Blogging: never mind the toy-toys – it’s quality time

small_2493066577Why has it taken so many so-called “expert” bloggers to get up to date with what’s actually important in blogging today?

Nearly two years ago I wrote this article which, since then, has had nearly 25,000 views on this humble wee blogsite here.

A lonely voice in the wilderness for a long time. But in the last few weeks, finally, I have seen a number of other bloggers – and even some of the so-called “expert” bloggers – take this issue up with a vengeance.

The other day one even wrote an indignant article criticizing British bloggers and social media users for misusing the word “blog.” Much as I totally agree that correct terminology is important for the sake of clarity, I wonder why it has taken this person nearly two years to come round to that way of thinking?

Where have all these “blog experts” been, and what have they been doing?

This is a matter for speculation, but it strikes me that they were all far too busy putting the blogging cart before the horse to realize that things were changing and they were concentrating on the wrong things.

These people got into blogging because they thought it was a cool way to use lots of whistles and bells basically to sneak subtle advertising messages in under the cyber-radar. Their idea of good blogging was to use advertising and direct mail copywriting techniques from the 1960s to grab readers’ attention and then, mixed up within some supposed editorial chit-chat, were all the right keywords and selling messages getting readers to buy, sign up, download a freebie, etc.

small__503600331 (1)Some of these characters even started out by saying that “blogging” and “writing” were two different things, although I have a funny feeling they would find that concept a bit embarrassing now. And ironically that was appropriate in their case, because what they put in their blog posts certainly wasn’t writing. Well, not good writing, anyway.

However now, many so-called blogging experts purporting to help clients blog better have become keen to show how good writing is key to success. All of a sudden.

Of course, I couldn’t agree more. (And the fact that recent new Google initiatives like Panda and Penguin plus Penguin 2.0 force bloggers to focus much more on quality of content than on hard-selling junk, is not entirely unconnected with the change in focus!)

But how come all those “experts” have taken this long to get around to promoting good writing, especially when I and other professional writers like me have been offering such services for years (and making quite a good living out of it)?

And given that these people started out as “bloggers” – some of whom even sneered down their noses at “writers” – how can you trust them to show you the right ways to write for successful blogging now? It’s all very well selling clients colorful gargoyles and whizzing bow ties to make their blogsites look “professional,” and then selling them all sorts of further toy-toys to measure this and get metrics for that. But if the writing – those humble words that cost nothing – is cr*ppy, the whole thing will fail.

Tech and toy-toys should support good words and other content

I’m hardly an expert on the tech elements of blogging. I make no secret of it; I don’t like toy-toys unless they do something very, very valuable that supports the words / pictures / moving pictures / audio. Words and other editorial content are the dog: tech and toy-toys are the wagging tail.

Frankly, I don’t want to learn about all that side of the blogging spectrum for two reasons: 1) I’m not technically minded and 2) if I were to learn about it in detail that would probably obscure my vision of what the pure content should be doing. The writing is what I’m good at; it’s why people hire me; and it’s what gets their audiences interested and engaged in the first instance.

When my clients ask me about the more tech elements of their blogs, I cheerfully refer them to my good friend Babs Saul (who masterminds this site) and/or others who have the right expertise and qualifications.

As blogging has grown exponentially, so has the number of real experts and so-called “experts” available to help you do it well. My feeling, and that of many others in the business as well as all my clients, believe that is you want a special blog, you need specialized guidance and advice.

If you want to know what to blog about, stick with HTWB

blogging,writing,blog writing,business,newsletter,HowToWriteBetter.net,How To Write Better,Suzan St MaurFollow us on here in the coming weeks for some fab free blog writing advice, with two new blogging series starting in September, too.

And if you need more in-depth help give me a holler. I’m not cheap, but I’m very, very good at making your blog writing work.

Let’s blog on together. The write way…

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family…

photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via photopin cc
photo credit: Wesley Fryer via photopin cc

The People’s Republic of Blog: welcome to the new blogging nation

Given that blogs have become more than a passing fancy with close on 200 million of them floating in cyberspace, I thought it was time we organize these extraordinary entities together into The People’s Republic of Blog. Here are my suggestions for the first ten Bloggonian provinces, and yours are more than welcome, too – please add them in the comments below.

Know-it-allia
Know-it-allian Bloggers think that because they know a fair amount about their topic they can intimidate readers and potential clients into buying their services by writing condescending and patronizing posts, usually giving the excuse of “keeping it simple.” These people speak to their readers in whiny, high-pitched voices as if the latter are naughty children who need to be told what to do and what unpleasant consequences might ensue if they don’t do it. Not surprisingly Know-it-allian Bloggers often piss their readers off and lose useful traffic as a result, as well as losing clients who are bored with being spoken down to.

Rantersland
In Rantersland, every Blog is banging the drum about something the Blogger concerned feels very, very strongly about, nearly always in a negative way. Often the cause of the blog is an ongoing issue and blogging in this way is a very handy way of stalking the alleged perpetrators and reporting on their every dastardly move. Prominent Ranters can get quite a lot of attention from the media and no doubt from libel lawyers scouting for potential business in case the Ranter concerned writes a whoopsie. Lesser Ranter Bloggers tend to burn themselves out after a few months and go back to pulling the wings off blue-bottle flies.

Nichy
This province is the domain of niche-huggers who just know there are readers out there who are fascinated by the digestive systems of grass snakes and want to know every last tiny detail about the snakes’ diets, gastric juices, ileal and colorectal functions and of course, whether they fart in the key of C or the key of F sharp minor. Nichyan Bloggers do not do generalities, which is refreshing. They love specifics, technical intricacies, and amazing facts no-one has ever published before because they were of no interest whatsoever. Nichyan Bloggers tend to live to a good old age, alone in remote locations with several rescued cats.

Usefullia
This is the largest province in The People’s Republic of Blog and comprises many blogs which actually provide something that’s useful, from relatively specific topics to the more general. Unfortunately Usefullian Bloggers are obliged to compete with so-called useful blogs in other republics, which without going into brain-deadening detail means there are quite a few similar citizens out there in the mainstream blogosphere. However Usefullians are confident that this province only has useful blogs that are really useful, not merely pretending to be. Usefullian Bloggers are usually confident and wear expensive running shoes.

The People's Republic of Blog: welcome to the new blogging nation

The Funnyfarms Province

Funnyfarms
Funnyfarmers love baggy clothes, geeky horn-rimmed eyeglasses and are prone to exploding into laughter about their given subject, often forgetting that there are people suffering from or otherwise enduring whatever it is the Funnyfarmer is taking the piss out of and who don’t therefore find the jokes amusing. Many Funnyfarmers think they can get away with insulting anything from religion to ethnic minorities and people with disabilities as long as there is a laugh for someone, somewhere, in it. Fortunately the more intelligent Funnyfarmerian Bloggers do manage to make people laugh without offending anyone other than people and institutions who richly deserve it.

Magaziner
The Magaziner province is one of interesting geographical contrasts. On the wooded hilltops there are Magaziner blogs that have metamorphosed successfully from the early primaeval cultures based on glossy paper. However grovelling in the depths of muddy river banks are Magaziner blogs which try desperately to get away with being online magazines using ill-disguised advertising puffery as editorial. This is coupled with articles thrown together by semi-literate, over-caffeinated Magazinerian Bloggers who generate clichés and editorial bullshit between sipping lattés and lying about their sex lives.

Newspaperia
Newspaperians are an embarrassment in The People’s Republic of Blog due to their undemocratic class system. Their upper class is based on the ancient traditions of the broadsheet species and while supposedly delivering “news” consists largely of right-wing diatribe. The Newspaperian middle class blogs channel the tut-tut spinster style of news reporting in which hair is referred to as “locks” or “tresses,” to drink is to “quaff,” and people spewing vomit over each other are “sharing a joke.” Finally the Newspaperian lower class blogs avoid the news altogether and simply pay impoverished arts graduates with big tits to feature on the home page.

Techieland
These are the darlings of The People’s Republic of Blog because as long as everyone else leaves them alone to get off on their algorithms and formulae, they are happy as pigs in poop and are utterly harmless. The Games Techielanders lock themselves in their homes for days on end in gloomy rooms peering at glittering screens showing monsters, gargoyles, Druids, vampires, zombies and most other characters commonly seen in party political broadcasts. Techieland streets are always quiet apart from the traffic caused by a roaring trade in home pizza delivery services.

Keywordia
Keywordians are the show-offs of The People’s Republic of Blog and go to some ridiculous lengths to get themselves noticed in the front rows of search engine rankings – especially that of the Great Google God. Because they do this verbally their blogs are packed with keywords in a way that makes a nonsense of keywords because the keywords concerned are used at every imaginable keywords opportunity and then a few, because keywords are so important to work into anywhere keywords are mentioned and even where keywords aren’t required. Keywordians are often found strangled, in dark alleyways.

The People's Republic of Blog: welcome to the new blogging nation

The Advertizia Province

Advertizia
Located in a remote part of The People’s Republic of Blog, Advertizia is a barren, shrinking community made up of former content mills, article spinners and keyword blitzers too poor, even, to live in Keywordia (see above). Their land having been badly damaged by two major Google storms in recent years, Advertizians now struggle to make ends meet by paying poor unemployed graduates from the Indian subcontinent USD $3.00 to write 28 “different” articles about paper clips each embedded with lots of lovely linkies to an office supplies manufacturer in China. Advertizia is fast becoming a no-go area and other Bloggers are advised not to travel there, especially after dark.

blogging,writing,blog writing,business,newsletter,HowToWriteBetter.net,How To Write Better,Suzan St MaurNow, what further provinces do you feel are needed in The People’s Republic of Blog?

Now, let’s get your blogging into the stratosphere :

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

photo credit: papalars via photopin cc
photo credit: Swami Stream via photopin cc
photo credit: brentbat via photopin cc

Blogging vs professional reporting: journaling vs journalism?

A while back I put up a post on Facebook suggesting that maybe blogging and journalism are approaching something of a head-to-head online, considering the way that all our news and features media seem to be merging. The reactions I got were quite stark.

One US TV journalist said the key differences between the two are the fact that journalists have deadlines and editors to contend with – major issues bloggers don’t share, and that’s true, for sure. Someone else sent me a private message saying the two disciplines had nothing whatsoever to do with each other and I should be ashamed of myself for even suggesting there may be a conflict here.

When you strip the whole blogging story down to its underwear, you can see where the journos are coming from in their somewhat dismissive attitude towards bloggers. Blogging started out as an online platform for “journaling,” which is light years away from journalism.

Journaling: not the same as keeping a diary, but not reporting either

I won’t refer you to any onward links here although there are several on Google, but essentially the difference between keeping a diary and journaling is this: a diary is purely a record of your events – a journal is a record of your events along with your comments and views about those events.

This is where blogging started and as we all know it has evolved dramatically, which is where the dividing line between it and journalism begins to dissolve slightly. Many blogs today – deliberately or accidentally – cross over the invisible line into what perhaps we should call “alternative online journalism.” But should bloggers begin to think of themselves as journalists? Hmmm…

How do the journalists feel?

When you ask a journalist how they regard bloggers their answers have a tendency to be negative. However you can’t be surprised to find that traditional, professional journalism appears to be threatened not just by bloggers, but by the entire freedom of the internet which gallops over many disciplines like young horses having just broken out of a field.

Obviously when you consider news reporting, there’s no contest. But it’s in the area of features and particularly journalistic opinion pieces where the potential conflict may lie. Journalists have spent years studying and serving apprenticeships so they can report and comment in a professional way about the topics they cover. But in recent years, along comes the internet and opens up a huge new forum in which anybody can report on events and express opinions … unfettered by editorial policy, deadlines, or – let’s face it – ethical considerations.

A number of journalistic organisations like this one are uneasy about this and you can’t blame them.

Could journaling and journalism share a future?

This is something that worries me, and I’m sure worries many journalists. Although I have spent many years writing in the utterly commercial sector I was trained originally as a journalist (served my apprenticeship on a UK local newspaper.) And when I write posts like this, I try as far as I can to be fair and represent – or at least point out – all points of view.

But this is blogging. Where could it lead us? Should it attempt to swamp good old-fashioned traditional journalism? Or should we all work towards maintaining a respectful division between the two?

You might like to take a look at “A Blogger’s Code of Ethics” from CyberJournalist.net (a very useful and up-to-date resource dealing with just these issues.) It attempts to a) suggest how bloggers should approach their responsibility to their readers and b) differentiate themselves from professional journalists .

I’m very interested to know how you feel about this one, so please, share your views!

Whatever you write, do it right:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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