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Creating an eBook to Make Money Blogging – An Interview with Leo Babauta

Interview-Leo-BabautaYesterday I wrote about Leo Babauta launching an ebook (Zen to Done) as a way to monetize his blog. In that post I promised to try to get an interview with Leo to explore both the wild success of his blog (over 21500 subscribers in 6 months) and the journey to releasing his ebook. Leo was generous enough to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy this interview:

Why did you write Zen to Done? Can you give us a brief synopsis?

Zen To Done is a synthesis of the productivity, organization and simplicity concepts I write about regularly on my site. It started with Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen — I’m a disciple and a fan, and for a while I wrote about it regularly on Zen Habits. I discovered some problems with it — not with the system, but with my implementation with it — and discovered that many others had similar problems. So I set out to figure out what those problems were, and how to solve them.

As a result, I pulled in some concepts I’d been writing about separately: the “Big Rocks” prioritization concepts of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (GTD doesn’t prioritize, purposely), and more importantly, the concepts of simplicity and minimalism that I’ve become known for.

Simplicity is the key for me, and that’s why I call ZTD a “simple productivity” system. We need to do less, not more. We need to focus on the essential, and separate the wheat from the chaff. Instead of doing busy work, we should do important work.

That’s ZTD, in short. You can read more about it on Zen Habits (or buy the ebook!).

Why did you decide to monetize your blog with an ebook as opposed to other methods?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and my philosophy is to provide as much value as possible to my readers, as opposed to focusing on monetization. The decision to do an ebook is consistent with that philosophy.

My readers seemed to really enjoy the posts on ZTD I’ve done on Zen Habits (they remain some of my most popular), and a large number were asking for it to be turned into an ebook. Well, you don’t have to ask me more than 10 times! :)

I decided that the ebook would be the best way to provide additional value to my readers. I’m sure there are better ways to monetize, but I think too often the focus is on the blogger making money, not on the value to the readers. If you give people a lot of value, they’ll appreciate that, and come back for more. That’s my hope, anyway.

How long did it take you to write it?

I set aside my mornings for a couple of weeks to write the book. I still had the regular demands of Zen Habits, and the posts I write for other blogs, as well as my full-time day job and my family (a wife and six kids) … so I couldn’t put everything aside as I’d prefer to do, and focus completely on the ebook.

However, I decided that writing the book had to be a priority, so for a couple hours a day, for about 2 weeks, the only thing I allowed myself to do was write. And I actually enjoyed the process, and have been working on a second ebook (a joint venture with another blogging friend) … with plans to start a third coming up.

it’s a great looking ebook – how did you put it together?

Actually, I can’t take credit for that. I’m a lousy designer. A true designer, James Wondrack, volunteered to do the design, and I think he did a nice job. I’m going to give him a small cut of the first 200 ebooks sold as a thank you.

If any great designers would like to volunteer for my next ebook, let me know!

You’re delivering it with e-junkie – did you look around at other options? Why did you go with the delivery system that you did?

In truth, I’m a newbie here. I did a little research into some of the options, but ultimately made the choice to go with e-junkie based on the recommendation of a blogging friend. It seems to be a good choice so far … it was a super-easy setup, and I’ve had no problems. I also liked that there is no per-transaction fee (only a $5/month subscription fee) and the affiliate program was incredibly easy to set up.

How has ZtD been received by your blog’s readers so far? Are you finding it easy to convert readers to purchasers?

It’s been selling like hotcakes! Seriously, I had hoped to eventually sell 100 of them, over time, but I doubled that number in just a few hours. And so far, they seem to like the book. I hope they do, because I put a lot of work into it, and I feel it has a lot of value.

How did you get 21000+ subscribers to your blog in just 6 months?

Three things, actually, but the main thing has been, again, to focus on the value I provide to the readers. The three things are 1) provide extremely useful content (with catchy headlines) that solves problems my readers have; 2) write guest posts for other blogs, with the same goal of extremely useful content, so that I can tap into new audiences; and 3) use the first item to tap into the multiplying power of incoming links from other blogs and social bookmarking services such as Digg, Stumbleupon and del.icio.us.

I should also mention that I’ve developed some great relationships with fellow bloggers — some outstanding and generous people, really — as well as a great relationship with my readers. These have been key. It’s important that we bloggers not think of other bloggers as our competitors, but as friends, and potential allies. If we link to each other, and share each others’ content with our readers, everyone wins: the blogger who links, the blogger who receives the link, and the readers. And developing a relationship with your readers, while it takes a lot of work (I spend a lot of time answering comments and emails), is crucial to keeping those readers and developing loyalty.

You’re one of the most prolific guest posters on other people’s blogs that I know – it obviously has benefits for you – but can you tell us what the biggest ones are?

I’ve said it before, but writing guest posts on other blogs is probably the No. 1 strategy for marketing your blog and your brand. Well, actually, creating great, useful, readable content on your own blog is No. 1, but if you’re trying to get new readers, you have to reach new audiences. It’s not enough to write great content if no one knows it’s there.

I think of my audience as a sphere of readers. In order to grow that sphere, I need to tap into new spheres, which are the audiences of other blogs. Obviously, some of those spheres overlap, especially if it’s in your own niche … after awhile, you’ve probably reached 95% of the readers in that niche. But not at first, so you should first tap into your niche … and only after you’ve exhausted that should you go outside the niche.

Tapping into another sphere of readers isn’t an easy job. You can do that with a link from another blog, but think about it: a link is usually surrounded by a sentence or two (if that) about your post … but a guest post on another blog is hundreds of words … and what better opportunity to show that blog’s readers how great and useful and readable your writing is?

Guest posts also help with branding: by writing great content for other blogs, you are showing what your brand stands for, and you’re repeating that branding to as many people as possible.

For Zen Habits, guest posting has paid off immensely: readers have enjoyed my guest posts and have come to my blog to subscribe. And the brand of Zen Habits has grown in many people’s minds in this past year, and continues to do so, because of guest posts.

Do you have any productivity tips for bloggers?

Sure, I have many! But some of my top tips:

1. Identify the essential. Blogging can take up your entire day if you let it. Identify the top 3-4 things you can do to improve and market your blog. Knowing what actions/projects are essential and which ones aren’t is the first step to effectiveness. In my opinion, the essential tasks are creating outstanding and useful content, writing guest posts for other blogs, and little else.

2. Focus on the essential. If you have limited time for blogging (and we all do), only allow yourself to focus on those essential tasks and projects … and minimize the rest.

3. Batch process. The smaller tasks, like processing emails and reading through comments and all the rest, should be grouped into a limited time frame later in the day. Don’t do them throughout the day.

4. Keep a list. Whether you use an index card, a Moleskine notebook, a text file, a Google Doc or whatever, keep a list of the tasks and projects you need to do. Get the tasks out of email. From this master list, choose 3 major projects to focus on, and focus 3 most important tasks you can accomplish today. Then focus exclusively on those 3 tasks and those 3 projects.

Those are the 4 things that you can do that will make the most difference.

Get a Copy of Zen to Done for just $9.50 USD

note: This post contains affiliate links

“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” says Brian Clark on Page Rank Decreases

An Interview with Brian Clark

Yesterday when I posted that the new Teaching Sells resource has just launched I mentioned that I would have an interview with one of it’s founders Brian Clark from Copyblogger. Brian has understandably had a pretty hectic few days – but was generous enough to give us some time to explore a little more of what Teaching Sells is about.

Brian-Clark

Where does blogging fit into your own personal overall online business strategy?

Well, it would be silly to say that blogging isn’t an important part of everything I’ve been doing. I’ve spent over 18 months blogging at Copyblogger, trying to get better and better every week and attract more subscribers. I guess the key word in my blogging strategy is “attract,” though. Once you have a relationship with readers, that opens up whole new opportunities to have a direct financial relationship with them, rather than selling them to advertisers.

But it’s also crucial to remember that there are ways to make money without blogging and with very little free content. And that’s all tied to having something to sell.

Why did you start the course?

This project came together like most do for me. I rarely do anything on my own—I’ll either partner up with someone for marketing purposes, or I’ll partner with someone to do a project, or I’ll put together a team, like a producer does.

In this case, Tony Clark and I came to realize that we both had wildly succeeded with educational marketing and training approaches to paid content. It just took off from there.

What do you say to people who say ‘can’t people get this all for free elsewhere?’

I’d say first that it’s a rare breed of person who will actually do that. People who are online-savvy are not like the vast majority of people, but they make the mistake that others are like them. These people often never make any money, because they fail to realize that they have skills that “normal” people don’t.

What we teach, however, goes beyond that. When you position your paid content in a unique way, no one can really say they can get it free elsewhere. A unique perspective is not freely available, and it’s often a unique perspective that truly gets through to people.

So is it fair to say that those who have been blogging haven’t been wasting time, but rather creating a launching pad for bigger and better things?

Absolutely. Listen – I’ve been told by more than one Internet marketing “guru” that I’m wasting my time with an audience of bloggers. That they’ll never buy anything.

That’s crazy. Bloggers have done something that most people who buy Internet marketing “dream” materials have never done—they’ve taken action. They’ve actually done something, and that’s huge.

A blog to me is like an aircraft carrier… it’s the platform that you launch everything else off of. It’s the spoke in the wheel, and there are $100-million-dollar-a-year email publishing business models that follow the same strategy.

Just be smart about your free content, and have something to sell. That’s what’s worked for me for the last 10 years.

How practical do you get in Teaching Sells? Is it just theory or do you show people how to do it?

That’s the great thing about the interactive training format we use and teach. It’s to get beyond theory and to have people actually building sites. We do spend time telling people “why” they’re doing things, because that’s important. But the focus is on the how, and an approach that gets people excited about taking action.

How did you feel about the whole Google PageRank Fiasco?

Call me crazy, but I woke up, saw all the frenzy, and thought “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” I’ve been warning people about relying on Google, and here comes proof-I follow all the rules, and still I get dinged.

The fact that this happened on the day I was launching a training program that shows people how to get away from relying on Google? That was a gift.

Thanks to Brian for answering my questions. I should add that I’m really enjoying participating in Teaching Sells. There are already some cool things happening among those that have joined. There is a forum area where people are encouraged to team up and work together on projects – I have a feeling that we’re going to see some great collaborations emerge out of that as people apply the principles being taught.

More SEO Tips from Aaron Wall

Seo-Book-Aaron-WallToday I continue my interview with Aaron Wall – author of SEO Book. Also read Part I of my interview with Aaron Wall.

What’s the best link building strategy you ever used?

Creating free software and giving it away. It is unreal how many thousands of high quality links you can get from producing free software. One of my new Google Gadgets is about a month old and already gets over 30,000 weekly page views. I also love awards programs and interviewing others.

If you had to identify 3 important SEO tips that all bloggers should know and implement – what would they be?

Is it ok if I do 5?

Sure thing!

  1. Attribution is important. Linking to popular bloggers and other sources is a way of getting their attention. Its like saying hey I just talked about you, come see what I said. Many will ignore you, but it only takes a couple good ones liking you for your blog to spread like a weed.
  2. Make sure your content is formatted such that it is easy to read. Use headings and sub-headers, bulleted lists, spread things out, etc. Ultimately you need people to read and trust your work for search engines to want to trust it. Search engines follow what people do.
  3. Make sure your page titles are unique on a per post level with the unique part of the title element at the far left of the page title. This helps improve rankings and makes people more likely to click on your listing when you do rank. Descriptive enticing headlines will pull more clicks than boring and bland ones.
  4. Don’t ignore internal navigation. Where possible, allow some of your categories to drive your keyword strategy. Some of your categories should be well aligned with some of your keywords. Create a top hits or featured posts section that makes it easy to find your best content. Also link back to your older posts in some of your newer posts to alert new readers to the best related posts in your archives and help search engines understand which pages are most important.
  5. If many people are writing about the same thing you are, try to write about something else or try to write about it from a different perspective such that people want to keep paying attention to you. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. Often times our flaws are more interesting than what we are allegedly good at.

What are the biggest mistakes that you see bloggers making in SEO?

I don’t think this mistake is specific to bloggers, but is a general web thing. You can sometimes see a piece of garbage website ranking well, or see a site worse than yours doing better than you are. But you can’t beat people by following them to wherever they currently are. At one point in time some of those sites were some of the better sites on the market. If they launched a similar site today they would be nowhere. And some of the sites are in cash out mode, publishing garbage spam where something good once ranked.

Don’t believe that just by following anyone’s guidelines or doing exactly what other sites are doing that you are going to rank well. You really need to leverage your own knowledge and personality to create a brand that others can evangelize and spread.

Is Page Rank important any more?

Keep in mind that toolbar PageRank is perpetually outdated and measured on a rough logarithmic scale, but yes real PageRank is important. The reason why is that for any given amount of link equity you can only get so many pages indexed. The more link authority you have the deeper search engines will crawl through your site.

How is blogging important to your overall business?

It is huge. Where others are buying $5,000 booths at conferences and spending $500 a day on AdWords my marketing spend is next to nothing because I get many sales from people talking about me. Plus blogging got me media exposure which makes it easier to get more media exposure down the road. I was a no name SEO with one popular article before I started SEO Book, but now I have thousands of subscribers and thousands of customers. The single most important part of my business right now is blogging.

I talk to many bloggers who want to launch an e-book – what have you learned that could help them from your experience in launching SEO book?

I actually wrote a 9 page blog post offering a bunch of tips on this topic.

At the core it helps to have a strong name, keep the site clean, put your offer inline with the content, give a way a ton of value, give away review copies and just keep pushing on the public relations front.

If you are in a competitive marketplace you need people talking about you everyday. If you find a smaller uncompetitive niche then you might even be able to get away with hiring a freelance writer and having them do the writing and marketing. You can also test markets before you create your products by creating a PPC offer and promising a book as collateral for their feedback. Use their feedback to estimate demand and target pricing.

Seeing how quickly Google grabbed control of video and how aggressively they are pushing it I am not convinced that ebooks are a sustainable long term model that will still work in 5 or 10 years. Google and Amazon are both wheeling and dealing to get access to the catalogs of major publishing houses to sell their books online as ebooks. When those books are available at $8 it gets much harder to charge $80 for an ebook. I think it is better to sell a product as a service with recurring revenues if possible. Include video and other stuff as well. And the reason the web is great is because it is interactive. Most eooks generally are not. ;)

What SEO resources and blogs do you read?

I probably read about 100 different blogs. My favorites are ones that are published less frequently, but with deeply insightful posts, like:

As well as ones that usually have something unique, like:

I also stop by many of the old mainstays like Webmasterworld.com and Searchengineland.com

Seo-Book-NewThanks to Aaron Wall for his time on this interview.

Aaron has been most generous with me personally over the years and both SEO Book and personal advice at different times have added significantly to my own earnings from blogging.

I commend him and his resources to you as a great source of knowledge when it comes to SEO.

Learn How to Get Your Blog Ranking High in Search Engines – An Interview with Aaron Wall

Seo-Book-Aaron-WallOver the next couple of days you’re in for a treat because I’ve managed to secure an interview with Aaron Wall – a blogger and author that has literally added thousands (if not tens of thousands) to my own blogging earnings over the last few years as a result of me reading his great eBook – SEObook. Aaron’s book is 300 pages of pure Search Engine Optimization gold and he’s been generous enough to answer some of my questions.

His answers are so good that I’ve decided to split this into a two part interview so you don’t scan over them too fast and miss something.

Aaron – thanks for your time. Can you give us a short introduction to yourself and what you do?

I am a blogger who wrote a popular book about SEO. I also publish a wide array of websites and do a limited amount of high end SEO consulting with my partner Scott Smith at ClientsideSEM.com.

In addition to writing about SEO I offer free tools to help people automate doing research. I recently created a couple Google Gadgets that were well received, and my programmer created SEO for Firefox, which puts marketing data right in the search results.

It seems that a lot of people are getting into SEO at the moment – how and when did you get into it?

My first website, in early 2003, was a poorly done rant site. I wanted others to see my opinions and I figured the easiest and cheapest way to do so was to learn how to make it rank in search engines. I asked lots of questions at forums and then started moderating many of them. I had a site that listed my own notes about SEO stuff and a person hired me before I knew I was selling anything. A few months later they had already seen a 20x return on their spend and I felt pretty good about that.

By the end of 2003 I was ranking in the top 10 of Google’s results for search engine marketing, and my article about the Google florida update became popular and got me more client inquires than I could handle.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that I’ve learned almost everything that I know about SEO from your resource – SEO Book – but can you tell us why you wrote it and why ProBlogger readers might want to consider making the purchase?

Seo-Book-NewWhen I got on the web I bought SEO services from a scammy company that ripped me off. I also went down many dead end paths, trying to find where there was free traffic, doing arbitrage from unclean sources that stole my money, signing up for programs that teach you the world revolves around spreading their crap. etc. That led me to an inbox full of spam but no rankings.

I saw at the end of 2003 that the client services lifestyle was a bit feast or famine. I was getting about 2 calls a month. Then overnight it was up to like 30 in a day. Then it went back down a bit. And honestly I tended to undersell services because I didn’t fully appreciate the value of search off the start.

After I started learning more about SEO and business I thought it would be a good idea to share what I knew. My goal when I first wrote SEO Book was to write the book I wished I had read when I first got on the web. The first version was a modest 24 page HTML document that I gave away on Christmas of 2003.

Search has since got more complex and important, my experience has increased, and my knowledge of marketing has increased. As a result, the book is now over 300 pages, and rather than talking about do this do that in specific white and black my book also offers reasons why I think an idea will work or not.

When it comes to building links to a blog – do you recommend bloggers buy links, ‘use’ social media sites, trade links, linkbait, something else…. or some combination of the above?

I say try everything and see what works best for you. You might come across a trick that I haven’t used much that works well for you given your personality and your market.

  • I wouldn’t recommend renting too many links right out of the gate, because it adds cost and you may not be able to recoup the costs unless you are business savvy, plus sites get trusted more as they age. I would recommend listing in the Yahoo! Directory and some of the other higher quality general directories and blogging directories if you intend on creating a long term successful blog as a business.
  • Comment on related blogs and participate in related communities. These may not provide direct links, but links flow naturally after you have subscribers. You need to raise awareness if you are new and starting from scratch.
  • After you have awareness many people will frequently cite you just because they are subscribed to you.
  • Buy specific ads from specific sites.
  • Take concepts you see poorly done and do them exceptionally well, then use email to notify people who might care. Don’t forget to ping people you know well, especially if you have done them favors too.
  • Create social content as a form of marketing. Interview people, create tools, hold contests, give out awards, etc.

One other thing I would probably add is that for most people it is probably not going to be worth it to spend tons and tons of time building up a social media account on a large generalist website. If you only have a few hours a day to spend online then you should spend most of that reading and participating on sites specifically about your topic, or writing your site.

Tomorrow I’ll share the second part to this interview with Aaron and will ask him about the best ever link building strategy that he’s used, where he gives 5 key SEO tips that bloggers should implement, where he talks about Page Rank and gives some hints on how to launch a successful ebook (plus more).

In the mean time – take a little time out to check out SEO Book – which comes with a money back guarantee, free lifetime updates (and he does update) plus a few worthwhile bonuses.

“If you had a Gun against your Head to Double your Readership in Two Weeks, What Would you Do?” – An Interview with Tim Ferriss

Tim FerrissTwo of the most popular posts on ProBlogger over the last couple of months were an interview that I conducted in April with author Timothy Ferriss who wrote the best selling book The 4-Hour work Week. Tim’s also been developing a blog as part of his 4-Hour Work Week site and has seen some amazing traffic growth over the last few months.

I thought that it might be time for a follow up interview to see how the book launch has gone and what Tim has been learning about blogging. I hope you enjoy this chat with Tim.

How’s the 4 Hour Work Week Launch Going?

The books is screaming along. It’s been an unexpected and incredible ride thus far. From hitting #1 on the Wall Street Journal list and nailing the NY Times, it’s been a string of firsts for me. I was #2 on the NY Times business bestseller list for June, and the #1 slot was a political book. Very odd. So I’m hoping to move some mountains this week and hit #1 there, which would be a lifelong dream fulfilled. Fun stuff, to be sure.

Congratulations on that – How long have you been blogging now?

My current “real” blog has been up since early April in earnest, so about 3-4 months. I did play with another WordPress blog for a few months before that, but it was mostly to get comfortable with the tools vs. building a reader base. I would say 3-4 months of serious traffic creation and real posts.

Why did you start your 4 hour work week blog and have your reasons for doing it changed since you started?

I started it to create a community, a sense of belonging for not only others… but for myself. I wanted to attract like minded folk to discuss cool topics. More recently, this has moved towards having fun but also catalyzing some serious world change. It sounds ridiculously naive, but I used the blog to help get http://www.donorschoose.org, an educational non-profit, into the finals for American Express’s competition for $1-5 million in funding. There is some serious power in numbers and proactive readers.

I’m also beginning to realize that you can monetize a blog without bastardizing your vision, sacrificing editorial purity, or otherwise “selling out.” There’s no need to sacrifice on either end.

Tell us a little more about how you think this is possible – ie” monetize a blog without bastardizing your vision”

Step one is understanding your readers. by this, i mean defining them psychographically and demographically. What would they buy? Then, it’s a simple matter of finding advertisers who would pay for “sponsor”-level access to this market. Choose someone who belongs to an industry that you’ll likely never write about. Problem solved.

There are certainly other avenues — affiliate programs, Amazon Associates, etc. — that add additional revenue with marginal additional effort. Last, and few bloggers consider this, is launching and offering your own products to your audience. I get hundreds of emails per week requesting the same types of help. There will be online educational modules or other products on the way to help these readers, and I will launch them on the blog.

The aforementioned sources of income would be “direct” income sources from the blog. “Indirect” income sources — those that result from the credibility your blog creates — are much broader and can be even more profitable and fun: speaking gigs for $10-30K, corporate training in foreign countries, etc.

I’ve been watching your alexa ranking and you’ve seen some nice growth (over 10000) – what’s behind it?

It’s just direct response advertising meets PR.

Study the top stories at Digg or MSN.com and you’ll notice a pattern: the top stories all polarize people. Do not try to appeal to everyone. Instead, take a strong stance and polarize people: make some love you and some hate you. Hate is an extreme, but here’s the gist: what you write, in order to create the highest pass-along value, needs to be “remarkable”. Is it something that is worth remarking upon?

If you make it threaten people’s 3 Bs — behavior, belief, or belongings — you get a huge virus-like dispersion. Most of my explosive posts, which have brought in 1000s of new Feedburner subscribers, have nothing to do with my book. “Geek to Freak” is about how I gained 34 lbs. of muscle in 4 weeks. “How to Travel the World with 10 lbs. or Less” is obviously not (though a great case study in how to use Amazon Associates naturally).

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Tim Ferris Interview – Part II

Tim-Ferris-4This is Part 2 of my in depth IM interview with Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read my introduction to Tim in my previous post. You can also read Part 1 here.

In today’s post Tim and I talk blogging. I ask him about some of the lessons he’s learned about driving traffic, posting frequency and being a productive blogger.

Darren – Why did you choose to add a blog to your strategy for promoting your book?

Tim – Good question, but I’ll reword it for you: why did I start a blog? It actually wasn’t solely to promote the book, though that’s a side-effect. There are a few reasons. First, a number of authors-cum-bloggers told me that they wasted thousands of dollars on book sites when a free blog ended up being the best PR tool. I believe that a good book site is important (www.fourhourworkweek.com), but the blog is much more.

The blog is how I build a “platform”. In publisher-speak, that means a fan base. Once you have a fan base — and I think my blog, forums, and other communities can be much bigger than the book — you have tons of options. Those options could be for monetizing (advertising, products, speaking, consulting, etc.) or simply extending your influence. There is power in numbers. Once I have enough clout with subscribers and fan base, I’ll be lobbying in Silicon Valley to establish an official “E-mail Detox Day” under law, for example! Lots of fun things coming.

Darren – What have you learnt about blogging since starting yours a month ago? Teach us oh wise one!

Tim – LOL… I don’t claim to have all of the answers, of course. Not even most of them, but I’m a pretty good “reductionist”. That just means that I question what everyone is doing and ask myself: if I ignore what’s popular, what everyone says you “have to do,” what actually works? I cut out all the fat and look at just the highest-impact variables.

For example, I’ve been told I need to post everyday, but when I really looked at the facts, a different picture emerged.

i’ve found that if i post less often, my blog has a sine wave sign-up curve. in other words: if i post just infrequently enough (for me, once every 4-6 days), the comments add up on each post, making the site look very popular, and rss subscriptions spike. if i post too often, it doesn’t look popular (since posts get pushed down and comment-count is low), so it is actually better for my site to post less often! love it when that happens…

The most important thing I’ve learned? Blogging is underestimated by many, but it’s overestimated by even more. It’s not a panacea or a silver bullet. It is a tool you should pay a ton of attention to, but it’s still just one tool.

Here’s another odd one.

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Tim Ferriss Interview – Part I

Tim-FerrisThis is Part 1 of my in depth IM interview with Tim Ferriss author of The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read my introduction to Tim in my previous post.

In Part 1 I ask Tim about the concept behind his book, we talk about how he wrote it (as I know many bloggers are looking at getting book deals) and talk about some of the lessons he’s learned about building buzz around his book. In Part 2 (which I’ll publish tomorrow) Tim and I talk blogging and he shares some of the lessons that he’s learnt in using a blog to support his blog launch.

Darren – ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ is a great title for a book – what’s it about?

Tim – The premise of The 4-Hour Workweek is that there are three currencies in a digital world: time, income, and mobility. In the last 2-3 years, it’s become possible to do things like outsource your life and create virtual businesses, both of which can enable you to live the lifestyle of a millionaire on less than $50,000 per year.

The concept of retirement, as well as single offices with 9-5 clocks, is hopelessly outdated.

Darren – How did you come up with the idea for the book?

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Tim Ferriss – The 4 Hour Work Week – An Interview

Tim FerrissTim Ferriss and I first met in person in Washington DC on my recent trip. He came up to me seconds after a presentation that I made and told me how he’d worked with a mate of mine and then asked if he could take me to lunch (hint – free food is always a good way to make a good impression with me).

The lunch that ensued was one that I won’t forget in a hurry – we hit it off and I quickly realized that I’d already heard about Tim (through a bizarre and surreal connection that I’m not allowed to tell you about – he IS a champion kick boxer and world champion cage fighter – I’m not going to break that promise).

Tim’s got a long list of accomplishments to his name – he’s a successful entrepreneur, he’s a Princeton guest lecturer, he’s a fighter, he’s a dancer (a world record holding one) and he’s an actor (among man other things) – however what got my attention most about Tim is that he’s the author of a book with a fascinating title – The 4-Hour Workweek.

After a long lunch, numerous other conversations and then dinner with Tim and my wife V you could say that I was pretty much sold on Tim and couldn’t wait to read his book.

My preview copy arrived this week and while I’m still only part of the way into it I can tell you that this is a book that is going to make a real impression on many thousands of people once it is launched (it’s being released this week).

Tim and I have been in contact since we met up and he kindly agreed to be interviewed via Instant Messaging this week. The interview was fascinating – in fact it was so interesting to me that I just couldn’t stop asking questions and it ended up being rather long. As a result I’m going to break it into three parts. The first one I’ll post in a few minutes – I hope you enjoy it!

While you’re waiting for the interview – get Tim’s book The 4-Hour Workweek at Amazon – it’s a great read.

Read Part I of my Interview with Tim Ferriss
Read Part II

Interview with Gina Trapani of Lifehacker – Part 2

Gina-Trapani-1Today I’m going to continue my interview with Gina Trapani of Lifehacker. Yesterday in Part 1 we talked about how she got into blogging and talked a little about being involved in one of the biggest blog networks going around. Today we turn our attention to Lifehacker itself and how Gina runs and manages it.

You have a number of bloggers working for you at Lifehacker – how do you find them? How to you coordinate/manage them?

I have 3 co-editors at Lifehacker: senior editor Adam Pash, associate editor Rick Broida and our weekend editor, Wendy Boswell. Each of my co-editors also does about 6 posts a day and 1-2 feature articles per week. Our goal is to update the site about 20 times per weekday and a reduced rate on the weekends, and offer at least one original feature article per weekday. That’s not something I could do alone, so thank goodness for my team.

I’ve found my editors in various ways. Adam was an avid reader and prolific commenter, and his knowledgeable and well-written comments got him hired. Wendy and Rick both guest-edited the site for some time before they became permanent editors.

A lot of time and energy goes into coordinating the 4 Lifehacker editors. We do frequent post reviews of each other’s material, keep an internal editorial wiki for our style guides and other documentation, have a weekly chat to brainstorm feature ideas, and keep in constant touch via IM and email.

What are your top 5 Blogging Tools?

1. Google Reader for RSS feeds. (Here’s why I switched from Bloglines)
2. Gmail for handling the daily onslaught of reader email.
3. Google Analytics and Sitemeter for traffic stats. (Here’s how I use Analytics to constantly improve and tweak the site)
4. Firefox along with some key extensions – like AutoCopy
5. AutoHotKey (Windows) and TextExpander (Mack) for entering post markup. (Here’s how to make blog markup easy with AutoHotKey)

Being a developer I’ve also build a few bookmarklets and Greasemonkey scripts that help us generate post types, like roundups, and search the site archives to avoid posting duplicate items.

How do you find post ideas for Lifehacker?

Three places: in the comments of existing Lifehacker posts (our commenters are awesome), in my RSS reader, and in the tips email box. And, of course, just talking and listening to my fellow geeks and friends and family about what’s on their mind.

What tips would you give someone just starting out in blogging if they wanted to build a profitable blog?

First, pick a topic you love, one that you can’t wait to write about every day. If I wasn’t truly obsessed with productivity, I would have never lasted at Lifehacker. Second, center your site on the reader, not yourself. Provide useful, informative, entertaining material that readers will come back to over and over again. Third, measure your success by your readership and the response you get from others, not your Adsense checks. Once you build your audience, the money will follow.