Confessions Of A Citizen Journalist
Over the past 24 months, I’ve published 500 articles on the subject of media and technology on my blog, The Makegood. During that time, the site received 100,000 unique visitors and over a quarter million page views. Along the way, I learned a few things about what it takes to create a successful blog, including:
Consistency is key. However often you commit to publishing, you must stick with it. People won’t come back if you promise to provide new content on a regular basis and then fail to publish as scheduled.
Good traffic builds slowly. When I first started publishing, I was getting a couple dozen visitors a month. Now I get thousands. But it all happened very gradually.
Make it about more than just yourself. I’m able to publish something new every day thanks to the fact that other people like to contribute to the site. Opening up the site to other voices was the smartest decision I made.
It’s OK to be an amateur. I have neither the skills nor the time to become a professional journalist. I’m simply sharing information that I’ve learned over the course of my career.
Writing is hard. Sometimes I can churn a column out in a couple of hours. Other times it takes days -- and it still sucks. The key is to keep trying and deliver on deadline no matter what.
Don’t throw stones. I’ve attempted to keep my criticism to a minimum. Nobody wants be told that their startup is stupid (even if it is).
Log ideas. Sometimes an idea for a new column strikes during my commute or in between meetings. All of these ideas get logged on my iPhone in Notes, where they are later culled down.
PR people can help. The relationships I developed with PR people along the way have provided me with great story ideas and interview subjects.
Don’t be silly. Early on, I wrote some funny pieces about the industry. Later I realized that they were undermining the seriousness of the blog, so I backed off from attempts at humor.
Invest in good design. My site is built on a standard Wordpress template that was later customized, thanks to the work of some talented designers and programmers.
Use social media. Each time I publish an article, I let people know about it via Twitter, and sometimes LinkedIn or Facebook. There’s no point in publishing if nobody is reading.
Don’t expect to get rich. The Web is still mainly an impression-based business. There are many good reasons to publish a blog, but money isn’t usually one of them.
Publishing a blog has introduced me to thousands of interesting people, raised my profile, and helped other people and companies tell their story. If you have the time, energy and commitment, publishing can be a worthwhile investment.