ProBlogging – 10 Things I Wish I Knew when I Started

Written on December 5th, 2009 at 12:12 am by Darren Rowse

A Guest Post by Nathan Hangen of Making it Social.

As much as many of us want to get our blogs up and running and create an overnight success story, the truth is that having desire alone just isn’t enough. For starters, guys like Darren make it look extremely easy now, but it’s not like he rolled out of bed one morning and became an instant success. He poured hours of blood, sweat, and tears into his blogs before they became income worthy, but don’t fret just yet, help is on the way.

Even though we have to make our way through the learning curve until everything “clicks” into place, there’s no reason that we can’t shorten the learning curve so that we can spend less time wishing and more time living. By learning from our own experiences and, more importantly, the experiences of others, we can do just that. Darren does a great job of doing that here, but I’d like to present a list of things I learned the hard way, things I wish I knew sooner, and things that I think new bloggers could use to elevate their game to the next level.

1. Good design is crucial

Most bloggers don’t have a very long time to make a good first impression, and with the abundance of great content throughout the interwebs, readers try fo find ways to cut back and/or make quick decisions on which content they consume. One of the ways they do this is by judging a book by its cover. It might not be fair, but it’s reality. You dont’ have to give your kidney for a good design. There are dozens of theme providers that have both inexpensive and free themes that look much better than what was designed 2-3 years ago.

2. Narrow Your Niche

This is something that took me a long time to understand. I thought that by covering a bunch of topics, casting a wider net so to speak, that I would attract more people to my blog. The problem with that strategy is that when you do attract new visitors, you throw them off if your content isn’t consistent. They’ll wind up leaving and you’ll have to recruit new readers for every single post. So, try fishing with a spear instead.

3. Comments Really Do Matter

I didn’t take this seriously at first. I thought that my content was special enough to get noticed on its own. Boy was I wrong! It wasn’t until a few months ago that I crafted a comment policy that has helped my traffic explode. I do it by subscribing by email to a dozen or so blogs in my niche so that I’m notified as soon as there is a new post. I try to comment right away and do my best to add something meaningful to the conversation. More importantly, I come back and reply to other comments in the discussion. Do this often enough and on enough blogs and you will start to get noticed. You can’t give commenting lip service either; it is something that needs to be done every day.

4. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Your Knowledge

When you master a skill, it’s easy to think that others might be on the same level as you, which can lead you to discount the value of your skill set and experience. However, most people don’t know what you know and would to pay you to teach them. Things that might seem simple to you can look like Greek to a reader. Don’t ever take your skill set and knowledge base for granted.

5. When You Have a Blog, You are the Authority

Own It! – We blog from behind a desk and see our lives as imperfect or incomplete. However, to a customer or new reader, you have an incredible amount of authority. If you have gone through the work of publishing content, then you need to step up to the plate and own that content. Take the authority and use it. You might be a 6 or 7 (on a 10 point scale), but to that new person, you are a leader. This excites people…they want a piece of your vision. Use that authority to step up to the plate and give them what they want. Don’t be afraid to be an expert!

6. Consistency Counts

I thought I could get away with blogging whenever I felt like it. I thought I could change the topic based on what felt right at the time. Looking back through my archives, I’m almost embarrassed by the casual attitude I took with my blog. These days, I know better and I keep a steady editorial schedule (3 posts per week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) and have narrowed the topics of my content to a degree that keeps my readers feeling like they belong. Changing it up all the time confuses people and scares away good readers.

7. Have a Plan

What are you going to do when your readership doubles? How are you going to handle getting hundreds of emails per day? How will you respond to comments? How do you see your platform evolving over the next year, 2, or even 5? These are some of the questions that you need to address early and often. Your plan might not be perfect, but at least you’ll have a direction to head. There’s nothing wrong with being flexible, but allowing your circumstances to dictate your business can lead you down roads that are better left untraveled.

8. Start Networking Early!

I cannot emphasize this enough. Use Twitter, comments, and guest posting as a tool to meet new people. The wider your reach, the easier it is to get noticed. Don’t wait for people to come to you…get out and network. People love personal connections! Go to conferences and shake hands with other bloggers. You never know which contact could turn into a great guest posting opportunity, a JV deal, or a new devoted fan. Blogging is a business, and you’ve got to get out and meet people if you want to take your blog to the next level.

9. Be Everywhere

This is tied in with the previous point, but to keep it simple – try to be in as many places as you can. Use Twitter, Facebook, USTREAM, YouTube, LinkedIn, and any other social network you can. You don’t have to live there, but having a presence there is important. People need to be able to find you in as many places as possible. You never know where that next source of income or the next reader might come from.

10. Hustle

Really, it all boils down to this. If I had to give you one piece of advice, it would be that you need to work your tail off to become a problogger. There’s no secret recipe, no golden ticket…you’ve just got to work hard and treat your blog like a business. It might seem like you aren’t getting anywhere at first, but be patient and keep at it. Adjust your plan on the fly if you have to, but never stop hustling. You’ve got to love what you do…absolutely enjoy doing it every day, if you really want to quit your job and go full time. If you don’t love what you do, then stop what you’re doing and go do what you love. Trust me, the work will come MUCH easier at that point.

Although this is just tip of the iceberg, I believe that if you just learn to improve on a few of these points, then you’ll shave a tremendous amount of time off your learning curve. You still might have to learn the hard way, but at least now you’ll have the context to understand what’s might be going wrong. If nothing else works, then you can’t go wrong with #10. In fact, I’d say that’s a great place to start.

Nathan Hangen is an entrepreneur, social media consultant, and co-author of the book –Beyond Blogging.

Advertisers Get a Trove of Clues in Smartphones


Published: March 11, 2009

The millions of people who use their cellphones daily to play games, download applications and browse the Web may not realize that they have an unseen companion: advertisers that can track their interests, their habits and even their location.

Smartphones, like the iPhone and BlackBerry Curve, are the latest and potentially most extensive way for advertisers to aim ads at certain consumers. Advertisers already tailor ads for small groups of consumers on the Web based on personal information. But cellphones have a much higher potential for personalized advertising, especially when they use applications like Yelp or Urbanspoon with GPS to identify a person’s location, right down to the street corner where they are standing.

Advertisers will pay high rates for the ability to show, for example, ads for a nearby restaurant to someone leaving a Broadway show, especially when coupled with information about the gender, age, finances and interests of the consumer.

Eswar Priyadarshan, the chief technology officer of Quattro Wireless, which places advertising for clients like Sony on mobile sites, says he typically has 20 pieces of information about a customer who has visited a site or played with an application in his network. “The basic idea is, you go through all these channels, and you get as much data as possible,” he said.

The capability for collecting information has alarmed privacy advocates.

“It’s potentially a portable, personal spy,” said Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, who will appear before Federal Trade Commission staff members this month to brief them on privacy and mobile marketing. He is particularly concerned about data breaches, advertisers’ access to sensitive health or financial information, and a lack of transparency about how advertisers are collecting data. “Users are going to be inclined to say, sure, what’s harmful about a click, not realizing that they’ve consented to give up their information.”

For now, advertisers are using a wide lens to survey people’s behavior on phones, aiming at people by city rather than by specific neighborhood or street.

And while they collect specifics about how someone behaves on the mobile Web — for instance, that someone bought a “Hot N Cold” ring tone after seeing an ad for it, then watched a Miley Cyrus video on — they use that information to categorize that person as a pop-culture fan, and then show a movie ad.

Advertisers are eager to use the information for much more specific targeting, however. An advertising system could know, for instance, that someone is 27 years old, male, a New England Patriots fan (which can track), plays Blackjack, travels frequently between Boston and New York on weekdays (which applications using GPS can track) and uses a 3G iPhone. That would make him attractive to a host of advertisers, like the Delta Shuttle or a Las Vegas hotel, whose ads would appear while the consumer was browsing the Web on his phone.

“Everyone’s in an arms race to find out more and more about their users,” said Eric Bader, the managing partner of the mobile advertising firm Brand in Hand. Even application developers are handing over information about their customers to marketers. Dockers San Francisco, a brand of Levi Strauss, for instance, is beginning a campaign this week that will run on applications like iBasketball and iGolf. It will show a model wearing khakis, and the iPhone customer can shake the phone to see the model dance.

Dockers will start by tracking how long people shake the ad, and then “if it does make sense to do follow-up with these consumers, we’ll do that,” said Jonathan Haber, the United States director of Ignition Factory at OMD, the media agency directing the campaign. “We dig in, specifically, with these application developers and owners to get information about usage behavior.”

It’s not just behavior, but also data about income, or even whether you have children, that mobile advertisers consider. A company called Acuity Mobile, whose clients include theMGM Mirage and Harrah’s Entertainment, lets clients use consumer data, including, potentially, income, to determine what kind of offers clients should see.

“Someone who does not spend a lot of money with your brand might get a lower-value offer, like a free dessert in Vegas, versus a free buffet” for a high roller, said Alan R. Sultan, the president and founder of Acuity Mobile.

Applications that use GPS can offer even more specificity, including Loopt, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Where and almost any iPhone application that shows the pop-up box saying it “would like to use your current location.” Several firms are experimenting with a program called AisleCaster that can offer specials based on a person’s exact location in a supermarket aisle or mall.

Advertising systems can track not only the location of the phone, but also that person’s travel pattern: uptown New York to Nob Hill in San Francisco, for instance.

For now, systems like Quattro are using broad city-level categories while trying to sell to advertisers like Amtrak. “You don’t want to necessarily go down to location-level stuff like specific street corners, because it wanders over into really creeping out the user privacy-wise,” Mr. Priyadarshan said.

For now, there are not enough people using smartphones to make it worthwhile for advertisers to use highly specific criteria. But as more people switch to smartphones, that will happen more frequently. The smartphone market in North America increased 69 percent in 2008, according to the research firm Gartner. GooglePalm and BlackBerry are all introducing their own application stores. Despite the amount of data in the market, as long as advertisers don’t use personally identifiable information, there is no current regulation or law that governs how closely advertisers and application developers can track mobile phone users. Opting out of mobile targeted advertising is difficult, and that’s assuming consumers are even aware how closely they are being tracked.

“I didn’t know they were doing that, although I’m not surprised to hear it,” said Jordan Penn, 32, an affordable-housing developer in San Diego who has downloaded about 12 apps to his iPhone. “It doesn’t really concern me any more than all of the other tracking that goes on when you access the Internet.” Paul M. Schwartz, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an information privacy law expert, said tracking by advertisers was problematic. “People should be allowed to trade most kinds of information for value as long as the terms are fair,” he said. “They’re not fair now.”

Mike Wehrs, the chief executive of the Mobile Marketing Association, said the trade group was updating some of its self-regulatory principles, for example, suggesting that applications e-mail their privacy policies to subscribers rather than asking them to read a policy on the small mobile screen. “I agree there’s more that can be done,” he said. “One thing about mobile, it’s an amazingly fast-moving industry.”

Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess

By Gary Wolf

The Internet’s great promise is to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful. So how come when you arrive at the most popular dating site in the US you find a stream of anonymous come-ons intermixed with insults, ads for prostitutes, naked pictures, and obvious scams? In a design straight from the earliest days of the Web, miscellaneous posts compete for attention on page after page of blue links, undifferentiated by tags or ratings or even usernames. Millions of people apparently believe that love awaits here, but it is well hidden. Is this really the best we can do?

Odd perhaps, but no odder than what you see at the most popular job-search site: another wasteland of hypertext links, one line after another, without recommendations or networking features or even protection against duplicate postings. Subject to a highly unpredictable filtering system that produces daily outrage among people whose help-wanted ads have been removed without explanation, this site not only beats its competitors—Monster, CareerBuilder, Yahoo’s HotJobs—but garners more traffic than all of them combined. Are our standards really so low?

But if you really want to see a mess, go visit the nation’s greatest apartment-hunting site, the first likely choice of anybody searching for a rental or a roommate. On this site, contrary to every principle of usability and common sense, you can’t easily browse pictures of the apartments for rent. Customer support? Visit the help desk if you enjoy being insulted. How much market share does this housing site have? In many cities, a huge percentage. It isn’t worth trying to compare its traffic to competitors’, because at this scale there are no competitors.

Each of these sites, of course, is merely one of the many sections of craigslist, which dominates the market in facilitating face-to-face transactions, whether people are connecting to buy and sell, give something away, rent an apartment, or have some sex. With more than 47 million unique users every month in the US alone—nearly a fifth of the nation’s adult population—it is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped. Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are craigslist has considered it and rejected it. If you try to build a third-party application designed to make craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you down.

Craigslist is not only gigantic in scale and totally resistant to business cooperation, it is also mostly free. The only things that cost money to post on the site are job ads in some cities ($25 to $75), apartment listings by brokers in New York ($10), and—in a special case born of recent legal trouble—advertisements in categories commonly used by prostitutes, because authorities encourage vendors to maintain a record that would aid investigators. There is no banner advertising. They won’t let you join them, and at this price you can’t beat them either.

At times it has occurred to people that the problems with craigslist could be solved by appealing to its eponym, Craig Newmark. Newmark is under lots of pressure these days. His company is being sued by eBay, a competitor and minority shareholder angry at being excluded from the company’s deliberations. The attorney general of South Carolina has blustered about prosecuting his CEO for facilitating prostitution, and there have been strong challenges from law enforcement agencies in other states, too. The tabloids have relentlessly played up stories about two so-called craigslist killers, one who allegedly used the site’s erotic-services section to lure victims and another who used the help-wanted ads. Newmark responds to such criticism with extreme serenity. Inquire about his finances and he talks about his hummingbird feeder. When his Twitter page asks him, “What are you doing?” he retweets in the voice of a squirrel.

“Run, run, run,” he says. “Dig, dig.”

Though the company is privately held and does not respond to questions about its finances, it is evident that craigslist earns stupendous amounts of cash. One recent report, from a consulting firm that counted the paid ads, estimates that revenue could top $100 million in 2009. Should craigslist ever be sold, the price likely would run into the billions. Newmark, by these lights, is a very rich man. When anybody reminds him of this, the craigslist founder says there is nothing he would care to do with that much money, should it ever come into his hands. He already has a parking space, a hummingbird feeder, a small home with a view, and a shower with strong water pressure. What else is he supposed to want? Frustration over these sorts of replies sometimes becomes comical. In a July 2007 television interview, Charlie Rose spent half the program attempting to get Newmark to admit his good fortune, and failing. “I don’t have anywhere near as much control as you think,” Newmark said.

“I’m not talking how much control; I’m talking percentage of ownership,” Rose said. Rose is usually kind to his guests, but the scent of unacknowledged wealth brought out his ferocity.

“Oh, same thing from my point of view,” Newmark said, trying to move the topic along.

“Do you own more than 50 percent of craigslist or not?” Rose asked.


“You don’t?”


“In other words, other people own that, or you’ve given it away or whatever.”

“Could be, Charlie.”

“OK, but I’m—why are you so …?”



“It doesn’t matter,” Newmark said. “I mean …”

“I know it doesn’t matter,” Rose repeated, his face a mask of pain.

Newmark’s claim of almost total disinterest in wealth dovetails with the way craigslist does business. Besides offering nearly all of its features for free, it scorns advertising, refuses investment, ignores design, and does not innovate. Ordinarily, a company that showed such complete disdain for the normal rules of business would be vulnerable to competition, but craigslist has no serious rivals. The glory of the site is its size and its price. But seen from another angle, craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero and where the ambiance of neglect is not a way to extract more profit but the expression of a worldview.

The axioms of this worldview are easy to state. “People are good and trustworthy and generally just concerned with getting through the day,” Newmark says. If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves. Any additional features are almost certainly superfluous and could even be damaging.

Newmark has been working hard to extend the influence of his worldview. His public pronouncements have the delighted yet apologetic tone of a man who has stumbled on a secret hiding in plain sight and who finds it embarrassingly necessary to point out something that should long have been obvious. He seems to have discovered a new way to run a business. He suspects that it may be the right way to run the world.

Public spirited and mild-mannered, politically liberal and socially awkward, Newmark has one trait that mattered a lot in craigslist’s success: He is willing to perform the same task again and again. During the company’s first years, Newmark approved nearly every message on the list, and in the decade since he has spent much of his time eliminating offensive ones. Even by the most conservative accounting, he has passed judgment on tens of thousands of classified ads. Very few people could do this and thrive.

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Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business

By Chris Anderson

Thanks to Gillette, the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical. But until recently, practically everything “free” was really just the result of what economists would call a cross-subsidy: You’d get one thing free if you bought another, or you’d get a product free only if you paid for a service.

Over the past decade, however, a different sort of free has emerged. The new model is based not on cross-subsidies — the shifting of costs from one product to another — but on the fact that the cost of products themselves is falling fast. It’s as if the price of steel had dropped so close to zero that King Gillette could give away both razor and blade, and make his money on something else entirely. (Shaving cream?)

You know this freaky land of free as the Web. A decade and a half into the great online experiment, the last debates over free versus pay online are ending. In 2007 The New York Times went free; this year, so will much of The Wall Street Journal. (The remaining fee-based parts, new owner Rupert Murdoch announced, will be “really special … and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive.” This calls to mind one version of Stewart Brand’s original aphorism from 1984: “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.”)

Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.

The rise of “freeconomics” is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore’s law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero.

The Value Of The Graveyard Continues To Rise

Renewal of Your Mind

The new graveyard. The new graveyard at the ch... Image via Wikipedia

Don’t Increase the Value of The Graveyard

It has been said, that the graveyard is the most valuable real estate on earth. Why? Because countless people have lived, died, and taken to the grave their dreams, aspirations, inventions, books, songs, and various other creatives and unfulfilled accomplishments.

Why Do People Deposit Their Wealth In the Grave Instead of In Life?

They have procrastinated, been side tracked, became professional time wasters, chased the wind, feared the unknown, lacked courage, basted in unbelief and doubt, got caught up in vanity, failed to act on ideas and do the things necessary to achieve their goals and visions or failed to get back up after a failure. These are some of the things that have caused many to deposit their wealth in the vault of the dead (the graveyard).

How To Deposit Your Wealth In Heaven?

There are some biblical…

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