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    Digging Deeper::Your Guide to Blogging

    by Mark Glaser
    May 16, 2006

    i-e376621efd9b8ffe6cc207a1c8b840e3-Keep on Blogging!.JPG
    From time to time, I’m going to try to give an overview of one broad new-media topic, annotated with online resources and plenty of tips. The idea is to help you understand the topic, learn the jargon, and hopefully consider participating in some way — even if it’s all new to you. The first topic is the one I’m asked about most: blogging.

    What Is a Blog?

    Many people have heard of blogs but don’t know exactly what they are. And if you ask Google to define blog, you get a lot of different answers.

    But let’s keep it as simple as possible: “Blog” is short for weblog or web log, which is a frequently updated online journal that shows entries in reverse chronological order. I particularly like the very casual definition of a blog given by Blogger, the blog software service owned by Google:

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    A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules.

    In simple terms, a blog is a website, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what’s new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not.

    Used in a typically self-referential sentence: The blogger blogged about her blog.

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    So what’s the big whoop about blogs? Aren’t they just like personal home pages? Yes, blogs live on websites, and technically, blogs are just another format for showcasing writing, photography (photoblogs), video (videoblogs or vlogs) or content captured from a mobile phone (moblogs).

    But blogs have become a cultural phenomenon because they offer a simple, cheap way for anyone with an Internet connection to start their own global publication. The result is that the spheres of journalism, politics and business — to name a few — have been changed inexorably by the rise of expert bloggers who offer alternative voices that hadn’t been heard previously.

    Howard Kurtz, dean of the media critics who writes for the Washington Post (and its website), recently summed up the allure of blogs vs. traditional journalism.

    “Why are the best blogs sometimes more compelling than the ‘Senator Jones said yesterday’ style of too much newswriting?” Kurtz asked. “Because the bloggers have a voice and emotions and are speaking directly to you. Because they’re up front about their biases. Newspaper stories often seem like straitjackets, incremental, dulled-down, written in a sort of insider’s code. Plus, blogs are faster, which is part of the reason that Washingtonpost.com and a number of other newspaper sites have either hired outsiders to write columns or put staffers in touch with their inner blogger.”

    Common Elements of a Blog

    There have been quite a few online shouting matches over what elements every blog should have to be considered a blog. Let’s just say that the following are common elements of a blog (though they don’t show up on every blog, including this very one):

    Headline: Each post has a headline or title to tell you what it’s about.

    Blog post: The main text or the article, sometimes with photos or videos.

    Permalink: A web address that will bring you to that particular blog post. Short for “permanent link.”

    Comments: A forum that runs below each blog post, allowing readers to give their own opinion on the post. Bloggers can turn comments on or off, or can filter them to keep out abusive commentary or spam. (I lay out some possible ways to moderate online forums here.)

    Trackback: A way to show other blogs that have linked to a particular blog post.

    RSS feed: A news feed that allows you to subscribe to a blog, thereby getting headlines or full text from the blog in your RSS news reader or personalized news page such as My Yahoo or Google Homepage. You can learn more about RSS here.

    Blogroll: This is a kind of shout-out to other blogs that the blogger likes or recommends. It’s a simple list of links to other blogs that runs in the sidebar of a blog.

    Bio or About page: Explanatory page that explains who the blogger is, what the blog is about, and how to contact the blogger.

    Becoming a Blogger

    So you want to join the blogosphere? Fair warning: You will have to do a lot of writing (or photography or videography), and keep at it. The vast majority of blogs that are created are abandoned after a few months — likely because the people who started them didn’t realize how much time and effort it takes to maintain a blog.

    On the plus side, you could gain a following of readers, who will interact with you and make you a more knowledgeable person on your subject matter of choice. If you get enough readers, you might even make some money with advertising such as Google AdSense. (Note that MediaShift and other PBS sites just started serving up Google AdSense ads.)

    On the down side, your readership might be sizeable, might not make you a lot of money, but will demand that you show up to write your blog regularly. Readers expect bloggers to stay on top of their blog and keep it updated at least a few times per week — unless you alert them to a vacation or blog stoppage.

    But you are not easily dissuaded, you are up for the challenge, and you are ready to join the blogosphere (that’s the virtual world where blogs live). You can get up and running quickly with simple web-based blog software. Here’s a great side-by-side comparison chart of services, including Blogger, TypePad and WordPress.

    There are also popular blog communities such as LiveJournal, MSN Spaces, Yahoo 360 or AOL Journals — all of which are free. Note that these communities offer more personal blog spaces, more like MySpace, than the services such as Blogger or TypePad, where more professionals self-publish.

    How to Get Your Blog Noticed

    So you’ve launched your blog into the world, but you’re not sure if the world is going to notice it. It ain’t easy getting noticed when you’re competing for attention with tens of millions of other bloggers. But don’t panic — there are ways of getting the word out.

    You might start by sending out an email alert to friends, family and colleagues who might be interested in your topic. Tell them to read your blog, comment on it, and pass along its web address to other interested folks. Make sure to have a good number of (and good quality) posts on your blog before you start publicizing it.

    While many people complain that the usual suspects such as InstaPundit, Daily Kos and BoingBoing always get the most traffic and links, those blogs and many other popular ones make a habit of linking to lesser known blogs that offer unique insight. That means that even the smallest, least known blogs have a chance to get more recognition if they’re linked from more popular blogs or perhaps mentioned in the mainstream media.

    Another important way to promote your blog is to register it with various search engines. Much of the online traffic flows through search engines such as Google and Yahoo, so be sure you’ve registered with them and others so people will find your blog when they do searches on the topics you write about.

    For instance, I made sure that Google knew to crawl my blog, so that MediaShift shows up when people search for certain subjects. I wrote extensively about the recent We Media conference. If you search for the term “we media” on Google, my blog comes up in the first page of results. Google searches have been the #1 way that I get traffic to my blog and represent a huge driver for blog traffic more generally.

    People with the right amount of chutzpah might ask other bloggers to put them on their blogroll, or ask them to write about or review their blog in some way, thereby getting the precious desired “link love” that will send along more traffic.

    How to Find Blogs

    Perhaps you’re not up for starting your own blog, but you’d like to find good blogs to read. Luckily, there are quite a few blog search engines that can help you find decent blogs on subjects you want to follow. You might also examine the blogrolls of people you already respect, as that might lead to more good reading.

    Here are a few good directories, “best blogs” lists and blog-award winners:

    Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem of Blogs

    Forbes’ Favorite Blogs in 10 Categories

    CNET News.com’s Blog 100

    The Guardian’s Weblog Guide

    2006 Weblog Award (Bloggies) Winners

    Weblog Awards for 2005

    The BOBs for 2005: Best of the Blogs

    Reporters Without Borders’ Freedom Blog Awards

    TechWeb’s Blog-X Awards

    Bloggers Blog: Meta-List of Blog Awards

    (Note that if you are running a blog, and believe it’s award-worthy, you might check into getting nominated for one of above awards.)

    Here are some blog search engines:

    Technorati

    Icerocket

    Google Blog Search

    Bloglines Search

    Feedster

    Sphere

    Other Resources

    If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of blogging, there are quite a few websites dedicated to the subject, as well as a boatload of books. Here’s a brief listing of some of the noteworthy books and sites to help you get some deep background on blogging.

    Sites:

    Rebecca Blood’s A History of Weblogs

    Simon World’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Blogging But Were Afraid to Ask

    Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents

    Electronic Frontier Foundation’s How to Blog Safely

    Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Legal Guide for Bloggers (The image above is from the EFF site.)

    The Giant Blogging Terms Glossary

    Books:

    The Weblog Handbook by Rebecca Blood

    We the Media by Dan Gillmor

    An Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds

    Crashing the Gate by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga

    Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

    Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business and Culture by David Kline and Dan Burstein

    *****

    What can you add to this guide? If you’re a blogger, what advice would you give someone who is considering starting a blog? Where do you find good blogs to read or add to your news feeds?

    Tagged:
    • Hi, great column today. I’d like to add another element to your definition of “What is a Blog.” The power of blogs lies in their capability to store, organize, and retrieve information. Blogs have become more popular because people have discovered the advantages of being linked into hive mind where everything as connected a few short clicks from one another. Why go to the trouble of performing a search using a variety of search engines and databases when you can benefit from the information someone else had already discovered?

      At the risk of self-aggrandizement, may I suggest adding the book “Blogosphere: Best of Blogs” to your Books list.
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0789735261/sr=8-1/qid=1147828192/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-0576467-1076866?%5Fencoding=UTF8
      This new book is a guide to the best blogs currently available and contains an online component with regular updates at http://www.blogsbestof.com. Since most Best of Blogs lists have only been accessible as magazine or newspaper articles, this guide is one of the few “best of” lists available in book format.

    • I have a real struggle justifying the time I put into my blog with no pay. To non-bloggers (and non-blog readers) it seems to be more of an exercise in self-indulgence. I see it as an actual resource that I’m providing, and I see a potential for return on this investment in the future. Still, I find myself really stretching for a good, valid answer when I’m asked why I’m doing this.

      Frankly, there is an element of personal conceit in blogging, of wanting to be noticed. And now we can be noticed–by the entire world. There’s a certain thrill in just looking at the growing number of readers, or in trying to figure out how someone in Argentina or Japan happened to stumble across MY blog and what they thought of it. Even as a paid blogger, I’m sure that many of those elements apply to you.

      BTW, BlogTopSites is another good directory of blogs. They organize their listings into categories and rank blogs by the number of unique visitors they receive.

    • wanted you to know that In my blog entry

      ( http://zescrap.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-is-blog-how-to-blog.html )

      I wrote about your post
      ( http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2006/05/digging_deeperyour_guide_to_bl.html )

      Tuesday, May 16, 2006
      What is a blog; How to blog

      THIS IS A MOST EXCELLENT POST

      FRom
      Digging Deeper
      Your Guide to Blogging
      by Mark Glaser, 1:51PM

      _guide_to_bl

      ….Common Elements of a BlogThere have been quite a few online shouting matches over …..


      ***********
      Two things for you and your readers:

      a- I have a blog as an ARCHIVE of what I like and noted on the web.
      I am not keen on writing.

      b-One blogging tool seldom mentioned is AOL.. The handling of pictures there, is very efficient.
      nice for small slide show.

      ************

      Thanks again for your excellent post. I appreciated because I am a novice blogger.

      Ann �
      Z’escrap Blog & Gossips �� Z � � � � 的服务

    • New bloggers using the popular Blogger (blogspot.com) blogging service may be interested to know that there are valuable resources at
      Blogger Tips and Tricks
      Blogger for Dummies

    • A major reason for blogging can be for educational purposes. Here in middle America the inertia of the status quo is stiffling in many ways. Small towns are struggling to maintain their economies and they must learn to compete in the 21st century. Building a citizen journalism multi-media center such as http://www.prattnews.com and blogging about it is one way to demonstrate its usefulness.

    • Raleigh

      I was just searching for information on blogging. After reading what you have disclosed, I was highly enlightened. Beautiful job, thank you very much.

      R. McElroy

    • Hi Mark,

      As you know I’m putting a lot of time and energy into making Root Magazine happen.

      What I’m finding in regards to Typepad is a little frustrating.

      Just a warning to those working with their ‘Media Layout’ templates, they are extremely rigid and tech support will not budge when you need to customize anything.

      The responses I get are always, ‘Thank you for the question, great idea for adding this feature however you are unable to do it at this time’.

      Never given a time WHEN things will be improved upon.

      Marcy

      Editor/Photographer
      root Magazine
      rootmag.typepad.com

    • Couple things to note:

      Blogads is a platform used by bloggers to bring in ad revenue. Caveat: they charge 30% commission.

      As for Google Ads, I know that everyone has them and what I’m about to say is borderline heresy in the world of blogging, but I find little value in the Adsense strips, and as a blog publisher, I am not sure they bring in enough revenue to justify their ugliness, their lack of predictability, and their nuisance. Supposedly you can screen out certain advertisers but there are often other similar advertisers that insidiously show up. A good rate of click-thru for adsense is 2-3 in 100 page views, so for a site like mine, if I only put the adsense on the homepage, that would probably mean about 10-15 click-thrus a day, ranging in payout from .02 to (on the very rare occasion) 2.00. As a professional contractor I charge $60 an hour for my time. It was a bit degrading to go to my google adsense account and, for a week’s time, see that I had made .57 cents.

      I opted to find advertisers who would pay well, would be semi-permanent, and whose presentation I could control. After querying a bunch of places, I found 4 ticket-selling companies, mostly selling tickets to sporting events, that wanted to advertise on my site. I find that this is a less intrusive kind of ad, the ads are of a neutral quality politically, and they do not conflict with the various topics I write about. Furthermore, it’s a useful resource for me when I’m hunting for a good price on Red Sox tickets!

      I recently signed a contract to have my content redistributed by Newstex. There is a royalty payment if material from my blog is used, so we will see if anything comes of this. My guess is: probably not much will, but it’s still interesting to try.

    • There are also Daily Blog Awards given out based on nominations from site visitors. The volume of those awards tends to create a good variety of blogs to browse through.

      Below is one which I run with the help of several volunteer judges. The history of this award goes back many years but the latest version has been running for about three months. There are several others which do daily awards.

      Blog of the Day Awards

    • thx for dude. it’s very nice blog.

    • Thanx blog dune

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