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problogger

I honestly didn’t wake up a week ago and decide to take shots at my former business partner Darren Rowse: we can/ do disagree on a range of things (in a good way..indeed I valued him as a business partner way back then, working through different ideas is the BEST way to get the BEST out of your business ) but I have to take umbrage with another of his posts.

No offense (I know that’s cliched) but honestly Darren, none meant.

This post: How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog? and it’s recommendations are…well, let’s just say I disagree 😉

To tl;dr his post, Darren recommends that you have 3-5 posts published, 5-10 posts ready to publish and 20+ blog post ideas “brainstormed.”

Sorry, but seriously this is balls.

Here’s my comment on the post (with one typo fixed) and explanation to follow:

Sorry Darren to disagree again but 3-5 doesn’t go close.

But that given, depends on your launch strategy.

If you simply launch with no publicity, no contacting people, PR etc yeah 3-5 is all very well and good.

But lets pretend that you can actually get decent attention with your launch
I know you certainly could. People come in (in a spike, be it small/M/L) to check out your new site.

Do you really want to present them 3-5 posts or 20 or even 100 posts that highlight the full range of topics/ subtopics you want to cover?

The key with ANY good launch is like catching a fish: once you get them interested you want to hook them into reading the site. 3-5 posts doesn’t even come close. At a standard, depending on the site I’d say 10 but more 20+ posts, and depending on the topic possibly more.

Of note is that Gawker sites use to launch (out of private, ie non-Googlable) with often 100+ posts, that’s because when people come looking they want to cater for them with a variety of options.

You see a “launch” done right should ALWAYS involve more posts, end of story.

My analogy in that comment I will repeat again: it’s like catching a fish, once you get the fish (in this case your readers) interested you want to permanently hook them, and you need a variety of bait to do so.

Unless your blog is about Llama farming in far eastern Peru, or a similar extraordinarily niche topic, your bait (your content) has to be more than 3-5 posts when you launch, end of story.

A proper launch (and I note this in the comment above) should include publicity. That might be something as simple as emailing everyone you know, but it may include press releases, ad campaigns, and a full blown PR campaign.

If you do it properly it should result in some sort of surge of new readers (might be 100, might be 10,000… I’ve experienced both.) The key here is to turn those one off “I’ve read you’ve launched a site and am checking it out” readers into long term readers.

20 is a figure I’ve used, but even anything up to 100 helps. The key to ANY good launch is to get the new traffic to come back, and 3-5 posts isn’t a lot to offer. 20+ posts, particularly if your topic isn’t uber niche is the way to go: the theory is to offer content (bait) to as many people coming to your site as possible, and you can’t do that in 3-5 posts. 20+ posts you can.

Give your launch customers bait, give them a full range of content you intend to offer at launch that you expect to deliver full term. Given as many people as you can a reason to read your blog on a regular basis.

I mentioned in the comment at Problogger the way Gawker use to launch their sites: I don’t think an individual blogger should go that far, but likewise Nick Denton knows his stuff, and that’s why he launches blogs the way he does. You don’t have to believe me, but you can look at one of the best and see how the serious pros do it.

Darren Rowse at Problogger has a great post up today where he asked “10 Prolific Bloggers” to share advice on how they make their blogs more conversational, although the question sent via email read “How do you foster conversation on your blog?”

9 out 10 bloggers talked about tricks in posts, such as being controversial, asking questions at the end of posts, and engaging with readers in the comments.

1 blogger wrote about Disqus and FriendFeed, and the need to make commenting as easy as possible, and facilitating conversations where people want to have them.

If you guessed I was the odd one out, you’d be right 🙂

I don’t disagree with the other 9, and there’s some really good advice there for new and even experience bloggers, but I presumed most of what they say is a given. To my way of thinking, if you write good content, the comments will follow. But if you make commenting easier, and you facilitate it on sites such as FriendFeed (and you can import those comments in + allow users to post directly to FriendFeed from your site so it’s a WIN/ WIN), you increase the odds that people will comment and participate, and with both, you increase the chances that comments turn into long and interesting conversations.

Or maybe I’m just wired differently 🙂

The Tyranny of Numbers

September 15, 2008 — 8 Comments

Why is it, in 2008, that blogs in Australia are still not considered mainstream by many, still derided by the media and rarely breaking big news, unlike blogs in the United States, where blogging is mainstream, blogs are often the first port of call for breaking and big news, and where the line between blogging and the media has become so blurred that it’s difficult at the top to tell them apart?

We know that there has never been a break out blog in Australia that targets Australian news. We have great bloggers in many fields, and are strongly represented in the blogosphere, perhaps statistically more so than our population would dictate, and yet our blogging success stories tend to be global stories. Your Darren Rowse or your Yaro Staracks, even the likes of Tim Blair, News Corp deal aside, relied on an American audience more than an Australian one. There are prominent bloggers in Australia who do write for an Australian audience and I don’t seek to belittle what they do, but where’s our Andrew Sullivan, our Drudge or Daily Kos. Why don’t we see our own version of Michelle Malkin on TV, or a Robert Scoble turn up to the opening of an envelope?

There are several schools of thought. That we are behind the United States is a given, and I’ve usually put the figure at 5 years. The blogosphere here feels like the blogosphere in the US in around 2003, prior to the 2004 Presidential election where blogging came of age. There’s the psychological argument that Australian’s aren’t as open as our American friends, that we are more reserved and less likely to publish what we think at will that has stifled our progress. There is a good case against heritage media, who takes nearly every opportunity to bag blogs and blogging, fearful of competition as their glory days pass and the end of their business models are nigh. But there’s one factor we can’t change, one factor that continues to stifle local growth in blogging, and that is numbers.

Numbers dictate that there is not a big enough audience in Australia to sustain mass locally focused and profitable blogging.

It’s why I’ve never launched an Australian focused blog. Some people were suggesting to me last year that there needs to be a TechCrunch for Australia. My response was that there’s not a big enough audience here to sustain such a site. I’ve looked in past years at other vertical spaces, and I keep finding the same problem: great idea, audience is too small.

The reality is that for most wanting to make blogging a full time living in Australia, they have to target an overseas audience.

There are some exceptions. There’s the Auto blog guy who is suppose to be turning 6 figures on a car blog on a .com.au address. I’d bet though that most of his traffic wasn’t Australian. There’s people like Bronwen Clune and Paul Montgomery, who have turned their blogging come tech plays into reasonable money earners, through a combination of tapping into some premium advertising and working in desirable niche spaces. Allure Media’s Gawker titles are going ok the last I heard, but they had a couple of advantages: a pile of money to hire journalists up front, and a redirect deal with Nick Denton that saw Australian traffic hitting the US sites ending up on the Australian sites. Crikey is going where no Australian blogging network has gone before, buying in some great talent and traffic to give them a solid start out of the gate.

But that’s pretty close to it. I may have missed a few, so apologies if I’ve missed you (and please don’t be offended) but I can say with clear certainty that at most I’ve missed is less than I can count fingers on my hands.

No amount of spin changes the fact that we have a small market with limited opportunities. I don’t believe that this means that some won’t make it, nor do I believe that it would be impossible to build a blog today and score the breakthrough we collectively need, but it is that much harder for us all. We’re better of respecting that the tyranny of numbers works against us, and being more creative in response.

When I met Chris Pirillo for the first time at Gnomedex, I apologized for not getting down on my knees and doing the hero worshiping thing, because (as I told him) I both suck at it and I’m not the least bit interested in doing so. The context of the comment was meant to be humorous, but the content itself was accurate: I don’t do hero worshiping, and I’m bad at pretending to.

Now Chris Pirillo perhaps deserves some hero worshiping, if only for remaining a down to earth, normal guy who finds it hard to go to the shitter without 2000 people asking for details on his live stream (he also runs a kickass conference). But many others don’t deserve it. In overcoming heritage media, and falsely constructed ideals of celebrity delivered to us by marketing machines, we have only created new heroes, instead of abandoning the idea altogether.

It doesn’t sit well with me. Both that collectively we blindly hero worship the flawed, or even that some should seek to place me on a similar pedestal.

I’ve written previously that I don’t do “celebrity pictures,” or as a so nicely put it, I’m not a camera whore. I’ve met many “famous” people along my path to the point in time. When I worked at the WACA I’d met or spoken to, briefly or sometimes longer, most of the Australian Cricket Team, many who wanted tickets to the members and were told to come and see me. In my years in politics, I’ve pissed next to the then Prime Minister, watched at close quarters the then Treasurer get so ratfaced he couldn’t deliver his speech without slurring his words. I’ve shaken hands at one stage or another with most of the Cabinet, and I’d even fought over policy at conferences with guys who went on to become senior ministers. I’ve sat in a car, drunk with, or emailed a good portion of the past Liberal leaders in Western Australia. Can I say though, for all this name dropping, I wasn’t on a first name basis with most of these people, where as she who must be obeyed was on the politics side.

In tech, I’ve flirted around the edges of the fame game, having shook hands with guys like Kevin Rose and Mark Zuckerberg, and probably a whole pile of other people as well.

Guess what: sorry to be crude, but I just don’t give a shit about having met them.

They are all people, flawed people who through a combination of skill, luck and often ruthlessness and pure personal drive, have succeeded.

At some stages in the past, I’ve been called an “A-List” blogger, although this has tended to be seasonal, given that I was on the B-List for a long time. It wasn’t enough for me to get a speaking gig at the Blog World Expo, so it may not count for much 🙂 But more seriously, there is little difference between me and most bloggers. Where I am today has as much to do with luck, beer, and pure stupidity as it does with skill. Lets see: I was indecisive about what to blog about in 2002, so I decided to blog about blogging before anyone else was, and it just happened to be the right place, right time. On a whim, I sent out an email that ended up resulting in b5media. I was on a non-compete and had no idea what I was going to do next when Arrington emailed me, probably because after the Natalia Del Conte thing, no one in their right minds would have worked at TechCrunch at that time. I could have stayed at TechCrunch (before things turned sour, which was 1 month after I left..before then I was always a loyal and dutiful 110% team member), and asked Arrington for more money, or better still, some equity in TechCrunch that he boasted in the press that everyone who worked for him got, but was never extended to me. I’m sure she who must be obeyed would have preferred that I would have done that, but instead, I picked a completely unproven mix on a blog, with a smallish budget, and hoped for the best, when I could have picked any specific vertical and would have probably been delivering 3x as many page views today (indeed more if I’d gone into celeb blogging f/t).

I am completely and utterly insane, with some serious luck thrown in for measure.

I’d lie that there weren’t times where I have found the attention flattering, and that there have been some great times along the way. And yet I’m really not any different to most people I meet.

I laugh sometimes when people meet me in person and say things along the lines of “I didn’t know what you’d be like in person, but you’re really not that bad/ ok.” I shouldn’t laugh, it scares me that people could think that.

And yet, sometimes leading has a positive side. In my Blog Herald days, my best moments were when people emailed me and said that I’d inspired them to start blogging. I have no idea how many people that holds true for, but even if it was 5 people, that’s 5 people I gave the gift of blogging to. I take great joy today when people say that they’ve tried Disqus because I’m using them, and that they’re seeing more comments on their blogs, or to the companies I wrote about at TechCrunch, who used my post as a springboard to greater things. I feel a need to inject realism into debates, pointing out to many in the echochamber that there is a world outside Web 2.0…whether they take it onboard is another thing. I’ve done a dozen speaking gigs or more in the last 2 years, where I’ve tried to share the gift of social media to others, and afterwards people have come up and said that hearing me speak has inspired them to try. That’s the good side of attention.

Perhaps we do need leaders, heroes, champions. But there is a line, one between respect/ inspiration and false idolatry. I’m never going to handle fame, on any extent well, but god help me if it ever goes to me head. If there is one message I can deliver: you can do it to. I’m proof positive that it can be done 🙂