Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not all blogs are created equally

At least from my experience.

The basic set-up for a blog is simple enough. We coughed this one out during class in a matter of minutes. However, establishing a powerhouse blog that people return to everyday for whatever it is you're blabbering about has become somewhat of a rare art form. Sure, there are tons of popular blogs and bloggers out there, but the ratio between them and the regular blog that gets that solitary impression everyday (possibly from the creator himself) puts the Perez Hiltons and Michelle Malkins in a fairly elite group.

I feel like I'm a fairly intelligent and interesting person who could possibly write a couple of articles a day and hopefully monetize it, so once upon a time, I decided to give it a go.

The first big decision was what I would write about. Do I write about celebrity gossip like Perez? Well I don't exactly have great sources other than... well... Perez Hilton and TMZ.

Should I do political commentary like Malkin? No, that wouldn't work either. Again, my sources are limited, and while free speech is a basic right, the idea of a "citizen journalist" sends chills up and down my spine particularly because they wouldn't be held accountable for what they say, unlike actual trained journalists. While the practices of the current crop of journalists is fairly questionable, at least they can be held accountable. Plus, real journalists have the sources, networks, and access to information that bloggers can never get... unless they become actual journalists... but I digress.

So politics is out. How about sexy girls? I'm sure that would be a hit. Sure, but I'd have to invest money to get copyrights to images... it's a whole process... not worth it... not my style... silly idea.

Food/travel/culture blog? I'm not a chef although I do cook, my travels consist of day-long flights between JFK and Albuquerque Sunport, and I'm not exactly a film expert. I like music and TV, but I don't feel like I'm in any authority outside of my circle of friends and The Ram to topple the Roger Eberts.

Sports! I love sports. Football, in particular - the European version - is a topic I am incredibly passionate about. But again, what gives me the right to be the go-to person for Liverpool fans? I live across the pond and I've never been to Anfield, Liverpool, or England for that matter.

Then this happened:

John W. Henry, Liverpool FC owner posted that on Twitter. An open challenge to Liverpool supporters everywhere to aggregate and grab statistics (what he's known for with the Red Sox) from the numerous publications who post rumors about the club.

This was my shot.

I retweeted, accepted the challenge, and my journey to blog fame began. He posted that at around 8 PM, and I had "Red Rumours LFC" live by 10 PM. I created a Twitter page, and announced the arrival of "Liverpool's Media Watchdog." The concept was simple enough. I had an algorithm and everything. Just copy all the rumors I find on the internet, plug them into Excel, and at the end of the year, get percentages. Good to go.

By midnight, my email inbox began exploding. My personal Twitter account went from about 7 followers to about 50. The blog's Twitter had over 500 followers within the first 30 minutes. By midnight, I had a team of over 14 people worldwide who volunteered to help out. We had geographic zones, departments, and everything. We were on our way to becoming a blogging giant!

And then this happened:

John W. Henry retweeted my blog for what was one of possibly the quickest promotions I've ever seen in my life. This was at around 3 AM ET. My shot-in-the-dark ambition was manifesting before my eyes. I got the seal of approval from the guy who owns the freaking team.

By 4 AM ET, around 9 AM in England, the Twitter account had well over 5,000 followers. No turning back now. My team got to work. Everyday, we'd post rumors, who said them, etc. Turns out it's difficult to manage a global team of people you don't know and can only chase via email.

By Christmas, the blog was all but dead. I was down to 4 staff members plus myself. The amount of articles being published was in the thousands, and we couldn't keep up. We have put the blog on hiatus since, we've missed the last transfer window, and we've faded into obscurity. We're working on addressing many flaws we've made from the choice of using Blogger instead of Wordpress, to the day-to-day collection of data, to RSS/Atom promotion, Pings, etc. We're planning a relaunch in the summer, but that's wishful thinking if we get it back up and running at all.

Moral of the story is that while it is easy to start a blog, it is definitely tough work to get it at a level that would meet demand. We were getting about 9,000 impressions a day, and several hundred emails, and we were swamped. We lacked the resources to even just keep up with tabloid rumors, let alone independent websites, fanzines, and other blogs.

The experience allowed me to respect the process of blogging, and big kudos to those who have found success. It's a tough thing to do, but I'm definitely still going to try and get my own blog out there. It's just a matter of really putting in a good strategy, time, and a ton of effort to making sure every detail is executed properly.


  1. That's an incredible opportunity! It's unfortunate that you had to be half way around the world, in a different time zone, and didn't know the actual players to keep the blog going. At least, you have a story to tell people based on your own experience.

  2. wow, what a great story, thanks for sharing it! And it illustrates a basic point about how many achieve success in blogging: find a community to serve, and use your blog to serve it!