5 old news tips to make a new blog sing

I had the thrill of guest blogging over at Blogging Basics 101, where I have learned so much . This was my way of beginning to return the favor. I recommend checking out the site if you have ANY interest in blogging, writing, or reading anything on the Interweb. Meanwhile, read some of what I posted there, here (then go there for more links, tips, and to join the conversation.)


In journalism (and other forms of storytelling), the rule is simple: content is king.

Crazily enough, in this social media Web 2.0 world, what I’m learning is that everything old is new again. Tips and teachings from editors past and a journalistic life past keep coming back around, finding their way into my blog writing, much to my surprise. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

Because despite all the widgets, and chicklets, in the blogosphere, content is (still) king.

But there’s content and there’s CONTENT. So how do you make your blog content sing? Consider these five tips on Web 2.0 blog content from a hard-copy world gone by and yet, still very much alive in this blogger’s heart.

1.) Be content-centered. Remember, content is king. Yes getting hits and Google Page Ranks are important. So is making a design that sells and branding yourself. That will come. Focus on producing top-notch SPECIFIC content.

In Passion, Honesty, Content and Light-Footedness – Ingredients of Successful Blogging, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger reflects on interview with an Australian blogger Alborz Fallah (CarAdvice.com.au) who built his blog from a hobby to a million dollar business in just two years. He notes Fallah’s passion, his honesty and his devotion to content and content first.

Even in times when his site disappeared from Google he wasn’t distracted from his primary task of producing engaging content.

Further, Rowse praises Alborz’s approach to picking WHAT content he will write about – Alborz started with three blogs on three different topics winnowing down which one worked best. Rowse did the same, except he notes that he started with 20 (which he doesn’t recommend!) The point is both Rowse and Alborz did eventually settle on ONE theme, ONE niche. (For more on niche marketing, why not check out Ed Dale and Dan Raines’ Thirty Day Challenge, starting August 1.)

2.) What’s in it for them? In journalism, editors’ constant refrain was to remind myself what the reader would ask “What’s in it for me?” It’s not enough to write something pretty, or even well-written, it has to be useful!

Want to know how to hit the mark with your readers? Ask them! That’s what Lynn Terry of ClickNews! did when she made creating great content her July goal. (Focus for July: Content):

I started by asking them what they wanted, both in a fun blog post here at Clicknewz and also in a heartfelt email to SSWT readers. This is always the best place to start when it comes to content development, and there are several ways that you can put your ear to the ground and find out what your target market truly wants.

How did she find out specifically? She… asked! She also checked the keywords searched for that led readers to her blog and she pondered what they discussed in the comments on her blog and others.

Write to encourage discussion. Read and write RELEVANT comments. Be a part of the conversation and make your blog a part. Use quotes and trackbacks. Have “regular” sources but never leave the new reader out.

3) Do your homework. “Naked opinions don’t carry much weight,” sums up Brad Schorr in his excellent Word Sell post “Attract RSS Subscribers with Quality Blog Content | Word Sell, Inc. Always support your ideas with examples and facts.

As a journalist, an editor told me he could always tell when I hadn’t done enough reporting. The result was the flowery rambly language of what he called the “wind up.”

I found myself telling folks the same thing in all kinds of writing. Do your research – don’t know what you’re talking about and it will show. The journalistic rule was three sources for each fact (EACH. FACT as I learned as a researcher at Newsweek.)

4) Edit. Then edit again. Some bloggers and blog advisors suggest spending as much time on the editing as the writing. I’m not sure that’s my style but what does help is recognizing that the mechanics matter. Sloppiness can derail a reader fast.

A trick from editors past that I’ve now passed on to those I’m editing is to read your work aloud. This helps with rhythm and flow and also tells you when (ahem) it’s getting too long. If you’re getting bored or lost… so are your readers.

Other mechanical tips:

  • Write tight. Short sentences. Short posts. “Jumps” so the reader isn’t overwhelmed with gray matter, whether on a newspaper page or a Web page.
  • Headlines matter. Pick your words carefully to tease and pique interest without being overly gimmicky.
  • Orienting “guideposts” help – use subheads, bullets, numbered lists (smiles).
  • Have “nut grafs” aka the explanatory paragraph early in a post that explains what’s been happening so far, so a new reader doesn’t feel left out or too confused to go on.
  • Graphics help. But, as in print journalism, follow the rules of dominant art, rather than a cacophony of text and pictures and flashing dancing bananas (okay dancing bananas don’t often show up in newsprint.) I’m not as sold as video and podcasts and other techy tools as many of my peers yet, so maybe I’m just being a luddite. What I would say is keep your page simple. Busy doesn’t often work. it just gives folks a headache.

5) Love it. Finally, the biggest truth, in writing of any kind: You have to absolutely love it, be passionate about it – whether “it’s” getting the truth in a story, revealing a character in a novel, or attracting and keeping readers coming back to your blog. Care about it (another good reason for a niche). Carry a notebook, read and write and rewrite constantly. Run your daily experiences through the filter of your niche, your blog, your writing. Let your love be infectious. It will come back…in multiples. How do I know? You’re here.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Rob said,

    Wrote on August 3, 2008 @ 10:43 am

    Hi, Friend.
    Couldn’t have said it better my self. What’s old is new again. (I’m going to have to use that in my classroom, but I’ll send them your way after that). Excellent post.

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