Thursday, February 26, 2009

Freelance tips from a freelance pro

Freelancer Michelle Goodman is coming to the Seattle PI tomorrow to teach a session on freelancing to the PI staff. Here's her resource/link guide:

Michelle's excellent Blog:

Michelle's excellent book on freelancing book: My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire

Mark Matassa's review: ""My So-Called Freelance Life" offers as many laughs as great tips for those just starting or returning to a freelance career. This is a practical, useful, real-life guide to a real life outside the cubicle. Highly recommended!"

Follow Michelle on Twitter

Articles/blog posts of mine that may be of interest:

The Accidental Freelancer's Survival Kit

When to Work for Nothing

Recession Tips for Freelancers

A Luddite's Guide to Linked In

Freelance Tax Tips
[Note: I'm not an accountant; this advice is just a
jumping off point. I encourage all freelancers to hire an accountant who
works with freelancers.]

Using a Blog to Build a Book Platform

To Blog or to Pitch?

Freelance media leads/news/tips:
- Classes, news, how-to articles, blogs, forums, and
everything else you could want to know about the media (+ for $50/yr or so
you get access to subscription content, which includes their helpful How to
Pitch guides - for pitching web and print publications). - This is a $100/yr leads list, but it's been
around for years and people I'd vouch for swear it's great. Not a reprint of
those scammy work-from-home Google ads. Known for great finds like $1/word
trade magazines. You can get a sample subscription for a week before you
sign up. Also people who use this service also rave about the site's forums.
(I plan to sign up in April or May when a big gig of mine ends.)

Great (free) discussion lists (for tips, networking, and the occasional job
(job leads for all freelancers) (national networking list; mostly
seasoned editorial workers... if you sign up for one list, sign up for this
one!) (Seattle tech workers talking about job
market, job hunting, technology...) (networking with local writers; men welcome!)

Favorite freelance writing blogs: (The Renegade Writer) (The Golden Pencil) (Inkthinker)

Great books for freelance writers:

The Renegade Writer - on pitching
Query Letters That Rock - just like it sounds
The Well-Fed Writer - on copywriting

Seattle networking source: I love Seattle Read more!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Using music on your blog or Website

So, I wasted my weekend editing together some video we took last Thanksgiving, and used the Jon Brion song from SYNECDOCHE as the background music. Copyright law says (DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, see a lawyer if you want legal advice) that you can sample a snippet of a song, so long as it's not a significant portion of the work. Usually at this has meant that we've been advised to use no more than 15 seconds of a song. (For a song only 30 seconds long though you couldn't use a sample of this size, because 15 seconds would be half the song, a significant portion).

So what do you do if you want to use the whole dang song? You do need to get permission from the copyright owner first.

I cruised around the Internet and found that there are three main sites that license songs: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

According to ASCAP, you need to obtain permission before using a song online "because the United States Copyright Law grants the owner of a copyrighted musical work ...the exclusive right to perform it publicly. ... This includes Internet transmissions of music."

Those sites all seem to say that the kind of license I need is a "synchronization license." This is the one required if you want to use a song to accompany a video.

But how to get one? The first step is to search the above Web sites to find out who owns the license to the song you're interested in. Unfortunately "Little Person" doesn't come up in any of their searches.

In any case, it looks like you have to go to a different agent for a synchronization license than you do for a Public Performance License -- which looks to be the license you need if you're just going to play the song.

These sites have a lot of instructions for for-profit business owners, including Website operators. But no advice for bloggers who might not be turning a dime. And so, I sent of a few emails to find out exactly what to do. And tomorrow I'll be calling the hotline at BMI to see if they can help me out. If you need to do the same, here's the info from the BMI website:

"You can also call the BMI repertoire information hotline at 1-800-800-9313 where you can request information on as many as 20 song titles per call."

What experience have you had obtaining copyright for music on your site? What questions do you have? Please post away.

Read more!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Twittering Class by Monica Guzman

Monica Guzman of Big Blog fame gave an informative lecture at the Seattle PI on using Twitter and RSS feeds to inform and distribute your reporting.

In addition to many of the ideas already posted in my previous post Why Bother with Twitter, Monica had a lot of great advice for new Twitterers:

1. If you can't imagine how you'd use Twitter professionally, jump in and just start doing it for fun. Get a couple of your friends to join, and use it as a way to chat with them. As you use the tool, you'll start to see how cool it is just to be able to be in touch so easily. Or you'll find it really annoying. Either way, you'll answer that nagging questions: Is Twitter for me? Just get in there and splash around.

2. Monica gave a handy list of dos and don'ts for new Twitterers:

a. Don't auto post headlines. Twitter doesn't like a feed that's robotic. Show your human side.
b. Don't *just* post links to stuff you're blogging. It starts to feel a little spammy if that's all you're doing.
c. More generally, don't just use Twitter to promote stuff.

To this list I would add: Don't post TOO much. You'll fill up people's inbox, which is annoying. There's some folks I would love to add to my Follow list, but dang, they're posting like 20 times a day. Who has time to read all that?

People in the class asked:

Question: What should I Twitter?
Answer: You don't need to answer the question that's at the top of the screen (What are you doing). People post a wide variety of things. If you're unsure what to communicate to your Twitter followers, just follow a few folks and watch them for a while before you get started.

Question: How long does Twittering take?
Answer: As long as you want to give it. If you just posted once a day or once a week that would be fine.

Question: Who do I follow? How do I find people to follow?
Answer: If you have an interest you can go to to search for people who are posting on that interest. Type "aerospace" or "rollerblading" or whatever it is you're interested in into the search box, and then click around on the people who are posting on your topic. If you like what a person is posting -- follow him. You might find in a few days you don't really like his feed. But if you do like him, step two: Go to his page and see who he is following.

Eventually, organically, people will find and follow you. Follow them back, just to check out their feed.

After a few months, or maybe sooner, you may find that you are following too many people and can't keep up with the conversation. If this happens to you, just get into your list of people you're following and weed some people out.

Question: What's the point of this again? Twitter seems silly.
Answer: Twitter is possibly silly. But many people who didn't expect to (myself included) find it useful and sometimes even fun.

Best of all, Twitter is free, so what do you have to lose? Try it. If you don't like it, walk away, don't look back.
Read more!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Making Money off Blogging, part II

If you're planning on getting into blogging so you can make wads of money, you'll probably be less than happy to see what Fake Steve Jobs has to say about blogging.

"For two years I was obsessed with trying to turn a blog into a business. I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea. I rationalized this insane behavior by telling myself that at the end of this rainbow I would find a huge pot of gold."

Turns out, the blog wasn't the cash cow he thought it would be.

"I never made enough to quit my day job. Eventually I shut down — not for financial reasons, but because Steve Jobs appeared to be in poor health. I walked away feeling burned out and weighing 20 pounds more than when I started. I also came away with a sneaking suspicion that while blogs can do many wonderful things, generating huge amounts of money isn't one of them."
Read on here. Read more!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Legal Guide for bloggers

If you are a blogger you should definitely know about and read the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal guide for bloggers. If you don't know about the EFF's Legal Guide, now's a great time to check it out -- the guide has just been updated with new FAQs and info.

If you're wondering what exactly libel is and how it works, how copyright works, what do if you get sued for something you blogged, check out the guide.

If you are blogging and have never had a class in media law or any other way of getting info about legal issues you could encounter as a publisher -- please, definitely check out the guide. If you just launch into publishing without first reading up on the law, you may be breaking the law without even knowing it! And as we know, "I didn't know" probably isn't going to help you in front of a judge.

There is no more. Ignore the "Read More" prompt! Read more!

Getting Started with Audio

Mindy McAdams at the University of Florida has another great post in her series on web skills: How to get started uploading and editing audio. Like me, Mindy recommends using Audacity editing software, because it's free and -- while not completely intuitive -- it's somewhat easy to use.

Give it a try -- all reporters should know their way around at least one digital audio recording device and one digital editing program. Audacity's a great place to start.

Don't bother clicking on the Read More link -- for some reason the only coding solution I could find that would let me create expandable posts on blogger puts a READ MORE link at the end of every post, whether there's more to read or not! Read more!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tips for keeping your blog fresh

Roland Legrand's recent post at Media Shift offers some good tips on keeping a newspaper website constantly updated without a huge staff. Legrand recommends a lot of things I think news orgs and bloggers alike should consider doing:

--Look for raw material you can post -- raw audio and video from meetings, for example.

--Live blog meetings -- just type up what's happening. You can "craft" a story later if you need to. Tracy Record at West Seattle Blog is genius at this. Seattle PI reporters have also started to do this with meeting coverage.

--Avoid time-wasters like complicated Flash graphics. EXCELLENT suggestion. Most of the time, hardly anybody clicks on this stuff -- or on videos either. In the time that you do one flash graphic you could get six more posts out there!

--Link out to others; curate the best mix of content, rather than try to write everything yourself.

Check out his full post here.

Here's a timesaver we use at

Shoot your videos and tape your audio so that you can post it with little or no editing. If the video is an interview with a source (this'll have low readership, generally, but is sometimes worth doing because it's important to the story) tell your source -- before you interview him -- that at the end of the interview you're going to ask him to give you a two minute version of the story for the video camera. Telling him about the video "quick take" coming up gives him time to think about what he'll include in his wrap up.

When you're ready to record his wrap up, warn your source that you won't be saying uh-huh, and "no kidding!" and giving him all the other conversational cues people are used to. (You don't want these to show up on the tape.) Then point the camera and cue him up.

This trick is a fabulous time saver. You'll be amazed how media trained most people are. Even people who have never or rarely been in front of the camera whip out a perfect take the first or second time. Result for you: no editing time. Clip at the front and the end. Post it.
Read more!

Video Basics producer and long time designer Curt Milton gave a class on video editing to our staff on Feb. 3. I wasn't able to attend, but asked if he'd share his cheat sheet from the class with PrintToOnline readers. Happily, he said yes, and here it is. If you have any questions for Curt, you can Twitter him at

And now, here's Curt:

A few on the basics to help you get started making short videos for the web.

1. THE CAMERA: There are several types, each with advantages and disadvantages:
Mini-DV tape – Advantages: best picture quality, especially for HD; easy to store content; easy to change tapes in the field. Disadvantages: format is losing popularity; takes longer to download content into computer.
Hard drive/flash memory – Advantages: gaining in popularity; quick to download content to computer; fewer moving parts to break. Disadvantages: more highly compressed image so picture quality (especially HD) isn’t as good as tape); when it fills up, you have to download to computer; long-term storage issues; may have compatibility problems with some editing programs.
DVD – Advantages: stores video on mini-DVDs; can be watched immediately on DVD player. Disadvantages: have to carry mini-DVDs; no HD compatibility; video may need to be translated to a format that your editing program can use.

Standard definition: 480 lines of vertical resolution, roughly square picture format, standard TV broadcast format.
Widescreen: Also known as 16x9. Picture is rectangular, wider than standard TV. Resolution approximately the same as standard TV.
High-definition: Format is 16x9. Resolution is 1,080 lines per inch. Superior picture but has to be seen on hi-def TV to really notice the difference.
What is best for the web? Hard to say. More web and broadcast video is being produced in 16x9. If you have hi-def, use it. It’s the format of the future and your video will have a longer shelf life. The downside? File sizes are bigger.

· Be familiar with your camera – Don’t buy a camera one day and then go out the next to shoot your first professional job. Practice! Take the camera with you and shoot a lot so you can become familiar with the functions. Try making a short video story. It’s easy to mess up some technical issue if you’re unsure of your equipment.
· Use a tripod if you can – The steadier the image, the easier it will be to watch online. Also, steady images make for smaller file sizes (compression issues).
· Hold it steady and take your time – If you can’t use a tripod, hold the camera steady. Avoid jerky movements or rapid zooms. They don’t play well online. If you must zoom, do it slowly.
· Wide, medium, close – Keep this rhythm in mind as you are composing your shots. Movies are shot this way: The wide shot establishes the scene. The medium shot moves in to show key players or more detail. The close up gives it focus and shows important details.
· Follow the story – The story you are following has an arc. Be sure to get shots from all parts of the story: beginning, middle and end. Just because you’re behind the camera doesn’t mean you can ignore what’s happening. You’d hate to start editing and realize you forgot to shoot an important part of the story.
· Get reactions and cutaways – If someone is laughing in the scene, get a shot of what they are laughing at. If someone is doing something funny, get a reaction shot of the crowd laughing. If someone is looking at or pointing at something, get a shot of what they are looking at or pointing at.
· It’s not a bad idea to have a plan – But be ready for surprises. Think about how you might organize the story before you go, but be ready to change gears if the unexpected happens.
· Be prepared – Have a charged battery (and a spare if you’ll be out for a while). Carry the charger. Take extra tape. Have an external microphone and light. And a tripod. Get a bag to carry everything in.
· Collect info – Get names spelled correctly for titles. Gather any printed info. You’re still a reporter. Make notes!
· Write a script – If your piece can be scripted, do it.

4. EDITING: There are several programs you can use for editing:
Easier: iMovie (Mac, part of iLife, $79, included with new Macs), Windows Movie Maker (Windows, included in Vista)
Intermediate: Final Cut Express (Mac, $199), Adobe Premiere (Mac, Windows, $800)
Advanced: Final Cut Studio 2 (Mac, $1,299), Avid Media Composer (Mac, Windows, $2,500)

· Books: I like David Pogue’s “Missing Manual” series. These are easy to use, fun and he provides help on how to shoot good video as well as how to use the editing software. He has books on iMovie 6 (also known as iMovie HD) and iMovie 8. or any bookstore with computer books.
· Lynda has online training for all of these programs but her site costs money.
· Inexpensive sound effects and music
· Rights-free music
Read more!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How To Make Money Blogging: Picking the Right Topic, Covering it the Right Way

Okay. I've been publishing PrintToOnline for 16 days now. I've written 26 posts, I've done *some* marketing, let Technorati and Google know I'm here, I've paid attention to SEO. So how'm I doing?

According to Sitemeter, I've had 336 visits so far and I've served up 673 page views. I'm averaging 21 visitors a day -- not bad really, for a 16 day old blog.

I'm getting unsolicited links from other publishers writing about online journalism, like this one today from, who writes about BeatBlogging at

"Question: Why bother with Twitter? Answer: Why not bother with Twitter? Oh, and innovation."

(The link goes to my recent "Why bother with Twitter" post, of course.)

Other results:
I'm the number one search result on google for "how to add a traffic tracker to your blog." I'm the number seven result on "how to make money off of my blog." In the long run, if I can keep these rankings, and add some more good results like these, Google will bring me some good traffic.

I've got ads placed from Google Adsense in three places on each page (Google's limit). And, I'm getting paid for each click on them. With all these successes under my belt, I must be doing pretty good on the money front, yes?

Um, no. According to Google AdSense, I've made 56 cents. If I do this well all year I stand to make a good $12 or $15!

If you want to make more than that for your efforts, you're going to have to spend some time doing some analysis before you launch your online publication.

To make money publishing, you need to write about a topic that:

1. Gives lots of people something they really want and need. Hyperlocal coverage of neighborhoods, as is being done at WestSeattleBlog, MyBallard, SealBeachDaily and many other places, satisfies this requirement. People really do want and need coverage of their communities as it is being done at these publications. WestSeattleBlog did almost a million page views in December, and many other hyperlocal blogs are doing tens of thousands of page views per month, and are selling ads to local advertisers (and most are using Google AdSense).

2. Gives lots of people something they really want and need, that isn't already being provided by someone else. Find a niche that's wide open. I'd probably be doing a lot more traffic here if there weren't already dozens of other blogs already covering this topic. I might even be able to sell my content to someone if it was more exclusive.

Luckily making money wasn't my objective in starting this blog -- I'm writing this to be helpful to my peers at the PI and elsewhere in journalism, and to have something cool to put on my resume.

3. Once you've satisfied #1 and #2, you've got to provide A LOT of the content that lots of people really want and need. The more you post, the more people will turn to you for more posts. If you really want to build audience and loyalty, I think you need to try to post at least once every two hours. (More on how to do this without breaking your back in an upcoming post).

You want your online publication to be addictive -- something that makes your readers come back and check in two or three times a day. Publishing good content frequently is the way to inspire addiction in your readers. At West Seattle Blog, writer Tracy Record posts more than a dozen items every day, and tweets at the same time.

Why do you care about being addictive? Take a look at this Quantcast traffic report on the SeattlePI's traffic: "Addict" readers account for 1% of our traffic, and 24% of our page views. 'Nuff said.

4. And finally, as a blogging entrepreneur, one of the first things you're going to want to do is figure out whether the content you want to write is something you can 'monetize.' In other words, make money off of. Is the content you want something that advertisers are going to want to advertise around? Make sure it is before you get started. If you ask around you'll find for example that it's been very hard for media outlets to convince advertisers to buy ads around forums and story comment pages, around photo galleries and other content.

If you're looking at being a hyperlocal blogger, for example, you'd look at the neighborhoods around you and figure out first which neighborhoods would best support a blog. To figure this out you'd look at:

1. How many potential readers are in your coverage area?
2. How much traffic do you figure they'll bring?
3. How many advertisers are in your neighborhood?
4. How many do you figure will advertise with you?
5. Is this service already being provided in that area? If it's being done badly, you can still expect to be able to attract an audience, but if it's being done well, you might consider looking elsewhere.
6. How much can you charge for the ads? (Ask around to other people doing similar publications. They'll likely be ready to share what the going rates are.)
7. How much will it cost you to produce the content and sell the ads? (Likely this will be sweat equity for the content, with low cost. Maybe you'll want to buy a video camera, but you probably already have a computer and an internet connection. But who will sell the ads? And how will you pay them?)
8. What does this math look like at startup, and at maturity? Two years out, are you making money?

If you are looking at going into hyperlocal blogging, you'd check with the city to find your target neighborhood's population, get a listing of business licenses in the area, find out how "wired" the neighborhood is (& ergo how many online readers there are), how many college graduates and English speakers there are -- look into everything you can think of that will help you determine online population and advertiser base. You'll probably want to look at a number of neighborhoods to figure out which one pencils out the best.

I guess the ultimate message here is, the thing you love and WANT to write about isn't necessarily the thing that's going to make you money. If you want to make money, you're going to have to do some research before you haul off and launch your product.

Want to go deeper on this? Apply to be a participant in The News Entrepreneur Boot Camp, held May 16-21, 2009, in Los Angeles. The boot camp is sponsored by The Knight Digital Media Center in partnership with USC Annenberg School for Communication, the Center for Communication Leadership and the Online Journalism Review.

"This expenses-paid intense one-week boot camp is designed for 12 competitively selected digital entrepreneurs with great ideas for community news and information initiatives in the public interest. Topics to be covered include:

* Identifying the best business model for sustained success.
* Developing a sustainable business plan.
* Marketing and audience development.
* Content production and management models.
* Legal and tax issues.
* Identifying capitalization sources.
* Developing and implementing revenue and advertising strategies.
* Successful social networking models.
* Selecting and implementing technical platforms.
* Understanding and using metrics."

12 entrepreneurs will be participate in the bootcamp. Will you be one of them?

Meantime, did I miss something important? Please share your thoughts here, or ask a question if I've left out something you're wondering about.

Read more!

Why Journalists (some of them) are falling in love with Twitter

Great post from the archives (April 2008) by NYU student and all around social media genius Alana Taylor on why people love Twitter:

The root at what has made Twitter an internet craze is not just micro-blogging. It's not JUST "that it keeps us connected" or "that I can market my business."

Twitter is big because it is instant. Twitter is hot because it allows us to be voyeurs. Twitter is changing the world because it is a platform of social equality. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, Twitter is HUGE because it has created Micro Fame."

Further down in the post, one of my favorite passages:

Even a person like myself who only has about 500 followers feels famous. At one point I caught myself "thanking my 100th follower." As if they were a fan. As if they followed me because I am important. As if what I say matters. When you see people thanking their followers for any reason it becomes clear that their mentality has been affected. They are already in the Micro Fame mode.

Read on here. Read a more recent version on the same theme -- this one specifically about Journalists -- at PBS MediaShift here.

You might or might not remember Alana was at the center of a controversy last year when she posted a critique of NYU's journalism program at PBS MediaShift. She had some good points, I think, about how the program and some of the teachers needed to catch up to today's realities. Read more!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to Create Links in Blogger, redux

Seattle PI reporter Cecilia Goodnow writes in with great news. She asked earlier how to create a link in Blogger, and reports tonight that by jove, she's done it!

Yay! I created my first link on Cover to Cover Kids. However, it's a long, cumbersome url for one of my Post-Intelligencer stories, and since I'm writing from home, I can't access the P-I's nifty url shortener. I tried converting the url through, but it created a nonfunctional link, because it apparently duplicated some of the code already formatted by blogger. Any tips on getting those links to a manageable size?

If you recall, the earlier post on creating a link gave these instructions:

1. Sign into blogger. Go to the Dashboard. Hit create new post.
2. Type in some text. Now highlight the phrase you want to link
3. See that row of icons in the upper left of your screen? There's a b, an i, then something that looks kind of like a chain link (with a green blob behind it. I guess that's supposed to be a globe?). Click the Chain Link thingy.
4. A new little box will pop up. Type or paste the entire link in there and click Okay.

The key to avoiding publishing that unwieldy long link is up there in step two.

Instead of writing:

"Check out my book review at:"


"Check out my book review HERE."

Now, hold down your cursor and drag it over the word HERE to highlight it, and go back to step three to create your link. In other words, embed the link in the word HERE. No need for the reader to ever see the ugly long link.

Let me know if that makes sense!

And Cecilia, when you're ready, post a link to your blog so we can all take a look!
Michelle Read more!

Creating expandable posts in Blogger

My in-house critic tells me that my last attempt to explain how to publish a few paragraphs of a post on your front page, then put the rest of the post behind a "Read More" link was a "cop out," or something along those lines.

Instead of writing the explanation myself, I found what I *thought* was a good explanation and linked to it. Mark, the in-house critic, says not good enough. The explanation was too techy, he says.

Allrighty then. So here's take two.

First off, this is NOT an easy tip. If you are easily confused by code, or just scared of it, you should dip your toe in the water with some simpler code. I suggest you head on over to Webmonkey and start at the beginning of their HTML lessons.

Webmonkey is a great place to learn all kinds of tech and software stuff, and is a great entry point for medium beginners.

To read take two on creating two-part posts, read on after the jump.

Cool trick, huh? Ok, here's how I did it.

NOTE: Any time you insert code as recommended here, be sure to REMOVE all the spaces I've inserted after the < symbols. If you don't insert those spaces, the code becomes invisible, so I had to alter the code so you can see it.

1. Click on the LAYOUT button in the upper left of your Blogger screen.
2. Click EDIT HTML
3. Click DOWNLOAD FULL TEMPLATE to save your template, just in case you mess something up.
4. Okay, search your HTML code for < /head>
5. paste this code immediately before < /head>

< style>
< b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>
span.fullpost {display:inline;}
< b:else/>
span.fullpost {display:none;}
< /b:if>
< /style>

6. Click Save Template

Congratulations! Step one is done. Take a breather. While you're doing that, I'm going to sample an almond croissant from West Seattle's Bakery Nouveau.

DISCLAIMER: Bakery Nouveau did not pay me to say this. I just really, really love their almond croissants. Damn you Bakery Nouveau! Ruined my diet again!

Okay, ready? Let's go on to step two:

You should still be on LAYOUT > EDIT HTML
1. Right above the code window, to the right, you'll see a checkbox that says Expand Widgets. Make sure this checkbox is checked.
2. Search for < data:post.body>
3. Directly above this code, paste this:

< b:if cond='data:blog.pageType != "item"'>
< a expr:href='data:post.url' target='_blank'>Read more!< /a>
< /b:if>

4. Click Save Template

Congrats! Step two is done. Let's move on to step three.

Okay. We're going to leave the HTML Template for this last step.
1. Look at the top of the Blogger page. See the SETTINGS tab? Click it.
2. Now click the FORMATTING tab
3. Scroll all the way down the page to Post Template
4. Paste this text into the Post Template:

Here is the beginning of my post. < class="fullpost">And here is the rest of it.< /span>

5. Save

That's it -- you're done! Now, next time you go to make a post, you'll see this above text in the post template. All you do is type the part you want to appear "above the fold" where you see the text: Here is the beginning of my post.

Everything you want to post after the fold (behind the Read More link) you'd type where you now see the text "And here is the rest of it."

Not easy, but doable. Let me know how it goes!

Read more!

Monday, February 2, 2009

How to create links, and other reader questions

Seattle PI reporter Cecilia Goodnow posted this question on yesterday's marketing your blog post:

I've got two questions:
-- How do you create a link to another site?
-- If you have a long blog post, how do you format it so the page displays only a brief introduction, with a link to "Read full post?" I found instructions on but they were confusing. You have to insert a bunch of html into your template,and I wasn't tracking where the code should go. Is there an easier way?

Thanks for the questions Cecilia. As luck would have it, one of them's super easy, the other one's kind of hard. I'll start with the easy one.

If you're blogging in Blogger, adding a link is easy as pie. Say you want to link the phrase above "yesterday's marketing your blog post." Here's your steps:

1. Sign into blogger. Go to the Dashboard. Hit create new post.
2. Type in some text. Now highlight the phrase you want to link
3. See that row of icons in the upper left of your screen? There's a b, an i, then something that looks kind of like a chain link (with a green blob behind it. I guess that's supposed to be a globe?). Click the Chain Link thingy.
4. A new little box will pop up. Type or paste the entire link in there and click Okay.

That's it. Easy, right?

Okay, for the hard one, read on after the jump.

Thanks for asking me this question Cecilia. I've been wondering for a long time how to create expandable posts but have been too lazy to look it up. Finally I looked it up tonite and found an easy-to-follow set of instructions here. Difficulty on this is medium.

Bottom line is there's no easy way that I know of to do this. It involves a bit of cutting and pasting of code. If you're not comfortable doing that I'd wait until you have had a bit more experience.

Please let me know if I can answer any more questions for you! And hey, everybody else -- how's this site working out for you? Is it answering questions you need answered? Am I going to fast or too slow? Lemme know!

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Training Advice for Journalists

Here's a quick one page overview of the things I think you should consider learning if you'd like to "play well" online. Let me know what you think I should add.

And as always, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments and I'll answer you shortly.
Michelle Read more!

Should Reporters Learn Flash?

And if so, why? Online Journalism Professor extraordinaire Mindy McAdams tackles the questions in her latest blog post. Check it out here. Read more!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Marketing your blog

Happy Superbowl Sunday everyone! Since I don't care about football one bit, I'm going to use the big day to tackle a big subject: How to market your blog. If you're a new reader, welcome to Print To Online, my blog for absolute beginners just learning their way around the Web. If you're looking to get online savvy, this will all probably make more sense if you go back to the beginning and read from there.

So. Where were we? Oh, right.

You've created a blog. You've tweaked your layout. You've made 10 posts you like pretty well. You've followed my advice on how to let Google and Technorati know you exist. You've added Site Meter and Feedjit traffic trackers, and so you can see the grim reality is ... NO ONE is coming to your blog. Dang it.

What to do? First of all, know that marketing your blog is a long-term project. Don't try to do everything at once and get it out of the way. This task will never be out of the way. It's the mail, you're the mail man. No matter how much you deliver, there's always more mail to deliver. So get your Zen on and know that telling people about your blog is just an integral part of blogging. Always Be Marketing is the way of the blog.

So there's a million and one ways to market your blog, but they all come down to three things: Knowing People, Making Great Content, Having a Way to Tell People About Your Great Content.

When I say knowing people, I mean you have to get out there in the Blogosphere and Twitterverse and start getting to know all the people out there, especially the people who are followed/read by LOTS of other people. If you can work your way up to being mentioned every once in a while by people who are read by lots of other people, you will see your following tick up over time.

For example, Jay Rosen of NYU is one of the most followed people on Twitter. When he gets into a conversation with you on Twitter or mentions something you posted, you know some portion of his 7,367 readers will come check you out, and some will bookmark you or sign up for your feed.

If that happens once a week or so you'll see a healthy boost to your traffic over time. So get to know people. Read other people blogging on your topic and off, link to the interesting stuff they write and let them know you did it. Comment on fellow bloggers blogs and Twitterers Tweets. Over time the community will send you dividends.

Okay, two, Content. Knowing people isn't all it takes. You can't ask your friends and business associates to link to your blog if there's nothing new or interesting on it to link to. You have to create unique, compelling content. Then, really, you don't so much want to ask people to link to you. Instead, you just let your people know that you've posted interesting content. They'll take a look, and if they like it, they'll link to it.

If you write something REALLY good and unique, many people will link to it. Content is King, and the Twitterverse (and all the other message delivery systems out there) has a magical way of finding and sharing the best content. If you're good, the links will come.

It was interesting to watch this "cream will rise" concept at work last week, after Seattle Councilman Nick Licata held a panel on the future of newspapers in Seattle. A bunch of people wrote blog posts and Tweets on the panel and how it went and what it meant, but there was no big "you gotta read THIS" theme out there until MyBallard's Cory Bergman wrote his take.

Then all of a sudden all of the people I was following were recommending that one piece. At least, that's how it seemed from my chair: The followers of the story dubbed Cory's take the go to story on the topic -- and I'm guessing all the many links to it from Twitter and elsewhere helped drive more traffic to his story. A search for "Nick Licata" and future of newspapers Seattle shows that Cory's take is the fourth highest ranked result, after The Stranger's, the City of Seattle, and the Seattle PI's version.

(We linked to Cory's take too, from the Seattle PI's version of the story. It was good. You should read it. See, it happened again!)

So how do you let your People know about your Content?

You need a message delivery system. Thank god there's about a zillion of them -- three of the most popular being Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader. If you work on getting a following on a couple of these tools, it becomes very easy to let people know when you create a post you think is link-worthy -- you just post a note about your latest piece to Twitter and etc, and (if you make it sound interesting) your followers will come and check it out.

The ability to tell people all in one big blast that you've written something they might like is a great power. If you don't have it you should be working on getting it.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be mentioned by high-powered Twitterers not once but twice -- by Monica Guzman and Chris Pirillo -- more than doubling my Twitter readership in one day. Now next time I want to use my Twitter account to advertise a post (something I'll do sparingly, and only if it would be of interest to my Twitter followers) I'll be sending my link out to 260 people, not just 90.

Monica is great about offering to tell her Twitter followers whenever a new PI staffer starts Twittering -- and I've done the same, recently posting to my followers that Rebekah Denn has a new Twitter feed going. If you join the Twitterverse just let us know -- I'd be happy to let my readers know about it. And then you'll play it forward and help out the next guy who comes along looking for a leg up.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Okay, so, pretty easy so far, right? To recap:
1. Get to know people who know a lot of other people
2. Write good, unique, link-worthy content
3. Let your people know about your content

I know, simple, right?

Specific things you can do:

1. As you discover other writers blogging and Twittering about the kind of things you're covering, respond to their posts, add your points, maybe after you've done that a few times and the blog host has responded and you've got a rapport, if the blogger you're getting to know writes a post about something you've written about before, comment on the blogger's post and then post a link to your take on your blog.

Generally, as you are participating in commenting on posts around the Web, it's okay to go ahead and link back to related stuff you've written, just be aware that there's an obnoxious and a not obnoxious way to do this. I did this earlier today: I came across a blog that was asking journalists to answer the question: Do you Twitter? If so, why? I responded by saying Here’s my post on why I use and recommend Twitter.

It's a simple thing -- but if you do it once a day for a year you'll seriously increase your exposure.

2. Take the time to link to others. Many smaller bloggers scour their traffic logs and will see that you've sent readers to them. They'll likely appreciate the help and will do the same for you.

It's a very Sicilian system, but that's okay, because I just so happen to be Sicilian. Machiavelli would have been a great blogger, I think.

3. Take a look at the top of the page on the Print To Online blog. You'll see that I'm calling out three blogs at the top of the page. Don Smith at Seattle New Media is returning the favor, and sending me a couple of readers a day.

4. When people write to you and ask questions or interact with you, consider calling them out in a post and telling your readers about their blog. I did this in a recent post from Ricky Young, who asked a question about using photos taken from government Web sites. At the bottom of that post I encouraged readers to "Check out Ricky's excellent San Diego-based blog at www://" Ricky immediately posted to all his connections on Twitter that he'd been mentioned on my blog, and posted a link, which sent me readers.

I guess you get the idea. It's really not rocket science, it's just getting in the habit of giving people props and links, interacting with your readers and linking to their stuff so they'll do the same for you, helping the world so the world helps you.

More tips at: Problogger's 41 Ways to Market your blog.

Seth Godin's recommendations on driving traffic to your blog.

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