How to succeed at blogging

Matt Yglesias has some advice for students interested in journalism. But I think much of it is more broadly relevant. If you want your ideas to get noticed, do this:

[S]tart doing the work. Follow writers you like on Twitter and use it to interact with them. Write your own blog, and even though it probably won’t have many readers take it seriously and write it like it’s intended to be read by total strangers. […] If you do a post critiquing something someone you respect wrote (me, for example) then send an email and explain yourself—you might get noticed. If you get ignored, don’t get discouraged—you might suck, but the guy you wrote to just might have been busy that afternoon. […] In the new media realm one of the best ways to get to know the right people is by doing the work and involving yourself in the conversation.

To this I would add, in no particular order:

  1. Send short emails to top bloggers in your area of blogging about your most interesting posts. Don’t do it daily. Roughly weekly is good. Do it only if the post you’re promoting is very topical and seems to you of likely use to them. I emphasize, very short emails. Three sentences is good. Let individuals on your distribution list opt out (say so at the end of every email).
  2. If you do #1 for a while (like, a month or two) and get no results, you’re probably not doing it right. Your posts aren’t meeting the standards or interest of those receiving them. Try something different. Try to get feedback (this is hard).
  3. Pay attention to the link economy. Have a mental model of who reads whom (you can tell by what they cite). Promote posts selectively to get them in front of the right eyeballs. If you know blogger A reads blog B and you seem to be able to get your stuff referenced and linked on blog B, you’ll get to blogger A in time. This is good.
  4. Be respectful to bloggers you respect and who are good to you. That’s not to say you can’t disagree. Just be nice about it. You have the right to be a jerk, but it won’t help your blog grow very much.
  5. Ignore the noise. If you get cited a lot, people will attack you. Ignore it unless it furthers what you want to do. Don’t get sucked into endless blog wars and snark. It’s really not that interesting. Only top bloggers can do it and get a lot of play out of it. The rest of us have to deliver content of unique and more lasting value. Save your snark for Twitter. It’s a better format for it.
  6. Write something nearly every day, excluding weekends. But take time off when you need to recharge. If writing every day, or nearly, is hard, blogging is not for you. You have to love to write, need to write.
  7. Don’t blog your way out of your day job. You gotta pay the bills!

In one respect I do not follow Yglesias’s advice. I do not pay attention to Twitter and only participate there via auto-post (blog stuff piped there; no human in the loop).

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