Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Virtual Blogging Conference – Day One – “Being Practical”

I was reading some of tweets from a recent blogging conference, and the tidbits of expertise sounded pretty trite.

“Find your tribe.”

“Comment freely.”

“Give to the community and the community gives back.”

C’mon, we all know that shit already. I knew that stuff when I was blogging for one week.

I remember during BlogHer, when Amy and I were doing our storytelling session, a new blogger stood up, asking an earnest question. After hearing the two of us talk for a while, she wanted to know if she was “writing her blog wrong.” This freaked me out, because I had just spent the last fifteen minutes “explaining” the rules of good storytelling, and I suddenly realized that this woman had actually LISTENED to what we were saying and was taking it seriously, as if we actually knew the definitive answer to the question, “What makes a good story?” I found myself getting pissed off at this woman. Couldn’t she see that Amy and I were nice people, but ultimately frauds?

“Don’t listen to what we are saying,” I told her. “If you follow what we tell you, you will write a crappy blog. You need to listen, understand it, and then say, “F*ck you, I’m doing it my way.” Then, you will have a good blog.”

Of course, I didn’t really believe that either. So much for being a good teacher.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about the practical aspects of writing online rather than artistic ones. Let’s face it. Having a personal blog just doesn’t bring in the chicks as much as it used to. I met these bloggers last week, and there was little interest in personal blogging. Most of the talk was about book deals, blogging conferences, blogging summits, marketing opportunities, and staffs of writers on blogging magazines. Half of my blogging friends have moved away from their personal blogs to primarily write elsewhere. They are smart. Everyone needs money to live, including bloggers.

I have no complaints. Blogging has been good for me. I like my personal blog. But for many of us, especially if you have some ambition, it is not enough. Most of my writing for pay has nothing to do with blogging, so it has been a vanity publication for myself. Am I the only one who is noticing a growing lack of respect for the old-fashioned “blogging for self-therapy?” Even mothers, who used to say they blogged for “community,” now say they are in it for commerce. A mompreneur is cool. Blogging because you are lonely at home is kinda pathetic. Male bloggers have the most pressure. What male blogger hasn’t been asked by his buddies —

“So, dude, how much do you make on your blog?”

“Uh, nothing.”

“So, why are you doing it?”

“It is a creative outlet.”

“Man, if I had all that free time, I would at least be watching porn and jerking off!”

“I don’t really consider writing my blog as “jerking off.”

“I see. What you are saying is “Blogging” IS a code word for jerking off. I knew it! That’s cool that you can be home and jerk off. You had me there for a second with that blog writing shit. No real man is gonna be working for no money unless he lost his dick down the drain.”

++++

Today, I will be running a Virtual Blogging Conference on this blog. There will be only one person attending this conference. His name is Mike.

Here is Mike.

mike

YOU — all of you who have come to this post — have been hired as speakers at the conference. There will be no pay, but free virtual potato chips will be available in the lobby.

Today’s session is titled “Being Practical.”

Our job is to help Mike.

Mike just started blogging last week. He is a nice guy. He has a funny and likable writing style. He lives in Tulsa. He writes about his wife and his dog. Sometimes he writes about the funny things that happen at his office, where he is a graphic designer.

As a blogger, he has a goal. Within one year, he wants to have an extremely popular blog, make at least 500 dollars a month in ad revenue, win a blogging award, be written about in the New York Times, have an article published in the Huffington Post, be a keynote speaker at BlogHer, have a book deal with Random House, get a free trip to Disney World to blog about my experience, be followed by big-shot tech blogger Robert Scoble on Twitter, and gotten drunk with the Bloggess and French-kissed her at a Christmas party.

You may not care about any of these things. But Mike does. And he has paid good money to come to this conference. Our job is to figure out the best way to help him accomplish his simple goal. Seriously. In the comments.

29 Comments

  1. Hmm..Not sure what to tell our friend Mike. I’ve been blogging for 6 years and I have yet to make any money or achieve any fame from my blog. And yet I continue, and it continues to bring me fulfillment and satisfaction. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say? If you build it, they will come.

  2. I don’t think Dooce herself has french-kissed The Bloggess. There are goals, man, and there are dreams.

    I totally opened a bottle of Tylenol or something for her though. And a soda. That’s pretty much a wedding ceremony in blog land. My secret? Being the only person around when she went to the drug store.

    I have such wisdom.

  3. I know I can think of some practical things he can do. So far, no one has thought hard enough.

  4. He needs a simple but well designed blog that’s easy on the eyes. Seems guys always go for the white text against the black background. Mistake. There. I made one practical [probably too obvious] suggestion.

  5. thanks, chris. that was practical.

  6. I am the last person who should be advising Mike, but maybe he can learn about my experience. Mike, don’t talk too much about your ovaries.

  7. Mike, my husband sees my blog as pointless jerking off. He would LOVE it if my blog made money.

    #1. To have ad revenue, you need to have ads on your blog.

  8. You don’t want me as a speaker. I’m looking around at these new bloggers who seem to come out of nowhere, don’t really have any depth and yet are the new “mommy” superstars.

    I keep wondering what joke I’m missing.

    And then I remember that blogging is never going to pay better than my day job, so blogging will always just be a hobby.

  9. On being practical,
    by someone with no qualifications.

    1. Don’t jerk off while blogging. It’s very difficult to clean in between that alphabet thingy on your keyboard.

    2. Work out your demographic.

    3. Set up a twitter account to help find like minded people (other bloggers and your demographic) and start networking and learning.

    4. Ohhhh don’t bitch about your wife or your job on your blog. You may find yourself without a regular income and in the kennel with your dog (where I’ve heard there is really bad wi fi reception.)

    5. I agree with the white text on black writing. It makes my eyeballs bleed.

    6. Make sure links on your blog open up in a new page Neil, er I mean Mike, so your reader can get back to you easily (don’t worry about that extra hit you get otherwise…it’s only a phony stat anyway.)

    7. I’m not sure red is your colour.
    But you do have a nice, friendly looking face. Work it baby, work it.

    8. You could also grow boobs, dress your dog in weirdass clothes and complain ALOT about your whipper snipper. I’ve heard that works too.

    good luck!

  10. No real advice other to have fun and don’t feel pressured by how other more successful bloggers are doing. Do your own thing in your own time.

    I blog because that way the wife can sit at her computer and look over and keep an eye on me. Make sure I am not up to no good.

    Mmm maybe I can write a blog reviewing porn, wonder if she’ll let that fly?

  11. neil,

    writing every day has fucked with your mojo.

    there are plenty out there still doing it well and gracefully w/out $$ signs.

    you were right at blogher.

    don’t forget that!!

  12. His goals are too lofty to be accomplished in 1 year. Not practical. I would tell him that nicely.

    Then, I would tell him he must be naturally talented at writing. This is a hard thing to say, or even self-evaluate, but it is true. Dog as subject? You have to be really talented to pull that off time and again. Maybe take a class on creative writing.

    If all of this is too involved, then maybe he should re-evaluate his original “goal(s).”

  13. Seriously? His goals were all attainable and reasonable until he ended with:

    “…and gotten drunk with the Bloggess and French-kissed her at a Christmas party.”

    I think he’s more realistic to hope for a quick feel while passing her in the hallway at the next BlogHer conference.

    Seriously in all honesty. If I knew how to reach his goals… well, I’d have already reached his goals.

    All of it, I think, begins with massive self promotion, until that snowballs into word of mouth from other bloggers. Now the trick is finding the right audience and creating fun, original content.

    I’m still looking to crack into the correct audience. Until that time I shall remain a pessimistic superstar in my own home.

  14. Move to LA and follow drunk socialites and actresses around in the hopes that you can get a crotch shot of one of them. Blog daily about your efforts.

  15. I started blogging in 2005. A friend and work colleague who is a Web developer and graphic designer was inspired by my blog and “looked into blogging.” While I’ve been carefully crafting posts and attracting a small but loyal audience of smart and thoughtful people who are into the writing, she has been launching Web sites and making enough money to support herself. She has not lost sleep over her blog relationships or agonized over the quality and frequency of her writing or its meaning. She is not interested in book deals or speaking tours.

    I’ve honestly lost track of how many blogs she has now. Each has a target audience. She has blogs on family health, dolls, girls sports, snacks, Web tech, parties, social media, and other topics. All are advertising supported, many by major corporations. She does the design and programming, the marketing, and the writing. Short posts, mostly practical information.

    She does not blog about her life or write poetry. She doesn’t post artwork or write about the creative process. She doesn’t try to be entertaining or heartfelt or original or create some sparkling online personality. She just consistently produces posts, seeks sponsors, uses ad networks, maximizes every tool for the back side of her blog, and always has a marketing strategy. She attends conferences on blog business–not meetups better known for swag, squealing, and heavy drinking. Once a week she hosts a conference call with like-minded (but non-affiliated) bloggers and they brainstorm ideas and solve problems they’re facing.

    She is not “famous,” she is not making writing history, she is making a living. And here I am four years later making long winded commments addressed to imaginary people. *Sigh*

  16. V-GRRRL this is discouraging to hear. At this point I wouldn’t mind having both worlds — my current blog and then the kind of meat and potato blogs your friend has. Any chance of, uh, finding out who this chick is?

    Oh yeah. Sorry Neil — how ya doin’?

  17. I think he’s being a little lofty, but hey, shoot for the moon, hit the stars right? (actually that analogy is backward, but whatev)

    First of all, he needs a demographic. You can’t reach the Bloggess and a tech blogger unless you find something both care about. His wife and dog might not be it.

    Ad advertising, join an ad network, don’t just use Google.

    Don’t annoy your readers with ads either.

  18. The wife and dog aren’t enough blog fodder if he plans to post every day. He’d better start making babies.

  19. Mike, get the hell out of Tulsa, there is nothing worthwhile to blog about in Tulsa. I know because I used to live there and guess why I left? BECAUSE there is nothing worthwhile to blog about in Tulsa.

  20. Mike, I admire your ambition. If you want your blog to be a business, treat it like one. Make formal policies and guidlines, but don’t lose yourself in the process. Good writing is key.

  21. You’re right that blogging has changed in the big picture (the book deals, the big money sites, etc.), but I think there still remains a (microcosm?) that blogs for the same reasons we (I) always have and will probably still be here doing the same old things years down the road when nobody’s really blogging anymore, if it ever comes to that. Obviously I’ve never really had any ambition to do anything more with my blogging than I already have. Maybe that’s a mistake, but for me personally, all that other stuff is not what it’s for. I write because I can’t NOT write. I may leave it for two years or two months (and have) but I always come back. If someone reads it, great. If no one does, fine too. My blog’s been there for 13 years, it’ll probably still be there 13 years from now and I probably still won’t have tried to “take it to the next level”, and I think that’s okay.

    I think those that want to do more with their blogs is okay too, but I am endlessly somewhat bemused by some of it. I can’t decide whether some of the changes I’ve seen in the last several years are really progressive or not.

    I think there’s certainly room for everyone, and every blogger has a potential new audience out there, but when it comes down to it, the blogs I read relatively regularly are the same ones I’ve been reading for years. Every once in a while I’ll add a new one to the reading mix – usually on the recommendation of another blogger I’ve been reading for ages – but most of the time it’s not someone who’s “blogging for profit”. If I like someone’s writing, I stick around.

    I blog because it’s what I’ve always done (more or less) – it’s not even really a creative outlet per se, I just do it. I think most of the longtime and financially successful bloggers started out the same way and wound up successful almost by accident. There’s so much emphasis now on new bloggers pushing for huge audiences and profits, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. It seems to have diluted the blogosphere as a whole, if that makes sense?

    I dunno, I just know I only have so many hours (or minutes) in a day I can read blogs – a fair amount, since I don’t have TV and read blogs over dinner instead of watching TV, and things like that – but because of that, most of the blogs I read regularly are the same ones I’ve always read, and only maybe four or five of those are the kind of blogs people are making a living on. The rest I read because the people that write them like to write, whatever their reasons.

    So I don’t really have any advice for Mike. Maybe I’m just an old stick in the mud, but even with not having had a regular paycheck for over a year, the prospect of monetizing or tweaking my blog for profit has never interested me. For me, it’s just a place to write when I feel like it. I enjoy the sense of community within the local-ish community in which it’s evolved and branched out a little more over the last several years, but that’s about where it stops for me. Like I said, it’ll probably still be there 13 years from now and not very different from what it is now, and what it has been.

    I certainly wish anyone with bigger ambitions the best of luck and think it’s probably still possible, though in this day and age when blogging as it is seems a bit diluted and maybe even a little overdone, those with more ambition are going to have to work harder to get a slice of the bigger pie, and I think that’s only going to become more and more true.

    Well, I can think of two big major things – Twitter and YouTube. Both are where it’s at right now (in all kinds of areas) and Twitter is pretty much the best word of mouth ever. YouTube’s not for everyone, but if you can do that along with regular Tweeting and keeping a regularly updated blog, even someone with minimal writing skills would probably still see a moderate amount of success (sad to say, but true).

  22. Best practical advice I’ve found on blogging? Here: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/penelopes-guide-to-blogging/

    Best tip I got? Comment on other people’s blogs that you’re interested in so they’ll know you.

    Mike won’t make money if his goal is to make money from his blog. It’s a long and frustrating road. He has to trick his subconscious and make it a side goal. Damn subconscious. Then he might succeed.

  23. In the ideal blogging world, advertisers would be flocking to advertise on our sidebars. In reality, you will get plenty of offers for free crap if you talk about their products, but to be paid just for blogging about your personal business, I have a feeling those days are over. Not to put a damper on things.

    Mike is hot though, so maybe he can put a lot of personal photos on his site.

  24. GAH!! I’d better clarify that my last sentence was a joke and I did not mean “personal” personal pictures.

    And I am seriously not that shallow 😀

  25. Dear Mike,

    I wish you the best of luck. I am a happy mommy blogger who actually makes zero revenue from her blog, and I have been blogging for almost 3 years. The reason I’m not making money is because:

    a. I suck at blogging,
    b. I don’t know how to promote myself,
    c. I’m dumb,
    d. I couldn’t care less.

    Ah, I don’t know. It would be nice to make money from blogging, because I am passionate about it, because I love to write, and because I love nothing more than being a mom. But, it’s about as easy to make money from blogging as it to be the anchor for the 6 o’clock news.

    Now, if you could all put your heads together to figure out a way for me to get sponsored to go to BlogHer next year, I’d be forever grateful and then some. See, my dad doesn’t get why I blog, and when I told him I wanted to go to a conference in NYC next year, he looked at me as if I was crazy. I told him it’s like work. THEN when he found out I wouldn’t be making any money, he said he’d allow me to go IF I’d make SOME money or something from it. Don’t worry, he’s super nice and loving and he takes the best care of my children, but he is Greek, and, well, I’ll always be his baby girl. Oh, Mike, sorry, I have gone on and on and I am only talking about myself here. Okay, so hey – if you figure out the magic formula to making money from your blog, let me know!

    P.S. I love real blogs that blog about everyday things, and people who blog from their heart and love doing it JUST BECAUSE. It’s an awesome hobby, I think. At least for me it is. Although, yeah, if you threw money at me, I’d accept it.

    Sincerely,

    Loukia, a mommy blogger

  26. OH, and Vicki? I agree with you. Receiving comments is like receiving birthday presents. Every single comment I get makes me smile and make me happy. So, yes, Mike, don’t forget to comment on other blogs you like!

  27. AND one more thing… remember Karyn, the girl who started a website because she was 10,000 dollars in debt? And she asked everone for 1 dollar and in a short period of time, her debt was paid off, and then she was on all the talk shows and then she got a book deal and a movie deal and now she’s really really rich? So, see, good things CAN happen! 🙂

  28. So what’s up for day 2, Neil?

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