Trend Watching Websites and RSS Feeds

One skill that I think is vitally important for Professional Bloggers is the ability to keep up to date with the latest trends. So much of blogging is being able observe and even anticipate what people are interested in or looking for and providing appropriate content to meet there needs in a timely manner. Trend watching is therefore something we should either be actively doing ourselves or at the very least outsourcing to someone else to do for us.

In many regards almost every blog being tracked on my RSS feed list is a vital part of my trend watching but I also read quite a number of other specific trend sites to help me keep my finger on the pulse. Some of the more recent sites that I watch daily that specifically are looking at the latest trends in a number of industries are as follows (I’ve included RSS feeds of those that have them but unfortunately most dont seem to have caught onto that trend yet!:

Small Business Trends – which as the name suggests keeps an eye on the latest trends and influences of the global small business market (RSS).

PSFK – a collaborative trend spotting site run by a number of bloggers from around the globe (RSS).

Trend Central – Tracking trends across topics of Lifestyle, Style, Entertainment and Technology (no RSS).

Herman Group – Trend Alert – looking at trends across a number of fields in this weekly column (no RSS).

Trend Watching – A blog-like site with trends from around the globe across a number of fields (no RSS).

Google Zeitgeist – Tracking what people search for on Google (RSS)

Yahoo Buzz Index – Tracking what people are searching for on Yahoo (RSS)

Trends in Japan – Tracking the latest fads in Japan across different areas (no RSS)

Trend Report – Mainly Consumer trends (no RSS)

Trend Mag – Tracking a variety of trends (no RSS)

I’m interested to know what trends you watch for your blogging and what online (and offline) sources you use?

Expectations of a Professional Blogger

I recently asked readers for questions for my upcoming interviews with Professional bloggers. Bobby Masteria asked:

‘Ask long time probloggers what have been their fears, hopes and expectations.’

It is certainly a question I will ask in the interviews I do – but I thought I’d also answer it here for myself. I’ll start in this post with some of my ‘expectations’.

The last two years of blogging has been a whirlwind for me. I’ve learnt so much and seen so many changes in the blogosphere. I sometimes find myself staring in a daze at my powerbook’s screen wondering what the next year or two will bring. As I’ve said before – my mind boggles at where we are headed as a community of bloggers and I hardly know where or how to begin in describing my expectations. Let me give a few:

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Podcasting Consultants

Last night I fell asleep thinking of Podcasting – ok I know that is a twisted and screwed up thing to admit but its true. I was pondering the podcasting business model question and starting wondering what business applications podcasting could have. When it comes to blogging the business blog is said to be the ‘next big thing’ – as a result blogging consultants are popping up everywhere – so in what ways might the humble podcast be used in business and when will we see the first pod consultant?

That is about as far as my pondering got – I’d been out with some friends at the pub and it was late and I was slurring my thoughts a little. Anyway – this morning I start running through my morning RSS rounds and find Cameron might just have answered the question about podconstultants – it could be him. He’s just written a post titled – My first podcasting client?

‘I don’t want to say too much at this stage, but over the last couple of days I’ve been having a VERY interesting conversation with a senior manager from a tier one US company who is interested in engaging my services to help produce an internal podcast for a certain segment of their staff around the world.

The idea is something like this:

This company has thousands of people around the world all doing the same job. It’s a difficult job and one not really appreciated by other members of the team. So this person has been appointed to bring these staff from around the world into a community. Get them talking, listening, sharing, debating.’

Very interesting.

Just saw this one also. Its an official podcast of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists . We’ll see more of this I guess.

Pro-Bloggers Website

The Professional Bloggers Association has just put up their website. Great name – they’ve chosen Pro-Bloggers. For Sale – $1 Million Start Bid

Do you want to buy a domain name? Got a spare $1million dollars? Then might interest you! It isn’t a blog and therefore isn’t quite relevant here but I couldn’t resist linking up.

You see will be auctioned off to the highest bigger on January 31 to the highest bigger and the bids will start at $1million. Check out their terms for the auction at PicturePhone Domain Name Auction.

Seeking a Podcasting Business Model

Listening to a good interview with Mick and Cameron from G’day World on a Podcast with the Blog Herald. Of particular interest to me was their comments about finding a business model for podcasting. I won’t quote them directly here (editing out the ‘vulgarities’ that some complain of..hehe) but they suggest that they’d like to look at doing a similar thing to the guys at Weblogs Inc with podcasting – ie provide the infrastructure for a stable of podcasters who each produce quality podcasts on their own areas of expertise.

Sounds like a great idea – I am fast coming to see the benefits of the podcast both as an addition to a blog but also as a medium in its own right.

The challenge is to find ways of paying for it (it has a lot more overheads than the average blog) but I suspect that this wouldn’t be too hard once they become a little more widely listened to.

Mick and Cameron talk about how their latest interview with Scoble was downloading 2000+ times in a couple of days. Sounds to me like their product is getting to a level where some smart advertiser should jump on board and test the effectiveness of promoting their product or service through their next big name interview.

Weighing Up the “nofollow” Attack on Comment Spam

Is Google’s latest attack on Comment Spam going to hurt Bloggers as much or even more than the Spammers themselves?

As I mentioned a few days ago, Google have announced a strategy for eliminating comment spam on blogs by implementing a ‘rel=”nofollow”’ tag which would cause links using the attribute to not be given any credit in their rankings.

Google already have the support of some pretty major bloggers and blogging tools including.

– Brad Fitzpatrick – LiveJournal

Dave WinerScripting News

Anil DashSix Apart

– Steve Jenson – Blogger

– Matt Mullenweg – WordPress

– Stewart Butterfield – Flickr

– Anthony Batt – Buzznet

David Czarneckiblojsom

– Rael Dornfest – Blosxom

MSN and Yahoo have also agreed to the system making it a pretty big deal.

A number of people have asked for my opinion of this new development. I’ve written some initial reaction here previously before it was announced and have similar feelings now.

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Why Topical Feeds Are The Future of RSS

Read/Write Web has an interesting post predicting that the killer application for RSS will be to track Topic/Tag/Remix Feeds rather than to track individual blogs or news sources.

‘One of the reasons I think this may eventuate is that blogging is and always will be a minority sport (as I’ve referred to it in the past). The killer app for RSS probably won’t be geared towards the current ranks of bloggers and geeks. When RSS hits it big, it’ll be because ‘normal’ people start using it – your Mom and Dad, Frank from Marketing, Jessie from Payroll, Dave from the local dairy. They won’t be bloggers. They won’t be interested in writing or podcasting or anything like that. All they’ll want to do is track news and trends that are relevant to them.

Tools will evolve to let people easily set-up personalized searches for information relevant to them and subscribe to the results – using, you guessed it, RSS! Google will probably be the front-runner (see this video for a hint to the future – thanks twdanny for the reminder), PubSub will be another, current players like Bloglines and Technorati will be in amongst it, and who knows who else.’

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The Importance of Good Headlines for RSS

Poynter Online has a great post about the importance of having a good headline in your RSS feed.

‘But what do I do with headlines like “Dramatic change” (which turned out to be about a change in the government’s attitude toward immigrants) or “An unfinished story” (this deals with the U.S. inauguration). And these are just a couple of random picks from a Norwegian feed I read last night. Both those headlines belong in a newspaper or on a website, where there is room for a picture and a blurb. They have no place in my RSS reader. Or in my mobile phone’s WAP reader. Because I can’t even make up my mind if I’m interested.

With RSS and WAP, more and more journalism relies on headlines alone. So they better be good. And they better be informative.’

This is so true. I’ve actually done some tracking of the most popular posts on this site for those reading my RSS feeds and have noticed that it is usually the simple, clear and informatively titled posts that get the most hits. Yes occasionally I’ll get a little clever, humorous and cryptic and come up with a title that tries to be intriguing, witty or mysterious – but more often than not the simple ones do much better.

Of course I show the first few sentences in my RSS feeds also (not that everyone chooses to view them) so your opening line is also vitally important to getting people to read on.

I’ve touched on this topic previously in a number of posts includeing:

Titles are Everything

Get to the Point

Blogging for Change – Rejection to Attention

Google to Revamp Adsense and Adwords Program

Silicon Valley Watcher writes that Google are getting ready to announce some big changes to their Adsense/Adwords program which will be of interest to many bloggers using the system.

‘As this is being writtten, about 1800 Google marketing people from its offices around the world are at an internal sales conference at a secret location in San Francisco, being briefed on a completely revamped Google Adwords/Adsense program and other new features.

The text ads business is crucial to maintaining Google’s pace of growth and its share price, which reflects high expectations for the dominant search giant. But Google offers few tools to advertisers to let them control where their ads appear and on which web sites. Similarly, web site publishers have virtually no control over what types of ads Google sends their way. This has caused some shifting to competitors such as Kanoodle that offer such controls.

That’s why the revamped Adwords/Adsense will provide a suite of tools that provide greater control, management and monitoring data to advertisers, to better target their sales messages.’

I’ll be watching any announced changes carefully as Adsense has been a major part of my earning strategy on my blogs – hopefully the changes not only benefit the advertisers but also are worthwhile for publishers.

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