Mindy McAdams: Blogs are not the bastard child

Things have certainly changed for me. I am sitting at the Poynter in St Petersburg, Florida, listening to Mindy McAdams talk about blogging and I am blogging as she talks. (Ok. I stole the idea from Julie Dodd.) Mindy  really defined blogs in a new way for me.

Blogs are not columns. They are not analysis. They can be:

Background

Content analysis

Expertise

Personal voice

Interaction with audience

Narrow topic focus

Continuity

She showed us great blogs by Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor at NBC, who writes a Personal and Behind the Scenes blog. Why would a broadcaster blog? You have to have people looking at you everywhere you can get them! You don’t have to worry about someone scooping you if you talk about something that is going to happen in a few days. And Mindy says this theory just blows giant holes in anything she was taught in journalism school.

She gave us these guidelines for writing blogs:

Guidelines to blog writing

  1. Adjust your writing style
    1. Short posts are good
    2. Short paragraphs are good (easy to read)
      1. i.      No paragraph indents
      2. ii.      Every two paragraphs have a line between them
    3. Do not be “too” complete
      1. i.      If you sound like you have already included everything, you haven’t left any room for anyone else to share anything.
      2. ii.      A lot of blog posts only have one idea in them
    4. Do not write like you “know it all”
    5. Include readers—do not exclude them
      1. i.      Dan Gillmor (We the Media) “My readers know more than I do.”
    6. Find an appropriate tone
      1. i.      This may take a while
  2. Use links effectively
    1. Not too many links. Less is more.
      1. i.      The longer the blog post, the more links you might want to have. But don’t have a gazillion in a little post.  It’s too overwhelming. She showed us this Health Check blog that was about 10 lines long and had loads of links. Some were not giving the reader what they expected. Like if the link was “Reuters” it took the reader to the article. It should have taken them to Reuters home page. “Click here” is always a bad phrase because it doesn’t tell you what you are going to get.
    2. No obvious links
      1. i.      Avoid links to well-known Web sites
    3. No paid links
      1. i.       You will lose the readers’ trust
    4. Only links that have real value to readers
      1. i.       Increase your own credibility
    5. Link text needs to be clear, not confusing
  3. Manage comments intelligently (When Mindy does a workshop at a newspaper she spends a really long time talking about this.)
    1. You can delete ANY comment. It’s YOUR blog.
    2. Do not delete a comment only because it disagrees with what you wrote.
    3. Read comments often.
    4. Respond often.
    5. Do not respond to every comment.
  4. Decide on the best length and frequency of posts—suitable for your topic
    1. Too infrequent= no audience
    2. Too many posts? Too much efforts for the readers
      1. i.      Exceptions—crime blogs
      2. ii.      Breaking news blogs like floods and earthquakes
    3. If your blog is longer than 300 words, you need to enter a subhead every hundred words or so.
    4. Use Google analytics to see where and when your visits are coming from
      1. i.      Top traffic sources will tell you where they came from
      2. ii.      You can see if someone linked to your blog and people went there because of that

This has been really cool! I’ll try and blog our next session which is Sara Quinn and Regina McCombs from the Poynter talking about Curriculum Issues in the Age of the New Media.

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