Five Lessons From a Year of Blogging

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.

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20 Comments on “Five Lessons From a Year of Blogging”

  1. […] Five Lessons From a Year of Blogging “Accept that blog audiences are so unpredictable and subject to forces beyond your control that some of your most valuable gems will stay buried.” (tags: blogging online+journalism) […]

  2. Very good points. I especially relate to the first one–that the writing benefits the writer as much as the reader. Blogging helps me to better collect facts and sources and apply my knowledge and reasoning of the topic at hand. My knowledge of a subject tends to become a bit stronger after I’ve written a short piece. Good, insightful comments sometimes help dial things in as well. Which leads to a dilemma…

    What level of comment control to apply? Too much restriction tends to chill the flow of good feedback. Too little control, and a blog can quickly become overrun with trolls, spammers and OT flame-wars. Time management is a big concern to me; I don’t want to be spending too much of my time sifting through comments. Not a problem right now, as my humble little journal receives, at best, a dozen hits per day, and very few comments. But no idea what I’ll do if I ever encounter the rake-on-the-roof lightning effect.


  3. Adam Boulton Says:

    I love this blog, keep up the good work!

  4. Sarah Says:

    Good words. I have enjoyed your blog and I am big fan of short entries. Seems like every day I am finding a new good blog and sadly, sometimes the longer-winded writers gets ignored. I just got a little link love from Problogger and I had a longer post as the post for that day. And, no pic, which I usually have. It was nice to see to my name on a bigger blog. Who am I kidding? It totally made my day.

  5. […] After one month on the game, here is my take on his five tips […]

  6. […] Five Lessons From a Year of Blogging « Web 2.Oh. . .really? What veteran journo Craig Stoltz has learned from a year of blogging (tags: blogging journalism publicity tips writing tidbits+fodder) […]

  7. […] 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 […]

  8. Shawn Says:

    Good tips. We just started our blog last week, so I love to get tidbits about how to go about this. So far, I feel like I have fell in love with the medium. Going beyond just benefitting the writer as well as the reader, I think it benefits me much more to write my thoughts down and clarify them for myself than it does for anyone else to read it! Writing is where all the compreshension comes from all the little bits of information you catch whizzing through blog posts. When you actually try to write something back that sounds even remotely on cue. Would you agree?

  9. […] Post, has been blogging for one year. On the occasion of his blog’s anniversary, he wrote this succinct list of lessons learned, which is rather […]

  10. Really inspiring tips……… Hope I will follow it certainly.

  11. […] aktive Diskutanden lieber, als Hunderte stiller Teilhaber. Der amerikanische Online-Journalist Craig Stoltz tröstet: Don’t expect your best content to be rewarded. Accept that blog audiences are so […]

  12. […] I found this post on successful blogging on the Web. 2.Oh…really? blog. […]

  13. […] universitario Mindy Mc Adams, llegamos a los consejos para ser un bloguer periodístico que da Craig Stolz -escritor de The Washington Post, después de un año de experiencia en la blogesfera. Guías que […]

  14. Really inspiring blog around the world…
    Reality Bites, NEPAL

  15. orchidellia Says:

    Love this blog! Your entries are a mix of comedy and poignancy, and I thoroughly enjoy reading. I’ll have to link to you 🙂

  16. yellojkt Says:

    Great tips. I try to have an illustration for every blog entry. It makes me work smarter. Keeping it short is what I struggle with. I bet half my readers don’t make it to the bottom.

  17. […] passend (und zu vielem mehr) die besten Glückwünsche! Außerdem zieht ein US-Blogger, nämlich Craig Stolz, nach einem Jahr Bloggen ein lesenswertes Fazit – mit diesen fünf Regeln: – A personal blog is as […]

  18. Montreal SEO Says:

    These are great points. Your note about valuable info staying buried is dead on! From time to time I find a great post on a blog that is filled with material that is not very useful.

  19. byron Says:

    blogging on a consistent basis will not only add content to your site but also make you a better and more versed writer as well.

  20. Johnd815 Says:

    Immigration …the time to read or check out the content or sites we have linked to below the… ceffgdabdkdd

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