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Scoop Blogging

Nikon-D200-Tm-1Sometimes it is really fun to be a small time blogger because it can free you up to do things that a lot of the bigger websites in your niche are unable to do.

For example – my Digital Camera site is one of my bigger blogs – yet in comparison to some of the biggest digicam website our there it’s very small. This doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally beat the big sites at their own game though. Today is an example of this.

This afternoon I had an email from a reader with ‘connections’ who gave me information on a digital camera (the Nikon D200) which has been rumored to be coming out for 12 months now. It’s a camera that everyone has hypothesized about but which there have been few firm details on. So when I got a picture and specifications (still unconfirmed but looking pretty solid) as well as a few other facts that indicate the information is reliable I posted about it on a Nikon D200 page.

The cool thing about this is that because I’m a smaller site and am not seen as a major player by the major digital camera manufacturers I do not have any of the non disclosure agreements with them that most of the other bigger sites have. I know that most of these sites will have information on this new camera days before it’s announced – but that legally they are bound not to mention it on their sites until the official release date (rumored to be 1 September).

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There’s a Hole in My Blog? – Holistic Blogging

Old Rusted Bucket-1“Your blog will only ever be as good as it’s weakest component.”

Warning: Tangent Ahead

Imagine you’ve been given a task of hauling water from one place to another (over a long distance) – but that all you’ve been given to do the job is a rusty old bucket which has multiple holes in it. There are holes both low and high on the bucket which make transporting water a real challenge.

You’re given materials to patch some but not all of the holes in the bucket. Which one’s would you fix?

There are a number of ways of approaching this problem – you could attempt to patch the biggest holes first, you could patch those which are most prominent on the bucket etc…

But perhaps the smartest thing to do would be to make the priority of your repair work those holes which are lowest on the bucket.

The reasoning for this approach is that over time your bucket will only be able to hold as much water as the lowest hole on the bucket. Common sense really and a principle I want to suggest bloggers think about on their blogs.

Your blog will only ever be as good as its weakest component allows it to be.

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Getting inside your Blog Reader’s Mind

Peter has another worthwhile post at Ads On Blog on the topic of Optimum Placement of Google Ads where he suggests that bloggers consider five questions when they decide how to place ads on their blog. Here are the first three which I think are key:

’1. What is a user trying to accomplish by visiting my site?
2. What do they do when viewing a specific page?
3. Where is the focus of their attention likely to be?’

One of the traps that many bloggers fall into when placing Adsense ads is to just put them where everyone else does – but I think these sorts of questions are a better starting place. Understanding the thought processes and habits of your readers is actually a very helpful thing.

How do you do this? I have done a number of things to try to get inside the minds of some of my readers. Here’s a few suggestions:

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The Secret to Interactive Blogging – Expertise blended with Invitation

Rob Hof over at Business Week has stumbled upon one of the secrets of growing interactivity on a blog - it’s about not knowing all the answers. He notices that the posts with most comments on his blog are where he asks for help.

‘The tough thing for journalists, I think, is that we’re supposed to provide answers, not just pose questions. So what makes a really good story–insight into an issue or person or company, wrapped up in a tidy, complete package–is precisely what doesn’t work on a blog. People are more interested in responding to questions. Provide just answers, and, well, there’s nothing more to say….’

This is so true yet I’d not write off posts that provide answers altogether.

What I’ve discovered over the last couple of years is that people want a mixture of expertise but also room to speak from their own experience. I’ve tried in the past few months to create this type of space in the way I blog here at Problogger – blending posts that are are quite ‘How To’ in nature (with lots of tips and answers) with plenty of opportunities for readers to share their own expertise.

In a sense this was my motivation behind the 31 Day Project and my invitation for readers to submit their blog tip posts. The result is quite spectacular with around 160 reader submissions already in addition to my own 45 or so ‘expert’ pieces.

Blogging Strategy – Be a Maven

Paul Chaney has a good post on ‘Mavens’ – a term used in Malcolm Gladwell’s book – Get the Latest Price on the The Tipping Point (an absolute must read):

‘The Maven is a person who knows everything about something. Ask them a question about that topic and they’ll give you more information that you care to know. They are, according to Gladwell, information brokers who have the knowledge and social skills to start epidemics.’

Paul points out a few Maven bloggers and how being one (or becoming one) is a great blogging strategy and an excellent way to build blogging traffic. He’s spot on the money with this observation.

The great thing is that because blogging is so global you don’t necessarily have to be a maven of some mega popular topic in order to be successful. Recently I’ve had contact with a number of bloggers that have come to dominate (in a nice way) the tiny niches that they write in and in doing so have become quite prominent.

A number of them are readers of this blog so I thought it might be interesting to open up the comments in this post for people to talk about either:

1. Blogging Mavens that we know of (ie people who are becoming or who have become experts in a niche through their blogging on it)

2. The Niches that we are trying to become mavens in – tell us about your journey to become an expert in your field. How are you doing it, how’s it going, what has worked and what hasn’t? What have been the benefits of this approach? Don’t be shy or modest – feel free to just share it like it is….

Overnight Blogging Success

Here is a quote from Paul Allen that I should be tattooed to the foreheads of all bloggers hoping to make it rich via their blogging efforts:

‘My brother Curt, founder of Folio Corp, former CEO of MyFamily.com, and current CEO of Agilix, a venture-backed company, is fond of saying telling how his company was going to be an overnight success…after 10 years of hard work.

I believe that the single most important key to success in an online venture is doing the little things day after day for years and years until you magically reach the tipping point and everyone seems to have heard of you. In other words, persistence is required for most successful ventures.’

Last night I had just finished posting on 15 new digital cameras and printers that had been announced by Canon – it was 2am – and I was just about to close my laptop when my instant messenger beeped – signaling someone wanted a chat. 2am is not my favorite time of the day to start IM conversations but my curiosity got the better of me and I opened the window to find out who it was. It turned out to be a journalist from a pretty major online publication wanting an interview (glad I checked).

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When is it time to ‘Go Pro’ as a Blogger?

Instant Messaging Conversation with Reader (used with permission – name changed to protect the innocent)

Rex – ‘Darren Darren Darren….I’ve decided to become a Professional Blogger!!!!’
Darren – ‘Wow that’s exciting Rex!’
Rex – ‘yeah I’m writing my letter of resignation as we speak….’
Rex – ‘I can’t wait to see my boss’s face when he sees it! :-)’
Darren – ‘that’s great…. but before you resign can I ask you a couple of questions?’
Rex – ‘sure’
Darren – ‘how long have you been blogging?’
Rex – ’3 months’
Darren – ‘how many blogs do you have?’
Rex – ‘just one’
Darren – ‘and if you don’t mind me asking how much does it earn each day?’
Rex – ‘…around $1.50′
Darren – ‘do you have any savings to live off for the next year?’
Rex – ‘………..’

This is a real conversation and one that I seem to have about once per month – bloggers who are excited by the potential that blogging has to pay them an income – who are so eager to ‘Go Pro’ that all sensibility goes out the window.

Most people would make sure they have another job to go to before resigning from a current one (or at least they’d make sure they had a way to survive in the short term) – why wouldn’t they do the same with blogging?

I’ve written about this before at Monkey Bar Blogging (a public service announcement that I wrote for bloggers a few months back) – it’s a post that I’d highly recommend anyone considering ‘Going Pro’ has a read. What I write below is similar I guess and my latest thinking on the topic.

So when should a blogger ‘Go Pro’?

Let me start answering this question by saying there is no one way to enter into blogging on a professional level. I know quite a few bloggers who have gone full time into blogging and with virtually every one there is a different variation on the story of how they did it.

Below is some of the advice I give to bloggers with aspirations to full time blogging:

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Email Newsletters Tips for Bloggers

Yesterday I talked about Why Email Newsletters might be a good companion tool for a blog – today I want to get a bit more practical and talk about how to use them. As I’ve researched the topic I’ve realized that this could be quite a long series of posts in itself but have decided to pull all the tips together here. I will follow this post up tomorrow with one last one with suggestions of tools that you might want to use in putting an email newsletter together.

So in putting together an email newsletter you probably want to consider some of the following:

Define the Purpose of your Newsletter – As with any tool it is important to know what you wish to achieve with it before setting out to use it. I mentioned yesterday that newsletters can have many benefits, some of which you’ll be aiming towards, others of which won’t suit your overall blogging strategy. So sit down and work out what you want to get our of your newsletter. For example you may wish it to:

  • Drive Traffic to your Blog
  • Generate your own Sales or Consulting Leads
  • Generate advertising revenue
  • Be a direct income maker through affiliate programs
  • Generate a subscription revenue (ie charge for the newsletter)
  • Create community among your readers
  • Make announcements about you and your blog
  • Build your personal profile
  • Upsell Readers

Or maybe there is some other objective or a combination of the above. Whatever it is it’s important to define what success means for your email newsletter (nb: your email newsletter strategy should probably emerge from your overall strategy for your blogging).

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Why Email Newsletters Can Improve your Blog

One way that I’ve experimented with to build community and loyalty among readers on my blogs is to offer readers a free regular newsletter.

I’ve found that since started using newsletters that it’s added a new dimension of community to my blogs. Newsletter days have higher traffic for starters and there seems to be a growing relationship between many subscribers and myself. The newsletter isn’t the only reason for this but it’s had an impact.

Interestingly the rise of blogging has actually been the death of some newsletter publishers who have moved to blogging as a medium to communicating with readers and making an income – whilst my preferred medium is definitely blogging I see a number of benefits of combining email newsletters and blogs together as part of a wider web strategy. Let me share a few.

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