Blogging Tips from a Budding Blogger

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

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A chart showing how many people have read my blog throughout the past month. Readership spiked significantly after I did some live blogging at the Nieman narrative journalism conference. This was in large part because my blog was linked to on Poynter Online.

I’ve caught the blogging bug. This month, I live blogged at a conference for the first time and I created a new diversity blog for Poynter Online called Diversity at Work. Based on what I’ve learned about blogging since I started Word on the Street last July, I decided to teach some people at work how to blog.

Starting with the basics, I put together a handout, which I’ve copied and pasted below. I hope you’ll share your ideas/add to what I’ve written.

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Blog: (Web log = blog)

Free blogging software:
WordPress
Blogger
Blogsome

Paid blogging software:
MoveableType and TypePad

Some benefits of blogging:
You learn how to write concisely.
You learn how to fine tune your writing
You learn how to write for an audience.
You learn how to engage in a conversation with readers through the comments section of your blog
You learn how to think visually – What photos can you take to go along with your blog? Is there a quick video you can create to better demonstrate/show what you are writing about

Ways to promote your blog:

–Think about search engine optimization (SEO). In other words, think about how you can optimize the chance of your blog appearing in people’s searches online. When blogging about Elie Wiesel’s talk at Eckerd College, for example, I could have written “Highlights from Wiesel’s talk” as my lead, but I wanted people to find my blog, so I included the keywords “Eckerd,” “Talk,” and “Elie Wiesel” in my headline: “Elie Wiesel: Highlights from His Talk at Eckerd.”

–Use social networking sites to alert people as to when you’ve written a new blog post. I have my WordPress blog fed to my Facebook page (Click here for more information about this.) Every time I publish a new post, it gets uploaded to my Facebook page and appears in my friends’ newsfeeds so that others can read it. If I have a post that I especially like, I also post a link to it on my Twitter page.

–Comment on other people’s blogs. Often, you can leave a link to your own blog, which can help you expand your readership.

–Blog during conferences and let others around you know that you’re blogging. Share with them the URL of your blog. I blogged during the Nieman narrative conference last week and was surprised to see how many people asked me what I was doing as I typed away on my computer. People were interested in reading my blog and wanted to know what the experience of live blogging was like.

–Don’t let your blog die. So many people start blogs, write a couple posts, and then neglect them. I call it “the case of the dying blog.” Set reasonable goals for yourself. I try to write three to four posts per week. Even if I don’t have a huge readership, I want to provide fresh content for the people who do read my blog.

Cautions to take when blogging:
Remember that whatever you put on your blog is searchable in search engines. If you are a journalist, you want to be careful not to write anything that could be considered biased or overly opinionated. I often go by New York Times reporter Jenny 8. Lee’s advice: Don’t write something that you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting under your own byline

Searching blogs:
Technorati and Google’s blog search

Blogs I like:
Mom in the Mirror – Julie Moos’ blog

Immigration Chronicles – Houston Chronicle’s immigration blog

The Double Breasted Dust Jacket — a blog about books

Buzzmachine – Jeff Jarvis’ interactive journalism blog

Pressthink – Jay Rosen’s blog

For additional resources about setting up a blog, read Steve Outing’s Poynter Online article, “What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers” and “What Bloggers Can Learn from Journalists.”

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