- Could you quantify the level of traffic your blog generates?
- What steps did you take to promote your blog?
- How much money and time did you have to invest in the launch?
- Have editors contacted you directly after reading your blog?
- What writing work have you received as a result of your blog?
- What other revenue streams have you been able to realise?
- Do you actively use the blog to market yourself and if so how do you reference it?
- Do you tailor content to suit particular pitches/ potential clients?
- What advice would you give to journalists looking to leverage content into paid work?
- Is there anything you would like to add?
Three successful and very different bloggers share their thoughts on how to launch and promote blogs to help show case you work, be discovered by clients and even generate additional revenue. Hints and tips include the importance of having a blog, promoting your work on Twitter and other social media, and what not to do.
Answering the questions we have (in alphabetical order and their own words):
Fleet street fox (@fleetstreetfox): Anonymous Fleet Street columnist. Often sarcastic, occasionally right. Fox (n) carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; to be drunk (Ed. Foxy now has a weekly column in the Mirror and a book deal)
Nialler9 (@Nialler9): Ireland-based music blogger and writer since 2005. Freelance web designer, editor @statemagazine & Indo digital columnist @dayandnightmag (Ed. Award-winning music blog, includes podcasts and gig guides)
Wannabe Hacks (@wannabehacks): A living, breathing journalism resource offering careers advice, comment and useful tips (Ed. Great journastrongsm resources, today Jonathan Frost is answering questions on behalf of the team)
Could you quantify the level of traffic your blog generates?
fleet street fox: 1.2m readers now since April last year – about 100k a month, give or take.
Nialler9: It averages at 35,000 visitors a month. It’s been pretty steady for the last year or so with occasional spikes caused by one-off traffic from Reddit, Stumbleupon or a particularly wide-appealing blog post.
Wannabe Hacks: We serve a community of around 10,000 unique visitors every month. As with any site, traffic varies from week to week and it’s hard to tell what will do well and get shared around. Recently, Natalie’s post about Rebekah Brooks and contempt of court did really well, it was topical and interesting, and as such got shared around a lot.
What steps did you take to promote your blog?
fleet street fox: Twitter and Facebook, but the main way is that I write about the story of the day that I think would draw most attention – the water cooler story, if you like. If it’s already on their minds and websites my extra comment should be of interest.
Nialler9: I try to promote my blog in a non-gross way but any kind of shouting about yourself is a bit gross. So I focus on promoting the content I write about and hope that people consider me a trusted source and come back, which they do it seems. Blog awards and press coverage helps bring the name to the offline world mostly and to new readers which can be great. Lately, attaching my name to gig events like at SXSW, Camden Crawl, Hard Working Class Heroes and the like are a nice way to associate the blog with what I actually write about.
My advice on Twitter about promoting your content is write unique interesting content first and foremost. Don’t ask for retweets or write unsolicited spammy tweets as replies. If what you’ve written is good enough, people will promote it for you.
(Ed. I’ve updated this post, on self-promoting tweets in light of this comment)
Wannabe Hacks: Our main tool for promotion and distribution of content is our Twitter feed. Tweet, and tweet lots. When Hacks launched it became the thing that really set the site apart and allowed discussion to start taking place between wannabes that previously hadn’t existed. We also use our Facebook page for polls and lighter content, but limit ourselves purely because it’s time consuming – Hacks is a blog on the side, not a full time job.
We occasionally also use Tumblr when we feel content isn’t appropriate for the main site, but we have something to say.
To help develop our community, we use a live commenting system. It’s important the people writing the blog are involved in the discussion of the post. Nothing is worse than starting a conversation and walking away, you have to be involved at all points.
How much money and time did you have to invest in the launch?
fleet street fox: No money, bit of time farting around with Blogger templates to make it look as I wanted. That’s all.
Nialler9: The launch was not important. It was only a beginning. The best advice I can give about starting off is to get your own domain and hosting, and get a strong identity and logo. It will help you stand out. I’m constantly investing time in my blog. As a web designer, I use it as my playground a little bit to try out things and redesign. I’m never happy but that’s a good thing as I keep evolving things.
Wannabe Hacks: Hacks has been put together largely out of favours and teaching ourselves new skills. We pay a small fee for hosting the site and our domain name, and we also paid for the site’s latest redesign to be done professionally.
Have editors contacted you directly after reading your blog?
fleet street fox: Yes. Hence the Mirror online column, Charlie Brooker, R4 appearances, etc.
Nialler9: Yes, that’s how I got involved with State and the Irish Independent. Writers are mad if they don’t have a blog to showcase their work.
Wannabe Hacks: Hacks is a public platform and not all of our opinions are well received. I’d warn people that if you’re going to write an anti-publication blog, someone will know, and you will have a black mark next to your name if you ever come to apply for work with that company.
On the flip side, Hacks is well read by industry professionals. We had a tweet from Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, thanking us for our coverage of the Guardian Open Weekend, for example. Hacks has been an integral part of the founding members’ successes in the industry and they have jobs at the Times, Daily Mail, HuffPo, and the Guardian. Personally, I’m still at university, so I’m not ready for a full time job, but Hacks has helped me get work experience, a paid internship with ITV over summer and the odd freelance gig when I have time.
What writing work have you received as a result of your blog?
fleet street fox: Ah well that would be telling – but as Foxy, the Mirror online column is the biggest hit so far. 15m extra readers a month can’t be bad.
Nialler9: See above. Pretty much any writing work I’ve done in the last four years came through the blog.
What other revenue streams have you been able to realise?
fleet street fox: I’ve done journalism lecturing, got one phone app out and another in development, some merchandise but most importantly got my book deal because publishers followed me on Twitter. Very useful shop window.
Nialler9: It would be great to be able to make a living off the blog but web ads are worth a tenth of offline ads and that sadly hasn’t changed. I would love to get rid of ads altogether but it helps me keep things going. I don’t have any other revenue streams apart from the advertising but the blog being the shop window it is has brought in other work which counts as revenue.
Wannabe Hacks: We have a couple of advertising contracts with leading journalism courses in the country, which help pay for our hosting and anything else we decide we want to do. We haven’t explored other revenue streams, but personally I think it could be possible to grow the site into a business over time. Ben, one of the founding Hacks, had planned to do this, but ran into problems with ownership (seeing as he could only lay claim to 1/5th of the site) and other complications.
Do you actively use the blog to market yourself and if so how do you reference it?
fleet street fox: Well, it’s all marketing. So I suppose yes. My identity is known to some and not to others, so the anonymity doesn’t appear to affect it.
Nialler9: Yes, I guess so. I’m a humble guy so I don’t like to shout about what I do too much but most people I meet in my sphere are aware of the blog which makes it easier.
Wannabe Hacks: I have mentioned that I write the Wannabe Hacks blog in the past: “I write a blog for a community of around 10K+ aspiring journalists. It’s called Wannabe Hacks.” The worst reaction is then: “Oh, which one are you, The Entrepreneur?” We’ve long since done away with the anonymous-style branding and routes, in the hope of avoiding this type of cringy situation.
Do you tailor content to suit particular pitches/ potential clients?
fleet street fox: Nope. I write about the main talking point of the day – as a journo though I’d be pretty stupid if I started laying into one particular editor or newspaper group. I’ve worked for most of them too, so it would be silly.
Wannabe Hacks: No, we write what we enjoy writing about. When the second generation of Wannabe Hacks took over, we tried to fit into our roles and follow closely in the footsteps of what our predecessors had done. This wasn’t the right thing to do. I now write far more about technology, startups, revenues and design than previously, and this caters for quite a niche market within our readership, but works well.
I think if you’re writing about stuff you like, then you write better and readers can tell you are more passionate and opinionated. That speaks more than tailoring content to catch someone’s attention.
What advice would you give to journalists looking to leverage content into paid work?
fleet street fox: Treat a blog as your shop window – if you send a CV they’ll google you and it’ll pop up. It’s a quicker and easier way for people to judge you than sitting reading your best pieces in a scrapbook. Don’t write what you wouldn’t want a boss to see, be polite, don’t swear too much.
Nialler9: Write with a unique voice about interesting things that no-one else is writing about. Become an expert in a field and get known for that, the work will come.
Wannabe Hacks: I don’t think there is a magic thing to do. Just throw yourself into a project and commit to it, as the original Hacks did. It worked out all right for them; if you start something from nothing and make it work people will be impressed.
Is there anything you would like to add?
fleet street fox: Think that’s probably it. Do what you love, keep doing it, eventually you’ll wear someone down enough to offer you what you want. Turning a blog into a job is a marathon, not a sprint.
Thanks again to fleet street fox (@fleetstreetfox), Nialler9 (@Nialler9) and Wannabe Hacks (@wannabehacks). If you found this useful (and don’t already) please take the time to read their blogs, follow them on Twitter and generally show your love, appreciated and support.
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