Monday, March 02, 2015

"Blog Tyrant" opines how bloggers should grow their businesses; does his advice apply to me (or to "journalists")?

Remember the hullabaloo about Andrew Sullivan’s “retirement” from blogging (Jan. 29).  I could add another reaction now: the WB series “Gossip Girl” of a few years back was all predicated on a mysterious blogger calling all the social shots, an idea more reasonable pre-Facebook.
Recently I encountered a “Blogging guru” site run by an Australian, Ramsay Taplin, who apparently worked anonymously for a long time (something Electronic Frontier Foundation likes) before going public.  His site is called “Blog Tyrant”, here.  He has a number of perspectives, including 15 predictions for how the blogging world will carry on, steps in starting a blog (it is simpler than everyone makes it look – remember the Washington Times editoral in 2005 here  that managed to make “starting a blog” look like a big deal), and a lot of advice on how to run the business of a blog. 
Many of his tips are worth mentioning.  For example, he encourages guest blogging, and getting invited to write posts on others sites as well as your own.  He encourages having email lists, which sounds less promising in the days of spam concerns, and when Facebook and Twitter are so prominent for having “fans”.  He encourages other kinds of promotions.  He also advises that people use dedicated rather than shared hosting, saving it is not much more expensive (neither is merchant hosting), and encourages that blogs have their own domain names rather than be derived from free services.  He prefers Wordpress to Blogger and Tumblr. He also recommends paying attention to techniques that help users cache blogs and speed up load time.  Being mobile-friendly is mandatory, as fewer people use “computers” as opposed to tablets and smart phones.  I like his comments on becoming a writer.
It strikes me that his tips are really intended for rather narrowly focused blogs, often those that set up a specific small business or some kind of other activity (like charity).  I can imagine a number of blogger situations where his tips, particularly in getting a large follower and fan base and earning adveritising revenue, really work.  One example is mommy blogs (Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce” started in 2002 is the best known one). Another would be an artist’s or musician’s blog (especially a composer’s).  Still others would be the those for conventional independent professionals:  lawyers, financial planners, insurance agents.  Remember, these days you have only one identity; the days of double lives are over (as per Mark Zuckerberg!)
Taplin's tips don’t apply as much to journaling blogs (aka amateur journalism blogs), which gain their public effectiveness not so much from revenue, numbers and analytics (in the usual sense, of looking at bounce rates and visit quality) as from the fact that stay up forever and are always “there”, forcing partisan interests to respect critical thinking (or journalistic "objectivity").  This sort of what I call the “do ask do tell” idea, a little bit like what Anderson Cooper calls “keeping them honest”.  You could also call it “connecting the dots”, without having to work for the NSA or DHS.  I started out with one particular issue (gays in the military and “don’t ask don’t tell”, the core of my first book, the lifting of which was supported by some ironic arguments), expanded to Internet censorship and speech, and gradually expanded concentrically to examining all the aspects of individualism, particularly as these matters attract indignation and instability, playing into all the problems with security and even terrorism.  That kind of approach doesn’t easily lead itself to attracting “fans” or followers with various kinds of “deals” (pulling in enemies or unwanted attention is conceivable), so I generally ignore most appeals from groups offering, for example, SEO, as I really don’t need it.  I can't join one focused interest group and ignore the rest of the "external world" around it, especially given the way I have argued things before.  
That could all change, however, if I do develop the opportunity to work with other media outlets, like in music, news, documentary or other independent film.  There are some leads now.  
Note:  The website name is usually spelled as two words, but it might appear as "Blogtyrant" in some sources.  

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