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How to have a Constant Stream of Blogging Ideas

This post on generating blogging ideas was contributed by Graham Jones from grahamjones.co.uk.

Most bloggers give up after a short while; even though there are millions of blogs online, few are updated regularly and most have been abandoned. The difference between success and failure in blogging is often down to persistence. But, when I speak at meetings about blogging, people often come up to me afterwards and say “Ah, yes, that’s all very well, but I run out of ideas after a while, so I can’t blog regularly”. So, how can you be sure of coming up with a constant stream of blogging ideas? How can you be certain that when you open your blogging software you will always have something to write?

If you think about your daily newspaper it does not have a choice. The number of pages is set by the amount of advertising space they sell. Each day, though, has varying amounts of news – some days, very little happens. But it would be no good the journalists filling up the first few pages and then printing a notice on all the others saying “if we’d been able to think of anything to write we would have put it here”. No matter how little is going on around them and no matter how much space they have to fill, newspapers simply have to fill the space allocated to them – plus they simply MUST do it before a specified time. The only way they can achieve this is to have a system.

Develop a blogging planning system

The first step in a journalistic system for blogging is having a plan for each month. Set up a spreadsheet, a table in a word processor, or a calendar on your desk – it doesn’t matter how you do this, but you need a monthly plan. On that plan you need to mark out the days you will definitely blog. This might be every day, just the weekdays, the weekends, every Wednesday – whatever works for you and your audience. Now you have a visual plan of what’s needed you can start filling in the blanks.

Journalists have two kinds of stories – diary stories and “off-diary” stories. Diary stories are those things you know will definitely happen – such as events, meetings, press conferences and so on. There are endless directories of events online and you will know of specific events on particular days in your industry. Mark your diary with these events as “diary items” you know you can write about. Also, look for anniversaries and specific days that could trigger a blog – this might be Thanksgiving Day, or Mother’s Day, or whatever can provide you with something to write about.

Diary stories should give you a reasonable number of days with topics already allocated to them over the coming weeks and months. Now you need to fill in the gaps. The way journalists do this is to have regular “slots”. So Monday might be health stories, Tuesdays could be business, Wednesdays are for politics -and so on. For your specialism, you need to come up with several general topic headings that you could write about. All you then do is slot these into the gaps between the diary stories.

Filling in your blogging plan

Once you have allocated particular diary stories to specific days and topic ideas to the other days, now you have to start being more specific about those “off diary” stories. All you have in your planning diary for these at the moment is the title of a topic. You could still be facing a blank screen if you don’t do any more planning. Here’s what to do.

Get a folder that has as many sections in it as you have topics. Now, subscribe to RSS feeds on those topics, or printed magazines, newsletters – anything that has info on those subjects. When you see something interesting – at any time – simply print it out, or tear it from the magazine and slot it into the appropriate section of your folder. Then forget it.

Writing your blog without having to think

You will now be in a position to always be able to write something for your blog. Simply look at your planning calendar and see the topic or diary item you need to write about. If it’s a diary item, you will already have a good idea as to what you are going to be saying or commenting on. If it’s an “off diary” topic, simply open your folder at the appropriate section, pull out all the papers in there and you will have a load of ideas that will trigger what you want to say.

Using a system like this enables newspapers and magazines to guarantee they will fill all their pages. You can adopt a similar system so that you will always have something to write about and will never face a blank screen wondering what on earth to say.

Read more of Graham’s work at grahamjones.co.uk

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Vyoma says:

    I follow a system that is quite similar to this for my art blog – KalaaLog.com. It is going pretty good. The issue with my niche is that, there is not really much happening in terms of news. But most of my posts are planned effort, which I would have charted out usually a month back.

  2. Renee says:

    Excellent blog and good points. And I like how you brought out the daily newspaper theory because it’s very true. I have three blogs that I’m adding content and it’s only been a week or so since I started, I never run out of things to blog about in relation to my blogs. Keep up the good content. When I grow up, I want to be just like you-:)

    Renee

  3. This is very sound advice. I started a similar system when I went back to work full time, after nearly a year of full time blogging. I find that, with a strong editorial calendar in place, I actually produce more high quality content on a regular basis now than when I spent all day just writing whatever came to mind. I highly recommend this approach to all bloggers, regardless of whether you are currently “struggling” for ideas.

  4. I just found your website about a week ago, and I’ve got to say (I’m sorry if this comment is not appropriate here) that I really enjoy all of the blogs here at problogger.net! Whoever thought a blog about blogging could be so relevant and entertaining.

  5. Great ideas. Keep it fresh is always an issue for bloggers. This planning system you give is real easy and will definitely be insanely useful for most bloggers.

  6. K says:

    I, instead of filing those off diary stories (’cause I’ve got enough paper), simply write the blog posts in advance.

    But then, my posts are quite short.

  7. One of the tools I use to always stay on top of new/or interesting things about which to post is to set up Google alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts for keyword topics – academics, iphones, luxury, etc. Google alerts will also scour blogs as well, so you can have additional resources to which to reference too.

    Gotta love the amazing amount of things you can get for free online!

    Best wishes,

    Barbara

  8. Frugal Dad says:

    This breaks down the task of filling up a month’s worth of posts very nicely. Thanks for the idea. I may move to a plan of dedicating a day of the week to a specific theme because people seem to enjoy the structure that plan creates (it also helps create anticipation as readers come back on a particular day of interest to them). Up to this point my blog postings have been rather random, as thoughts or inspiration come to me.

  9. Great thoughts here Darren. I co-write a blog, which requires coordination between two editors… we live by our Google Spreadsheet which is essentially our online planning grid like you were referring to. Whenever we have an idea we jot it down in the grid with a target publish date and assign an editor to it.

    Another thing that has been really helpful for me is the use of del.icio.us bookmarks. As I’m browsing if I see a page or article that spurs some ideas, I tag it with a specific “blog idea” tag. Then when I’m searching for things to write about, I just dig up my del.icio.us page and look under my “blog ideas” tag and write away.

  10. I think one of the best ways to consistently have content for your blog is by blogging about current events. I am in the opening stages of building a satirical news site called http://www.PilloryPost.com. Coming up with new topics should be a breeze since there is new news every day!

  11. This is pretty much what I have just started to implement on my own blog. I don’t have diary posts as such but I have set aside a couple of days a week to blog about my money making projects, I’ve filled out other days with some regular slots but each week I’ll have at least two days that I need to fill with something.

    This is where I use my idea bank. I’ve now got into the habit of jotting down post ideas in advance (I haven’t quite got round to actually writing them very far in advance) so I should always have something useful to blog about.

    It’s taken a while to get here though – I spent the first six months just blogging willy nilly! It’s amazing the blog survived really heh :)

  12. Because of the type of blog that I write the problem of a lack of material really doesn’t apply.

    Blogging on a regular basis takes discipline. Without regular posts the blog will wither away and die.

    The Masked Millionaire
    http://www.TheMaskedMillionaire.com

  13. Really useful tips, u r really professional, I ve just started my blog, hope it can grow fast, thanks!

  14. Trish says:

    Thanks for this article. I am a fairly new blogger and have just started trying to narrow down what I am posting about and figuring out a regular schedule for things. I appreciate what I am learning here!

  15. I’m assuming this is just an oversight on your part Darren….but this blog is my article I submitted to you as a guest blogger, yet you appear to have credited it to yourself.

  16. Shams says:

    you are right, it’s persistence.

  17. I use ecto, but there are of course other programs for writing your posts…I create a new saved post headline only for each idea I come up with in a brainstorming session. When I open to write for real there are all kinds of potential posts waiting for me to begin on.

    Also – in a small niche it seems lots of people are not afraid to revisit topics frequently. There are always new spins on the topic, and lets face it, a huge part of your traffic will have not been deep into your archives to see the original.

    Which brings up the point of archives…it’s OK to post a review of a few items in your archives.

  18. Mark says:

    Read about blogging. Read as many blogs as you can. I have a list of over 2,300 blogs. It’s a list of hyperlinks. Read books about your niche. Look at videos about your industry. Just read ProBlogger.net lol. talk to your friends. Go to bloggers’ cons and jot down ideas.

    Really hard core like me? Then carry around a few mechanical pencils like me and have a notebook in every room of your house as well as beside your bed and in your car.

    NEVER stop jotting down ideas. Then develop them.

    You will never run out of blogging ideas.

  19. Niklas says:

    I swear I was going to write an article almost identical to this over the weekend. Finding topics to write articles about is easy as it comes second-nature with blogging. You read what others say and see if that inspires you to write something on that topic or express a certain opinion on it.

    Just by checking my daily routine blogs over the weekend I already have the next 8 posts planned out for my blog.

    Also read the comments. I can’t stress that enough. Many times the comments will have readers saying what they liked about your article. This is great as it’s almost like surveying the people in your niche except you don’t even have to ask them. They automatically do it for you. This way you can ensure that your articles have top-notch quality that covers all information. Even better is when people ask questions as that gives you an idea of what they don’t know and what you need to answer in your article to get people to read it.

  20. Michelle Swan says:

    I too have implemented an editorial calendar system, which has helped immensely. I actually publish it in a Google Docs spreadsheet online, and have invited others in my network to access it and suggest ideas. I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas that I would never have thought of on my own. I highly recommend it.

  21. Stu says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for the post. I had a blogging todo list, but couldn’t get the thought process together until reading this.

    Cheers

  22. darrenh says:

    Thanks for acknowledging that the old newspaper folks had done something right. My day job is as an assignment editor at a newspaper and this analysis of how we make sure we have something for the paper rings true. Nice work. Go ahead, use it for your blog, even though it came from newspapers. It won’t hurt ya.

  23. I have had good success (so far) with using a mind mapping application to come up with a schedule of blog posts. I have 2 days a week that are “regular features” and 2-3 others that are dedicated to related subjects that I can keep up on. In total I post 5 days a week which seems to fit my limited time available for blogging. If I find myself pinched, I will just delete one of the related posts but keep my regular features posts.

  24. Brad V. says:

    Great post!

    I started doing this a while back. I call it an editorial calendar and it has really helped my blogging! Since I plan my posts out in advance, usually about a month or so lead time, I write more regular posts and try to coordinate posts on the same topic in the same week.

    The key, for me anyway, to a good editorial calendar is flexibility. If there’s breaking news in my field, I just push a planned post back. Same thing if a scheduled post isn’t ready for “prime time”.

    Thanks Darren, you rock!

  25. Great post! I’m a big proponent of planning ahead, and having regular brainstorming sessions. This last weekend, for example, I took a look through all my favorite blogs, sparking ideas for my own posts. I read my RSS reader each night, and get ideas from there. I carry a notebook with me at all times for those ideas out from the “real world.”

  26. Sampath says:

    This is a great post that I found in planning the blog. This is simply great. Thanks a lot for giving such information!

  27. As always, great stuff Darren. I’m a newspaper reporter who converted to a marketing copywriter, and the journalism background has been a big help as a marketer and as a blogger.

    I’d love to make an offer to your readers, if you don’t mind: Stuck on ideas? Visit my PRstore Marketing. Simplified. blog and shoot me an e-mail with a link to your blog…I’ll get back to you within a day or two with a few blog post ideas based on your existing content.

    Oh, and if anyone has suggestions for my content…I’m all ears!

    Keep up the good stuff, Darren.

  28. Corvida says:

    I think the system you’ve proposed is a great idea. I’m thinking of tweaking it to actually focus on certain sites that I already write about. Maybe have a write-up or something new to introduce my audience to about each site one designated day out of the week.

  29. blogrdoc says:

    I’ve been blogging for 2 months and there is no end in sight of blog posts for me. If we are talking *quality* however, that’s a different story. Based on my analysis, thought (I’m an engineer) – I’m finding that consistency of posting (not necesssarily quality of posts) is what drives traffic.

  30. Mike says:

    I have a trivia blog here and I keep adding new shows all the time. I love it. It is a lot of fun.

  31. Grace says:

    I keep a blogging schedule to keep up and post everyday. I have a small notebook with dates written on it for the next six months. Planning gives me a little more control over what I do with my two blogs than just sitting in front of the PC and attempting to write a post without anything written on paper.

    Very insightful post!

  32. amulya says:

    True that every one for blogging shall stick to a plan.

    With out plan first few days will be ok but in the long run we won’t be having some thing to express.

    The selection of blogging topic where the author is having command and able to deliver in the long run make the blog the successful story.

  33. Good advice! I am working on just this type of organizational system for my new blog. The key is to organize as much as possible so there is less day-to-day planning that needs to be done. Anything you can put on autopilot will make the blogging process more efficient.

    Editorial calendar, idea bank ~ these are both great terms for this system. Thanks to all of you for sharing your processes. It is a great help.

  34. Charlie says:

    Great post. I’ve been doing this for a bit, and the greatest relief at prescheduling posts is that it takes a bit of the edge off and you can reorganize your post into a coherent structure. Having the off-dairy items is nice, too, just in case your posts get bottlenecked by one item that needs to be explained before you launch into a pseudo-series.

    Another thing I’ve found useful is to plug my posts into Omnigraffle and see how they are arranged. Often times, I’ll realize that there’s logical posts space that I hadn’t seen before.

    Now if I only had time to catch up with a post log that grows faster than my ability to post.

  35. Syed Balkhi says:

    this is a very good post. I have been doing this for a while now. I dont even think of topics because they all just come to me. Also I write the posts ahead of time, wondering what are your thoughts on that.

  36. Wayne Tully says:

    I like this planned approach, as an artist I often save reference material that I find in old magazines and fashion mags and other er..types of magazines that I will not say!

    Plus keeping online files and folders is excellent aswell as offline files and folders as you can cross reference both worlds as it were and combine and adopt different writing styles.

    Cheers for this planning reminder!

  37. I’ve been struggling with blog posting the past 2 weeks. I’ve been a bit busy with moving recently and then thinking of ideas. I have been thinking about doing most of my writing in one or two days each month and then just changing the timestamp to spread them out over a month. This might prove to work well for me. We’ll see. Thanks for the ideas.

  38. Darren Rowse says:

    Graham – apologies for not including your byline – I completely messed up on this one. This was one of the last guest posts that I uploaded before my trip and I didn’t notice that you’d not included a byline – again, apologies for my mistake. Have added it now.

  39. Avani says:

    That’s a great post. I started with blogging recently and was wondering about how will I manage to keep coming with ideas to blog upon.

  40. Vern Lai says:

    Planning is definitely a must!

    I’ve quite a number of ideas to blog about, but unsure as to which to start first. Thus, laying out the topics and organizing them would be good to start off.

    Lack of blogging ideas? Well, one way I suddenly thought of, is basically to blog your comments you post in other people’s blog.

    Vern.
    http://www.vernlai.com

  41. I’ve said it a few times on other blogs – but a voice recorder is the best thing I’ve ever used for keeping my blogging schedule somewhat consistent and keeping track of my ideas.

  42. Jeremy Neal says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the points included in this post. My degree is in journalism, and I worked in the field for several years. I started blogging about a year ago, and I’ve found that the experience I had as a reporter for a daily and editor for a weekly to be very useful.

    I plan some content weeks in advance. I also keep a notepad filled with post ideas with me at all times. Through reader feedback, I have been able to establish a few consistent weekly posts/series. I also leave the door open for spontaneous writing based on timely matters or breaking news.

    By putting effective systems in place, I have been able to produce a steady stream of post ideas. Most people could replicate these behaviors and produce similar results; however, I think few possess the discipline to write about, or act upon, those ideas on a daily basis. They think writing has more to do with “inspiration than perspiration,” when the opposite is actually true. Professional writers, journalists or bloggers find a way to work between periods of inspiration.

    Even if you’ve got great systems to generate new post ideas yet lack the discipline to execute on a daily basis, you will eventually stop posting to your blog and abandon it altogether. I’ve seen it happen in the newspaper business, and I see it happening in the blogosphere too. Thanks for indulging my long comment/reply, but you definitely “inspired” me to write.

  43. Lily says:

    Excellent advice. This is exactly what I do with my blogs – I make a list of ‘special dates and events’ relevant to my blogs and then flesh out from there. At the start of each month I make a list of the posts I am going to blog and leave myself the freedom to change or add extra posts if something important comes up. This way I don’t sit twiddling my thumbs wondering what to write! I also have a running list of blog ideas which I keep both at home and at the day job so that it can be added to at any time. There’s always a pen and a notebook in my bag too for when I am away from a computer. I also have an ‘ideas’ folder on my favourites to quickly save anything that has sparked an idea when I’m online. All this keeps my enthusiasm and inspiration high.

  44. Yuping Liu says:

    This is a very useful idea. Sometimes I also find it effective to break down a bigger topic into a series consisting of multiple blogs, like you did recently on building blog traffic.

  45. Loy says:

    Insightful tips. I write for a career advice site at blog.careersigeria.com Personally, I create an outline for each post topic in a diary. Since my job requires that I commute during the day by train, I use that time to plan my posts right inside my diary. That way, I look up the diary and blog the day’s post. This has been very effective for me and helps me maintain a regular schedule of 5 posts per weekday.

  46. Mohanraj says:

    Excellent Ideas. Writers block has been a frequent visitor to me all along my professional life. yet i’m hitting it hard to maintain my daily targets and schedule to motivate me to be ever creative and productive. Daren, thanks for this thought provoking post.

  47. I’ve learnt a lot from Graham over the past couple of years. This article is full of great ideas which I intend to put into practice.

  48. Gley Yahya says:

    The ideas are excellent to help somme bloggers who created their blogs the wrong way.

    Most of new bloggers are thinking that a blogger is like a regular site. This is far from the truth. A blog is a place where a person can write about his own life, can have his opinions published there, teachers and students can share their thoughts and ideas, In one word a blog is a place for people who have lots of writing ideas.

    Sure you can make money from your blog but don’t treat it as a regular website.

    I have read many articles advising new business starters to create blogs about any niche market they can immagine and this is not true. Tight niches are profitable enough but some of them are limited and this would cause anyone to run out of ideas after a short period of time.

    So, my advice is before creating a blog you need to select a topic that you are able to write about, and you must enjoy writing to make money. Many people make blogs to just make money but your first priority should be writing good helpful content for the people and money will come.