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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Scoop on Blogging

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I recently had a college student contact me with questions about blogging, and I thought it was a great subject for today's post since I have had a number of people email me with questions about blogging and how to start a blog.  I've even tried to help a few of my readers start their own blog and have enjoyed helping them and others.  I agreed to help Yudy with her questions and in doing so, was so impressed with her questions, thought that this would be helpful information for some of my readers who want to start their own blog.  Hope it helps!  This is what she wrote:

I just visited your blog and I think you could be a great help to me. You see, I'm working on a thesis for my business journalism masters. And it's about the business of blogging and whether it's competition for journalism.

I'll note the history of blogging, its rise to popularity and the expanding role weblogs are playing in day-to-day operations at corporations across the country. But I would really like to hone in on the profitability of blogging - or lack thereof. Because there isn't much research available, I know that will be tricky, but it only means my final project will consist of case studies on certain blogs and bloggers. I would also like to examine whether blogging could prove to be competition for journalists.

That's where you come in, hopefully anyway. I was hoping you could tell me a bit about your experience blogging. If you don't mind helping, below are some questions that shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.

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1) How did you first hear about blogging?

I knew that a weblog or "blog" for short, was like an online journal.  I don't remember how I discovered them.  They've been in the news and all over the internet, covering every subject imaginable. 

2) What led you to try it? And did you have any previous experience in Internet-related enterprises?

What led me to try blogging was the universality of the site.  Blogs can be about anything that you are passionate about.  You can even sell things if you want!  And the RSS feed capability is a great way to bring attention to your blog.

As for experience - it started with eBay, then I had a storefront and I was selling various items around my house and then I learned about drop shipping.  It was then that I opened a storefront called La Bonne Vie Bebe and had that for 2 years.  Then I sold it because instead of retail, I really wanted to have my own blog site and focus on my painting.  So I designed and built Vaughn Fine Art, Red Easel, and Raisin Toast.  I love blogging.  I love writing.  I love painting, and teaching my children, and watching my husband cook (LOL), and sharing the things that are important to me.  It has been a wonderful way for me to stay connected to my family and friends, and I've made many new friends along the way.

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3) How did you get the word out about your blog? And how many members do you have now?

Oh my.  I started out by emailing all of my friends and family about my site or blogs when they launched.  Then I made sure my blogs were connected to Feedburner and registered with Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL Search engines.  I also registered my site with the Google Blog search engine as well.  Another great way to get your blog noticed is to be involved in the blogging community.  Read blogs that interest you.  Promote other blogs.  Connect with other bloggers who are talking about the things you are interested in.  It is not enough to just be a blogger, I believe you must be an active reader, listener, and involved in the comments and stories in other blogs as well.  By leaving a link to your blog in your comments, then the readers of those blogs sometimes click over to see who you are.  Many of my favorite blogs have a link to my blog on their site and vice versa.  It really is a community - and a very important one at that!

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4) Is blogging a 9 to 5 job for you or a 6 to 9 job? Or is it something in between? Basically, I'm wondering whether it's a hobby or has it morphed into a job?

It started out as a hobby, but has evolved into a job.  Mostly because I am trying to grow my number of readers, and discover new ways to engage my readers and give back to my community and my community of readers.  But I don't mind at all, because I love it.  I love the process.  It keeps me focused on the important things in my life.  I don't make much money from my blog as of yet, but I have engaged some sponsors for contests and giveaways.  The excitement of having a contest is just as wonderful for me as it must be for the winner.  I love engaging my readers, and I thoroughly enjoy reading their comments. 

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5) Does it pay? If so, can you please note how much it pays and how you get that money - is it by page view, through advertising or does somebody pay you to host the site?

There are a number of ways to generate income from a blog.  The best way is to have an advertising network that you work with who will put ads on your site that are a compliment to the content on your site.  Too many ads will take away from your blog.  You don't want to clutter your content with ads.  Visual appeal attracts readership.  Right now, my blog does not make much money.  Put it this way, I might be able to buy a full tank of gas or some groceries.  For me, right now anyway, it is like getting a little piece of my own pie back every month so that I can help out with little things.  I am hoping that someday it will generate more income, but that is not why I blog.  If it were, then I'd really be hurting.  You have to blog because it is something you love to do, not because you want it to be your job or generate income.  You will be sorely disappointed otherwise. 

My advertising networks are Six Apart Advertising and Blogher Advertising Networks.  They post quality ads.  I am looking into other networks as well so that I have only the very best advertising on my site. 

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!My site was nominated for Best Blog About Stuff!

6) When you think of competition, what do you think of?  Do you think of any specific blogs out there?  Or do you think of newspapers, rss feeds, diggs, or social networking sites such as Facebook?

As a matter of fact, yes, blogging can be a competition.  Especially if you are nominated for the Blogger's Choice Awards, the 2008 Weblog Awards, or any of the other various blogging award competitions out there!  Blogging competitions are also a great way to generate new readers and interest in your blog.  My readership has grown, largely due to the number of hits I receive daily from a number of the competitions that I am involved in this year.  As I said before, being involved in the blogging community involves reading and being active - getting involved in some of the competitions is a good way to do that as well.  And it's fun!

As for blogs that are competition?  I don't compare myself with other blogs.  I do, however, take note of the things I like about other blogs in design, content, etc.  And, if I really like it and think it would add value to my blog, I might try to incorporate some of those aspects into my own blog.  Bloggers can learn a lot from other bloggers - about design and content, advertising and promotion.  It isn't so much a competition between bloggers as it is an insight into how others express themselves.

As an artist, I am a visual person, but I also like to express myself in my writing.  Creating a blog allows me the opportunity to learn new creative skills and create a site that I hope my readers enjoy both visually and intellectually.

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7) When blogging, what information do you use? Is it mostly opinionated? Are your opinions based on factual information?

Interesting question.  All of your questions have been good, Yudy!  As for information, my family, events, travels, daily and life experiences, memories - all of these add up to great material for my blog.  I do have opinions about certain things, and during the election, I posted a story or too about the Presidential campaign, however, I did not speak out about who I supported and tried to keep a journalistic viewpoint - in other words, I stayed neutral as best I could - as not to offend any of my readers.  As a blogger, I believe we have a responsibility to our readers, and keeping it clean, interesting, funny at times, and informative is all a part of what makes a great blog. 

By blogging about what "you" are passionate about, and making that blog about one hobby, a number of hobbies, your family, your life, cooking, scrapbooking, or whatever, you make it "yours."  It's all about sharing with the world the things that are important to you.  As for me, I have a number of things I am very passionate about, so I have a complex blog as a result.

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8) If your blogs note factual information, from where do you receive that information? Would you say you rely on newspapers, magazines, journals or something of the sort?

If I have an issue that involves important facts that I want to write about, I will do my due diligence and research the subject before I just blab off at the mouth about it.  That's the responsibility I was speaking of before.  Before any blogger writes about a subject, they are hopefully going to do their research first.  I rely on broadcast news, the newspaper, and trusted internet resources to get my information if I want to write about something important. 

I recently did a story about the company my husband worked for and discussed his lay off and some of the events that were going on in the company that led up to his lay off and several other individuals in the company.  It took me 2 weeks to write that article.  I made sure I had my numbers and facts straight.  The best resource, of course, was my husband, and documentation to support his claims.  So yes, I did my research - and a lot of it - before I dropped that bomb.  But, his lay off and cumulative affect on our family was very important to me and I thought that his company did him a dirty deal - especially with his severance package.  So, before I put fingers to keyboard, I made sure I had my information accurate and my ducks in line.  I did my very best to write what I knew to be accurate information.

9) Do you think blogging is competition for journalism? Why or why not?

Yes, I do believe it is competition to journalism.  I've noticed that many journalists have their own successful blogs now.  Newspaper journalists have an especially difficult competition out there, because if they don't also have their stories published online, then they are limiting their readership.  That is obviously due to the fact that just about everybody is getting their information online more now than ever before.  From news being sent to your mobile phone to internet sites for newspapers, there are many ways to develop a reader base if you are a journalist.  The RSS feed is a great feature of blogging that sends out a ping every time you post to your site.   And when you start a blog, you can add a link for your readers to subscribe either in their "Reader" or in their "email."  I think all journalists should have their own site or blog.  It is a great way for anyone to syndicate their writing and stories.

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10) Do you see blogging as a fad. something that will go away? Or do you think it is already deeply entrenched in society and is here to stay?

I think it is here to stay.  As long as people have lives and passions, children and marriage, questions and answers, they are going to want to write about it.  That is why blogging has grown so rapidly over the last 8 years, because people are discovering that it is a great way to express their feelings, opinions, educate, and more.

Thank you, Yudy, for your questions, and I hope that my answers are helpful for your thesis.  Let me know! 

Here are some staggering statistics from ProBlogger:

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