Category Archives: Content

Are News Publishers Getting Too Bloggy?

I recently took part in a Google Hangout Q&A with Julian March, NBC’s ‘Senior Vice President of Editorial and Innovation’.

Despite a rather ridiculous job title (by his own admission), he gave some useful insights into how traditional broadcasters are trying to react to the popularity of trendy, social media-geared blogs, such as BuzzFeed, Vice or The Huffington Post.

You can skip to the most important bits of the Q&A, i.e. the two questions I volunteered, using the bookmarked videos below.

What are your thoughts on how some ‘serious’ news organisations have adopted a more ‘bloggy’ BuzzFeed-style approach?

How much is content and headlines dictated by SEO at NBC?

The Q&A took place during a session of my part-time MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University (where I also work).

What Makes a Good Blog Post?

I ran an ‘Introduction to Blogging’ training session for some staff at Birmingham City University yesterday, so thought it might be worth sharing their findings on what they thought did or didn’t make for a good blog post, based on a number of samples I provided.

First – my misspelling of ‘authoritative’ aside – here’s what generally tended to work well in the blog posts they read:

Things that don't work quite so well in blog posts, according to my blogging trainees.
Things that generally worked well in blog posts, according to my blogging trainees.

….And now for the elements that didn’t work so well in the sample blog posts they read:

Things that generally worked well in blog posts, according to my blogging trainees.
Things that didn’t work quite so well in blog posts, according to the staff trainees.

*N.B. The ‘Blog Connected to Social Media’ post-it is attached to the wrong page. It should obviously be on the ‘what worked well’ page*

Are there any they’ve missed/couldn’t fit on the A3 sheet? Give your thoughts on what makes for a good blog post in the comments below.

How to Write a Bad Blog Post

I’m researching examples of bad blog posts for a training session I’m delivering next week and stumbled across this obligatory ‘top 10′ on Hubspot.

The list is geared towards those blogging within a professional or digital marketing capacity (particularly point 9), but points 2, 5 and 5 seem to be the most common issues in my own experience:

10 Tips for Writing the Worst Blog Post Ever

1. Write a boring, non-descript headline. Instead, what your headline should do is three things: capture potential readers’ attention, entice them to want to read more, and concisely explain what they’ll get in return from reading it.

2. Talk all about your products and services (and how awesome they are). Making your blog posts overly promotional and product-centric is a great way to turn off your readers. Focus your efforts on writing educational content relative to your industry that helps your readers solve problems they have or explains how to do something they don’t know how to do.

3. Write for someone other than your target audience. You should have a sense of who your blog’s target audience is. (Hint: It should align with the target audience for the products/services you offer.) If those people wouldn’t find your blog content interesting and valuable, or if you’re writing for someone other than your target audience, you definitely have a problem.

4. Have nothing remarkable or helpful to say. Creating remarkable content means people will want to remark , or talk, about it. If your content is boring, unhelpful, or nothing to write home about, you might need to spice up your writing style or choose a different topic.

5. Format it as one big block of text. There’s nothing more daunting to a reader than a big chunk of copy. In fact, a first glance at a big block of text is enough to make a reader leave the page before they’ve consumed even one line of text. Break up blocks of text with formatting devices such as headers, bullet points, and images to make your content more pleasing to the eye and easier for readers to consume.

6. Include zero in-text links. Blog posts can be a great outlet for linking to other content. Improve blogger relations by giving other bloggers’ content some link love, or increase chances for lead generation by linking to relevant, downloadable content like ebooks and webinars on your own site.

7. Forget to attribute your sources. You don’t need to go all term paper-style and add footnotes to your blog posts, but failing to attribute data or other content sources you cite in your own articles is a blogger no-no. Something as simple as mentioning the source and linking to its website is a good practice. Same goes for photo sources. (Note: Did I mention the title for this blog post was inspired by a very popular children’s book ?)

8. Fail to include a call-to-action. As we said before, a blog can be a very helpful lead generation tool. Be sure each post includes a relevant call-to-action that enables readers to access additional content acquired by completing a lead gen form on an optimized landing page .

9. Make a ton of spelling and grammatical errors. You could have expressed some killer ideas, but if you fail to spell-check your blog article or have a colleague proofread it before you publish, you’re setting yourself up for a lack of credibility and some nasty comments from your readers.

10. Disable social media sharing links and comments. Or maybe you won’t even receive feedback on your post since you’ve disabled the ability for readers to comment and never added social media sharing buttons for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to your blog. Don’t limit commentary, engagement, or your article’s potential to get shared online.

via How to Write a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Blog Post.

So, be honest, how many of these rules do you break on a regular basis?

How to Embed a Flickr Gallery on a Website

Here’s a useful little tool I’ve recently rediscovered (I’d last used it in 2008):

Embed Flickr Slideshows – flickrSLiDR.

Beside its kerrrrrazy approach to capitalisation ‘flickrSLiDR’ allows content managers to embed a slideshow of images from Flickr (from a particular user or set) onto a website, negating the need to format or upload large batches of images multiple times.

Embedding a Forum on a Website

What I love about the Internet these days, is that if you have any techy idea or problem, chances are there’s already someone in the world who’s come up with a solution.

Not only that, but you’ll usually find that someone will give you that information or app for free – at least on a freemium basis.

So, when I was looking to add an online forum to a project website I run, Animation Forum WM, I simply Googled it, and found Tal.ki’s embeddable forums.

Like most things webby, it may suit the project and take-off, it may not. But it doesn’t matter if it’s the latter, because it never cost anyway.

Which is nice.

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Teaching with Blogs

I mostly tend to focus on the soft message, ‘pull marketing’ aspect of blogging (i.e. to help university staff subtly promote their course or project) on here. However, blogging is more commonly used by academics as a tool to support teaching.

So, without further ado, here’s a blog post on how an academic is using their blog to support university-level teaching (via @cemathieson):

I blog the questions whilst I’m preparing the next week’s class, so the preparation is always strongly tied in to what we’ll be covering; far from running the risk “spoon-feeding” students, I’ve found that I produce more challenging questions as a result.

via Teaching with Blogs: “The English 19th century Novel” | Journal of Victorian Culture Online.

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Admittedly, this particular blogger comes across as fairly obnoxious, but he does give a good overview of what content-based marketing is about:

It’s not about being pushy. It’s not about slamming people with endless pitches and sales efforts.

[…]

Your site/email newsletter/podcast/whatever should consist of something like this:

  • Some posts that are just friendly and storytelling.
  • Some posts that are gentle pushes towards a next action or an ask.
  • Some posts that are pure selly-sell, as I like to call it. Apparently over here they call that an offer.
  • Some (but very few) totally off-topic posts.

via Why Content Marketing is Not Branding | Copyblogger.