Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Learning to Blog – True Slow and Steady Entrepreneurship

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

I always love when people ask me what I do. I use to give all sorts of convoluted answers, but now I just simply say I’m a blogger. After they close their gaping mouth, they then start trying to ask questions which basically ask the question, How do you do that?

Of course, the real issue is that most people don’t understand the type of blogging I do. Most of them just think of their wife’s blog or a family blog that they might know about. They don’t realize that blogs have an amazing power outside of just sharing stories about your family.

The other assumption that people make is that as a blogger I JUST write stuff. While I guess at it’s core, writing blog posts are essential to blogging, there’s so much more to creating a successful blog.

I’ve been pondering on how to share the knowledge I have with other people that want to do what I do. At first I considered teaching a summer course, but finding a location and the right pricing model made it so I never did it. A few recent happenings have prompted me to basically create a new premium blog that will teach someone how to blog.

It will probably take me a few months to create, but here’s an off the top of my head outline of the topics I want to cover:

-Choosing the Right Blog Topic (Passion)
-Key Points to Setting Up a Blog (plugins, hosting, platform, etc)
-Creating Great Content
-Marketing the Content
-Monetizing the Content

There are a whole lot of sub-topics under the above topics, but you get the idea. I think it shows the real core of what you need to be a successful blogger.

My approach is different than many other people. I won’t be claiming any get rich quick scheme. In fact, I’ll do quite the opposite. Blogging is the epitome of slow and steady entrepreneurship. However, done consistently over time it can have amazing rewards!

I just wanted to put this out there. More details to come in the future. If this interests you, let me know in the comments.

Becoming a Pro Blogger – You Can Do It

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

I just read this inspiring post over on ProBlogger about one man’s journey to become a professional blogger.

I absolutely loved the story, loved the twist in the middle, and loved the guy’s passion for blogging. If it doesn’t inspire you to blog more, then you should just stop blogging now.

However, I disagree with some of the things he says. Here’s the comment I left on the post with a few additions:

Great story and thanks for sharing. I agree that people can do it. I quit my job about a year ago and I feel like it was the best decision I’ve made in my career. Although, I’m not quite as brave as you are and I’m sure many others aren’t either. I prefer to encourage a slow and steady form of blogging that steadily grows into something powerful and wonderful.

To me, it’s more about the choice each night between watching another TV show or building your blog (although, I have a network of TV blogs, so in that case I needed to do both). That’s the hard choice you have to make day in and day out. The problem for most is that they choose the TV over the blog. It’s their life and their choice, but don’t expect a blog to grow without sacrifices.

Plus, you can’t just work long hours. You have to work smart too. If you do that, as you say, you can make it! I know some incredibly passionate bloggers who spend hours and hours committed to their craft. However, for them it was a craft and not a business. To me, that’s working hard, but not smart. If that’s what makes you happy, by all means do it. However, if you want to be a professional blogger, I think you have to treat it like a business. My blogs are as much entrepreneurship as they are journalism.

Also, thankfully my slow and steady approach to blogging has made it so I haven’t even had the cry in the pillow days either.

Journalist versus Blogger

Friday, March 4th, 2011

A week or two ago, I attended a really big conference in Orlando for one of the niches I blog about. When I say really big I mean 31,000 attendees and 1000 exhibitors. It’s pretty outrageous.

Although, I say it’s like being a kid in a candy store. As a blogger, I need content and advertisers. Each of the exhibitors at the event were potentially both: content and advertisers. Of course, it was my job to get the great content from these people and to also show them the advertising possibilities. With 1000 advertisers, I had to be pretty selective, but either way it was a lot of fun. Tiring, but fun.

A few interesting things happened in this process. First, is that I spent a decent amount of time in the press room for the conference. It’s a nice relatively quiet place to sit down, use the internet, charge my devices, and grab something to eat (except the day they ran out of food). The other fun part about the press room is that you get the chance to meet a bunch of other press people at the conference. I definitely met some really nice and interesting people.

Although, I overheard a conversation in the press room that really made me think. One of the journalists was talking to another journalist about a story they were working on. They talked about how they hadn’t seen much about a certain topic at the conference.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking that’s not that earth shattering. It’s not. However, it did cause me to stop and think through the process that these journalists go through to write a story. They have a specific topic in mind and they go out and find the information related to that topic.

In fact, I saw a story just like this come out of the conference. It was about all the walking you did at a conference of this size and the challenge of standing in a booth all day. The story was actually pretty good and made me laugh. Although, you could just imagine this journalist going from booth to booth asking exhibitors about their feet and how they were feeling. You could imagine they had this story in mind as they searched out people’s experience with it.

The funny thing is that I really rarely have a story in my head as I go into a meeting with someone or when I attend the conference. Certainly I will have prepared to know the person and/or company that I’m learning about. I’ll have considered questions I want to ask them that might bring out some interesting information, but I have no agenda going in. Well, the only agenda I have is to pull out something interesting from what they said that will be of value to my readers.

As one vendor said, you go in trying to find out what the story really is and don’t go in trying to find info that backs the story you want to write.

Quite honestly, as a blogger, the story basically writes itself. Maybe the difference between me as a blogger and a journalist is that I want to be a thought leader. I don’t want to just tell a story or report on something that happened. I want to provide value above and beyond telling a great story or reporting news.

One of the exhibitors that I talked to asked me what my editorial calendar looked like. I must admit that I was a little stumped on how to respond to him. I was partially familiar with the idea of an editorial calendar and I could see how it could be beneficial for advertisers to know that you were going to be writing about a specific topic in a specific time frame.

I still haven’t quite reconciled those two things. I guess I mostly reconcile it now by creating blogs that target a specific niche. Rarely do I stray from that niche. So, when someone wants to know what I’m going to write about on my blog, they can be sure it’s going to be information about that specific niche.

My response to that exhibitor (and hopefully future advertiser) wasn’t very good. I think I replied that I have 300+ draft blog posts topic that I can choose from. So, I look through those to decide what topic I might post about next. Plus, as I read and learn about the industry I create new draft blog posts which basically contain ideas or links to things that I could write about.

Most of my blogs aren’t about breaking news. They’re not about reporting events. Those are time sensitive and require a ton of commitment and connections to do really well. Instead, by focusing my blogs on being a thought leader and open forum for other people to share their thoughts, I’m able to create content that isn’t very time sensitive. In fact, I might write a week’s worth of posts and then go on vacation for a week. I come back to a zillion comments that I missed and need to look at, but at least I have that freedom.

There you go. There’s my take on the difference between a blogger and a journalist. What’s your experience?

Types of Blog Content

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

If you remember from my previous post about the 3 steps to blogging success, the first step in the simple process is to generate content. Sounds like a simple thing to do, but it turns out that there is a lot more to it than most people think. The key is that not all content is created equal.

I’d say there are least 4 levels or categories of content. All of them have their place in blogging, but it’s important to know what type of content you’re creating since it will drastically effect the other two keys to blogging. 

One category of content is really premium content. This is the type of content that you could get people to pay for. It usually takes the author a lot of time to create this content, but the payoff is that everyone that reads it wants to tell their friends about it. In fact, it’s the type of content that people talk about with their friends offline because it is just that good.

We all wish we could create this kind of content. Turns out that some people can churn out this type of beautiful content at amazing speeds. Most people can’t though and so the cost for them to regularly create this content is too high for them to later monetize it very well. Usually this means their only able to post once a week. In many of these bloggers cases they aren’t trying to monetize this content. Instead they use this premium content to build their credibility in a certain space.  This can be fantastic, but I believe it’s hard to monetize this content. Just ask newspapers.

A second type of content is shorter form, but thoughtful content. This type of content is generally created very quickly. It rarely tries to cover every angle of a topic. Instead this content is more about bringing up an interesting topic or thought and then encouraging others to comment and engage in a discussion around this topic.

Another type of content is the breaking news content. This is the type of content that journalists bend over backwards to get. Once they’ve had the taste of breaking news, then they want to have that same feeling again and again. I must admit that it’s pretty exciting to share news about something no one else knows about. Plus, of course readers love to read breaking news.

A fourth type of content is aggregation of other people’s content. This often is considered spam and is generally frowned upon. However, there are some models where this can work. Often it depends on how you plan to market and monetize this content.

Each of theses types of content have pros and cons. Some of them cost a lot more (time or money) to create.  Others cost very little to create. However, the type of content you create can really influence the type of readers you get and whether they become a long time reader or not.

Personally I generally prefer the second type of content.  It hits that perfect spot of easy and efficient content that people want to read and keep coming back to read more. Plus, in this short attention span “YouTube” generation, the shorter form content is sommething that readers find very attractive.

You do just absolutely have to be sure to create content that is interesting, useful or entertaining. If it doesn’t meet one of these things, then length or quality of the writing doesn’t matter.

Plus, there’s definitely nothing wrong with mixing it up sometimes. Just if you want to retain readers, know the type of content your readers expect and be sure to deliver it. Not to mention that knowing the type of content you create will significantly influence the type of reader you get and how you should market to and monetize that reader.

Next up is a look at different ways to market the content you create.

3 Keys to Blogging

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

I’ve been discussing the concepts of blogging with a lot of people lately. As I discuss blogging, I think that being a successful blogger requires 3 key items. Ok, maybe I shouod define successful blogger. I’m talking about a well read blog that generates money for you. Of course there are other potential benefits to blogging. Sometimes it is just cathartic to write something down. Some people are just looking to network and raise their profile. These and other reasons to blog. However, the following are what I consider to be the 3 keys to building a successful blog that generates income for you.

1. Generate content.
2. Market the content you created.
3. Monetize the pageviews you’ve generated.

3 simple steps. Although there’s a lot more to each point. So, I’ll be covering each of the 3 areas in a future blog post.

Summary of 2010 Blog Posts on CrashUtah

Friday, December 31st, 2010

I found this really interesting WordPress plugin that summarizes the activity on your blog for the past year. Pretty cool. It’s not the perfect format with this theme, but you can still see the data. You can see I picked up my blogging regularity towards the end of the year. I expect this will continue in 2011.

In 2010 I wrote 36 posts and added 1 pages to this blog, with 3 attachments in total.

The number of posts in each month:

August:

  9 (25%)

September:

  6 (16.67%)

October:

  12 (33.33%)

November:

  10 (27.78%)

December:

  17 (47.22%)

The number of posts in each day of week:

Sunday:

  2 (5.56%)

Monday:

  8 (22.22%)

Tuesday:

  9 (25%)

Wednesday:

  7 (19.44%)

Thursday:

  11 (30.56%)

Friday:

  12 (33.33%)

Saturday:

  5 (13.89%)

At what hours I publish new posts:

0:

  1 (2.78%)

4:

  1 (2.78%)

6:

  4 (11.11%)

7:

  3 (8.33%)

8:

  6 (16.67%)

9:

  6 (16.67%)

10:

  3 (8.33%)

11:

  4 (11.11%)

12:

  3 (8.33%)

13:

  3 (8.33%)

14:

  2 (5.56%)

15:

  5 (13.89%)

16:

  2 (5.56%)

18:

  1 (2.78%)

19:

  1 (2.78%)

20:

  2 (5.56%)

21:

  2 (5.56%)

22:

  2 (5.56%)

23:

  3 (8.33%)

In 2010 the posts were commented 25 times, from which 6 comments (24 percent) were written by registered users/authors.

TOP 10 commenters in 2010:

  • John Lynn's Thoughts » Blog Archive » The Start of Something Great: 1 comments
  • tas: 1 comments
  • The Value of Local Events | JohnThoughts: 1 comments
  • Happy Labor Day | EMR and HIPAA: 1 comments
  • Smuggle Me » Shutting Down Smuggle Me…Mostly: 1 comments
  • Jeannie Pitt: 1 comments
  • Laura Giaimo: 1 comments
  • mason: 1 comments
  • Monetizing My Blogs | JohnThoughts: 1 comments
  • Heather in BC… & Beyond! » Hello Orlando!: 1 comments

TOP 10 most commented posts in 2010:

The number of comments in each month:

August:

  3 (12%)

September:

  9 (36%)

October:

  3 (12%)

November:

  6 (24%)

December:

  4 (16%)

On what days people comment:

Sunday:

  3 (12%)

Monday:

  1 (4%)

Tuesday:

  2 (8%)

Wednesday:

  10 (40%)

Thursday:

  4 (16%)

Friday:

  5 (20%)

At what hours people comment:

3:

  1 (4%)

6:

  3 (12%)

7:

  1 (4%)

8:

  1 (4%)

9:

  5 (20%)

10:

  1 (4%)

12:

  1 (4%)

13:

  2 (8%)

14:

  2 (8%)

15:

  2 (8%)

16:

  1 (4%)

17:

  1 (4%)

20:

  1 (4%)

21:

  2 (8%)

22:

  1 (4%)

Summary generated by 2010 Summary plugin by Tomasz Topa

Small Google Adsense Tweaks

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

I’m a pretty big fan of Google Adsense. I know a lot of people hate it. Certainly there are things I hate about it too, but generally it’s been good to me. It brought me income when no one else would advertise. It still cuts me a nice check (electronic deposit) every month and so I’m thankful for that.

I think the thing I like most about Google Adsense as compared with directly selling ads myself is that the pressure is off me. I don’t have to have any relationship with the advertiser. I don’t have to worry about delivering quality results. Google mostly takes care of that. See my previous post about the pressure of making money blogging.

Certainly there’s still some pressure associated with Google Ads. You want to make sure that the ads are still monetizing well. You have to make sure you are still generating quality pageviews cause if that drops, your Google Adsense income will drop too. Of course, there’s also a bit of worry that the advertisers using Google Adwords will stop paying for ads that go on your site. Or to put it more bluntly…ads that were paying $5 eCPM will starting paying $0.50 eCPM. From my experience using Google Ads (about 8-9 years I think) the eCPM has almost always gone up and not down. Although for the most part it’s been stable for the niches I do. Other niches might be different.

Obviously, I have a lot to say about Google Ads. I guess that happens when you’ve been doing it as long as I have.

Today I spent a bit of time looking over my implementation and I found a couple really good ways to optimize the ads that I already had on my site. I’ve been doing this a little bit here and there for the past couple weeks. I think it started with the suggestion that I start using the standard/suggested ad size formats since supposedly there’s more ad inventory for those sizes. Makes sense that if there are more people with ads (higher demand) that the price would be higher for those clicks.

I made a really simple tweak to one of the ads from the previous standard banner ad size 468×60 (who came up with this size anyway?) and changed it to the 728×90 ad. So, actually it was a bigger ad as well as a switch to one of the IAB (or whatever the abbreviation is) standard size ads.

It’s still early to know the full results, but the reports are already looking promising. So much so that I rolled it out to 5 other sites that have a similar format.

Of course, the real motivation for me to write this is that it’s another reason that I love Google Adsense. I can spend an hour or two optimizing my ads and then I’ll continue to benefit from those small tweaks to the optimization for a long time to come.

In fact, it has the potential to do the opposite of what I mentioned above. It could take me from making $5 eCPM to $10 eCPM with only a couple hours effort. A lot of people don’t see websites as assets, but I do. Little tweaks like this are a great way to leverage the asset.

Disqus New Analytics Features and the Future of Connected Communities Needs Fast Profile Switching

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I’m still pondering this post done by Fred Wilson (a VC I read) about some new Disqus features. The post includes an interesting feature which shows you the sites that users of your site also visit. I must admit that it’s a really interesting feature and as a data loving blogger, I think that’s really interesting.

The challenge I have comes in the next part where Fred talks about his view forward with this type of technology. Basically, it’s the idea of connecting communities where the audience is similar. He uses the simple example of a hot topic on Suster’s blog (another VC I read) being promoted on Fred’s blog. Sure, this sounds great, and I imagine many would opt in to a feature like this. I would like to know about other good VC and internet startup related posts on other blogs.

The problem is when this feature goes bad and creates a poor user experience. What if Techcrunch adds it to the site and its readers are also commenting over on some porn site? Ok, maybe that’s a good experience for many of your readers since they’re visiting that site anyway. However, that could definitely turn off the other portion of your readers who don’t like that site that really isn’t related to the topic at hand. Plus, as a blogger, I don’t want to know that all my readers are visiting that type of site and I certainly wouldn’t want to promote it.

You could look at a simpler example. What if ESPN news started showing up on your tech blog just because a lot of tech people have been visiting ESPN? That’s not terrible, but it’s not the best user experience and I bet many bloggers wouldn’t like it.

The point here is that we all have different online profiles. Here’s a simple sample of my online profiles that I might want to use across the internet:
-Internet Startup Profile
-Electronic Medical Record Profile
-TV Blog Profile
-Sports Fundraising Profile
-Organization Fundraising Profile
-Personal and Family Profile
-BYU Sports Profile
-Other Sports Profile
-My Technology profile

I could keep going. The point is that just because we’re commenting on a website doesn’t mean that Disqus knows which profile I’m using to comment on that site. Of course, this is why I’ve argued that Disqus needs to create a fast profile switching feature. I never log in to Disqus when I comment, because I’d just have to log out the next time I comment and log back in as a different profile. It’s just easier for me to stay logged out and write in all the data myself (which is a pain).

Fast profile switching by Disqus would help me maintain my various internet profiles and then the data that they provide to sites wouldn’t be tainted with my other profiles. Even Google’s come around on the fact of supporting multiple profiles. Disqus and other online sites (I’m looking at you WordPress.com) should too!

The Effect of Making Money Blogging

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Blogging is absolutely fantastic. It has opened up so many doors for me to do cool things. Not to mention, it’s liberated me from working for someone else. I can’t tell you how fantastic that’s been for me and for my family. I love my life.

With that said, it’s important for people to realize how blogging changes over time. Most people start blogging just for fun. That’s how I started. I was just playing around with the blogging software. I had no clue what to publish and I definitely didn’t intend to become a full time blogger.

What makes blogging so much fun? There are a ton of reasons. One of the best is that it’s therapeutic and incredibly satisfying to produce some content. Not to mention, it’s pretty cool to think that you could make some money blogging. Whether you actually make much or not doesn’t change the fact that the dream of making money is awesome too.

Blogging is also a great way to show your knowledge and expertise. Plus, you get a great chance to learn from other people. If you get involved with one of the various community of bloggers, it’s amazing how cool it is to be apart of a community. It’s incredibly satisfying.

Once you start getting some readers of the content you created, the blogging satisfaction REALLY kicks in. Seeing a spike in traffic to your blog is an absolutely fantastic sensation. In fact, 5 years into blogging and it’s still satisfying. It’s like an adrenaline rush. Don’t ask me why it is this way. It just is.

At some point if your blog becomes popular, you’re going to have opportunities to make money blogging. In my case, I had people emailing me about advertising on the site. I hadn’t really considered the idea, and so I just pulled some number out of my hat and told them I’d be happy to have them advertise. I must admit that’s pretty cool. Think about it. You’re now getting paid to do something you were already doing for free. That’s not half bad.

The challenge comes when you continue to grow your blogs and start making a bunch of money. I’m talking about when you start relying on that income for all or part of your livelihood. Once this happens, your outlook on blogging changes. I think that Brad Feld described it well in his blog post about his Paid Content Experiment.

His first point really hit home for me, “Strange Pressure to Produce”

It’s hard to describe why this happens, but I tell you it does. My situation is a bit different from his. He had readers pay for content. In my case, it’s my advertisers that expect me to produce a great product. My product is the great content on my blogs. Not to mention that they likely expect consistent great content.

The difference from those first advertisers is that if they advertisers chose not to renew, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t necessarily relying on that income. Even my PPC ads aren’t as big a deal. If I don’t do as much I don’t make as much from my PPC ads (although even that has some pressure if I start relying on it too much). However, with advertisers paying you each month there’s a self imposed expectation that your blogs will continue to deliver what they’re paying you for.

Honestly, I might be making it sound like more than it is. I have confidence in my ability to deliver great content consistently. Plus, it’s pretty satisfying when traffic and what you provide advertisers continues to grow. Not to mention the incredible satisfaction you get when an advertiser on your site continues to renew month after month.

The only problem when this happens is that then you’ll slowly get more and more advertisers. Yes, the more advertisers you get, the more pressure there is to deliver a great product and thus the cycle goes. I guess this is why it’s so important to try and diversify your revenue streams as much as possible. That helps at least partially alleviate the pressure. My other goal is to reach 150% of our “family burn rate.” Having that extra 50% I imagine will really provide that extra leeway in case something happens with your blog revenue. Not to mention then we can start saving more and more for those rainy days as well.

I’m not writing this as a sort of “pity me.” Like I said at the beginning blogging full time is GREAT! I love it and I can’t imagine not blogging. I’m just hoping to share how blogging changes as you start to make and rely on the money your blog makes.

I think that’s also why I blog on this site. I’m not trying to make money on this blog. So, I can enjoy blogging the same way I did when I first started.

Can Blogging Be Entrepreneurship?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I debated for quite a while how I would describe myself on my LinkedIn profile. I have a hard time describing what I do and who I am since I just do so many different things.

I finally ended up with the description of “Full time internet entrepreneur and blogger.” I think that kind of describes the two sides of what I do. Certainly there’s a lot of nuances in each of those things and I have some really specific niches, but that kind of describes what I do for a living.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the idea of whether blogging could really become entrepreneurship. I should first clarify that I think there’s a difference between a entrepreneurship and small business. Entreprenuership is about building a business that can scale. Small business is about doing a job that will provide for your family. With this definition of terms in place, I must admit that I’m stuck wondering if blogging can really become entrepreneurship or if it’s generally destined to just be a small business (ie. Can’t scale. Feeds the family, but you have to keep doing it forever).

The first question that I think must be asked is whether blogging can really be scaled. There are certainly examples where blogs have been scaled up nicely. Techcrunch scaled nicely and had what I’m guessing was a lucrative exit to AOL. I think it’s fair enough to say that blogs like Huffington Post have been able to scale in amazing ways.

I guess the question is whether there are smaller blogs that can scale beyond small business. For every Techcrunch and Huffington Post, there are a dozen Scoble’s and Dooce’s that are both incredibly successful bloggers and I’m sure they make a good living blogging. However, they have such unique voices that without them their blogs really don’t exist. So, they’ll have to keep doing it for a long time it seems. That’s small business and not entrepreneurship (from what I can tell).

Of course, I’m guessing that Scoble and others would argue that it really doesn’t need to scale. If he wanted to scale it, he’d choose to do something different to make it scale. He loves blogging and if he chose to scale it up it would take all the fun out of what he does on his blog. Plus, the end goal isn’t always about money. He makes good (probably even great) money doing something he loves. Why would he ever want to scale it?

Although, I think that deep down most people want to see more traffic to their site and find more ways to monetize the site.

One simple example for me. When I started my EMR and HIPAA blog, I worked really hard to drive as much traffic as possible to the site. After about 6 months and quite a bit of effort, I reached what I thought was the max traffic I could reasonably obtain for that blog: about 1000 pageviews per day. I reasoned that maybe that’s all of the people that were interested in such a narrow niche.

Long story short, Obama announced something called the ARRA EMR Stimulus money (Translation: $18+ billion for EMR). I read about it early and blogged about it early. That’s now paid off in spades as I’ve been able to grow my traffic to 5-7k pageviews a day.

Point being that I was able to scale that blog even though I originally thought that I couldn’t scale it anymore. It did take some outside circumstances to help the situation. Although, it’s also taken quite a bit of effort to maintain and even increase the traffic now that I have it.

The question I’m asking myself now is what else can be done to really take my blogs to the next level? Is it possible to scale blogs into true entrepeneurship?

I’ve also just started some talks with a company that is possibly interested in acquiring one of my blogs. The results of those discussions will hopefully shed some interesting light on that aspect of blogs and entrepreneurship as well. Certainly it’s nice to have a cash cow blog/website that just generates cash for you. That’s small business (a really nice small business, but still small business). Entrepeneurship requires an exit of some sort. I’m not sure what exits are available for a blog.