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adTech Sydney Day 1

Adtech-SydneyToday I’m fortunate enough to be in Sydney in the blogging contingent at adTech.

As usual at these things there is a lot of content to listen to and many people to meet so I’ll keep my impressions so far (three quarters of the way through day 1) brief.

Myspace – Shawn Gold Session

Shawn Gold, CMO of Myspace, was interviewed in the keynote space this morning and while there wasn’t a great deal of ‘new’ information it was I was fascinated by the glimpse at the whirlwind journey of the last three years that has been Myspace.

His reflections upon the keys to social media sites resonated with me. They included (and this is a bringing together of many of the wide variety of things that he covered):

  • Letting Users define the direction of the Site
  • Giving Users the tools to express themselves as individuals
  • Build something that empowers people and makes their lives more efficient

He also reflected upon two aspects of young people (teens and young adults) that Myspace taps into:

  1. Identity Production (or personal branding) – one of the things that most teens go through (and have always been through) is asking questions about identity. They ask questions about who they are, how they’re different from their parents, how they connect with wider culture etc. Myspace (and other social networking sites) is a space that young people explore who they are and express that journey.
  2. Down Time – between school, sports, part time work and other extra curricula activities (combined with the fear of many parents that doesn’t allow some kids to get out as much) there is less ‘down time’ or ‘hanging out’ going on in teen years. Myspace is being used by many young people as a ‘down time’ medium. Instead of hanging at the ‘mall’ they hang online.

Quote of the day – ‘it’s a great time to be lonely on the internet.’

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Speedlinking – 7 February 2007

WordPress Feed Styler

This week I’m writing a series on how to make your RSS feeds POP and coincidentally Ronald Huereca from Dev Lounge released a WP plugin that helps you do exactly what I’m writing about.

It’s a WordPress Feed Styler that allows bloggers to add design elements into their feeds – for example styling blockquotes, images and more.

I’m yet to try it (busily packing for Sydney as I write this) but it looks like the type of thing that has the potential to make your RSS feed stand out a little from the rest.

Make Your Posts Scannable – RSS Feeds that POP

RssI recently watched two fellow bloggers work through their news aggregators (one was using Google Reader, the other Bloglines). In both instances the method that they used was to quickly scan content – only briefly stopping to read a sentence or two here and there – and occasionally opening up a post in a new tab of their browser.

People scan websites at the best of times – but I suspect that when it comes to news aggregators the scanning of content goes to a whole new level.

As a result it becomes particularly important for bloggers wanting to grab the attention of RSS readers to do whatever they can to make their content scannable.

Techniques for scannable RSS feeds are not dissimilar to those for scannable websites of any type and include:

  • Use Lists – using bullet points draws the eye and makes your content more digestible
  • Headings – headings scattered throughout your posts stand out on the page and give your readers visual cues that lead them down into your post. They also quickly communicate where you’re heading (no pun intended) with your post and can intrigue readers enough to get them fully reading what you have to say.
  • Formatting – using different text formatting (bold, italics, font sizes and even colors) can also draw the eye of your readers to different parts of your posts. Be careful about going too over the top though.
  • Blockquotes – highlight quotes or other key parts of your posts with blockquotes that indent text – again this draws the eye and adds variety into your feed.
  • Short Paragraphs - News aggregators are heavily laden with text at the best of times – but add to it with large unbroken slabs of text and you’ll end up turning off many readers.

Once again – the benefits of using these techniques will not just make your RSS feeds Pop – they’ll make the posts on your actual site pop too!

Of course to use the above tips you’ll need to have a full feed with html formatting enabled in your posts. Don’t worry for those of you using excerpts – tomorrows tip will be something more useful for you.

I should also mention that from my experience of using a variety of news aggregators – most seem to be moving towards handling this type of formatting. I can’t guarantee that all do however. I’m a Google Reader user and find that it reproduces formatting pretty well – Bloglines seems to also (although I rarely use it these days). I’d love to hear from readers as to what feed readers they use and how well they handle formatting, images, video etc.

AdSense Relaxes Ad Labeling Policies

A couple of weeks ago when Google made changes to it’s AdSense policies there was a lot of talk about the impact that the changes would have upon using different ad network ads on the same page as AdSense ads.

One small change seemed to get lost in the midst of these larger changes but Eric picked it up and had it confirmed today.

Previously you were only able to label your AdSense ads with the words “Sponsored Links” and “Advertisements”. This seems to have been relaxed.

AdSense responded to Eric’s query about this with:

“To answer your question, “Sponsored Links” and “Advertisements” are not the only two labels publishers may use…..

However, please keep in mind that publishers are not permitted to encourage users to click on Google ads or bring excessive attention to ad units. For example, your site cannot contain phrases such as “click the ads,” “support our sponsors,” “visit these recommended links,” or other similar language that could apply to the Google ads on your site.”

This isn’t a massive change but it is a relaxing of their previous policy that some publishers have been asking for.

Using Images to Make Your RSS Feeds POP!

RssThis is the second post in a series on How to make your RSS Feeds POP

One technique that many successful bloggers use to stand out from the crowd is to use images in their feeds. This means switching your feeds to full feeds, enabling html and putting up with a little more bandwidth but in my experience of surfing through thousands of posts a day in RSS it makes a big difference.

Images draw the eye, they pique interested, they grab attention and they have the potential to make what can otherwise be a dry and text filled environment (news readers) a more visually pleasing and sensual space.

I know when I’m scanning my feeds that it’s often the posts with images in them that I pause to take a second look at.

The images you use might illustrate a point you’re trying to make – or they might simply be the equivalent of an image title for your post (like I’m using in this post).

3 Examples

A few blogs that use images regularly and effectively in posts include:

TechCrunch who uses lots of logos and screenshots of companies that it reviews.

Techcrunch

Copyblogger uses title images effectively – I know when Brian uses one that I’ve got to pay attention because he’s writing original content. It’s a visual cue to his readers to listen up!

Copyblogger

Richard at Read Write Web uses a lot of images in his posts. This is particularly useful for his blog which often features longer and pretty in depth posts that without images could look like large slabs of text.

Readwriteweb

Using Video in RSS

Over the last year Videos have increasingly been appearing on blogs and over the past few months some news aggregators have worked out how to show them in RSS feeds.

The same principles that apply to images in feeds seem to apply with video – they add another dimension!

Perhaps it is the novelty value or perhaps that it’s an ‘active’ thing to press the little play button – but there’s something about seeing video on a blog or in a feed that sucks me in every time. It catches my eye and draws me towards it – I suspect that it does the same for others so smart and relevant use of video in posts can add a new dimension to both them and the feeds that they appear in.

Tomorrow I’ll continue this series in writing for RSS – but in the mean time I’d love to hear your thoughts on images in feeds.

  • Do you use them?
  • Do you like them in other’s posts?
  • Who uses images in posts well?
  • What type of images work best for you?
  • Can bloggers sometimes use too many images and videos in posts?

How to Make Your RSS Feeds POP!

RssRSS has become an increasingly important way of engaging with blog readers over the last couple of years – but in more recent times with its integration into web browsers and operating systems it’s potential power for bloggers to engage readers has increased.

However – if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably not put a lot of thought into thinking strategically about how to engage with readers through feeds. Most of us simply know we have a feed, ensure we have a link or button to let readers know we’ve got one and hope that people subscribe.

But is there a way to engage readers more effectively through RSS?

While many tips have been written on how to write blog posts, I’ve not seen any that focus upon feed readers.

The Problem of Clutter

I have around 700 feeds that I attempt to follow each week. Some of them only post once or twice a week but some can have up to 100 posts. You can imagine the massive quantities of information that many heavy RSS readers are confronted with in their news aggregators.

How can bloggers break through this clutter and make their RSS feeds get noticed? How do you make your feed ‘Pop’?

How to Make Your RSS Feeds POP!

This week I’ll be presenting a series of short posts on writing for RSS readers. As always – my invitation to you is to join in with the tips. Like everyone – I’m still making sense of new technologies and how to use them most effectively – I’m looking forward to learning from you also.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series.

PS: it should be said up front that some of the tips for improving RSS feeds that I’ll share in the coming days also have the potential to improve the blog posts that actually appear on your blog. Consider that a double bonus for the series!

The Series so Far

Bonus Post: 34 Reasons why Readers Unsubscribe from Your Blog

AGLOCO – First Impressions

AglocoOver the last few weeks I’ve been getting more and emails from people askine me for my opinion on AGLOCO (refferral link).

To be perfectly honest the first few times I heard about it I didn’t think much.

The second few times I thought it was some sort of pyramid scheme or spyware scam.

But in the last week or so a few people that I respect have started recommending I check it out as a potential way to earn an extra income stream online. Most of them told me about it with a few reservations (there’s a lot of hype about it out there too) but told me that they thought it was something that could have potential as an income earner for bloggers.

So today I signed up to check it out for myself. I’m still a little perplexed about it and feeling my way with it so take this as a very initial first impression review (it’s hard to do anything else at this stage as it’s in such early days).

Agloco isn’t the easiest concept in the world to explain (I’ll let you get all the ins and outs at their site) however from what I’ve gathered so far it brings together a variety of online activities:

  • social networking
  • referral program
  • online shopping
  • toolbars
  • Software downloading

Here’s a diagram that they use to attempt to explain it (click to enlarge):

Image Gallery

My first impressions:

I still have some questions about Agloco – but am quietly interested about it’s potential:

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My Upcoming Schedule

Just a short note to give an update on my up coming schedule as the next few months will include a few opportunities to meet bloggers in different parts of the world.

Sydney This Week

I’m at AdTech in Sydney Wednesday and Thursday of this week. If you’re there and can’t find me feel free to give me a bell on my mobile.

I’ve already heard from a few bloggers who will be at AdTech but if you’re not going and would like to catch up I’ll be at the Sydney Weblogger Meetup on Wednesday night at the Arthouse Hotel (not sure what time I’ll get there but it shouldn’t be too long after the 7pm start).

US and Canada Trip – Mid March to Mid April

This will be a month long trip – part work and part holiday with the family.

We will be traveling through Los Angeles (a few days at each end of the trip), San Fransisco for Elite Retreat, (very little spare time there – if any), Washington DC (I’m on a conference here but I might be able to find a spare evening for a meet up if there is enough interest), New York (we’ll be there for a week of vacation – but I’m sure I could do a meet up one night) and Toronto (we’ll be there over Easter for a week for some b5media business).

I’d like to attempt to contain meetings on this trip as much as possible as it’s supposed to be part holiday. If you’re interested in meeting up in any of these cities let me know in comments below. I’ll try to post updates as it gets closer.

New York – June

It looks like I’ll be back in New York for a short visit (another conference) around the 7-8 June this year. I’m still confirming this at present (the sticking point in negotiations seems to be my demands for a bath full of orange M&Ms that I require in my hotel room). More on this later.

Update: Looks like they’ve come through with the M&Ms and I’m booked to speak at FOOA (Future of Online Advertising) between 7-8 June.