SALT LAKE CITY — The crisis in our industry is forcing us to try new things. Some work, some don’t, and some might if we do them better.
And so began an APSE workshop on Effective Blogging.
Moderated by Tim Stephens of the Orlando Sentinel, with a major assist from Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel and a video presentation by Lee Nessel of Florida Today, the 90-minute session offered tips for the beginner as well as the advanced practitioner.
To build a successful blog, all you need is to be consistent, observant, opportunistic, interactive, accountable, social, engaging and thorough.
But it starts with being consistent.
The blog is a beast that must be fed daily, and more than once. In fact, three meals a day might not be enough, depending on the circumstances. Equally important is the timing of your feedings.
Research has shown that people are most likely to log-on when they get to work in the morning, when they get back from lunch, and right before they leave the office for home. So think of it as providing a
breakfast, a late lunch, and a late-afternoon cocktail.
"You build reader habits, then feed the beast," said Stephens, the associate managing editor for sports at the Sentinel.
Be opportunistic. That means hitting hot topics, localizing a big national story, hooking into pop culture. Know the birthdays and anniversaries of key players and events. Re-post archived material.
Recently, when a famous local football coach died in San Jose, the Mercury News posted a 60-inch takeout we’d run in 2007. Many readers discovered it for the first time; others were grateful to read it
And jump on the non-traditional story. Stephens noted that the most popular blog post for the year in Orlando resulted from a sideline collision between Glen "Big Baby" Davis of the Boston Celtics and a
young Magic fan during the 2009 playoffs.
"Our most-viewed blog post was something that MIGHT have been a note in the paper," Stephens said.
Humphrey, the assistant sports editor/online at the Sentinel, noted that for $150 he was able to buy a small camera that allows him to feed the beast with video and other low-effort/high impact elements.
For instance, he records the post game press conferences of Stan Van Gundy, the colorful coach of the Orlando Magic, and lets him feed the beast on occasion.
Go beyond the game, Humphrey said, take people places they can’t go. Humphrey routinely takes his audience from press row to the Magic locker room, with his camera. As journalists, we grow jaded to the gameday experience. But to readers, it’s gold. Cover the entire circus, he urged.
It all adds up to page views, and to maximum those do the things that help you get picked up by search engines. It’s called Search Engine Optimization, and it involves, among other things, how you headline
Nessel, the sports editor at Florida Today, said there were 15.5 billion searches made online in April 2010. People generally search with four words or fewer.
"So when you write a headline, think how you would enter a search," Nessel said.
For example, if you’re searching for news on Urban Meyer, the Florida football coach, you aren’t likely to type just his last name into the search field. So don’t write your web headline that way either. Post
it as Urban Meyer, and you’ll be helping yourself — and your blog — immensely.
Another example: If you’re searching for news about this convention, you’ll have a much easier time of it with these four words in tandem — APSE Convention in Utah — than apart.
"Never stop learning all the Web trends and tools," Stephens concluded. "You can be ahead of the curve in January and soooo 2005 by June."
To that end, Stephens, Humphrey and Nessel invite you to contact them. Each of them is available by email, Facebook, Twitter or whatever new technology has taken hold since breakfast.
- What the Blog?: Effective Blogging Techniques (.pptx) — Presented by Tim Stephens of the Orlando Sentinel, Lee Nessel of Florida Today and Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel.