Lessons From One Year of Blogging

Guest Post by Craig Stolz

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One year ago I launched this blog with a notion but no clue. The notion was that I wanted to make sense of the baffling, bad but somehow occasionally powerful stuff that was emerging under the aegis “Web 2.0.” [It has lately been usefully redubbed "social media"].

I’d just left the employ of Steve Case’s $500 million scheme to reorganize the healthcare system, partly via 2.0 tactics. Before that I’d been an editor at The Washington Post, spending some of my time trying to help reorient the paper to the web.

So it was a good time to wrap my brain around this developing technology and figure out where it was headed, and where it might take me.

You can find a lot of lessons on other blogs about how to build traffic. You’ll find sociological treatises about what blogging means to democracy, commerce, media and the written word. This ain’t that.

Essentially what I’ve done here is whack the 2.oh. . .really? birthday pinata and pick up a few edible morsels that have fallen onto the floor. Following are five to chew on. They certainly don’t apply to all blogs, which have many different purposes, audiences and authors. So for what it’s worth, here they are.

A personal blog is as valuable to the writer as the reader. A near-daily obligation to write forces you to learn something new or create an insight about something you already know. Writing a blog lets you educate yourself in public.

Entry titles are as important as content. Titles should be dead-clear. Web users are brutally impatient prowlers, unforgiving of ambiguity and unlikely to hang around to figure things out. But provocative works too. Three of my more inane items scored big because their titles promised some mischief: Hillary Needs a Widget; Dilbert, You Ignorant Slut; and Dear Facebook: Bite Me.

Don’t expect your best content to be rewarded. Accept that blog audiences are so unpredictable and that some of your most valuable gems will stay buried. For instance, I remain convinced by my treatise Adsense? Nonsense! is a devastating comic romp that brilliantly lays bare the false premise upon which Google’s vast worldwide empire is founded. 34 people have read it. One of them left a comment as inscrutable as mental ward haiku. The alternative explanation for this lack of attenton is that the entry is full of crap. There’s a lot of that in blogging too.

Stand on the roof in a thunderstorm holding up a rake. You never know when lightning will strike, but you can improve your odds. When you write something really good, send it to other bloggers whose audience you’d like to reach. This will usually fail. But if you get a link from a big blog, bar the door. A link on Huffington Post drew over 10,000 readers to Al Gore vs. Drew Carey: Another Nail-Biter! A prominent link on Jim Romensko’s journalism news blog sent almost 1,500 angry journalists to Proposed: Death to Bylines. I’ve sent out dozens of notes to bloggers pimping other entries and gotten nada. You just never know.

Write short and use pictures. This one is straight from the “Duh” files. You should make regular exceptions, of course. But as a daily practice, short and visual serves readers well. Authors too. I wish I followed this one more.

Maybe next year.