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Hypebot.com — a ProBlogger Community Blog Consulting Project

This week a new blog awaits your feedback as part of the Community Blog Consulting 2.0 project.

If you’re new to the project, it’s recommended that you read the launch post. This week, there’ll be another chance to win an iPod Shuffle, in addition to some special bonus prizes.

In this post we’ll be looking at Hypebot.com. The blog’s owner, Bruce, says that its main goal is to cover how the internet and technology are changing the music business as a news source, guide and commentator.

Bruce has provided the key questions he is hoping to get some feedback on.

  • Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?
  • I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?
  • Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?
  • Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?
  • I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?

I’ll now throw it over to the ProBlogger community to provide your advice, suggestions and constructive critique. The commenter who provides the most useful feedback for the blog will win an iPod shuffle from ProBlogger and 5 CDs from the artists at Bruce’s booking agency, Skyline Music — a prize that will be provided by Bruce.

5 runner-up commenters will also receive a CD of their choice from Bruce’s roster of artists.

A summary of the community feedback (with my own commentary) will be posted in 4 – 5 days, so make sure to get your comments in soon.
Hypebot.com

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible, and will be taking all these factors into account when deciding on the winning commenter.

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Comments

  1. Low says:

    I don’t think i have the answer to Bruce’s questions because i believe i know less about effective blogging than most people in the ProBlogger community. But since I’m an avid reader of Hypebot, and surely benefited from his posts, links, news etc, i am very proud to recommend anyone who is likely to know about music 2.0. and tech related music to read Hypebot and subscribe to its feeds.

  2. Jen says:

    What I like about the blog:
    1. I love the header image. I think it has a very nice design.
    2. I like the design of the rest of the page. It’s very simplistic and easy to look at.
    3. You have really good content, and you are updating the blog regularly.
    4. You are using the text links for Social Bookmarking at the end of each post.

    Areas to improve:
    1. I might make the sidebar width a little smaller. It takes attention away from the main content area at the current width.
    2. I would add About and Contact pages to the blog, and I would post links somewhere up at the top of the blog.
    3. I would remove the Recent Posts from the sidebar just to reduce the clutter. If you scroll down, you can see the recent posts, so it might be unnecessary.
    4. For your feed button, I might choose to use the button that has text letting the user know “Subscribe to Feed”.
    5. As for categories, there are two widgets being used for them right now. I would choose one of these, and remove the other to “declutter” a bit.
    6. There are also two Technorati buttons in the sidebar. I would remove one of these to “declutter”.

    Overall, I think you have a nice looking blog with great content.

  3. I do NOT like that giant right hand sidebar – way, way too big and slow to load also.

    Good job with the “Music 2.0 resources” leading to your Amazon Stores..

    Good logo – good looking, good text, good message!

    You only have one http://validator.w3.org/ error and that’s probably Typepad’s fault, not yours, so that’s good.

    I have strong opinions about joining a blog network; see my http://aplawrence.com/foo-web/blogging-networks.html for my opinions on that

    I’m not sure why you are worried about your content: it looks great to me. It seems to be original, you do a very nice job of choosing and blending in graphics. It looks very good and reads well.

    The “Music Briefing” posts suffer from that giant sidebar or should use something different than that “>>>” lead-in, but other than that, sheesh, nice stuff, well done!

    On the sidebars: no point in running on down with a long sidebar when you don’t have content to match. It’s an un-tucked shirt tail, it’s messy and nobody is going to scroll down to read it anyway. Maybe a Typepad limitation again or you just need to tighten up all the stuff you are cramming in there – Javascript menus can only expose details when someone clicks on their root; that can save tremendous space.

    What to charge for ads? Well, I look at what Google gives me in the same space, and bump it up a little. After 4 years of running Google, I have a very good idea of what each potential ad slot is worth now; so much so that I can actually publish a visual layout ( http://aplawrence.com/showads.html ). But why WOULDN’T you sell ads?? I think I’d need to understand why you ask if you should before I could answer that.

    You don’t have your rss feed in your page headers. Again, I don’t know Typepad so I don’t know if that’s your fault or theirs but you should have a tag like

    (open tag)link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” href=”http://feeds.feedburner.c
    om/aplawrence/YOURFEED” title=”RSS feed for hypebot.com”/(close tag). Modern browsers see that and know you have a feed.

    I like to see “Search” either on top or at the very bottom. Burying it in the middle makes it hard to find.

    Spell check: I don’t see a lot of it, but you do it now and then: “proffessional” on your “About” page, for example. Or “loosing” in the questions you asked Darren.

    Consistency: Why does “About” have a different theme??

    Why is “Categories” in two places on your sidebars?

    I’d say overall, very, very nice though.. I wish my site were half as attractive!

  4. I like how the real meat of the site is in simple white related material is in grey. Make it easy to focus on subject.

    I find the text for the Recent post and Recent comments a little too small.

    I would like to see the heading for the various subcategories (my Links, About and all these) stand out more from the grey background so I can quickly these categories . Now they see almost berried.

    In some of the article there are too many Bolds and links and for me at least it makes it difficult to read. The first article and second work great

  5. John says:

    Question:
    Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?

    Answer:
    That’s a million dollar question!

    Question:
    I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?

    Answer:
    Any Alliance with a established network will definitely help. Since you are saying the blog networks are established, this means they have that experience to take yr blog to the next level.

    Question:
    Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?
    When you have smaller audience, it is difficult to sell direct Ads. A with a 0 page rank on content page ( I mean http://hypebot.typepad.com/hypebot/), it is difficult to attract buyers for direct ads. But again unless you say, that direct ads are available on your blog, advertisers will never ask. So why not have advertise page, with prices for various blocks of ads spots on it.

    Answer:
    Pricing, you will be the best to judge to fix it. For example, if you are placing ads in space of the vertical adsense unit in sidebar, then just multiply 3 times the earnings from your that adsense unit and round it. Now as your audience increases, you can always increase the prices of direct ads. Or I think you should try some PPP ads, affiliate ads which can pay high commissions of performance,

    Question:
    Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?

    Answer:
    I think the posts are too short. And I don;t connect to this industry much, although I am a music lover, it would be not honest to answer this question.

    Some other observations from me:
    1. Why not move the blog to your main domain, instead if using a frame?
    2. Your themes look, very colorless? A little bit of more color will add more life to the blog.
    3. There is no archives link! Its difficult to search links. A better organized sidebar will help.
    4. A better font :) in the sidebar and a bit larger should help

    These are my little pieces of feedback about yr blog! Hope some of my points provide value to your blog!

    Cheers!
    John

  6. I would like to address the readability of the blog. One thing I find distracting is the font size and spacing. I have a high resolution monitor, and the words appear too large and far apart. This makes it a bit of a chore to read, and keeps the page as a whole from hanging together. On a low resolution monitor the problem would be amplified.

    I would experiment with these elements until it becomes more pleasing to read, and when readers stay longer to read, you have one more element on your side to increase readership.

    Don’t let the criticisms people give get you down. Just analyse them, choose the best, and ignore the rest.

  7. Mike King says:

    I like the colors and its fairly clean style. I do think it is a bit cluttered though, as are most blogs! My suggestions are (similar to a few posted above):
    1. Add some navigation to about, contact, archives, etc near the top of the page.
    2. Drastically thin out the sidebar, its way to wide and distracting. I would suggest that the rightmost bar could be removed and put a bit at the bottom of the page and a few things elsewhere on the other sidebar or headers.
    3. Move the search field up to the top with the header. This should always be visible coming to a blog site since the top article is not always the item one is looking for.
    4. Add text with the RSS image button.
    5. Use a theme that uses the full page width, not a fixed width. This is a most hated part (for me at least) about most blogs. Blogs are about articles to read, and any article is easier to read if it fills the width of the browser with less scrolling needed. Everyone uses different resolutions on their monitors and a nice big monitor (common nowadays) can easily view a lot more width than this blog has.
    6. not sure what is with all the >>> parts in the news posts. They do not look formatted well (use bullet lists or something with an image instead) as they are very distracting and hard to read through.

  8. CompuWorld says:

    Before I start answering the question here goes the first few points which hit me as your blog loaded.

    –What have you done with your about page? Its layout does not match with your blog. The theme should be same. And there was NO link in your about page to your blog’s homepage? What if I opened your about page in some new window and accidentally closed the homepage? How will I know where I came from?

    –The contact page? You have a email there for people to contact you. Better have a contact page. It is all about going more professional look to your blog and that is what you are thriving to be. Right?

    –Your logo links to typepad URL where as it should link to http://www.hypebot.com/ Change this. It is just another silly mistake which bloggers do. If I click on your logo to get to your homepage (Because you do not have a home button.) and decide to link to you than I will end up linking to your typepad URL. That won’t help you in your pagerank. So change it.

    –I don’t think you need to write Sponsors above the google ads in the sidebar. Thats my choice. I don’t prefer that. If these are 125×125 ad spots than I will write sponsors but not if they are google ads. Google already mentions them to be Google adsense ads.

    –In you first post you are displaying a rectangular google adsense ad. Change its background color to white. You will get much better clicks then.

    –Remove that powerpoint clip art. That books picture there in the right sidebar. You can get something more unique. If you can pay for problogger’s blog consulting than you can get a better image designed too. Remove that clipart from there.

    –Remove that technorati’s search field. Technorati fave me button is fine but technorati’s search has a better replacement. The Google Custom search bar. Get that.

    –This might be of no importance but under your privacy policy I could see the Digg this and the delicious links :) I know this was default and I think you should remove it. It is all about giving a professional look to your blog.

    –Permalinks to all your posts are the typepad URLs whereas your homepage is a normal URL. I do not know much about typepad but I think if you can somehow change that typepad permalinks to your posts permalinks than it would be much better.

    –When I open http://www.hypebot.com/ in firefox than it won’t show the favicon but when I open http://hypebot.typepad.com/hypebot/ than it shows the favicon. Although the favicon is the typepad favicon still if it is visible everytime than it is better. And why not change to a personalized favicon which matches with your logo?

    –You have a cnet badge there in you blog which means you were listed on cnet (if I didn’t guessed it right). If that is so than why haven’t you linked to that article of cnet? That badge links to nothing.

    –Recent posts were being displayed twice in the sidebar. Why?

    –In few posts I saw that if they have been updated than the word UPDATED shows right on top of the post whereas the trend is that you should write the updated content after the complete post. So that a reader who has already read the old post is able to find the updates in the article easily.

    –No archives? I wanted to see how old your blog is. And if it is there and I missed it than you should understand that it isn’t in a easily visible place. Although I have checked it many times and I couldn’t find it.

    Okay. So that was the first look analysis of the blog. Now I will get into your questions..

    Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?
    To increase your readership get more of such type of blog consultings but in blogs which are from your own niche.

    A word FREE brings in lot of readers. I see that you are giving away 5 CDs here. Why not start giving some good FREE stuff on your website to readers. Don’t ask them to link to you for the free gift. Make it very easy. Like ask them to leave a tiny comment and some lucky ones get the FREE gift. Such kind of contests which are easy to participate are easy to join and become famous very well, like Darren’s contest few months back when ProBlogger turned 3 years. Mostly the contest wanted people to leave comments. That is easy.

    Try and stretch the contests for a week. Like just now Darren started a contest where after a week he will give books to some lucky people who leave comments. If the gift is attractive than it will attract readers. If you got money than instead of waisting it on coffees why not “waste” it on your blog for future returns? To expand your readership you start commenting “very heavily” on same niche blogs. You will get good readers.

    Also I saw that you have been writing some real good content for music companies. Contact those companies and tell them what you have written. If they link to those articles in there press release section than you will get many readers coming in. Many dedicated ones.

    And get your logo and your blog’s URL printed on a T-Shirt and wear that regularly. This starts conversations very quick and readers do tend to visit your blog at least once. Who know how many turn to be regular readers.

    Add the subscribe via email and the subscribe via RSS Feeds button below every posts like I have done in my blog.

    I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?
    If it is a established network than GO FOR IT. You will benefit from it in some way or the other. If your blog fails to meet up to there standards than at least you will learn what you need to do and when you get into a network of experienced people than you are bound to get the exposure you are looking for. By the way if the network is established than they have guessed that you got something in you and that is the reason why they contacted you. No other answer for this. Go for it!

    Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?
    Do NOT sell ads at this stage. You seem to be be working very hard in your blog and that makes it clear that you aim high with this blog. So why are you thinking about money at this stage? If you need some quick bucks than do some freelance writing work on other blogs in your free time and that should be fine. You will find good opportunities in problogger’s job board. See..if you sell ads at this stage and the advertiser does not gets the clicks he might expect than he won’t come back again. You loose business. Build your readership and once you start getting high amount of readers than think of selling ad space. At that stage people will themselves start asking for ad space. It is all about patience. Little bit of patience, lots of hard-work and lots of goodness to others will bring in the success and will bring in the advertisers.

    Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?
    Right balance? In your last articles from November 30 till date I found only 30 comments (approx.). Out of those 18 were on the article which is about nominations. That is totally out of balance. See I am not criticizing you. What I mean is you are generating cool content and may be you have some dedicated readers but friend your articles aren’t such that people are “pushed” to leave a comment. Read probloggers article on how to push your readers to write comment. You should write like you are talking to the reader and you should end the article in a way that it asks readers if the so n so company did right with the step you mentioned (just a example) or something of the sort. This will push the reader to leave a comment. Now actively participate in this and reply to those comment. Sometimes replying in controversial manner will bring in more comments and that isn’t wrong!

    I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?
    You blog is focusing on “news” so why not get a new theme which looks more like a news theme. Premium News Theme might be a good option. I don’t know if that works with typepad. If it doesn’t than invest some more money and get a news kind of theme for your blog “very quick” because this one kills all the experience. The theme which I have suggested got a good video plugin there and it will go great with your kind of blog.

    Get a theme, get some place for video in that theme and update that regularly. This will bring in more readers if they find good videos on your homepage on a regular basis.

    Remember that your theme should match with your logo.

    Now first thing you need to do is remove that clip art from there (that books image). It isn’t professional. Than look for a designer, get the quote, plan a design and get it done. Without a good theme you won’t have readers coming in. Remember to get a design which attracts readers. Cover of the book does matter. Here is a a list of 53 blog designs. (that isn’t my blog) The list contains some real good designs to give you ideas.

    When I started writing this comment there were zero comments on the list. Now I see that there are 5 comments. Just to make it clear the ideas are mine and I haven’t copied any comment.

    I hope that will help you. If that does than do visit my blog and if that dosen’t than I would love to know what clicked, other than all this, for your blog. I will soon be returning to your blog after my exams to see what changes you made.

    That will help me know how is this consulting helping the bloggers. It seems to be great thing.

  9. CompuWorld says:

    my apologies there for the bold text in the end. I missed a closing tag there in the comment above.

  10. @Compuworld

    Yes, it would be nice if the Comment system here let us edit our posts for at least a few minutes after posting.. so many times I have noticed a stupid typo but there’s nothing I can do about it..

  11. Dina Lynch says:

    As a first-time reader, here’s my experience of your page.:

    I liked the simplicity of it, but expected a bit more color, either in the header or in the titles.

    Although I understand why the sponsor ads come between the content and resources, doing so interrupts my enjoyment of the content. My eyes don’t easily flow to the related resources you offer, which I’d naturally want to see if the content is good. Perhaps, the sponsor ads should be on the outside and it would be the last thing my eyes rested on.

    The graphics seem disjointed to me. The header graphic style isn’t repeated anywhere else on the page. If it were I might begin to think of Hypebot as a brand and recognize it more easily.

    I hope that’s helpful. This entire project is enormously helpful to me (Thanks Darren!). I’ve blogged since ’05 about mediation on the Blogger platform with moderate success.

    Now, I’m launching a new blog, What I Really Want to Know, on WordPress. These early comments are an excellent checklist for the things I need to include and where, i.e. the RSS feed text or about/contact pages. (I might almost be okay if I don’t win the ‘WordPress for Dummies book :)- Thanks so much )

    Best wishes and I hope to hear what changes you made and the results you received.

    Dina Lynch Eisenberg
    What I Really Want to Know.com
    Your Fifty Year Marriage

  12. kanjiroushi says:

    The first point that striked me is the design that should be reviewed. He tried to go simple but it still looks cluttered. This is how I would proceed:

    Adding a color like the purple of the header on the post title would improve a lot the design.

    Increasing the space between the different posts and putting icons instead of the digg it, stumble upon links would also be great.

    Images on the post should be on the left side and he should not use bullet points and other text effects on the summary of the post.

    Increasing the size of the comment link and putting an icon would help.

    You should also put the sidebar on a white background because it doesn’t looks like to be the same website. Also some purple for the titles of the sections.

    I think presentationzen is a good guide in how to attain a good design for an uncluttered website.

  13. Shawn says:

    Question:
    Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?

    Answer:
    I have no idea. I am not a part of your audience. I enjoy music and I enjoy tech, but the business side… it’s like the old saw goes “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it…”

    Question:
    I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?

    Answer:
    As long as you maintain editorial control and can voice your opinions or relay the opinions of your readers your independence will not be questioned. I’d say go for it if those conditions are met. Of course, if the group tells you that you have to toe the company line, then you are losing your independence and it will show.

    Question:
    Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?

    Answer:
    If you are having success with Google, then forgo selling adds. I would think that the clutter of X number of ads could detract from the message, whereas a nice block – if it is currently working for you – does not.

    Question:
    Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?

    Answer:
    Again, as I am not a member of your target audience, i cannot accurately answer this one. Perhaps a poll on your blog would be a better location for this question.

    Some other observations from me:
    My initial thought on opening the page was “where’s the content?” The page is so gray (not a color choice, a design term) that the content looks like the menu looks like the ads and so on. Break things up a bit and add some icons and graphics and color to draw the eye.

    Special thanks to John for providing a lovely response format that I happily cut and pasted filling in my answers along the way :-)

  14. Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?

    When you say music industry, who do you mean? Musicians? Record company people? If you want to broaden your readership, there is a growing army of independent producers and artists out there. They are growing while the giant recording industry as we’ve known it is dying. The problem is the recording industry is at war with music lovers. You need to pick a side and stand up for that side. Stand for something on your blog. That will attract attention because it polarizes people.

    Also, from a design standpoint: your tagline doesn’t really tell me what you’re about or who you’re for. In other words, it doesn’t tell me what’s in it for me.

    * I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?

    I have never perceived a blog that was part of a network as lacking in independence. I don’t think that’s really an issue. You will get support and traffic, however.

    * Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?

    You can look at the ad rates of other blogs to find out. What’s more important is that with contextual advertising, the keywords on a page are going to bring ads in that your target audience will never click on because they are on the other “side” of the music drm/p2p no drm war.

    * I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?

    Widen the main content area
    Increase the font size of the sidebar
    Left-align your post headings
    Add more white space between the end of one post the heading of the next.
    Carry through the colors of the logo in the rest of the design.

  15. As a TypePad user myself I would look to map your domain to your actual address.

    It is good for search engines, as well as users because at the moment I can not get the location of an individual page from the address bar.

    Also not a fan of using Digg etc on the extended posts on the front page, is unlikely people will use these tools based on just a few opening paragraphs, best just kept for individual articles.

    I see you have an About page link and Email link half way down the page, these need to be right up top.

    I would suggest a new TypeList with Home, About and Email links just above your RSS icon.

    Blend your ads at the foot of each article so they have a white background.

    I am a fan of having content clearly marked as such, and so separate from your income streams, also pick out some key articles from your archive.

    Before dropping recent stories or comments I think category archives could go, especially if you provided a clear link to the archive page TypePad provides, maybe from near a search box.

    YIKES!!! Quite a lot there, give me a shout if you want some back office help with these changes and those submitted by others.

    All the best
    Craig

  16. Mike says:

    * Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?
    A: As someone who creates their own music as a hobby in my basement, I have been looking for something just like your blog. I know there are thousands more just like me looking so eventually they will find you as your blog grows. As for the industry/tech audience, I would think they would want to follow what your ‘regular’ readers are saying.

    * I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?
    A: I think you would benefit from an alliance as long as you really do maintain your independence. Your content will be the true judge of how you are perceived.

    * Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?
    A: I think you should definitely try to sell the ads. As someone who does his own recording, I have always found that the ads increase the attractiveness of some other sites by increasing the content.
    How much to charge? I would use your traffic data combined with considering your CTR on your Adsense and how much you are earning per click. However, if you consider that one copy of Cubase recording software sells in excess of $800, a company like that might be willing to pay more…if they only sell 10 copies a year from your site, that’s an extra $8000 in sales so you should be able to charge accordingly.

    * Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?
    A:So far so good!

    * I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?
    A: I like the design. It’s simple and clean. Maybe put “Categories” in the upper right corner which is something I would look for. It’s nice to easily find some info if for example I was looking for all your articles about recording or promoting music online.

  17. The first thing I would do is change out the adsense text ad for adsense image or CPM ad from another company. It seems out of place as is and would be well served by being blended at the least.

    Also I say crank up the color. The blue/gray scheme is a bit dull and cranking up (but not overdoing) the color would go a long way.

    I like the idea of this site and think there’s great potential with some minor tweaks.

  18. coolthought says:

    First the feed. Do something like the problogger.net does.
    After the logo, put in the words “subscriber to Hypebot via RSS.
    Add a quick explanation of “what is RSS?”
    Finally, use “or subscribe via email”
    All these will help those who visit your site for the site time to be turned into your regular reader by subscribing to your blog.

    I thoughts is that you didn’t over simplified but rather too much space on top and rather tight space with the expanded 3 columns.
    This is what I suggest. You can tighten some more on the height of the heading, set the edge of closer to your logo.
    Then fill the blank space on top with things like a search bar or move the “music technology. the new music business” to the right to fill the space and also to tighten the height more or include in some words that will tell a new reader what is your blog about. Which is “News source, guide and commentator on how the internet and technology are changing the music business” or maybe fill with an ad banner.

    Change the link in your logo such that by clicking your logo, it will go to the main page of the blog instead of going to your typepad blog. Lead your readers to your main blog and not away.

    There is a big offset in your column width coordination. It gives the impression that the grey columns are actually more important than where your postings are.
    What to do is to narrow the right most column to give a wider space for your left most column and as well as some more gap space to the left of the left most column.

    Another way is to move your RSS column to be your left most columns so that your posting will be able to take centre stage in your blog.

    An important thing is that your words in the 2 right columns are too small. They may not be the focus of your blog but they will help your reader to zoom in, go deeper and stay longer at your blog. So make it friendly to your reader and increase your font size. To have a good idea how much bigger your font size should be, take a look at problogger.net side bar. It is about 1 point font size smaller.

    Sometimes simple is more. But the colours give a dull and serious feel. Your blog should have exciting colours to match up with your topic, hype on internet and technology influencing the music business.
    Go for energetic colours to match your logo colours. You might want to use analogous colours like light purple for 2 of the right side bars (Maybe different shades of purple or blue) Or you can use complimentary colours like light lime green with light purple. Just by using colours, you will be able to spice up and add a bit of excitement to your blog and therefore more appealing to your readers.

    It is sometimes difficult to read some of your postings. Do not bold your words anywhere or anyhow. Bold words should be used for separation purposes and highlight a start of the next item in the topic of the posting. Use italics, change in colours or underline (don’t use underline excessively too) to emphasised. Again don’t use it all over place, anywhere or anyhow. Another technique is to use sub heading in the posting to emphasise a certain words. This is a good technique to create more desirable keywords in blog resulting in higher search engine ranking and therefore higher traffic to your blog.

    To keep your readers stay reading your blog longer, is to make them go “deeper” by adding a related posts links at the bottom of each post, start a content column which should be more focused instead of the categories which has a wide range of topics.

    Maybe half each, on news and commentary. But this will be difficult as news will be depended on events that will be happening (maybe an infrequent or frequent event)
    So the easiest way is to add tab (pages) so that your reader can go straight to all news postings tab, all commentary postings tab or back to the main tab for all the latest postings which is a mixed of both. Include an archive tab and contact you tab also since you are looking into collaboration.

    There is no such thing as to too little readers to put ads. Yes, you should have ads and by choosing your ads carefully, it will work both ways for you and your readers. First, your readers will benefits from the ads as they will have more related interest link to go and you will benefit to by earning revenue from it.

    Coordinate the colours of your Google ads. A great example will be Simply Recipes from elise.com. Look at how the Google ads are merged seamlessly with the rest of the blog. Also notice that the head isn’t too high and the blank space on the left is nicely filled up with a search bar.

    It is difficult to judge now how much you should be charging your advertisers and if your readership is low, it will be difficult to justify to your sponsors why they should put up an ad in your blog. Best way will be by using an affiliate program like adsense to start off. Build up to a sizable readership and a good sum of revenue generated from ads. Then find out what is the percentage that adsense is earning from your ads. Add that to your income from your ads revenue. Monitor these for a few months and correlate the total earning from the ads with the number of subscribers and readers. Then do a future projection of total ads revenue when you have a higher number of subscribers or readers. Then you can confidently approached your sponsors and tell them your rates.
    And also by putting up ads early, you can get a feel of where you should position your ads (and ads sizes and types of ads like the widgetbucks) to get optimum results.
    One last thing, on choosing your sponsors or ads. Try to focus on ads that is related to your topic and which is more profitable also. For example, choose ads for ipods insteads of ads for music. The competition in the ipod market is fierce and the item fetches high price, so the advertisers are more willing to pay more to advertise than music MP3 or iTunes.

    To increase your readership, further improve on your content. Try to understand your targeted market and come up with postings that will be interesting, give value, useful, etc to your target audience. By having “solid” contents (high ranking keywords), first, you will have more readers interested in your postings and they will add links, bookmark, digg it, etc. These will give your blog more exposure to the blogosphere like BlogRush and technorati.

    This will improve on the search engine ranking with more popular keywords and as well as with more links. So, basically, content, keywords and links for SEO to increase ranking and therefore increase traffic and readership.

    Yes, it will be great to have alliances unless both of you are occupying exactly the same niches.(People won’t want to waste their time reading the same thing twice but they will be likely like to find out more about the same topic(it will be good if both your blog and the alliances blog will compliment each other by giving different perspective of the same topic) It will help to broaden the network of readership of both blogs and hence more links which means better search engine ranking and all these means more traffic and reader to your blog. This goes even deeper. When there is more traffic going to your blog, they will also check out your partner’s blog. Hence, more links for your partners. Which in turn, better search engine ranking and more traffic to their blog. These new traffic will in turn come and check out your blog too.

    Basically, what goes round, comes round. It is like having more doors and bigger doors to your house (blog). It will be easier for the reader to find a way into your house (blog). So, to keep them staying longer and keep coming back is to stock up your house (blog) with valuable and interesting items or objects. These people will then like to share that what a wonderful discovery they have made and told everyone they knew. Soon your house (blog) will be full of people checking your valuable and interesting stuffs and items. Exponential growth will happen in the beginning, but will slow down as most of the active interested surfers found your site. So do a revamp then and update the look of the blog too. Music lovers may tend to follow trend too (more so for the tech type). So your blog should follow the trend, in both the content and looks and design of the blog.

  19. Sallie Mae says:

    Your top post needs proofreading.

    “Reports have workers at MTV hitting the at 3PM pavement today in protest ” …

    Spell check can’t say you from everything. It’s been up there for a few hours. I’m surprised no one has caught that yet.

    Question:
    Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?
    Opinion:
    I would risk loosing some of the “industry” audience and side more with indie music fans since they’re on the rising wave.
    So, I would pimp the social sites more. Start a Facebook group promoting your site.

    Question:
    I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?
    Opinion:
    I’m not too much of a 3 column layout fan. The admin side seems to outweigh the content. Your content is great though!

  20. Thanks everyone for the feedback so far!

    In answer to one question – my current core audience which I’d like to broaden is music industry professionals (labels, music tech, managers and related services like marketing).

    Give me some time to digest it all…and in the mean time keep it coming!

    I promise not to cry…. :>)

  21. Caitlin says:

    How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?

    Your logo is clean and memorable, but it seems to me there is a lost of wasted space at the top right of your site. Your logo is almost as tall as the first post on the page (as of 12/10/07 4pm EST). Perhaps you could make your logo a touch smaller to reduce the blank space, or you could put something in the blank space to the right of the logo. Links to your About page, and any other information pages would be great at the top here, so they are easy to find for people.

    I’m not a big fan of tag clouds or category clouds. I feel they look messy, and that doesn’t fit with the simplistic theme you are going for. You have two category widgets, I’d reduce that to only 1.

    Put your Search button near the top so new readers can find it quickly.

    Do you really need two Technorati buttons? One would probably be enough.

    Your 3rd sidebar seems wider than it needs to be. There’s nothing in the far right bar that needs that much room. Reduce it to the width of the middle sidebar, and increase the width of your content.

    Either switch to hosting your own blog, or else turn off the domain masking. Even in these days of 1-click social bookmarking, people like me still like to be able to copy/paste the URL from the address bar. Yours always says http://www.hypebot.com/ no matter what page or article you are on. This can be confusing to new online readers, and annoying to some seasoned ones.

    I also agree with those who said to use some text with your RSS button.

  22. Tom says:

    As I am in the process of designing my own blog, this review is fantastic. Here are my two cents:

    1. I definitely agree that the side bars should be smaller compared to the post column. I had a hard time on first glance telling what I was looking for.

    2. I would also blend the Google ads into the bottom of the posts rather than highlight in gray.

  23. plonkee says:

    Another agreeing that the sidebars are too wide, particularly the one on the far right. The font in the sidebar is also difficult to read – I’d prefer more consistent fonts in general. I think you need to seriously declutter your sidebars in general, as mentioned by other commentators.

    I think that you either have too many posts displayed on the homepage, or you should switch to truncated posts there. The posts go on too long after the sidebar ends.

    Have you experimented with making your adsense blend in more? If not, you might want to try that. Have you thought of using the Amazon affiliate program more? I’m not sure whether your target audience is quite right, but it might be worth experimenting with.

    You need an about page specifically for the blog, and it needs to be more prominent. I like the tagline, but I’d like the about page to expand on that and really tell me what this site will do for me.

    From what I can see, it seems to me that you are focussing predominantly on news rather than commentary. I don’t know whether this is good or not, I think it will depend on your niche.

    Finally, I like the music 2.0 resources idea. I’m not convinced by the graphic but the principle is good, and I think that’s the right location.

  24. Bruce – you probably missed my earlier comment because it spent so long in moderation, but I’m still wondering why you question whether or not to sell ads.

    You MAY be too small to sell any, but so what? If you put out the offer, someone may bite now, and if not, they’ll bite when you are bigger – but if you aren’t offering, very few are going to take the trouble to ask..

    I don’t sell a lot of non-Google/Chitika ads, but I do manage to sell a few here and there and I definitely offer the bigger slots just in case.. you just never know.

  25. Colleen says:

    Domain masking can cause a lot of issues with SEO, etc. The owner of the weblog can submit a help ticket with TypePad support via Control Panel > Help and we can work with them to set up domain mapping correctly.

    (I work for TypePad Support)

  26. My suggestion that hasn’t been said by anyone so far is to change the text in your sidebars. For me it seems a little small. I would increase the size and possibly a different font.

  27. Matthew says:

    How can you increase your readership?

    When I first clicked over to your blog I noticed the first post cited credit to Gawker. While it’s great to make sure you are hitting the high notes with your news, I think you need to focus on bringing content to your readers that they cannot find from the major players in your arena.

    Make sure you are creating content that they can only find at your location and your readership volumes will grow steadily because they need your website to get that fix of information. Then sooner or later the bigger sites in your medium will start linking to you because your content is unique and fresh.

    When you are reporting ‘global messages’, things that are widely covered, think about ways that you can bring your message in a unique delivery that will make your readers prefer your volley over your competitions.

  28. Cynthia says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog and I was overwhelmed by how little of the screen is devoted to the post content (the reason I visit a blog). I’ve recently started playing with two sidebar blogs but this one feels really sidebar heavy and it put me off reading.

    Second – and this is a big one – on a quick skim, I don’t get what your blog is about. I don’t feel a cohesive theme. There’s music, sure and some technology, but I felt bombarded with lists of links.

    Give me a wider post with solid content that fits into your theme.

  29. Blog Opinion says:

    Nice blog. It mostly talk relating to music tech. sounds good )))))

  30. tanya says:

    Design & Layout
    I am a big fan of simple designs too, but I think it needs more color – either in a logo, or attractive links (borders around pictures), to make a simple layout pop off the page. I also think the grey is a shade or 2 too dark, and it is a little boring.

    I also did not exactly get what the purpose of the site is. I know there is a tagline, but there could be an ‘about’ somewhere at the top or the side stating if its news, commentaries and interviews (sounds like a pretty good tag line too).

    The text in the side bar is too small – I didn’t read it – there is so much text. The blog is also a text wonderland. There needs to be more use of images – bigger.

    Nothing wrong with google ads, but the one in the sidebar seems awkwardly placed.

    Also you might want to try some other advertising (emusic has a pretty sweet affiliate offer – I use them on my workout music site).

    SEO
    The title (in the header of the blog) needs to have some descriptive key words. Right now it’s just “hypebot” but it needs to be “Music News | Hypebot.com” or something similar. Also in the header of the individual archive page (not sure if this is a TypePad thing).

    Another reason why a text tagline is important is for keywords close to the top of the page that will get indexed by search engines.

    The RSS is just an image with nothing beside it. Align it left and actually use the words subscribe by RSS or email. If I didn’t know what that orange symbol means, I would have ignored it (and if you are just going to use the symbol – make it bigger and noticeable).

    Lastly, I think the titles of your entries could be a little better. They are not really descriptive. For example, “Announcing Music Blog Awards Nominees.” I thought it was a regurgitation of a list of something that was coming on the tele. Then I read it and realized that it was your competition and the nominees were from readers of your site in a previous post. The title could have been something like, “The Readers have spoken and selected their top choices for HypeBots Music Awards.” – Again SEO from the title words, plus I would be more inclined to read it; Then in the post, there should be a link to the previous entry (interlinking posts).

    Yeah – and categories 2x as mentioned before.

    In summary, I think this page gives a bit of a dry, boring impression. I think the content is fabulous, but it’s missing something to draw me in.

  31. 66tx says:

    Good job with the “Music 2.0 resources” leading to your Amazon Stores..

  32. Leon says:

    I say pick a nicer colour than grey. Simple white has more of an impact. And put the content in the middle, because that’s where people naturally read.

  33. coolthought says:

    Quote “In answer to one question – my current core audience which I’d like to broaden is music industry professionals (labels, music tech, managers and related services like marketing).”

    You will need to do research to know your target audience better before you can attract them to your site.

    Use questionaires, polls, interview, etc.

    Questionaires should have questions probably not more than 5 and make sure they do not “break a bone” to answer your questions. Use things like “true or false”, “yes or no” or choose one of answers (Multiple choice questions). Remember this people are probably busy people who will not be willing to spend too much time answering your questions. If you need to know more, give them different questionaires intermittenly, maybe a few weeks between each questionaires (each questionaires maybe 3-6 questions). Few ways I can suggest to approach them with the questionaires are with flyers, emails and your blog.

    You can use polls in your Blog like what Darren did. Simple and easy and do it over a period of time to get enough useful information.

    Use interview if you are able to talk to your target audience. This way you can have a more intimate way of getting answers deep down,

    Last method, if you really have a broad network of your target audience. Use focus group to get your answers. They will sit down together and discuss the topics that you set. It will have an open ended questions that may result in interesting results or answers that you may not have ever thought of before.

    Questions to ask… questions to find out what your target audience wants, needs and hope to see in the future. You may also suggest solutions and topics to find out if this is what they want.

    Next step in research is to look at your competitors. Find out what are the things that they are doing and how they are doing it. How does their readers feel about their blog. Their strengths and weaknesses. You should also look into your own strengths and weaknesses.

    With all these research, you can tailored your topics to be better than your competitors or in areas that your competitors aren’t in.

    Add another tab (page) to cater to these audience (maybe a music profession tab) in addition to the all news postings tab, all commentary postings tab, home tab (main tab) for all the latest postings and all postings, an archive tab and as well as a contact you tab.

    This will get your different variety of audience (but same interest in the music industry) to feel “at home” in your blog.

  34. Pete says:

    1. I think the colors are a tad bit boring to say the least. Today’s culture is full of color and wild excitement. Take a look at music videos. Most aren’t black/white anymore, but this blog is close to that. Switch it up a bit and add some colors. The header is already starting to get there.
    2. The columns are misplaced in my opinion. The main column is half the size of the page. Adsense and the sidebar make up the other half, but it’s not a good position to place them. Adsense is placed as if it is more important than categories. I suggest a complete movement of the recent posts, comments, categories, etc. to the left. Remove one of the two Technorati buttons (only one is needed right?). The smaller adsense rectangle should be bigger. If you’re gonna advertise, advertise properly. If this is done, focus is regained into the new central column where all the posts and good stuff will be.
    3. As said before, make the sidebar text larger. Simple as that, can’t read it as of now.
    4. Sorry, but what’s that orange button at the top? one would ask. Make sure people who want to subscribe know where to do so. Add some text to point to their destination, the fancy button.
    5. For SEO purposes, your title shouldn’t be just Hypebot. What’s hypebot? Change your title to be like “Best of Music News | Hypebot.com” or something so people will know what hypebot is all about. Right now, google says the site is #1 under hypebot, but under “music news technology” (the site’s purpose yes?), the site is either past the 20th page or not even listed properly.
    6. Create an about page to describe the blog’s reason for existence and maybe even tell a bit about yourself. People want to know more about what they are reading.
    7. On posts, try to give a bit more shock in titles and opening lines. This keeps readers hooked and feed subscribers wondering what you’ll be discussing.
    8. Digg every good post you put out there, Bruce. This increases viewership (even if it’s 1 or 2 people, it’s still viewership).
    9. Sell ads! Your sponsors section is basically adsense! As for pricing, I would expect that it depends on viewership. Prices should be proportional to viewership and potential purchases.
    10. Go ahead and try the blog network. The only reason I see to not try is if another blog already occupies your niche exactly. Give readers a reason to be at Hypebot.

    In the end, the blog is flat in terms of color and design. The content is good for the most part. Experiment with advertising and income streams. There’s a different combination for everybody.

  35. Thanks for the comments so far. Lots of great ones.

    I want to make some of the changes suggest right now (colors, sidebar width, selling ads, etc…) but I’m going to wait until at least the end of the week so I don’t skew future comments.

  36. raj says:

    Great Content Honestly!!!! but t2 things from me :- too small font on the right side, on recent posts, etc and adsense design not good!! u should remove the border but merge the background colour with the sidebar grey color, but again, content really is nice …

  37. Patrick says:

    The first thing that struck me was how wide the gray right side bar is. It takes up too much space. The right side should only take up no more than 1/3 or your screen. The gray is too dark and the words too small. It’s difficult to read. Remember, a lot of readers have poor eyes.

    The logo is cool but what is with the huge dead spot right of the logo. Place an ad or something there.

    Blend the Google ads with your content. The colors (text and background) should be the same as your page. You don’t want the average Joe to think its an ad.

    Remove your e-mail link to prevent spam. State your email as bruce[at]skylineonline[at]com. Add an “About Me” to tell readers about you. It personalizes the Blog.

    I agree with a lot of the comments above, so I won’t restate them. Good luck!

    I suggest bench marking this blog for the layout.

  38. CompuWorld says:

    @Bruce: Wait till the follow follow up article from Skellie on this Blog Consulting Project. There are many more expert idea waiting for you in that article.

    Once this is over than you should start doing the changes on your blog as per the suggestions.

    Although you can still think on removing that clip art image from the right sidebar as I suggesting in my comment above (number 8) :)

  39. Doug says:

    Just some quick comments:

    -Agreed that the sidebar is too big and being shaded, it takes the focus away from the page.

    -Most of the sidebar text is too tiny and spaced out too much in proportion, making it difficult to read (very difficult at 1600×1280).

    -Don’t like the centered headlines/headers (in general, centered=bad for scanning)

    -The headlines are clickable links on the main index, so give them some color – it will make them stand out a little more too and break up the wall of text.

    -Don’t like the digg and delicious, etc links on the article summaries on the main index. Why would someone use these without reading the whole article? Plus it adds clutter to an already long page, IMO.

    Otherwise, I think it’s a clean design with a good logo and you seem to have good content. Good job and I hope you get some more useful feedback.

  40. Thomas Flight says:

    Design:

    -I love the logo.

    -I like the way the white space in the header forces you eyes down into the content (or ads).

    -The general layout is good, but it could use more balance. Also livelier colors.

    -The sidebar is to plain. I would change the sidebar headers, they look so Seth Godin/Typepad. At least change the font.

    -The books below the “resources” section can go. If you have to have something there, then style the actual word “Resources” and make it blend in better.

    -If you want a place to put an ad (maybe a banner), you could use the white space to the right of the logo.

    That’s it, if you want more help with design email me at: thomastheblogger [at] gmail [dot] com

    -Thomas

  41. Sakura says:

    “I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?”

    I like the minimalistic site layout. However, I dislike the fact that the content is kinda scrunched into a smaller section, with a lot of blank space if you scroll down to read older content. It’s claustrophobic. I also dislike the fact that the text in the right section is so small. Could be my resolution or something. I also don’t really dig having ads in the center section, it feels like that’s the entire focus of the site design. It lacks symmetry and balance, and those two elements tend to make things pleasing to the eye.

    The general feeling that the web design gives me is that of newspaper ink. If I were actually touching the blog it would be inky, and I’d need to wash my hands when I got done. It’s rather impersonal, like a newspaper, yet it serves it’s purpose. The design is much more news than music, and if it were my site, I’d probably add more color. I’d also seriously consider putting the content in the center section.

    “I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?”

    I don’t think it would hurt to be a part of a blogging network, it might actually serve to make your site look more authoritative. However, your main concern would be to find a blogging network that fits with your topic, style and niche. A blogging network about knitting, soapmaking and frugal living might not really be a good fit for Hypebot, lol. Music is cool. That stuff is not. Blogs about music, gaming or gadgetry would be fine. Just make sure it’s cool.

    “Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?”

    In my opinion, as long as the content is worth reading and well written, I, as a reader, couldn’t care less which category it falls in. Just make it worth your reader’s time, no matter what it is.

  42. Chet says:

    Can’t comment on the layout or logo, ’cause after visiting the site once, I subscribed to the RSS feed, so I only see the articles in my aggregator. One of the best blogs out there for the subject matter!

  43. srini says:

    header – align it to center
    colors – background colors of main content and side bar is at the extreme contrast, colors need to be changed (like problogger website)
    columns – place the main content at the middle and the two side bars on either side. preference – recent posts side bar to the left and the other side bar to the right
    posts – too many posts is delaying the site to openup, implementing a recent posts scroll window will be sufficient

    wishing u all success

    srini

  44. srini says:

    header – align it to center
    colors – background colors of main content and side bar is at the extreme contrast, colors need to be changed (like problogger website)
    columns – place the main content at the middle and the two side bars on either side. preference – recent posts side bar to the left and the other side bar to the right
    posts – too many posts is delaying the site to openup, implementing a recent posts scroll window will be sufficient
    fonts – too many font styles making the site look cluttered. a single font will make good readability, highlight only specifics,

    wishing u all success

    srini

  45. Cindy says:

    I’m a newbie to blogging so please forgive my ignorance but aren’t you already selling ads to Moneris? With them at pride of place, smack dab in the middle of the screen, my first impression was that this was a corporate site – only that Moneris is about money not music.

    Design wise you can’t go wrong with simple. You’ve got a very clean look going here; your lack of clutter is much appreciated. Just be careful you don’t cut to much of your personality out of the design. I’ll stick around to read what you have to say if your design can tell me enough, at a glance, about who you are.

    Sometimes that’s as simple as a colour choice. Greys and blues are, calm, cool, strictly business. That and Moneris had me thinking pinstripe suit before I could read your blog’s title.

    If your intension is to be about the business side of music then you’re design is bang on. But if not, let a little more of you back into the design – those of us who don’t respond to business will definitely respond to you.

  46. Thanks everyone for these great suggestions!