Chapter 2: Advanced Blogging

Summary: Every college journalist should have a blog, according to Briggs. Blogs allow publishers to broadcast information, develop a community of readers and provide the opportunity to interact with the blogger. Interacting and leveraging the relationship a blogger creates with his or her readers can make or break that blog. Effective blogs require discipline, hard work and dedication .

Blog Basics

Blog is a technical name (contraction of web-log) referring to a content-management system. Their three characteristics are:

1. Frequently updated Web site  with posts displayed in reverse chronological order.

2. Each entry, called a post, contains a headline and a body. The body may contain links to other blog posts, Web sites, audio or video files.

3. May contain a link to comments on their posts.

  • Blogs have changed Web publishing and journalism
    • Before 2001, blogs were the domain of  computer-code and graphic design specialists and were more about style than substance.
    • After the September 11 attack on the US in 2001, blogs became an effective way for people to discuss the event. Increasingly passionate discussions about Us military actions in the following years help ferment the use of blogs.
    • The first news media blog was started in 1999 is credited to Dan Gilmore of the San Jose Mercury News.

Becoming a blogger

Becoming a good blogger requires you to read good blogs. Look through blogs in your field of interest and pay attention to their style. You can incorporate best practices from other blogs into your own. Pay attention to the crispness of the blogger’s writing style. What about the blog makes it compelling? Are the topics relevant? Are their enough links to provide you with greater depth on the subject? Does it provide too much information to where you become disinterested?

  • Learn the language: Here is a list of terms that will help you understand the world of blogging.
    • Post: An entry on a blog.
    • Permalink: A URL that provides a direct link back to a particular blog post.
    • Trackback: A mechanism allowing one blogger to let another blogger know that he or she is directly linking to the other blogger’s  material.
    • Blogroll: A collection of  links found on a sidebar of a blog. Usually informs blog readers what sites a blogger visits.
    • Vlog: (contraction on video log) A blog where the primary medium is a video commentary.
    • Moblog: (contraction of mobile blog) Blogging from a mobile or hand held device.

Make a plan, create a blog

Creating a blog is simple and straight forward to use. You can find a step-by-step description here. When creating a blog, think about what subject you want to cover, it should be something you are passionate about and are willing to post on regularly. If you are working for a news site, then your blog should be designed to complement its coverage. Your basic blog plan should contain the name of the blog,  a short description of it and a two-three sentence about its mission. This information should be posted somewhere that readers can easily distinguish what your blog is all about.

  • Chooses a blog system: Many platforms are available and free to use, Briggs recommends using blogger.com or wordpress.com. Both offer easy tutorials on their sites and can get you started in minutes. The name of your blog will display on the top of your page and in the URL. The theme of your blog, or the way it looks, can be picked from the blog creating Web site. WordPress offers more themes, bur Blogger offers more customization options in their blogs.
  • Customizing your blog’s appearance: Both WordPress and Blogger allow you to customize your blog with a variety of widgets, templates, and layouts. You can find detailed online instructions for both WordPress and Blogger.

How to build an audience for your blog

Execution in is essential to driving traffic to your blog. One needs to publish high-quality posts , write effective headlines and participate in your online community.

  • Put the reader first: Write for your reader, which means clearly and effectively communicate your idea, news or analysis quickly.
  • Organize your ideas: A Traditional outline can help arrange your thoughts. Posts should have as few items as possible and compliment your main idea.
  • Be direct: Use simple, declarative sentences in your posts. Vary your sentences in length, but always be direct and to the point.
  • Be an authority, with a personality: Narrower topics are always better. It allows you to present yourself as the best source for timely information. Feel free to write in a conversational style with your own distinctive voice, it is the formula for a successful blog.
  • Write as if your mom is reading: Give yourself a 15 minute break after you finished writing before you publish your blog. This way, you can edit it dispassionately. While editing, imagine your mother would be reading your blog, this will help you maintain clarity and civility in your writing.
  • Make posts scanable: Most people scan when they read online. Use techniques such as bulleted/numbered lists, boldtext, headers and subheadings to boost scanability.
  • Link, summarize and analyze: Attribution is important, both in print, academics and on blogs. In the blog world, attribution takes the form of links, so sprinkle them in your blog postings.
  • Be specific with headlines: A good heading will attract readers and aid search engine algorithms.
  • Have a good attitude: A good attitude is important in maintaining your blog. Don’t doubt yourself, express yourself (through your blog).
  • Use photos and screenshots: Keep your blog interesting by using screenshots and images. But watch out! Posting an image on your blog that is copyrighted can become a legal liability. Ask for permission if the image is not yours. If you don’t have paid advertising on your blog, you are more likely to get permission than not. There are also images that are freely shared on the creative commons Web site. if you want to educate yourself on the using images on your blog, you can visit the Electronic Freedom Forum.
  • Post early and often: A blog’s mission will direct how often it should be updated. A good rule of thumb is to post approximately once a day. Blogging once a day will help maintain self-discipline and will aid you in building a loyal fan base.You can achieve this by using your blog as a notebook for ideas and publish them one at a time. You can also ask for public feedback on your ideas to help create future blog posts.
  • Participate in the community: Think of managing your blog as managing an online community. Comments provide readers an opportunity to directly communicate with you. this does not mean that you should take a hands-off approach to it. Cultivate comments that add to discussion while moderate those that do not. There will always be those commentators who will try to spoil your blog, deal with them swiftly.
    • You should also read other blogs to help you stay on top of current events.
    • Comment on other blogs and leave the URL to your blog so other readers can find you.
    • Link to other blogs on your post if they are interesting or add to your subject. Be sure to notify the author when linking to them, they will take it as a compliment and most likely return the favor.
  • Use RSS feeds to beat the competition: RSS allows you to follow several different Web sites about a particular subject. This will help you in formulating blog ideas and being informed on current trends. Compile RSS feeds of both news sites and blogs. You can familiarize yourself will RSS feeds here

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