Preparing to Launch a Blog
By Julie E. Dodd and Judy Robinson, University of Florida faculty members Published December 2009 in Quill & Scroll magazine
Read blogs to prepare to write your own blog
If your goal is to work in the media, you should have a blog.
By having a blog, you are developing and practicing skills that will help you be competitive for the limited number of positions in the traditional media and can enable you to be your own independent media producer.
Our column in this issue will discuss how to efficiently read several blogs using an aggregator. Our next column will talk about how to set up your own blog.
Before you have a blog you should be reading blogs. One of the best ways to improve your ability in any area – from writing news stories to playing a musical instrument – is both to practice and also to study people who are good in that area and analyze what they are doing that makes them successful. That’s true of blogging.
Pick a topic that you are interested in and then find blogs about that topic. Don’t just read one or two blogs, read 10 or 20 blogs about your topic. Did you know that successful bloggers often subscribe to 200 blogs? But start with 10 or so right now.
Subscribe to the blogs in an aggregator so that you can read several blogs in succession and see their content quickly. You won’t have to visit each blog page through your Web browser, and the content will come in though your aggregator whenever the blog is updated.
An aggregator is a fancy word for collector. An excellent, free blog collector is Google Reader. It has a mobile version to let you read on your phone if you have Internet connection. And if you use Firefox, there are extensions, like Read It Later (http://readitlaterlist.com/), that let you read postings when you’re not connected to the Internet.
To find blogs you are interested in, use a blog search engine like Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com). When you see a blog or a post that you like, click on it so the blog opens in your browser. Copy the URL and paste it in the “Add” button in Google Reader. Some blogs will let you subscribe to both the comments and the blog. Sometimes on a blog page you will see the RSS symbol. RSS means real simple syndication, and RSS means that you can “subscribe” for free to a blog. Whenever the blog is updated your subscription will let you see the newest post.
Select and subscribe to the blogs that are of most interest to you. Don’t think that because a hundred other bloggers are writing about your topic that you should select another topic. What you want to do is have your own take on the topic. As you read other blogs, you’ll see how often the posts refer to information from other sources – other blogs, YouTube videos, news stories, etc. – and how much is original material by the blogger.
As you read other blogs, see how other readers comment. What do you learn about those who write comments? How do their comments contribute to the discussion of that blog post? Try posting comments to some of the posts. Does the blogger respond to you or others who post? What kind of comments does the blogger make in return? How do those comments make you feel – and would the blogger’s comments make others feel? Do those comments promote discussion?
If the blogger posts his or her statistics, take a look at how many people visit and read the blog.
Analyze the blog. What makes it interesting – or not? Are photos or illustrations used? Do you like the way they are used? Is video or audio embedded in the blog? How often is video embedded? Does the blogger create his or her own video? How are links included in the blog?
By reading and analyzing blogs, you are preparing to start your own blog. And by posting comments on other blogs, you are starting to establish an online persona in the blogging community.