Want to be a power blogger? Be transparent, find a niche and post in massive quantities. And then be prepared to address issues that arise as you become a big-time blogger.
Here's a look at some of the key issues addressed at an AlwaysOn panel on power blogging (watch conference). 'Telling me who I can link to is crap.' The panel included Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine, Peter Rojas of Engadget and Elizabeth Spiers, founder of Dead Horse Media, which publishes Dealbreaker.com. The panel was moderated by Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion.
Onto the issues:
When does a blog stop being a blog and when does it become traditional media?
Rojas says "it's always been pretty hard to define what a blog is." So hard that you probably shouldn't spend too much time trying to define it. Instead focus on the content. Rojas:
"Are you creating something people find worth to spend time on? I worry less about whether Engadget is a blog anymore and more about whether it's worth spending time on."
Jarvis notes that "blogs are two way. Worst thing we can do is create
our own closed club."
How do you build traffic and sell it?
Spiers says some PR can't hurt to go along with good content. For instance, Dealbreaker is widely known on Wall Street, which is a nice target for advertisers. Break some news, get a mention in mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times and New York Post and traffic follows.
Spiers' biggest tip: Mainstream media does nothing for traffic, but helps sell your site to advertisers. The traffic comes from links from other sites. "It's very easy for my sales guy to shop around Dealbreaker because the financial community is already aware of it. The median income for a Dealbreaker reader is $220,000 a year. That's not difficult to shop to an agency."
Do big bloggers have a responsibility to link to little guy?
In a word: No. Jarvis says the link debate is tiresome.
"You link on merit. Telling me who I can link to is crap. It's personal. I link to those things I see and I find. It's just a conversation."
Are PR pitches useful? How many do you get?
Rojas says Engadget gets several hundred (I feel his pain). "Two percent of those emails are relevant to what we're doing. It's like any other kind of spam. Best thing for PR people to do is to read the site. We'll write about something and 12 hours later a PR person will call me. Email me as a human being, not someone on our mailing list."
Is there a such thing as an elite blogger?
Jarvis: No such thing as an elite blogger.
Rubel: Some are more known than others.
Jarvis: That's applying old media logic.
Is it possible to be inside a large company and start a powerful blog?
Jarvis says Robert Scoble is the best example of becoming a big blogger inside a large company. He's rare though.
"Scoble is the poster boy for that. He started inside Microsoft so it's possible. You see ridiculous in house blogs. It can work if you are willing to put yourself out there and talk. At some point though the question becomes is whether you can be transparent. As long as being personal and honest it's possible."
Rojas says as long as the parent company (Engadget is owned by AOL) doesn't mess with you blogs can thrive.
"AOL has been completely hands off. I have 100 percent control over the site. For instance, we trashed the AOL video player. We do write about Time Warner cable, which is awful, but disclose it. It think it may be more difficult if we were owned by Microsoft. I certainly think AOL could dictate what gets done, but AOL understood what they were buying."
Is there a need for a church and state wall between blog content and ads as sponsorship grows?
Jarvis says "rules and industry guidelines won't do it for you. It's personal integrity.
Spiers: "You need it. Your credibility is at stake."
Is audio and video worth the effort?
"I just started. I took the camera to Davos and took bad video. I think it's whatever is appropriate."
"You can spend a lot of time on video and not get the effect you want. There are issues of resources and time. You always have to balance and not lose focus on what brought people to the dance in the first place. If you cut back number of post for video it may not work."
What's you best tip for building audience?
Spiers: "Create great content and do a lot of it. You have to publish constantly--12 posts a day. Eight to 10 if original."
Jarvis: "Link out. If not you're not part of the conversation."
Rojas: "Create good content. Pick a niche or area you want to focus on. Find the smallest area you can find and own that niche."