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Archive for the ‘Blogging advice’ Category

Feb trafficI must correct an error in a Jan. 31 blog post. After analyzing how I’d set a record for traffic on my blog in January, I closed by saying, “I think I can safely predict that I won’t be breaking this record in February.”

I was wrong. Even with three fewer days, I set another traffic record in February, passing the January figure of 35,739 late this afternoon. I’m at 35,851, with a good chance of passing 36K this evening. And no post that I published in February topped 500 views or made it into my top 10 most-viewed posts of the month. More than 90 percent of this record traffic came from my archives.  (more…)

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I had more views in January than I’ve ever had in a month on my blog. Sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday, I passed my record of 32,725 set in October 2012. Traffic this morning was at 34,815. I’ll certainly top 35,000 for the month, with a reasonable shot at 36K.

Update: With 1,116 views on Jan. 31 (my 16th day over 1,000 views in January), I ended January with 35,739 views, beating my old record by more than 3,000.

For a variety of reasons, my traffic in 2013 had dipped below 2012 levels, running 20,000 to 25,000 views most months. A post about Twitter and competition on Saturday, Jan. 4, started a surge in traffic like I hadn’t seen in over a year. Where weekend traffic usually runs a little over 500 views a day, I had 3,500 views that day and 2,000 that Sunday and then topped 2,000 again on Monday (weekday traffic normally runs a little under 1,000).

With that kind of start, a strong month was almost guaranteed. That post about Twitter and competition had 6,668 views in January. The only post to draw more traffic in a calendar month was my Dear Newsroom Curmudgeon … post in April of 2012, which topped 8,000 posts its first month.

A couple of follow-up posts on livetweeting and on how word of that competition post spread in social media added another 797 views combined.

A second factor in the strong January traffic was the growing popularity of a post from last summer, providing advice on what to do if you hit Twitter’s limit of 2,000 people that anyone can follow. Above that limit, you need to meet a certain ratio of followers to people you can follow.

This traffic is largely search-driven and resulted in 2,208 views in January. Traffic to that post has climbed every month since August, and it got twice as many views in January as it did in July, the month it was published. As I suggested in the post, Twitter should consider whether it needs to adjust that limit or provide a way for legitimate Twitter users to get exceptions. It’s not a good thing for a business when thousands of people are searching Google for help on dealing with a limitation of your product.

Those two Twitter posts (plus the follow-ups on the competition post) combined for nearly 10,000 views for the month, more than one-fourth of the blog’s traffic for the month. I need to remember that when Twitter questions arise, I should blog about them. I had been procrastinating for months about the post on the follower limit. (more…)

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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

A new editor is taking on a demanding job that doesn’t leave you much time. You probably will think you’re too busy for a blog. But editors should blog.

I fully understand thinking that you’re too busy to blog. I started a weekly column right away when I became editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 2008 (I had done the same thing as editor of the Minot Daily News in 1993 when blogging wasn’t an option). I meant to start the blog soon, but quickly got “too busy” and didn’t start blogging for six months. But when I made the time, my communication with staff, the public and the broader news business improved right away. A blog is worth the time. Editors should make time for it.

An editor with a blog comments on community issues, explains newsroom decisions to the community, publicly praises staff members who excel and sets an important example for the staff. Editors should make time to do all those things.

Blogging reinforces the culture of transparency that is important for you and your community. When the editor blogs, staff members who are “too busy” understand that this is a priority and that they should make time to blog as well. They understand that engaging with the community is important, that it should be part of what makes you busy, not part of what you’re too busy for. (more…)

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Even when you’re not first with the news, it’s important to be fast.

Wednesday night, ESPN broke the news that NASCAR racer Jeremy Clements had been suspended for using a racial slur in an interview. I’m not a NASCAR fan and this is the first time I have heard of Jeremy Clements. But Matt Myftiu of the Oakland Press has a NASCAR blog and he jumped on the news. Matt explains (edited from two emails, with me adding the links):

Last night there was some breaking NASCAR news and I posted a quick blog about it at my NASCAR: Beyond the Track blog.

Wasn’t even a big name involved, but the key fact here is that I posted my thoughts right away.   It only took me a few minutes to do this, and because it was breaking news many people who were searching for information on this breaking news ended up being directed toward my blog, as almost nobody had posted anything about it.

I’ve had more than 7,000 hits on that post, most of them coming from Web searches about the topic.   (more…)

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October traffic on my blog passed the record I set in April, totaling 32,725 views, more than 1,500 beyond the old record. I thought I’d share observations about what worked:

  • Make content timely and useful. Changes to the Facebook news-feed algorithm are a concern for journalists managing social media for news brands, as visibility and engagement have dropped. I developed a webinar and blog post on practices that were resulting in strong engagement on Digital First Media Facebook pages. The post generated more than 5,800 views, becoming my seventh-most-viewed blog post ever. Social media have always driven traffic for this blog, usually from Twitter and Facebook. This post also got a boost from Slideshare, where slides from the webinar have been viewed more than 22,000 times and were featured by Slideshare.
  • Post a lot. I posted 34 times in October. Lots of them didn’t get much traffic. But their accumulated traffic set the record. There’s no question in my experience that frequent posts boost traffic.
  • Ethics posts boost traffic. My second-most-read post of the month (and the one with by far the most comments, 77) suggested that journalists stop using the term “alleged victims.” The post was already generating some discussion when it was featured on the WordPress Freshly Pressed blog (it’s on the third page now). New posts about Bob Steele’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist, my suggestions for updating the Guiding Principles and the #PoynterEthics discussion about updating them (plus some archived ethics post) generated another 1,500+ views. (more…)

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I had an email exchange about the difference between a columnist and a blogger with Teresa Schmedding.

Teresa is Assistant Managing Editor-Content Systems for the Daily Herald in the Chicago area and president of the American Copy Editors Society. She sent me the following email (used here with her consent):

I’m having a conversation in my head about blogs v. columns.We’re getting ready to revamp our article page templates, pull our old blogs into our current CMS, which gives me an opportunity to re-train the staff on the purpose of a blog v. a column or an article. And, as I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking there really shouldn’t be much of a difference between a column and a blog. I started mapping out elements of a blog and here’s what I came up with:

Key elements of blogs: (more…)

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June’s traffic underscored a blogging lesson I learned a long time ago: You need to produce fresh content to keep people coming back.

Through the first 20 days of the month, I was on pace to approach or pass my all-time record of more than 31,000 views, set in April. I wrote only two more posts the rest of the month and didn’t quite reach 25,000 views. It was my fourth-best month ever, on the strength of the 15 posts I wrote in the first 19 days of the month.

At least that’s the way it looks according to my monthly stats from WordPress. However, something has happened to significantly boost the syndicated views on my blog. I don’t know whether I’ve had a huge boost in RSS syndication or if WordPress has done something to boost syndicated readership (I’ve checked in WordPress forums and haven’t seen an explanation). In a quirk of WordPress stats, figures for individual stories show syndicated views, but total monthly stats include only on-site views.

For instance, my best-read May post, about copy editing, has had 5,623 total views: 5,163 on-site and 460 by syndication. This was a fairly typical pattern for most of the time I’ve had this blog: several times’ more on-site views than syndicated views, with most of the syndicated views coming in the first four days and the first day’s syndicated views being the largest total. Which makes sense, with people reading my posts in their RSS readers soon after I post. (more…)

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Some quick observations reviewing May’s traffic on my blog:

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Discussion of curmudgeons and people struggling with changing newsroom cultures drove my blog to record traffic in April.

My previous record, from December 2011, was just shy of 25,000 page views, but last month I topped 31,000. In previous months when my traffic has been strong, I’ve tried to note the patterns or lessons I could learn from the success. The big drivers of this record were four posts relating to change in newsrooms:

  1. Dear newsroom curmudgeon set traffic records for a single post on my blog: the highest single-day total of page views and the most views in a week or a month. At nearly 8,500 views it is on the verge of becoming the most-read post I’ve ever written, less than a hundred views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, published three years ago. The C3 blueprint achieved its traffic by staying popular over time, getting 2,500 views in 2010 after more than 4,500 in 2009. And that was a proposal for a new business model for community news (though no one has actually implemented the model, it received a fair amount of attention). While the curmudgeon proposal was not as broadly useful, I believe it succeeded for at least two reasons: First, it connected with people — curmudgeons and reformers who are tired of curmudgeons — on an emotional level. Second, it offered advice; I wasn’t just scolding curmudgeons; I tried to understand some reasons for their resistance to change and I ended up offering advice. (more…)

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Since I blogged yesterday about metrics, and since Chris March mentioned my posts noting my monthly review of my blog metrics, I should review February quickly.

First, though, I should review January, which I didn’t do. After four straight months of record views on my blog, my traffic dropped by 35 percent in January, back lower than it was before the streak of records. I didn’t really need a sophisticated review of my metrics to know why: I didn’t blog as much in January. For much of February, I didn’t blog a lot either. I’ve been traveling and have a large backlog of blog ideas and haven’t posted as frequently as I’d like to.

But two strong posts still had my traffic at a pretty fair pace through the first three weeks of February. And it’s easy to see two lessons from them: (more…)

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A beat blog gives a newsroom a vehicle for providing in-depth coverage that the general-interest approach of a newspaper generally doesn’t allow.

I have decades of memories of arguments with editors (when I was a reporter) and with reporters (when I was an editor) about the reporters’ desire to tell stories in greater depth than the interest level of this mythical “typical” newspaper reader. A newspaper has finite space, and to tell the stories that serve this general-interest need of the masses, its reporters gather far more information that has appeal only in niches of people with keen interest in a particular topic.

Beat blogging is a way to serve that deeper level of interest, to use all the information a reporter gathers. It makes a newsroom’s content more valuable to the community, by serving the broad but shallow general interest and the narrow but deep niche interests.

I’ll be leading a workshop today for Digital First journalists in Connecticut on beat blogging. You can watch the livestream and ask questions on a live chat, starting at 3 p.m. Eastern time. You also can read about how the beat blog fits into the full work of a reporter in my earlier posts that addressed the work of reporters covering courts, sports, statehouses and other beats. Other helpful resources would be the BeatBlogging website (no longer active, but loaded with helpful advice and links), my Introduction to Reporting course for News University and my general blogging advice. I’m sure others have produced many other helpful resources. Please share some of those links in the comments.

I will try to compile a list of good current beat blogs, and I welcome your contributions to that list. Who are good reporters who blog regularly about their beats (don’t hesitate to suggest your own beat or someone on your staff)? But for now, I want to offer some basic advice for beat blogging. (more…)

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I will be leading a workshop at the Daily Local News of West Chester, Pa., this evening for local bloggers.

The workshop will be fairly short, then I’ll answer questions and we’ll socialize for a while. I will share with the bloggers some tips from these earlier posts:

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