If you’re starting a blog, keep these eight points in mind:
- Understand your community. No blog appeals to everyone. Identify the community for your blog and keep those people in mind when you gather content and develop new posts. (I deliberately used the word community rather than audience because the best blogs invite participation, rather than just reading and watching.)
- Think in terms of blog posts, not other types of writing. A news story or a newspaper column could be a blog post, but you don’t need to be limited by such formats. A blog post can be (and often should be) short. An interesting link that you wanted to share can be a blog post. Anything that might interest your community is a potential blog post.
- Writing structures can and should vary. Sometimes you might want to follow the classic “inverted pyramid” news format, placing your most important and interesting content at the top and following with information of diminishing importance. A brief of just a few paragraphs. You may want to make a list of related items into a blog post. You may curate a few related items from the web into a post. You write an introduction that ties them together, then a bullet summarizing each link, then possibly a wrapup. A blog post might be a simple introduction to a video embed, possibly followed by a question for discussion.
- Think about relevant visual content for your blog. Would a photo (even a mug shot), video, graphics, source document, graphic, map or embedded tweet enhance a blog post?
- Think about relevant audio content as well: videos, audio slideshows, audio clips.
- Link generously and relevantly. Links are good blogging on multiple levels: They provide attribution, context and authority. They help Google (and Google users) find your blog. Through pingbacks, they alert other bloggers that you are writing about a topic of interest (so they might link back to you).
- Make your blog conversational. Ask questions. Respond to comments, even if just to say thanks.
- Consider and understand the “voice” of your blog. Read your work aloud and listen to the voice. A blog can be newsy, but it doesn’t need to be the dry voice of most news writing. Roy Wenzl of the Wichita Eagle, one of journalism’s best narrative writers, presents this as an example of the standard news-writing voice:
John Goode is an aspiring musician who hopes to make it big someday, in spite of his origins in poverty.
He learned to play guitar while sitting beneath a tree in his native Louisiana. Train engineers, running freight on the tracks near New Orleans, recall seeing him sitting under the tree frequently, strumming chords. Local residents living nearby say that he can play the instrument unusually well.
They also say that the youth, who lives in a nearby log cabin, and is illiterate, is so poor that he carries the instrument in a sack.
One of the chief inspirations in his life is his mother, who has told him that his playing is so good that he will probably draw large audiences when he grows a little older. She has said she is sure the boy will see his name on nightclub marquees.
Contrast that with the voice Chuck Berry used in telling the same tale:
I compiled more blogging tips for a 2009 workshop and have posted other bits of blogging advice. Other videos I will use in presenting a workshop on blogging today to the CBC music staff (you may need to bring me in to your organization to repeat this workshop to see how they tie in, but they do):