on feeds with a lot of unread items)
  • I do like the layout more than Bloglines (smaller fonts etc mean I’m now seeing a lot more items at a glance)

But one thing I’ve noticed is the different order that my feeds now appear. I still have folders and the same feeds in them – however they are now arranged alphabetically rather than in the order that I subscribed to them in.

My previous set up placed older blogs at the top of my feed and newer ones at the bottom. At times I would start at the bottom for a more ‘youthful’ read.

With Google Reader I’m finding I’m reading a different set of blogs more regularly – namely those that start with ‘A’. In a sense my new ‘A-list’ are actually blogs which are blogs starting with ‘A’.

Perhaps I’m missing the feature in GR that lets me rearrange the order blogs are arranged in – but I wonder if this will lead to blogs doing what businesses have done for years to get at the front of phone books and naming themselves “AAAAAA+ Business Name”?

Perhaps I should change ProBlogger’s name to ‘A ProBlogger’s Guide to Making Money Online’ :-)

The Death of the Page View and the Ongoing Challenge of Monetizing Websites

Steve Rubel has posted a post titled The Imminent Demise of the Page View which puts into words a conversation that I’ve been hearing an increasing amount of publishers talk (and worry about).

The crux of it is that with the rise of pages using Flash and Ajax pages are refreshing less and less and with it the importance of the ‘page view’ as a metric for measuring the success of a page is lessening.

This has a number of implications. For starters it’ll be harder to brag about how many views your blog gets over a beer at the next blog meet up. But more important than this – the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) ad will become less and less popular to publishers.

For example – check out Popsugar’s live comments page that automatically shows readers the latest comments on their network. In the coming months we’ll see more and more of this type of page (in fact it’s quite a basic version of what we’ll see in the coming year). Similarly blogs are starting to experiment with ajax comments that post comments to a blog without the need for a page refresh. More and more of this type of feature will appear on blogs – in each case the page view potentially becomes less important and monetization them becomes a little more challenging.

While I’ve heard a few publishers lamenting this and even going as far to say that they are thinking of getting out of web publishing as a result – I don’t think all hope is lost for a number of reasons:

The rise of CPA ads - even over the last few months we’ve seen an increase in the options for ‘Cost per Action’ ads. Google is testing in the area and other ad networks are doing quite well with them. Advertisers like them too as they don’t pay for clicks that don’t convert into some measurable action.

New Ad Systems - I predict that we’ll see advertising networks start experimenting with new ways of displaying ads that will adapt with the non refreshing page environments that web users will demand. I’m not sure what systems we’ll see but perhaps it’s time for CPS ads (cost per second) or Ajax Auto refreshing Ads…. or perhaps CPM ads will simply adapt and start paying more to compensate publishers for the lower numbers of ads.

Non Refreshing Pages as Valuable Real Estate? – as I write this post I also wonder whether popular pages that don’t refresh will actually become more valuable in the eyes of advertisers. To be able to dominate and monopolize a page like Popsugar and have your message shown for long periods of time could actually become something that an advertiser will be willing to pay a significant amount of money for. Perhaps such ad positions will be sold for set periods of time. While I don’t have ajaxy pages on any of my blogs I do know that advertisers like Canon and Adobe have paid me great money to have total run (for months at a time) of the banner position on my photography blog at different times – perhaps we’ll see more of these types of deals.

Lastly – I suspect that more and more advertisers won’t be as interested in CPM ads anyway. With the rise of CPA and CPC ads where they only pay for the ad when the reader takes some action towards them I suspect the sweeping CPM system will appeal to less and less advertisers.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really know how it’ll happen – but I’m pretty confident that while page views will lessen (they won’t disappear and I doubt it’ll happen as quickly as some say) that between CPA ads and other new emerging ad technologies that it’s probably not time to jump ship on online publishing!