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Do you Run RSS Ads on Your Main Blog? [POLL]

It’s time for a new poll here on Problogger – this time the question is:

Do you Run RSS Ads on Your Main Blog?

RSS advertising has been around for a couple of years now and I see quite a few RSS ads appearing in my own RSS reading – but I’d be interested to know just how far it extends into the blogosphere – so lets see shall we?

Do You Run RSS Ads on Your Main Blog?
Total Votes: 709 Started: 8/6/2008 Back to Vote Screen


Looking forward to seeing the results of this poll.

Linkbait, Passion, Fluff and Mixing it Up: Reflections on Content Development

Today I want to tell you the story of a blogger whose problem that he was too good at getting on the front page of Digg. But first – I want to share a quote from Michael Gray who said something last week that hit the mark for me:

“One way to make sure your linkbait is successful is to pick a subject that you believe in, are passionate about, and that will bring out an emotional response from members of your target audience.

Or you could play it safe and write the 5 ways Twitter is helping web 2.0 businesses.

The first is memorable the second is utterly forgettable. ”

I wish I’d said that.

A Blogger With a Problem

I spoke with a blogger (we’ll call him Buddy) last week who presented me with a problem. Buddy’s problem was this:

He had been blogging for a year or so and had worked out how to write the kind of content that did well on Digg. In fact he’d perfected the art of writing Diggable content to such a degree that he hit the front page most weeks. As a result he had a blog with a lot of monthly traffic.

This doesn’t sound like that much of a problem… well not yet….

Buddy’s frustration was that he had no (or very few) loyal readers.

His reflection to me was this:

‘I’m writing fluff. It’s good fluff because it can draw a crowd, but I think they quickly leave because it doesn’t really mean anything to anyone, including me.’

Buddy asked me if he should stop writing the ‘Diggable Posts’ (the fluff)? My response to him was to try a couple of things:

1. Bring the Digg formula to topics that matter - what if he applied the principles to topics he was actually passionate about?

2. Mix in posts that go deeper - not every post needs to be ‘fluffy’ – in fact I find that a good mix of styles of posts can work well on a blog. A ‘Top 10 ways to…’ ‘how to’ list post one day, a ‘review’ post the next day, a question for your readers the next, a ‘rant’ the following day, followed up by a case study the next day….. etc (you can see 20 types of posts here).

What I find is that the ‘fluffy’ posts draw the crowd but the other types of posts actually engage them and keep them coming back. In effect this is what I’ve been doing on DPS and it’s worked well for me.

There’s nothing wrong with writing the type of post that could go viral on social media sites – however like Michael says – it’s posts that mean something to you, that are written with passion and that bring out some kind of emotional response in your readers that will make an impact upon people.

Interview with Blog Designer – Chris Pearson

One of my favorite blog designers is Chris Pearson – the designer behind the newly released Thesis premium WordPress theme (which I reviewed here).

Chris has consistently produced great blog designs over the last few years so after the launch of Thesis I thought it would be worthwhile to do a short interview with him here at ProBlogger to talk about Thesis and blog design. I hope you enjoy this interview.

1. There are a lot of WP themes out there – why did you create Thesis?

thesis-lisa-firke.pngAfter selling Cutline in March of 2007, I began to realize that I really missed fostering and interacting with a community of users. Running a theme and being immersed in the development, use, and feedback cycle is a uniquely fulfilling experience, and I suppose I finally came to terms with the idea that maybe this is what I ought to be doing.

Also, I spent the latter half of 2007 learning how to create dynamic sites with PHP, and in doing so, I began to realize some of the untapped potential of the WordPress theme market. The platform is set up in such a way that you can literally build just about anything you want, and I’m convinced that idea has legs. Because of this, I decided it was time to build Thesis and get movin’!

2. What part of Thesis most excited you as you were designing it? What is exciting those who are using it most?

For me, the most exciting thing about Thesis (and developing themes in general) is the idea that I can give users more functionality and more control over their sites than they’ve ever had. When a user who has little or no knowledge of HTML and CSS can use an options panel to accomplish tasks that would normally require coding, that’s a big deal. The sky is really the limit here, so as a developer, I find that to be a huge source of motivation.

I think my users are keen on the idea that I want them to be able to control even the finest details of their site, and that’s probably the thing that excites them the most. They want to know what elements of control they’re going to have next, and I’m just as excited to produce those elements as they are to receive them.

3. How much development can we expect to see on Thesis as a theme? Or will you be spending more time developing other themes?

thesis-jennae-peterson.pngI’ve still got tons of ideas for Thesis, so I fully expect to be developing it for quite some time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I’m not even 40% finished with the functionality that I eventually want to achieve. In spite of this, I’m going to begin introducing new frameworks in August, and eventually, DIYthemes will offer an outfit of code platforms that should be adequate for just about any type of Website.

4. Where do you see blog design going in the next 12 months?

Blog design as we know it is going to change entirely, and this is probably the most compelling (and controversial) aspect of the philosophy behind DIYthemes. At this point, everyone is familiar with the notion of a “custom blog design,” but with each passing day, paying for a fully customized design (which includes code) is becoming a far less intelligent choice for bloggers and Webmasters alike. Not only is custom design prohibitively expensive for all but the most successful bloggers, but also, the odds of any designer/developer nailing a functional, flexible, easy-to-modify codebase from scratch on the first iteration are a zillion to one. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

Essentially, this means that people who have fully customized designs end up with far less functionality than people whose designs are “skins” of a battled-tested framework like Thesis. Because of this, the future of blog design is a complete abstraction of design and code. In this type of environment, designers can stick to pure design, which is something they’re way more qualified to do. In addition, savvy designers can develop a working knowledge of a few quality WordPress frameworks, thereby allowing them to focus on the art of skinning them for clients.

When people are able to focus on the things they do best, you end up with more efficient, cost-effective solutions all around. My goal with DIYthemes is to help push Web design (and Webmastering, for that matter) in this direction.

5 . What 3 blogs using Thesis do you think are using it best?

thesis-eric-scouten.pngLisa Firke (pictured top right) is a really talented designer who quickly grasped the concept of abstracted customization, which is something I’ve tried to push to the forefront with Thesis. Her site is a perfect example of how you can leverage a working knowledge of CSS to produce a unique design that is simply a “skin” of a solid WordPress framework.

Jennae Petersen (picture middle right) runs an awesome site about green (eco-friendly) home decor, and she has really taken to the art of creating a unified design “brand” with Thesis. She makes liberal use of in-post styling elements and images to help shore up her brand, and as a result, her site looks to be far removed from the humble framework it rests upon.

Finally, I’d like to point out Eric Scouten (pictured right), a photographer and developer who works on Adobe’s Lightroom software. He’s used Thesis in a pretty unique way on his site, modifying it to power his portfolio, photoblog, and blog sections. On top of that, the site just looks fantastic, and I think it deserves a mention on that basis alone.

Check out the Thesis Theme Here

How to Get 2500 New ‘Subscribers’ to Your Blog Overnight (and Why I Don’t Really Care)

Every 2nd blog about blogging today seems to be writing about a video showing how to get 2500 subscribers overnight using a Netvibes accounts and an OPML file with thousands of copies of your own feed in it.

I’ve had a lot of people email me to ask what I think about the technique. My response:

1. It’s not surprising to see that it’s Possible - I’ve seen a few bloggers play with this type of technique over the years.

2. It’s an empty Achievement - so your feedburner button is a few thousand more tomorrow than it is today – but ultimately all it means is that you hacked it – no one new is reading your blog.

3. Do something that Matters – Expend the energy doing something that draws in real new readers. Network with other bloggers, write some quality content, write a guest post for another blog, make your blog stickier…. do something that matters

4. Social Proof? – Yes, having more numbers in your feedburner counter might convince a few extra people to subscribe (social proof) but what happens next week when feedburner closes the loophole and suddenly your regular readers see that you’ve just lost a couple of thousand readers? Is there such a thing as reverse social proof?

5. Risk? – I’ve never really been into ‘evil’ tactics – partly because I just don’t get into them but partly because when you deliberately do something to abuse a service that is provided to you by a company – sometimes things come back to bite you. I’m not sure if Feedburner (owned by Google) would take action against people trying to inflate their numbers – but do you really want to find out?

Want to know how to really build the number of subscribers to your blog?

OK – lets get back to blogging shall we?

The iPhone 3G as a Blogging Tool – My Review

Apple-Iphone-3G-Review-Blogging-ToolHow I Use My iPhone for Blogging

I bought an iPhone – and in this post I’m going to tell you how I use it (so far) in my blogging…

A few weeks ago I ranted about the sorry state of Australian mobile carriers and how they (particularly the one I used, Telstra) make buying an iPhone a crazily expensive. In the days after writing the post I decided to bite the bullet and switch carriers to the one offering the most affordable option (Optus).

I settled on a black 16GB model and after waiting for 9 days for it to come into stock it arrived last Thursday.

I’ve been Tweeting a little about my initial experience of the iPhone and quite a few of my Twitter buddies have asked me to write a review of the iPhone as a blogging tool. I am not writing a general review here of the iPhone as a phone – but want to focus this upon it as a tool for bloggers.

My Review of The iPhone as a Blogging Tool

Iphone-Blogging-ToolI should start out by saying that I didn’t buy the iPhone with the hope that it’d ever become my primary blogging tool – however I did hope that it would assist me in some areas of my blogging.

Blog Post Writing

The primary task of a blogger is to write and publish content. I do not see the iPhone as playing any real part in this task for me (with one exception which I’ll write about below).

The main reason for this is that my style of blogging is to write posts that go into a reasonable depth and which often go over 1000 words. The thought of having to write 1000 words on an iPhone is enough to make me want to curl up in the fetal position and start crying.

I know the speed and accuracy in which I’ll be able to input text into the iPhone will increase with practice – but this is not a gadget that has been designed with the goal of inputting large amounts of text. The on screen keyboard does the job well for small amounts of text (for Twitter it’s perfect) but unless Apple (or one of their partners) develops a keyboard that can be connected to the iPhone – I don’t see me using it to write posts.

The other reasons that I don’t see it as being that useful for writing posts is that my style of writing a post is one where I tend to use images, screen captures, flip between windows while writing etc – while some of this can be done on the iPhone it isn’t ideally suited to my posting workflow.

The WordPress Application is excellent. As you’ll see from the comments of my Twitter friends below, it is one of the most used applications that they’re using.

The exception to this would be for breaking news when posts need to go up quickly and need not be long. The iPhone will be very handy in this case.

I do think that some other bloggers will use the iPhone more for writing posts (for example Wayne Sutton has a blog where he’s ONLY posting with the iPhone) but it’ll be suited more for those who write shorter posts (or those with more patience than me).

All is not lost though fellow bloggers – let me share how I DO see myself using the iPhone as a blogger:

Capturing Ideas

I’ve written before about how I am a big user of notebooks and try to carry one with me everywhere so that I can capture ideas for posts as they hit me. I could definitely see the iPhone as replacing my Moleskine notebook as a tool for capturing ideas.

I’m still testing different applications for this type of task – however there are a few that are promising including Evernote (to be able to capture ideas as pictures, voice, text etc is very attractive), Younote (similar) or even just the default ‘notepad’ that comes with the iPhone (and there are a lot more that I’m going to test before settling on one).

Other Task Management

I suspect that whichever application that I choose to capture ideas for my blogs will also be used as a more general ‘task managing tool’ also. This is the other thing that I use my notebook for. This includes creating ‘to do’ lists, making notes for presentations, making notes for email newsletters etc.

Monitoring Stats

Iphone-Review-1-StatsThere are times where it can be particularly useful to know if there is a ‘traffic event’ happening on one of your blogs. For example it’s good to know when a post gets a rush of traffic from a social media site or another blog linking up. On the other hand it’s also good to know when your blog is down.

I saw the power of the iPhone as a monitoring tool this weekend when Sitemeter had issues and didn’t allow my blogs to be viewed by IE7 users. I knew of this problem within an hour of it happening because I received emails and tweets on my iPhone and also noticed stats were down when I checked them on it. I found all this out while out shopping with my family and was able to take action reasonably quickly all while away from my computers.

What I would like to do is set up some way to be notified of ‘traffic events’ on my blogs. For example to have some sort of notification service (SMS or email) when a post gets a lot of traffic or when servers go down for XX minutes. I know some hosting services offer this but it’d be interesting to see an analytics package develop one for smaller publishers.

Micro Blogging

Iphone-Review-2-Micro-BloggingMy use of Twitter and Plurk over the last few days has probably increased slightly. While I still tend to do these activities in ‘batches’ being able to jump on these social messaging services in a spare minute when you’re out and about is quite handy.

Of course you could use these services to simply have fun, fill in time etc – but when services like Twitter are an important part of your blogging then it is effectively helping you to be a more productive blogger.

Networking

One of the things I played with over the weekend was instant messaging on my iPhone. I got on Gtalk and while I was just jumping on to ‘see if I could’ and test the app I ended up having a conversation with another blogger which was really productive.

I don’t foresee me using IM much on my iPhone – but to know I can is handy.

Moderating Comments

Iphone-Review-3-Comment-ModerationModerating comments is a job that needs to be done regularly and on the iPhone it’s a relatively simple job. I actually did it this morning over breakfast and it took me just as long on the iPhone as it does on my computer.

Again – I probably won’t do this daily but it’ll be handy to be able to quickly moderate comments when traveling.

Probably more useful will be when you have some sort of a situation in the comments on your blog that needs you to oversee it. For example when you have a flaming war happen between two readers and you need to step in.

Email Triage

Iphone-Review-4-EmailOne of the things that I’m enjoying most about the iPhone is being able to quickly flip through my email to do a little ‘processing’. Over the weekend it was great to be able to quickly scan the latest emails to see if anything was urgent (and to respond to these quickly), to spot any emails that could be deleted quickly (social media notifications for example) or to see what needed to be marked for ‘later’.

Being able to do this task quickly on the fly frees up time later when you’re actually on your computer for other important tasks.

Post Editing

Another task that I did a couple of times over the weekend was to edit posts. On one occassion it was simply logging into the back end of WordPress to set the time to publish for a post that I’d already written and on another occasion it was the editing of a spelling mistake. These small editing tasks are no brainers on the iPhone.

Feed Monitoring

Iphone-Review-5-FeedsI follow 600+ RSS feeds so I doubt very much whether the iPhone will ever be my primary place to read them all – however I’ve already used it to follow my ‘A-list’ (a handful of blogs that I read religiously because they are either so useful or consistantly break news that is relevant to the niches that I follow). I’m currently doing this via Google Reader directly – but am told that the Byline Application is useful and syncs well with Google Reader.

Concluding Thoughts and My Wishlist for the iPhone as a Blogger

The above list is simply how I’ve used the iPhone after a few days. I’m sure as I continue to use it I’ll discover that some of the above will be more important to me than other parts of it. I also know that as new applications are developed for the iPhone that other uses for it will arise.

In conclusion, as a blogging tool, the iPhone meets the expectations that I had when I bought it.

I didn’t expect it to be ever be a primary blogging device – and it isn’t – however it will be a very useful device to use as a secondary and supporting blogging device. It will save me time, allow me to be aware of important events that are relevant to my blogs and help me to connect better with readers and other bloggers.

I’m certain that other mobile devices can do similar things (in fact some like the Nokia 95 have a number of the things in my wishlist below) but for me, at least for the next little while, it’s the iPhone that I’ll be carrying in my pocket.

My Wishlist for the iPhone:

How could the iPhone be more useful for bloggers? Here’s a few ideas:

  • External keyboard - without it I think I’ll rarely write posts on the iPhone. It’d also be handy to have for note taking at conferences.
  • Video capture – I’d love to have the ability to record video on the iPhone, it’d make it a killer blogging device for me (till then I’ve just ordered a Flip which much more portable than my current camcorder).
  • Copy and paste – almost every review of the iPhone that I’ve read has asked for this. As a blogger it’d be hugely useful.
  • Battery life - I’m yet to go far from home with my iPhone but on those days when I’m out and about a lot I could see how I’m either going to have to take my power adaptor with me or really be careful how much I use it.
  • Unlimited Data Plans (Australia) - I know many of you have these in your countries but here in Australia data remains ridiculously expensive (even on the cheaper carrier that I’m with). I currently have a 500MB allowance which on most days will be fine – but as soon as I travel I’m going to be in trouble).

What My Friends Said:

I asked on Twitter and Plurk how my friends there are using the iPhone in their blogging. Here’s how just a few of them responded:

@preneur said – “Taking photos (& autoposting from flckr), making notes for future posts, approving comments via the wodpress apps”

@RealitySEO said – “Since I usually write lengthy articles for one blog, not willing to use iPhone – but have used it for a daily money quotes blog”

@mayken said – “Just started using it myself, been twittering a bit, but the wordpress app is a great little program to use so far.”

@DrCris said – “Using iPhone to read feeds – means I get that when I sit down I already have all my information and all I have to do is post/”

@kriskarkoski said – “Right now mainly using my iPhone for keeping up on my email and feeds and doing some live blogging but hard w/o c&p”

@GrantGriffiths said – “blog editor with WP, RSS reader with netnewswire and Instapaper, check stats with Mint, twitter with twitterrific.”

3 Video Tips from A-List Bloggers

Thomas Crampton emailed me links to a series of video interviews that he did with three fairly prominent bloggers (that’d be an understatement) which might make some interesting viewing this weekend for some of you with 20 or so minutes to spare:

The interviews are:

The experience that those three bloggers have together is pretty amazing – hope you get something out of the videos.

How Long Do You Take To Write a Blog Post?

As part of a little research I’m doing for a post (or a short series of them) next week here at ProBlogger I’d like to ask readers to answer this question:

How Long Do You Take To Write a Blog Post?

I know each post varies depending upon what it is – but on average how long would you say you take to write a blog post? I’d be interested to not only hear the time it takes you but also you usually write posts in one sitting or come back to them over time. Also it’d probably help a little if you told us the type of posts you generally write.

Sitemeter Crashing Sites When Viewed with IE7

Twitter is aflutter with blog owners wondering why their sites can’t be viewed at the moment and it seems that the commonality between them all is that they are running Sitemeter stats on their blogs and that they only seem to crash when viewed with IE7.

I’ve put an email into Sitemeter to get clarification on the problem but until it’s fixed the only way to have your blog viewed by IE7 seems to be removing Sitemeter’s code from your blog (as I’ve done here). It means your stats will be disrupted and inaccurate for today – but at least you’ll have everyone able to view your blog.

Will update when I hear more.

Update – Sitemeter have posted about the problem and say that they have resolved it on their blog. Read here for details.

GRAB Your Reader’s Attention and HOOK them into your blog

Hook-1Do you want to learn how to SNAP readers out of their zombie like surfing and HOOK them into your blog?

If so – read on….

Image by Essjay in NZ

Before I was a blogger I did a lot of public speaking. I did a number of courses in public speaking and used to spend a lot of time with my head in books on the topic.

One of the techniques that I was taught that I found to be very helpful was to include something at the start of every presentation that was there unashamedly to grab attention and create interest.

The theory was that in most presentations (whether it be in a work context, conference, church, school or even in a social context where a speech was given) the majority of your audience quickly will slip into a zombie like trance even as you’re getting up to speak. The act of sitting down and listening to someone speak in a monologue is not really something most of us are wired to do.

So to snap your audience out of this state where they’re incapable of comprehending your 16 point presentation the theory is that you do something, say something, show something or claim something that grabs their attention.

Whether it be a joke, question, controversial statement or claim, powerful story, funny title slide or intriguing and surprising opening line – the primary aim in the first moments of your presentation is to grab attention and create interest in what you’re about to present.

This same principle applies to blogging in two ways.

1. Grabbing Attention on a Post Level

Let me start with the more obvious place that you can (and should) be thinking about grabbing the attention of your readers – within each post.

Every time a reader see’s one of your posts in their RSS feed, stumbles upon it in search engine results, spots it linked to on another site or even sees it on your blog – they make a snap judgement whether they’ll read it or not. This is based upon a number of factors:

  • The post’s title
  • The opening lines of your post
  • An intriguing question
  • A Story
  • The topic being covered and how relevant and useful it is to the reader
  • Visual cues on the page (pictures, sub headings, comment numbers, page design)
  • A controversial statement or bold claim
  • A great promise
  • The voice and style you’ve written in

We could probably add a lot more to this list – but I guess the point I’m wanting to make is that ‘grabbing attention’ is something a blogger needs to think about in the writing of each post.

2. Grabbing Attention on a Blog Level

While grabbing attention on a post by post level is important there’s another one that is worth thinking about also – on a bigger picture level as you think about your whole blog.

What hooks a first time reader into your blog?

Not just into the post that they’ve arrived on – but to your whole blog?

I’m not just talking about how to make your blog sticky (although many ‘sticky’ techniques will help a lot) but I’m talking particularly about getting ‘attention’ of readers.

Many of the points on a post level (point #1 above) come into play on this as they will be the first thing that a new reader sees – however there are other factors too – particularly:

  • Clear Communication of Topic – Communicating what your blog is about, who it is for, what needs it will fulfill etc all can potentially hook a reader.
  • Distinct Site Design and Branding – Whether it be a bold logo, distinct colors, an eye catching picture or some other factor design can stop readers in their tracks momentarily and get them to take a second look at your blog.

What attention grabbing techniques have you tried on either a post by post level or a bigger picture blog level?

PS: As I’m hitting publish on this post I’m reminded of a great little book – Hot Button Marketing: Push the Emotional Buttons That Get People to Buy.

This book looks at a variety of buttons (or hooks) that marketers use to make customers buy. While this might not seem that relevant for blogging – I found that as I read the book that a lot of the buttons described were similar to what I’d seen work at engaging readers on my blogs.