Blog Ethics, Transparency and a Raging Debate over Blogging for Money

I’ve been busy the last few days preparing for and speaking at a conference so have missed the big blow up on the payment of bloggers as consultants by Howard Dean last year. The story has brokens’

Read more at Orcinusbroken recently and bloggers everywhere are having their say about Blogging ethics, transparence etc. I thought I’d link up to a few of the emerging conversations on the topic. Just to name a few:

- Zonkette: Financially Interested Blogging – On “Black Blog Ops,” Conflicts and O’Reilly

- BuzzMachine… by Jeff Jarvis – Media on Media

- Orcinus – Ethics Indeed

- John Kerry 2004 – The Best Supporters Money could Buy

- Slate – Blogging for Dollars

- Secure Liberty – Bloggers On The Take

- Powerpundit: The Transparency Of Bloggers

Captain’s Quarters – Kos, Teachout, Williams, Lauck, Van Beek

- – January 13 – January 14

Hullabaloo – Those who can, Blog;, Those who Can’t, Teachout

Mapping the Readership of your Blog by Location

Due to the tool being profiled in this post being discontinued it has become irrelevant.

However you might find this more recent post on a Mapping Service more helpful.

I’m taking Questions….

Just a reminder that on Thursday (20th) I’m blogging for 24 hours straight in my annual blogathon to raise money for victims of the Tsunami. I’ll be asking for donations on the site during that day and hope to beat last year’s $540.

Last year the main reason I got to 112 posts in the 24 hours was that I had a whole heap of questions from my readers to answer. People asked about my blogging (tips, experiences etc), others asked about life in Australia, about my personal life or story, others just asked random wacko stuff etc.

I’m taking questions again here in comments below. You can ask anything and I’ll do my best to answer anything (within reason).

I’m also taking your suggested links, articles, blogs, sites that I can blog about during the 24 hours – if you have any funny, interesting, insightful or bizarre links for me feel free to leave them below. I’ll attempt to give you a link when I answer your question or use your suggestion to make it worth your while.

Otherwise – tune into my blogathon blog on Thursday for all the fun and shenanigans. I’ll try to limit the toilet humor this year to under 4% of the posts – unless of course I get desperate because you don’t help me out with some links below!

PS: I’m still looking for a sponsor/s for the blogathon site and am open to offers. I will sell space on the site in return for your donations to the cause so make a donation and get a little free publicity at the same time (I’ll sell you text links, banner space, editorial space – anything to help the orphans of the Tsunami). Your links will remain on the site for a whole year for whatever price we agree on – not only good exposure to readers but also a boost to your blog’s page rank. Please consider a donation or sponsorship at the site.

Pro Blogger’s Errors

Jason has an excellent post on The Zen of Delegation which I’d highly recommend for anyone considering following Weblogs Inc’s footsteps with multiple blogs on a network.

Of particular interest are the three mistakes that he’s learnt over the past year or so. These are valuable lessons, two of which (I’m not paying anyone yet) that I’ve recently started to learn also – or are at least grappling with myself on a smaller scale.

Error one: Most writers want to get a revenue split. WRONG! Most writers want a steady pay check.

Error two: One domain name (i.e. with sub-domain names (i.e. is better then multiple unique domain names (like,, or WRONG! Stand-alone domains do better.

Error three: One common design for all blogs is more appealing to advertisers and users because it builds trust and familiarity. WRONG! People love a unique look and feel above the benefits of a standard design.

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Bottom Up Blogging vs Top Down Culture of Business

Also in the Enterprise Blogging article was this gem of a paragraph which sparked my imagination – it’s about one of the barriers to blogging for ‘top down’ cultured companies and the ‘bottom up’ nature of blogging.

‘A potential problem is that blogging does not fit with the corporate culture of many organisations. If an enterprise values a “top down” approach, then blogging, with its emphasis on freedom and open access, may not be a useful tool: “bottom-up organizations use blogs” says Jay Cross; for him, “… blogs are the leading edge of the social software movement that’s propelling the bottom-up, self-organizing reformation of versatile businesses. A bottom-up organization values the collective work of individuals over top-down authority; it supports cooperation and co-evolution in lieu of command and control. Instead of telling people what to do, it provides the networks that enable them to do what they want to do”’

Enterprise Blogging

Free Pint’s feature article this issue is on Enterprise Blogging. They look at the different ways that blogging could be and is being commercialized and suggest the following enterprising applications for blogging:

‘Blogs can be useful sources of information for business’

- ‘Blogs can be used for communication’

- ‘Blogging can be a tool for project management’

- ‘Blogs can be used as a competitive intelligence tool’

- ‘Blogs can be used for marketing’

- ‘Blogs have been promoted as a tool for knowledge management and knowledge sharing’

- ‘Customer service is an area in which the potential of blogging is being explored.’

- ‘A blog can be used as a newsletter’

It is a good list for businesses to consider.

Read more of this article at FreePint Newsletter 174 – Business Information, Enterprise Blogging

The Highs and Lows of the Professional Blogger

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The last month has been both an exciting and difficult time for my blogging business. Whilst I’ve started numerous news blogs and seen good growth in traffic in them my more established and larger blogs have suffered from Google’s latest update and are yet to show any signs at all of recovering. As a result my daily income from blogging has plummeted to 30% of what it was sitting at for this time last month.

Despite the massive drop in traffic every one of my blogs (except the newest few which are yet to be indexed) jumped in page ranking and now sits between 4-7. So the news is mixed and to be honest the roller coaster ride is taking its toll somewhat on me.

Somedays I find myself with high energy levels – working hard on writing quality content, developing partner relationships with other bloggers, coming up with ways to diversify my blogging and other days I wonder if its worth the long hours for the benefits gained. I’m still earning a full time wage (around the average Aussie wage) for my efforts, but while the next google update could see things return to the heights that they were they could also see another fall in traffic. I’m not complaining…. really I’m not (although it sounds like it doesn’t it!) – I’ve always taken the attitude that I’ll surf the blogging wave for as long as I can – each day is a day more than I ever expected it to last!

Having said that – this type of existence is not always easy – it makes planning for the future difficult – like any small business owner would find. The highs are high and the lows are low – the life of a problogger.

Yesterday whilst feeling pretty gloomy about my blogging and trying to motivate myself to reach my 25 posts per day goal (I made it, but only just) a friend emailed me to tell me that he’d spotted a mention of my sites in an Aussie computer magazine. In the front they have a column where they track the highest traffic sites in Australia and my domain (which hosts a number of my blogs including this one) came in at number 1 for one of the ‘personal sites’ category. The stats came from HitWise who measured our traffic as accounting for 16.18% of the whole ‘personal sites’ category. Whilst I felt a little guilty about topping the category because technically my domain hosts a few different sites I then looked at number two on the list and realized that they host over 2200 sites and number three is the blog of one of Australia’s biggest Newspapers.

I don’t know how they measure their traffic and I’m not sure if my blogs truly deserve to fit into the ‘personal’ category (apart from them all being written by one person…) but the news gave me a spark of hope that perhaps what I’ve been building is a little more significant than I’d been thinking. Of course the Australian market isn’t huge, but I’ll take any glimmer of hope at the moment.

So we soldier on!

What are the Ethics of using RSS feeds?

I’ve been watching a site for a while now that both intrigues and concerns me – again because it is using the content of a blogs for its own personal gain – without asking permission from the publishers concerned. I’ve been wondering how to respond to this site and am yet to go to them directly to raise my concerns and would like your opinion here first.

The site is Gadgets99. They promote themselves as a source for gadget news and are basically a site that tracks a collection of technology blogs via their RSS feeds. They collate these feeds by category and by blog. It is a handy service I’ll admit (hence it intriguing me), however it does concern me also as the site is of a commercial nature and is using the content of bloggers to generate an income without their permission.

I know this because they track one of my blogs without having ever contacting me. They also use the RSS feeds of some other more prominent sites like Gizmodo, I4U and Bios Magazine.

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RSS Feeds: Full posts or extracts?

Another tip from Leave It Behind’s Building a Better Blog is to ‘Syndicate your Entire Post‘. Brian writes:

‘Again, in the never-ending effort to ensure happy readers, be sure to syndicate (i.e. send) your entire post through RSS. I follow over 75 weblogs (which is probably a low number on average). With the amount of time it takes to keep up with the constant stream of information, it is a great benefit to be able to read each post in its entirety without a separate trip to the browser. I know it is especially tempting for businesses to try to drive traffic to their site by forcing readers to visit the website in order to read the full article, but inevitably I end up unsubscribing from those sources instead.’

I thought this would make an interesting discussion. what are the benefits and costs of syndicating full posts? Do you?

Whilst Brian gets frustrated with only excerpts making it to RSS feeds I actually get frustrated with full posts. I use Bloglines and like to be able to see as many headings and excerpts on a page as possible. I track over 300 feeds and find myself skimming over and even removing feeds that are too long. I guess it depends how long your articles are – but is there a risk in frustrating your readers by publishing full posts in your RSS feed?

Are there other possible costs/risks in publishing your full RSS feed? Here are a few that come to mind:

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Rhythmic Blogging

There is a good collection of blogging tips over at Leave It Behind’s Building a Better Blog with a few tips that I’ve not seen on too many other similar lists. I like this one:

3. Publish During High Traffic Times

If one of your desires is to generate traffic, try to publish during high traffic hours. Many people scan and other services (including TypePad and many TypePad member sites) for recently updated weblogs. Also, publishing during prime waking/working hours will give other writers time to comment, link, or respond to your post. A brilliant post in the middle-of-the-night will often get buried by the morning rush of fresh content.

I’ve found this to be true also – especially in the last 6 months with the rise of RSS feeds for some reason. There are periods of the day that I notice seem to bring a flood of traffic and posting in the middle of them can be very beneficial. It is a matter of being aware of the natural rhythms of your blog and exploiting them for your own benefit.

However having said that – its also important not to flood your blog with traffic all at once because you risk burying your posts in one another. I know sometimes I get on a roll and could easily post 5 or 6 posts within 5 minutes of one another to the same blog. In such instances I generally save half of them as drafts and slowly release them every few hours – a nice constant rhythm of posting should give your blog every chance of a nice constant influx of readers throughout the day.