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Blogosphere Trends + Interview Tips

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts) – Darren

Think interviews are best left to Barbara Walters, news reporters, or magazine journalists? Think again. Conducting interviews for your blog helps create unique content, increases your blog’s authority, and adds an additional voice of expertise. In today’s post, we’ll look at how some bloggers covered this week’s most talked-about stories using interviews and how you can use interviews to your advantage. As always, the weekly blogosphere trends have been provided by Regator.com.

1.  Proposition/Prop 8 – The Courage Campaign Institute’s blog, Prop 8 Trial Tracker, has been traveling the United States, doing video interviews with both supporters and protesters of gay marriage. One interview in particular, from “An amazing 24 hours: Round-up of NOM tour and marriage equality news,” was featured by several other bloggers and news organizations. Creating exclusive content that is picked up by other media outlets gives you opportunities to build your blog’s reputation as a voice of authority in your niche.

2.  Steven Slater – There are a lot of ways to secure an interview and, while stalking apartment building elevators as City Room did for “Flight Attendant Had Long Imagined Escaping Down Chute” certainly isn’t your best first option, it did do the trick and prove that a bit of persistence and thinking outside the box can lead to an unexpected win. Try a brief, polite email or phone call first, detailing what you’d like to talk about, the amount of time you expect it to take, why you are interested in talking with that individual in particular, and when/where the piece will be published.

3.  Jennifer Aniston – You don’t always need to interview the big celebrity to create a useful post. For “Jennifer Aniston Not ‘Destructive,’ Say Parenting Experts,” PopEater talked with parenting experts about Aniston’s newest role. Insights from a social psychologist, a parenting expert, and a mommy blogger add information and expertise. If you blog in a particular niche, you should be working right now to build relationships with experts in your field. Keep a database of people who can be interviewed or quoted on your topic.

4.  Teen Choice Awards – Odds are you won’t be joining PopSugar on the red carpet of the Teen Choice Awards (“David Beckham and Twilight Take Over Teen Choice, Zac Tips Vanessa’s Sexy Dance, and Ashley’s Bikini Party”) and unless your blog is focused on celebrity gossip or pop culture, you probably wouldn’t want to. But the good news is that “regular” people (aka non-celebrities) can be just as exciting and interesting—often more so because, unlike stars, the average Joe isn’t media trained to spit out PR-approved soundbites. I interviewed musicians and actors for years and, to this day, one of my favorite interviews was with a cop who’d been fired for perpetrating a Bigfoot hoax. People are interesting if you give them a chance.

5.  CEO Mark Hurd – Keep in mind that, because these are the week’s most blogged-about stories, the blogs that are able to score interviews with the high-profile individuals involved are likely to be larger entities, such as The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to learn from them when it comes to growing your blog. “Digits Live Show: Mark Hurd Isn’t Leaving H-P Quietly,” shows the importance of prepping for an interview and researching your subject before sitting down to talk. Study the topic and come prepared with a list of questions. Never try to wing an interview.

6.  Ground Zero – Though it’s difficult to tell exactly how War Room’s interview with Newt Gingrich’s spokesman for “Gingrich aide: Mosque at Ground Zero is like statue of Marx at Arlington” played out based on the post, it does bring to mind another piece of interview advice: Leave controversy and potentially upsetting questions until last. Make sure you’ve asked your subject any other questions you may have because, by bringing up sensitive topics, you stand the risk of ending the interview or, at the very least, putting your subject in a less-than-helpful mood.

7.  Net Neutrality – If you enjoy interviewing, consider adding a weekly or monthly podcast to your blog. Bits has a regular audio component that features a combination of interviews, news, and tips (“Tech Talk Podcast: Net Neutrality”). You can choose from any number of podcasting tools.

8.  Senator Ted Stevens – GretaWire conducted a phone interview for “Former Gov. Sarah Palin Reflects on Ted Stevens.” Interviews can be conducted via phone, instant message, email, or in person. If your subject is high-profile, they may have their own requirements. Otherwise, choose based on the length of the interview (driving two hours for a ten-minute in-person interview doesn’t make sense) and the limitations of each option (email and instant message don’t allow you to read body language and the subject’s vocal cues). If you decide on an email interview, be clear about your deadline. If you choose phone and decide to record, be sure to ask the subject’s permission.

9.  Scott Pilgrim – The “Exclusive: Edgar Wright Vs. ComingSoon.net…FIGHT!” Q&A illustrates the most important quality of a good interviewer: being a good listener. Remember: The interview is not about you. It’s okay to add some personal information to put the subject at ease or build rapport but keep the focus on your subject. In my personal opinion, this interview tends to bring the interviewer into the mix a little too much but it’s clear that he is taking the time to listen to the answers and ask solid follow up questions. Follow-ups of this kind can yield some of the best information, and if you’re too busy thinking of what you’ll say next, you’ll miss those opportunities. Keep quiet and let your interviewee fill the silence.

10.  Katy Perry – Blogging is about filling a need for your readers. As you interview or prepare for an interview, ask yourself what your audience wants or expects to learn from your subject. According to “YouTube Users More Interested in Katy Perry Than Barack Obama,” YouTube’s approach to interviewing Katy Perry was to actually ask YouTube users for question suggestions. You can try this on your own blog if you’ll be talking with someone who is well-known in your niche. Keep in mind that the questions you choose—whether created by you or your readers—should be open ended (“What do you like about ProBlogger?” rather than “Do you like ProBlogger?”) and creative. Stock, overused questions yield nothing but stock, overused answers.

One last bit of advice: If you can’t score the interview, don’t do this.

Do you do interviews for your blog? Please share any tips you have as well as an example or two from your blog in the comments. I’d love to check out what you’re working on. See you next week!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

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Comments

  1. Great info. Interviewing people ir a really good thing to do to attract visitors since you give them unique content that only you have access to. Some websites even charge money to let people know what celebrities said in their interviews. Filming/sound recordings of the interview it is also great way to prove that it’s not a fake interview.

    Great post! :)

  2. Jaky Astik says:

    Well, I haven’t interviewed anyone yet, but I do collaborate with people through chats, tweets and emails regarding my posts and for further research.

    Though I’ve seen a few designers interviewing their niche bloggers, I find it extensively tough. You can’t always ask the same questions. Interviews have to be indefinite and different. They should add the personality of the interviewed guy to it.

    Nice post, though.

  3. Hi Kimberley,
    I have not placed interview content on my blog so far but I will offer a suggestion that has really helped me get interviews with people.

    Before I phone I mail a handwritten note to connect with the person I want to reach. Then when I phone they will (hopefully) have already received the card. I ask if they have and if they have I believe they give me a little bit more time than I would have got if I did not send the card.

    After the call is over I send a follow up thank you note.

    Recently I wrote about the impact of thank you notes on my blog. If you wish to share the link is as follows:
    http://growyourwellnessbiz.com/the-power-of-a-thank-you-note/

    I love to receive a ‘hello’ or ‘thank you note’ instead of a request for money, don’t you? This is why I started writing notes.

    All the best to you,
    David

  4. Rison simon says:

    Hello.

    The blogosphere trends are starting to get really boring. I mean, even the heading are similar. Can you change the headline to some thing else, one that is more interesting? All though the information given inside is valuable, the presentation iteself makes me exhausted. Good luck anyway.

  5. My Kindle Author blog is mostly Q&A interviews with authors who have published on Kindle.

    I personalize each interview by first checking out the author’s website, blog, bios, and pages on Amazon, then asking a few specific questions related to their work. I also ask some standard questions about writing and self-publishing on Kindle. I lay out the interviews with cover art and book trailers if available.

    Interviews are working very well for me. I enjoy doing them, and I generally post 2-5 interviews per day. The authors are thrilled about the exposure (most of them are self-published), so they link back to my site from their author sites and blogs, as well as sending me some traffic through twitter and facebook.

    My site is an Amazon affiliate, so I’m also adding links and helping authors sell their books. I’ve just made my Kindle Author blog available by subscription on Kindle. Some authors have reported sales spikes after I’ve posted their interviews, and I know many of those ebook sales have been referred by me.

    I’ve found interviews to be an excellent way to get backlinks. My Kindle Author blog is only six weeks old, and already it’s one of the Top 20 book blogs as ranked by Technorati.

    David Wisehart
    http://kindle-author.blogspot.com

  6. I do interviews but I do Reader Model interviews…I interview and spotlight some of my regular commenters…

  7. El Edwards says:

    We’ve paused over the Summer break but usually we have a interview every Friday on the Give A Brick blog. However, instead of interviewing big names, we ask the same handful of questions every week to one of our supporters.

    Our latest interview was a little different to normal but if you fancy a look, you’ll get the idea: GiveABrick.com/friday-friend-aussie-sire/

    Because we’re using Twitter lots, most of our victims tend to be our #FollowFriday friend for the day too so it’s just an extra way we have of giving some love to our expanding community of givers.

  8. Julian says:

    the blogosphere topic seems monochrome and “colorless”

    i think “we” need new topic, for example, robotic technology rather than iPhone gadgets

  9. Well, we started couple of months back interview section interviewing people from various walks of life and the segment has got good response….

  10. Kimberly says:

    David, handwritten notes are a nice touch. Thanks for sharing that tip.

    Jules, that’s a very cool idea.

    Lakshmi rajan, I’m glad to hear that it’s received a good response. I’ll head over and take a look myself.

  11. jason says:

    Interviews are very important, and something that I plan to integrate in the future. Always look forward to the Regator crew guest posts.

  12. Ohio Health says:

    Good points. My CAT (Communication and Theater) classes at Miami U have definitely helped me in the blogging world.

    Your interviews have to be original and thought-provoking. Otherwise, your answers and writing material will be very bland.

  13. Hi Kimberley,
    Thank you for the compliment on my suggestion.
    David

  14. I’d love to see an article here about learning to do interviews … it seems that I can never think what to ask or how to begin!

    r

  15. Wow, so true. My first interview for my blog had the highest hits for the month. As far as tips are concerned. Basically I use the old standard of Who, What, Where, When, & Why.
    1) Who is the person you’re interviewing?
    2) What are they currently working on?
    3) Where are they at as far as stages in their current project?
    4) When will the project become public?
    5) Why did they get started?
    I write all my questions out or type them before the interview. Basically if you find someone interesting chances are so will your readers especially if they have an expertise in the particular niche you’re in. You can begin with how they got started and what keeps them motivated when it gets tough.
    Be confident when initially contacting someone no matter high up the food chain they may be so to speak. As an interviewer you’re about to get them some free publicity. Be respectful and explain to them why you want to interview them. I have been amazed time and again at people that I thought would never have the time to talk to me saying they’d love to do an interview! Writers Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing has an excellent interview section in it which has helped me tremendously.

  16. Jennifer Aniston’s link trend was an interesting one. I knew a few of them but not all, thanks for this trend post so I can reflect what is going on blogosphere.

  17. Thanks for this interesting post, a topic I haven’t read a lot about but have had some interest in. For one of the blogs I’ve written for I did a series of interviews with authors of new social media marketing and technology books. While many of the book-related posts I’ve done have been reviews of the books, I found it very enriching to have the opportunity to communicate with the author myself and to provide readers with answers to questions which they may have to.

    In one case the author had suggested we record the interview and we did. It was a lot of fun to do! I enjoy reading and hearing interviews of all kinds.

    Here are a few samples:

    http://www.impressionsthroughmedia.com/?p=4514
    http://www.impressionsthroughmedia.com/?p=4356
    http://www.impressionsthroughmedia.com/?p=3648

    Debbie Hemley
    http://debbiehemley.com

  18. My blog is about classical guitar, so I tend to interview musicians and guitar builders. I just ask questions on things I’m curious about. It’s also important to give the interviewee a few questions in which they can self-promote. Does the interviewee have a new CD out? They should talk about it. Do they have a series of concerts or other cool project coming up? Ask questions about that.

    Interviews are a great way to generate blog content, but the interviewee still needs to get something out of it.

    Other tips:
    -keep questions concise. Don’t talk for a minute then ask a question.
    -Don’t lead the interviewee in the direction you want to go. Ask more open-ended questions (they get better responses).
    -Be prepared to go “off script”. Have a list of prepared questions, but if they get rolling on a subject get deeper into it. You can always edit later.

    Some of my interviews:
    http://www.classicalguitarblog.net/2010/01/jason-vieaux-interview/
    http://www.classicalguitarblog.net/2010/03/an-interview-with-luthier-john-h-dick/

  19. T.Lee says:

    I like the idea of adding interview material to blog posts, and I have to say, of al the ‘Regator’ guest posts, this one was my favorite.

    I’ve always harnessed the ‘expertise’ of family, friends, and acquaintances for my blogfiction. It’s amazing how many resources are within an arm’s reach. Once, I walked into an AT&T store and spent several minutes with the sales clerk going over the technical capabilities on a particular phone to add validity to a particular storyline.

    In person and telephone interviews are the best, because you can pick up on verbal clues, etc, and, you can use little tricks like pausing and letting the silence sit, a silence the interviewee will likely want to fill with something unexpected. But I prefer email interviews, which are quick and simple.

    In the near future, I plan on incorporating more in-depth interviews.

  20. Johnny Laird says:

    Hey Kimberly

    I started including interviews on my blog – http://www.johnnylaird.net – a little while back, and it’s added so much value to the project. The Guest Post process has gone through a few stages, so I’ll share them with you guys here:

    1. I put out a little vid on my site called “Be my guest!” – very basic quality – to issue the initial invitation and gave something of an simple brief for Guest posters.

    http://www.johnnylaird.net/2010/05/be-my-guest/

    2. From that a few generous guests started posting, and got the Guest Post ball rolling .

    3. I included a new page on the blog to collate all of the Guest Posts in one place. This is maintained as new folks come on board.

    http://www.johnnylaird.net/guest-posts-vids-interviews/

    4. Some other people – beyond the initial Guest blog posts folks – eventually got in touch, but felt uncomfortable with producing Guest Posts from a standing start; so I suggested an alternative method. For these folks, I’d hit them with a few Questions, to give them something to hand their thoughts on and provide a frame work for Q&A Interviews.

    Again, I posted a shaky little vid to make sure folks knew what the plan was:

    http://www.johnnylaird.net/2010/07/qa-interviews/

    5. The next posts I’m working on are people I know, who I think have got something to say, but neither blog or Tweet.I just want to give them a space to expressed themselves.

    The good news is I have a bunch of Guest Posts & Interviews in various stages of preparation, and there’s a pretty steady supply of great content from some really good people. I love the interaction, and the sense of community that is forming around it.

    Hope these few ideas might be helpful.

    Peace

    J

  21. Andy Richards says:

    Good information. Not only do I think interviews can add some interesting content to your site, but it also forces us to try and build relationships with new people.

  22. Nice post, hand written notes are always a plus.

  23. Brad says:

    I also want to share something: –
    One of the most effective ways to get people to notice your blog is to write well. More and more people are expressing their opinions with blogs on the Internet and that means more people are writing today, so there’s a need to revisit some good writing rules that make sure you can express yourself clearly in your blog. A good writer will always be specific and that means they need to use the right details. Good writers are always asking themselves how something looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells.
    Thank You

  24. I had never thought about interviewing… Good idea. For many people (even for me at the beginning) was difficult to understand the investment returning in these internet sites. But after many conferences, I think I am beginning to understand. Many times you have to give knowledge and build a reputation and that comes back to you… I think this interviewing is part of that concept right?

  25. Interesting trends this week. I’ve read a few of your posts, and I must say that this one has me actually visiting regator. Figuring it out atm…

  26. I do “person on the street” interviews for my blog about trends and street fashion. They have proven to be the most popular of my posts, and are a great source of original content. Further, I think it drives traffic to my blog, as the interview subject will generally share the link on facebook or their own blog.
    I ask the same five questions every time, and paraphrase the responses so that I can control the “voice” of the piece. This is essential for what I do, because I try to keep my blog funny and entertaining to read.
    The downside of generating content this way is that it can be intimidating to approach people. Luckily, my experience so far has been that almost everyone agrees to the interview, either because they are flattered or just kind.
    The interviewees responses vary so wildly that it hasn’t become repetitive, at least not IMO.
    samples can be read here: http://eyespystylereport.blogspot.com/

  27. Sanjo-chan says:

    I’m ready to dive into doing interviews in person for my blog next month at an event, in addition to a podcast I recently started for the blog. I’m plan on talking to a few celebrities (voice actors, but not A-list voice actors), including one of my favorites that are popular in my interest. I’m looking forward to it! :D

  28. Jen Gresham says:

    I love interviews and plan to do a lot more of them on my blog. I’ve even added a category for them on my blog.

    The biggest mistake I see bloggers making in interviews is not asking terribly deep or interesting questions. They also tend to ramble, which gives the impression of not being especially prepared. If you’re going to interview someone, take the time to read previous interviews and create questions that reveal new and fascinating information from your subject.

    As examples, my interview with Sven Lindblad, the owner of the high-end travel company Lindblad Expeditions, got a huge amount of traffic. The post was even retweeted by none other than Steve Case (that was an awesome moment)! http://bit.ly/8YRGaZ

    I also did an interview with poet Molly Fisk on child abuse and the role of art in developing resiliience. It’s also been a favorite. http://bit.ly/br2WR6

    Great to see this focus on interviewing for bloggers. Much needed. I’m considering creating a course on the topic for those who are interested.

    Jen

  29. There is no reason to follow that all links mentioned above, because they’re great and expandable.

  30. We have to do an interview soon and your tips are going to come in very handy. Thanks for sharing.