Still here – 6 years of blogging and 4 years of data…

Although I started publicly blogging at TheWayoftheWeb on a blogspot account back in 2006, it was only in 2008 that I switched to WordPress and installed my current Google Analytics account, so May 1 is kind of an anniversary. Technically I really started blogging back in about 1999 with a Homestead website, but that didn’t progress further than some horrific design decisions and a couple of extremely half-hearted business ideas, such as a database of pub reviews (I still occasionally wonder how much revenue the likes of FancyAPint make!)

Either way I’ve constantly veered between writing about marketing and journalism, with the occasional posts about blogging and more personal topics. I’ve invested about $300 in the site over the years, including domains, hosting and themes, and I’ve apparently published 1,299 posts, so an average of 20 per month.

And in the last 4 years, that’s brought me over 113,000 visits, almost 100,000 visitors (Should happen in May), and 157,041 pageviews.

It’s also resulted in about $30 in advertising revenue during the period I experimented with ads on here, and about 3 times as much in affiliate revenue.

So you may think reaching 100,000 for around $180 and a lot of time wasn’t the best way to spend my time?

 

The real value of this site:

But that’s ignoring the real value that this site has given me and continues to deliver:

  • Leads for my digital content and marketing business – I don’t need to reach a million people, if I reach 20 or 30 that want to hire TheWayoftheWeb to provide content, marketing or training.
  • It keeps me writing – If there’s a time when I’m focused on other work, this place is the one where I can write whatever I like, whenever I like, although as it’s the only form of marketing for my business, I’m probably doing that slightly less now!
  • It’s entirely mine – All the content is mine, all the data is mine, and I set the rules regarding privacy. 2 minutes of tweaking domain settings and I can move it wherever I want, whenever I want.
  • It’s helped meetings – Surprisingly often I’ve been in meetings where clients or agencies etc have seen my blog and have even occasionally mentioned a post or brought a printed copy along to discuss a particular point.
  • It gets me referenced – Not only does it provide proof of my identity to the likes of Google+, but it’s also been linked to from the likes of The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal.

 

Blogging dying?

In the time I’ve been blogging, it’s been pronounced dead at least 3 or 4 times, and the latest eulogies are probably the strongest yet with numerous studies suggesting corporate blogging in particular is fading fast.

And personally I think that’s great – because the more my competitors and my client’s competitors ignore the benefits of regularly publishing fresh and quality content on their own domains, the easier it is for me to succeed.

I’ve seen client sites grow massively over the last 12 months. And I’ve seen some of my own sites which are more focused and targeted on mass audiences go from a couple of thousand readers per month to 70 or 80,000 per month.

So although I share some of the fears that others have written about regarding the future of the open web ( For example, see John Naughton and Brendan Cooper in the last couple of days), there’s still a lot of success to be had before the opportunities may start to close.

Feel free to get in touch if you want to take advantage of them right now.

 

Oh, and in case you’re interested, here are the 10 most popular posts so far:

  1. The best webcam-based augmented reality application
  2. 2012 – The year of 3d printing?
  3. Has Microsoft made a major marketing mistake?
  4. The best G1 application, augmented reality and Moore’s Law
  5. Solving Feedburner Feedsmith problems with WordPress 2.9
  6. The best social games on any platform
  7. Problems embedding Youtube videos in WordPress
  8. Augmented Reality needs to jump the shark
  9. Breaking the habit of broadcast media
  10. How the traditional world punishes social media

49% of the world’s top 100 blogs are using WordPress

An interesting study released yesterday by Pingdom reveals that 49% of the top 100 blogs as ranked by Technorati are using WordPress as their CMS platform.

You can debate whether Technorati is still a decent ranking system, and it doesn’t include 8 sites for which information wasn’t available, but 40% of the sites with available information are on self-hosted WordPress (with 9% on WordPress.com’s hosted alternative). The article also has an informative list of what each of the top sites is actually running on – sadly TheWayoftheWeb just missed out on making the list, but for the record, I’ve been using self-hosted WordPress for a number of years now for pretty much all my sites (I do have one or two on both Blogger and Tumblr).

There are a number of reasons why I recommend self-hosted WordPress, including the fact that you have ultimate control over design, data etc, and as long as you’re backing up regularly, you’re better offer in the event of hosting/domain name failures.

It also gets increasingly easy to use – in addition to usability improvements to the core product, all the big third party theme providers and frameworks have made big steps in making everything quicker and easier to setup. Most of my sites currently run on the Genesis framework from StudioPress (aff link), but there are also great products I’ve been checking out from the likes of Headway and Pagelines, who are both offering drag and drop customisation.

More and more themes are now coming with responsive design as standard (meaning your site automatically works on mobile/tablets), and it’s really easy to find extremely talented designers and developers who are not only familiar with WordPress, but the relative ubiquity of it keeps prices fairly realistic. If you’re stuck for designers/developers I’m always happy to recommend several that I’ve enjoyed working with both on my own sites and client projects.

And that’s before you get into the various projects built on top of WordPress – for example, Jigoshop, a client of mine who produce a frankly amazing WordPress eCommerce solution. Not only can you install and set-up a fully functioning online store for free, but there’s an amazing range of extensions for it already which means your shop has all the services at a level you’d expect for a big online retailer.

And if you need some help, I can provide domain names and hosting, plus initial set-up for a low fee, having currently set up a number of sites for my own projects and for a range of friends and businesses, which regularly get many thousands of visitors each month, so feel free to contact me. I’ve also had experience of transferring sites from other platforms, and if you just want some quick tips, advice or reassurance, feel free to give me a shout!

TheWayoftheWeb Most Read Posts in 2011

There’s still a week to go, but unless something radical happens, here’s a quick run-down of the most read posts I’ve written on this site in 2011. It’s purely in terms of visitor numbers via Google Analytics, so I’m resisting the temptation to try and promote posts that I felt may have been overlooked!

1. 2012 The Year of 3D Printing?

If anything, the coverage of 3D printing has only gained pace since I wrote this, and there have been several more developments with funding, new businesses based around the technology, and growing consumer awareness.

2. Problems embedding Youtube videos in WordPress?

With the roll out of new embedding tools from Youtube, Vimeo etc, it turned out that WordPress was stripping out the code whenever you tried to publish an embedded video. It’s since been corrected, but judging by the traffic, it wasn’t just me that was a bit puzzled by the fact I had to revert to the old code.

3. Feeling attacked on all sides

A popular post for freelancers and entrepreneurs which covered my feelings about setting up my own small businesses, and then seeing constant news about competitors and massive global corporations moving into similar areas. How do you work on a tiny marketing business when the ‘big boys’ are constantly unveiling new social media units?

4. Guy Kawasaki’s ‘Enchantment – The art of changing hearts, minds and intentions’

A review from back in February of what I think is one of the most useful books released this year.

5. Everyone’s a curator now

How content curation may be a new buzzword for the media industry, but everyone else is already doing it with their writing, photos and videos. How does that change the way we act with friends and family, or how we upload and share?

6. The two sides of 3D Printing

Two examples of current 3D Printing – one very positive, one perhaps very negative, which hopefully start people thinking how best to utilise the technology in benefitting us all, rather than just being impressed with the tech itself.

7. Why don’t Facebook fans like us anymore?

What turns people away from a company Facebook page, and also how to plan to fix it.

8. Klout and Peerindex: Social network loyalty cards

How Klout and Peerindex are initially mapping ‘influence’, and the result that they act as loyalty cards for the social networks they include, requiring you to do your daily posting on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ rather than using a competitor, for example. Add in the quantity factor as a part of their metrics, plus the perk offers as a reward, and they’re loyalty cards for digital services.

 

And I’d like thank you

I’d just like to give my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to everyone who has visited my site, subscribed to my feed, RT’d, Liked, or +’d a post, left a comment, stumbled, reddit’d, digg’d, or told their friends about TheWayoftheWeb.

Starting a blog or a business is incredibly tough, and sometimes we all forget to share how important it is when we see that someone has enjoyed what we do. I promise you that I still get as excited by seeing new readers, new comments, and new recommendations of what I do today as I did when I first started blogging. And even on the worst days, when I’m working alone at home and feeling like noone cares, it’s guaranteed someone will post a comment or share a post on Twitter, and it’ll fuel my determination and motivation for weeks.

So many thanks, Happy Christmas, and if I can help you in 2012, please do let me know…

As one widget goes, another appears

The next time you visit TheWayoftheWeb, you may notice a slight change to the site. Following the decision by Google to shutter Google Friend Connect, that widget will have disappeared, along with the 82 lovely people who chose to support the site via that method.

GoogleFriendConnectonTheWayoftheWeb

Thankyou for your support Friend Connect people!

Obviously since the launch of Google+, and the focus that it now has within the company, it was fairly obvious that Friend Connect would no longer be supported (Incidentally, you have the choice of following me on Google+, or TheWayoftheWeb Google+ page). And I’ve already included the Google+ icon in the sidebar to hopefully allow the site to benefit from direct search and anything else Google decides to roll out.

The loss of Friend Connect doesn’t bug me as it did when Google killed the useful and effective social features of Google Reader – Friend Connect hasn’t really ever done very much since it launched in 2008. But it’s reinforced my perception of how Google views social connections, and how that differs from Facebook and Twitter. There doesn’t appear to be any information on how I could transfer or suggest to Friend Connect followers that they should migrate to Google+, or a confirmed date for when Friend Connect ends. And it feels as if Google still sees connections as just relationships between organised information nodes which will reform as needed.

Whereas I can’t imagine Facebook or Twitter would necessarily remove a social connection features without providing some way to switch – for instance, the move to allow subscriptions to the profile of an individual didn’t mean that they just deleted any Facebook page for an individual overnight. As much as you can deride Facebook for obscuring and messing with privacy, they do seem to understand that people take time to move, and some people will intend to do something and forget for a few days, or not get around to it. Whereas Google don’t seem fussed that I have no way to contact my former followers or friend connections should I not immediately figure out how to get them to move across. Or that I have no way of knowing whether some of them will want to follow everything I post on Google+, or would want a filtered circle of some kind?

 So what’s being added to the sidebar?

Instead of Friend Connect, or reducing the sidebar to allow my site to load slightly more quickly, I’m conforming to blogging stereotypes and immediately filling the space with something else. But it’s something a little different, as I’ve finally got around to signing up for Flattr. It’s been around for some time as a micropayment system for bloggers and other projects, which allows you to ‘flattr’ a site with a small donation if you like what people do.

I don’t imagine most of you will donate, and that’s fine, but the option is there if you feel so inclined. And I’m interested to see what happens with it, as a potential way of rewarding content creation which has existed for a while but so far hasn’t necessarily grabbed mainstream traction in the same way as something like Kickstarter has done.

I’m also installing it in support of their plan to make November 29th, ‘Pay a Blogger Day. It’s slightly self-promotional, but also hopefully helps to raise the question of how bloggers and other content providers support themselves in the minds of more readers and subscribers.

 Cash and blogging:

Definitely worthy of a follow-up post, but put simply, the mainstream media model of advertising-supported publishing doesn’t work for the majority of people to make a living by blogging. The amount of inventory available and the resulting low advertising rates requires hundreds of thousands or millions of readers to be your sole source of income (Although as you rise through the stages, you will probably find the available networks open up a bit and you do get a higher ad rate as a result).

Most bloggers also attempt to make money via affiliate links, but again, you need a decent amount of traffic, and you also need a decent conversion rate to make these worthwhile. And although that works in some areas, and with writers who are also natural salespeople, it isn’t going to work for everyone.

So then you come to using content as a driver for an actual business – selling information products, consultancy or whatever else you might think of. In my case, the money I make from this blog is tiny, but it’s vitally important in helping me secure consultancy and freelance work in content and digital marketing.

But again, not everyone wants to be a consultant or spend their time trying to hawk their latest eBook – it works for a certain number of bloggers, fails for a certain number, and some don’t want to go down that road.

So Flattr is the most sustained attempt at providing an alternative. A previous attempt was made by Scratchback, which closed a while ago, and which is actually deleting user accounts this month, in a strange coincidence.

So please do support the site via its new home on Google+ (Or the old ones on Twitter and Facebook), and do think about whether you might want to reward your favourite bloggers (I don’t necessarily have to be one of them!) in a more direct way via something like Flattr.

The content war is only just beginning

The war is just beginning for writers, and it may seem strange given that Demand Media is starting to bounce back from an October share slump, but it isn’t going to be fought between quality writers and content farms.

Despite the frantic changes Google has been making to the search algorithm following a perceived drop in quality as churned-up content fills search results, it isn’t about the damaging effect of outsourcing assignments for the lowest possible cost or the economic effects of global competition.

This time it’s man vs machine, and the machine is getting a lot better.

 

Content War: Man vs Machine:

You may be dismissing the idea of a machine creating content based on the previous experience of spambots, as they fill comment sections the world over with ‘Blog very good. Me Like’, to build links to a website. Mostly this are easily filtered by a combination of spam filtering software and especially a final layer of human approval. What might possible sneak past a computer tends to fairly obvious to a human, particularly if it involves a variation of the ‘cheapexactnameofaproductiamselling.com’ linked in various ways.

But to adapt a quote by Cory Doctorow on copying, machine-created content will never be worse, or more expensive to produce, than it is today. It will only get better, cheaper and more accessible to both legitimate publishers attempting to make their workflow more efficient, and to spammers and content farms who can finally do away completely with the human element.

War is hell (on earth).

Want proof? Check out the work of Automated Insights, as detailed in this recent post by founder Robbie Allen. With a team of 12, they’ve produced over 100,000 sports stories in 9 months, having launched 345 websites which are all automated, and cover every division 1 NCAA basketball team.

Still dismissing the potential? Try reading the following excerpt from the latest game report on one of the sites, CarolinaUpdate.com:

The Tar Heels got to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team after falling to Duke, 75-58, in the ACC tournament. In making the Elite Eight, North Carolina defeated 15th-seeded Long Island, 102-87 in the second round, seventh-seeded Washington, 86-83 in the third round, and then 11th-seeded Marquette, 81-63 in the Sweet Sixteen.

North Carolina was led by Tyler Zeller, who had 21 points on 75% shooting. The Tar Heels also got 18 points from Harrison Barnes, 11 from Dexter Strickland, and seven from Kendall Marshall.

Kentucky was on fire from beyond the arc, scoring 36 points in three-pointers to get an edge.

Now you see what I mean?

 

Will the future be written by machines?

When Allen ends his post by explaining how machines are a benefit to human journalists, there’s certainly some truth in it, although I suspect he’s also doing his job in placating the more nervous amongst the publishing professions. Whilst he’s keen to state that the current technology is suited to purely quantitative and data-driven work, and that journalists should be liberated to be able to focus on qualitative commentary, I suspect although he’s a very accomplished programmer, he might be limited in experiencing what happens for many publications around the globe.

As he himself says, ‘In the near term, the writers at O’Reilly and elsewhere have nothing to worry about. But I wouldn’t count out automation in the long term.’ The technology is at an early stage, and will only get better. After all, if 1000 monkeys could knock out a Shakespeare, we now have that processing power. And every year those processing primates will become cheaper and better, until instead of 1000 monkeys for one Shakespearian work, we could be seeing a sonnet per monkey.

 

What’s the future for human content?

So what happens next for humans who want to create written work beyond the status updates to which many of us might be relegated?

Well, in the short-term, we can choose to focus on quality. That’s certainly why I’m interested in projects like The Verge, and the new site and project from Milo Yiannopoulos whose views I may well have disagreed with on a regular basis, but whose aspiration to build a European quality technology site I can certainly identify closely with. Although we do have it a lot better with Techcrunch EU than the main ex-Arrington site who have recently managed to publish some unintelligible guest posts and at least a couple of stories which I knew to be factually inaccurate, but have never been corrected.

Writing!

Longer term? Whilst we can believe the noble ideal that machines will always be best with a human working alongside them, my educated guess is that spammers will be first to unleash better content algorithms into the wild on their own, particularly given the revenues they can currently get. The sheer amount of spam content means the tiniest percentage of respondents to Nigerian lotteries generates huge profits, and increasing that with better content in a no-brainer.

And anything suitable for automation – which is a lot – will be picked up by newsrooms the world over as managers and publishers will optimise over the heads of any reluctant Editors. That’s assuming enough Editors actually care about their digital product to raise a fuss when their favoured print is still in a slow death spiral.

And then that boundary will shift. And shift again, and slowly the room of writers becomes a room of servers with a couple of database admins, and one or two sub-editors just checking through a cursory selection of articles.

The solution has to be based around increasing the levels of humanity in everything we write, and everything we do online. Not only to build a bridge with anyone who reads our work, but also to ensure Google, Bing and future search engines are distinguishing what we do. Because as the level of automated content rises and becomes increasingly abused, the search engines will have to respond, and we could see search and creation algorithms cancelling each other out, leaving those authors and writers who have gone through the required steps to verify their organic-based life form will be advantaged.

What that urgently means is three things:

1. If you want to be a writer, you need to be using social media and tools like Google’s Author Markup today. Now. Because the sooner you can ensure you’re human, and the longer that exists, the better off you’ll be.

2. If you’re ever planning to launch your own website or brand, do it now. Don’t expect to learn the ropes in a staff job for a few years and then head out on your own – although that may have been a good plan, if this all comes to pass, you’ll need to be in an established position to be able to get your voice heard if you have a problem with Google’s Author markup, for example. And the way to get that help is to be reaching a million uniques per month by then, which means starting now.
If you wait a couple of years before deciding you’d like to create the ultimate blog/site on a subject, you’ll find that a few thousand readers per month could leave you at the end of one of the longest queues around if you ever need help.

3. Your personal writing style is going to be more important than ever. So a blog can be an invaluable daily tool for honing that, rather than spending your time re-writing press releases in a bland house style to churn out content as if it was 2008 all over again.

What really ended EMAP’s golden days?

There’s an interesting article on the Huffington Post UK site by former EMAP Director Colin Morrison, in which he asks Who Killed Britain’s Best Media Company, and goes on to discuss the inner workings of the leadership of the company at the time, before it was split into a consumer business which was sold to Bauer, and a B2B business which continues the EMAP brand joint-owned by Apax and Guardian Media Group.

It makes for interesting reading – the relationship between Robin Miller and David Arculus for example. By way of context, the ‘glory days’ appear to have been 80s and 90s – basically right up until around the time when I joined, which was after U.S investment went badly wrong, and the initial heavy investment in transferring brands to the digital worlds also had a major stumble.

But I do think he overestimates the brilliance of the leadership versus the problems of a traditional media company faced with the age of digital disruption that has seen the internet, mobile and tablets appear alongside a number of major digital properties which now command the attention economy.

Even now traditional media companies are still struggling and battling to make the transition to the web, whether newspapers, magazines, radio or television, and they’re all still behind where they should be. A lot of that is down to the nature of the organisational structure, and the risk averse tendencies of a middle management who are being pressured from above, and block so much potential from below.

It’s no coincidence that at the time myself and other digitally-addicted colleagues were pushing for ideas like low cost digital launches based around teams of 2 or 3 and a blog-based platform, Mashable was being launched by the then 19-year-old Pete Cashmore (2005). The same year saw Yahoo Answers launch – I suspect that was before I suggested the idea of the Ask An Expert section on MCN, but certainly we beat the likes of Quora by some way. I’d try and check, but it appears Bauer’s sites are experiencing an outage at the moment…

And funnily enough, the best time and definitely the most innovative I experienced was when for a few months a small team of us operated with barely any ‘adult’ supervision. Suddenly we were able to produce a variety of RSS feeds for starters. And initially noone paid much attention to my friend, colleague and talented video specialist Angus Farquhar starting to mess around with Youtube, establishing a channel which became a Partner channel early on, and has now racked up over 88 million views. I’d like to think that was partly down to my own appearances on the daily news show we started, that sadly petered out due to a lack of involvement from anyone else, along with the podcast Angus initiated.

I also took the chance to start playing with social media – we quickly had a Myspace page and Flickr group up and running, to be joined by Facebook and Twitter.

This isn’t to blow our own trumpets – there were lots of other talented digital people across the business, and many of them have gone onto great success since moving to other companies or starting their own businesses.

But the scary fact is that EMAP had websites for titles dating back to 1998, such as the original motorcycleworld.co.uk site, as captured by the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. That was around the same time as Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. Since then, we’ve had Myspace (2003), Facebook (2004), Youtube (2005), Twitter (2006), the iPhone (2007), the iPad (2010), and Blogger (1999) or WordPress (2003). In addition to Mashable, there’s the likes of Techcrunch, PerezHilton, the Huffington Post itself, Boing Boing going web only, and hundreds of other sites commanding a large amount of content and attention.

And many content companies have changed how they do things, giving rise to the likes of the Demand Media content farm which is built to respond to search and advertising demand. And that’s before we get into the likes of Paper.li, or Flipboard etc.

(I actually remember bringing in the wonderful Andrew Davies from Idio to discuss the idea of personalised digital magazines on-demand to a bemused audience).

Oh, and there’s the whole world of Glam Media, Shiny, B5 and all the other content networks that exist in a myriad of sizes, shapes and forms.

And yet, the traditional organisations, structures and practices still remain. Even when they did try, they put all their eggs in one basket, and then set fire to the basket (e.g. Ditto.net).

As any blogger will tell you, bespoke quality content is incredibly labour-intensive with low margins, and the rise in content marketing is due to the fact it works extremely well for business which have products to sell.

What’s going to hurt even more…

And that’s where the increased pain is going to come. More and more businesses are realising how useful content marketing can be, which is great for me as a consultant in that field, but not good for magazines, which are going to increasingly be cut out of the loop as middlemen unless they can build their own value as arbiters of taste in a cost effective way which includes social signals and added value.

And the areas which do create bigger margins are those around social, data, analysis – all the areas which allow a small team with a lot of technical knowledge and skill to achieve far greater scale for the cost of servers and number crunching. Meanwhile we’re still in the very early days of social media and mobile, and both are still operating in a manner similar to media companies when it comes to generating revenue, which means as they’ve gained respect and interest of the advertising agencies and clients, the pot of money available for the media brands is being thinned out.

Meanwhile small independant blogs and websites are still appearing every single day, powered by the availability of self-publishing and self-promotion, and the simple fact that some of us, despite the knowledge of the economics of the media, just love to write. Hot Mod Media is the catch-all for my own network of sites, and with a total financial outlay of about £500 per year, it’s already reaching over 200,000 uniques annually (Oct 2010-Oct 2011, and that’s going to rise massively with audiences increasing 500% already this year). Most importantly, the only ongoing investment at the moment is my spare time, and that of a small number of volunteers.

So as much as the leadership changes and struggles may make for good reading, and there’s undoubtedly some elements which affected the company as a whole, I wouldn’t say that it’s ultimately what ended the golden days of the big British media company…

A weekend trip…

I spent the weekend taking my son to see his grandparents and great-grandparents on my side of the family, and we also managed to get time to check out the Hornby Visitors centre and build some sandcastles on the beach. I’d link to the Hornby site, but it’s showing a fatal error on every page!

Sandcastle on the beach

All my own work - which is why I don't work in construction

Staying offline for almost two whole days has been rather pleasant, although we did have to jump onto iPlayer to catch up with the latest round of the MotoGP championship on Sunday. But what struck me was the urge to write a blog post about something like ’10 blog tips you can learn from building sandcastles’ or something similarly odd.

Yes, it can grab traffic. Sometimes those types of post can be useful. And sometimes they can be incredibly crass and slightly offensive (need I mention the Huffington Post and the death of Amy Winehouse?).

Maybe the simple lesson is shoehorning every experience into some kind of social media and blogging lesson makes for some crappy blog posts, and I should just focus on the fact it was great to spend time with my family, and have four generations all in one place. There are some real stories in there, which are intensely personal, and I’m not necessarily comfortable in sharing, but they are the ones worth posting.

So maybe I can sneak in a lesson for blogging on a personal or business level – if it feels like you’re kinda, sorta, maybe forcing a post – maybe you should just forget it and do something more valuable?

 

Rethinking how I manage my sites

I’ve been pretty busy with client work and my own sites recently – and managed to commit a cardinal sin in forgetting to renew the hosting package on one of my oldest projects, 140char.com.

I still own the domain, which I registered back in 2008 to give me a place to write about Twitter and Microblogging as it started to gain interest from early adopters and a wider audience, and over time I included the likes of Tumblr, Posterous, Plurk, Yammer etc, with whatever insight and analysis I could provide, as well as covering the bigger news stories.

Over time it proved reasonably popular, and a few articles got some great links from prominent bloggers such as Stowe Boyd, and prominent tech sites such as Engadget – but I always saw it as a smaller side project alongside this blog and my day job at the time. Move onto the 2010 and having seen traffic level off, and given the launch of other projects which seemed more viable, I decided to effectively park it for a while, and operated it as just a link blog, reposting everything on the subject which came into my Google Reader via Diigo, while I considered what to do with it, and whether or not to keep it or sell it etc. At the same time, I saw the deserved success of virtual friend Shea Bennett when he launched the far more focused Twittercism, which has now become AllTwitter after acquisition by MediaBistro

Traffic obviously dropped due to the linkposting, to the point where it was steadyish at around 1000 uniques a month, but in terms of priority, it’s dropped below all my client work, this site, and 3 others I’m currently working on… So when the hosting account was coming up for renewal, I planned to transfer it over to my main reseller account, and at the same time, work out the best use of the domain for the future…

And whereas I always set-up all client and current projects with multiple reminders to ensure this never happens, as an older project from the days before I was so diligent, it didn’t have any of that in place.

Tactical Facepalm

So the question is what I do with the domain and content now?

And at the same time, it seems like a good chance to re-evaluate all of my websites, profiles and web activity to ensure that I’m practising what I preach when it comes to an effective, efficient and productive internet strategy.

So be prepared for a bit of soul searching over the next couple of days as I review everything I do. And at least I’m not alone in a hosting slip-up, considering Disney managed to forget to renew the Club Penguin domain and leave several million users without a site!

In the process of re-evaluating everything, I’ve also started to tidy up my old accounts on places like Tumblr and Posterous, and start using them with a bit of actual purpose, so if you’re interested in the somewhat esoteric interests I have in cult books, music, films and comics, then you can always see what I’ve been enjoying at http://badgergravling.tumblr.com/.

So the question is whether I pay to just renew my hosting with all the original links intact, and then start transferring everything over to another site with the appropriate 301 redirects to maintain most of the value of the original links, which would be time consuming, but would retain something from the 3 years of posting, and would be generally what I’d do with clients. Or in the interest of time, just nuke my past like Steve Rubel.

Do I set myself up to continue a half-hearted attempt at updating by linkposting for the sake of it, or is there a more valuable use for that domain?

I could probably sell it for a tiny amount, considering that although it has respectable page rank, I’ve never really monetised it effectively.

Or is there another way to utilise it which would mean that it’s providing value to people – considering that Twitter coverage in particular has spread to mainstream traditional news publications?

In the meantime, my current main sites are:

TheWayoftheWeb – you’re here, so should have an idea what I do. Hopefully. But it’s all around freelance digital content, marketing and running that business.

OnlineRaceDriver.com – online race games. Currently growing by over 20% every month, and getting to a good, solid traffic level.

FPSPrestige.com – FPS games – i.e. Call of Duty, Battlefield etc. Far newer, but growing faster than ORD, and again, getting to a decent traffic level already.

MyDpip.com – the site for Digital People in Peterborough. Slightly neglected due to the fact that both of the people originally involved have been a bit distracted recently, but getting a bit of a reboot in the near future.

Jodanma.com – and this is why we’ve both been a bit distracted. As the non-designer in the company, it’s been slightly frustrating to be waiting with a holding page whilst we’ve been working on client projects, but we’re building in some space soon to finish our own site, which will be a relief.

Not a bad tally, even without 140char.com, and without including a few smaller, more experimental ideas…

The importance of beating your own drum…

There are certain people I follow on social networks who tend to share things outside of the normal technology, social media, marketing echo chamber, and one of them is Stuart Witts, who’s as likely distribute bizarre Lego creations as digital insight. He recently shared the following video, which sparked some thoughts…

Firstly, that video has been watched almost 10 million times since June 2010 as I write this. 32,000+ people have left comments and 64,000+ people have liked it – and it’s been featured on sites such as the blog of Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet.

So whether or not you think the drummer is talented, funny, or making a fool of himself, it’s proved popular. And you’ll certainly remember him far more than the rest of the band…

Right about now, I’m guessing a fair number of you are thinking about this from a marketing or advertising perspective and wondering ‘How could we do something like that and go viral?’

That’s not the point!!!

Don’t get inspired by that video.

The inspiration comes from the approach of the drummer. He probably didn’t start playing drums with the dream of wearing a gold suit jacket and playing in a cover band. It’s also pretty unlikely that anyone taught him to drum the way he does in the video. And most importantly, he’s not doing it at the expense of the song – he’s hitting all the right beats, and providing the right backing for what is meant to be the chance for the guitarist to shine.

But he’s doing it in his own way, and that’s what makes him worthy of conversation and sharing.

Now picture your industry, content, and marketing:

If those band members were representating your business competitors and their marketing strategies, one brand may have secured the traditionally starring role of the singer/guitarist.

And the rest are probably much like the bass player in the video. Doing the basics, fitting into the perceived look and feel of their industry and peers. Occasionally giving a little flourish, but generally plodding along.

Neither is particular memorable.

But certain brands are able to use their passion, belief and drive to stand out far more than anyone thought possible by doing things in their own way. And that’s what makes a brand memorable, allows people to share it without shame, and encourages people to interact and purchase from it.

But what if they don’t like us?

Now, you may think that the drummer looks like an idiot, and I’m mad to suggest your brand should be twirling drumsticks when it could be providing a nice safe steady beat. Like any £100 drum machine could do.

But that assumes that bland tolerability drives purchases and sharability more than actively loving or hating something.

Far better to have a growing army of people who love what you do, and will passionately hoover up everything you can offer.

Being actively disliked by a large number of people hasn’t stopped the Daily Mail from being the second most popular newspaper website in the world, as sad as that makes me. And it’s built a large number of people who not only like what it does, but pay money to it for that product.

Being actively disliked by some people means that they might be driven enough to explain why they don’t like you, which lets you decide whether to do something about it. And just by responding to them, you can increase your business.

If you don’t run the risk of some people disliking what you’re doing, you’ll never run the risk of being able to be loved by people who are willing to part with their scarce attention and money.

Here’s to the mad drummers.

 

How soon does blogging deliver results?

One of the first questions that gets asked when blogging is mentioned as a topic is how quickly it will be successful. And the honest answer is impossible to give without several factors which are completely individual to every business. Do you already have a media presence? Can you devote time and resource to creating great content? And most importantly, what consititutes success? Are you looking to drive awareness, engagement, interaction, sales, ad revenue?

But at the same time, it’s handy to have something to benchmark against, and most online comparisons are flakey at best when compared to actual analytics. So I thought I’d share some recent figures for one of my personal projects, OnlineRaceDriver, as it recently celebrated a first anniversary.

Time by M$$MO on Flickr
Time by M$$MO on Flickr (CC Licence)

To give some context, OnlineRaceDriver and its new sister site, FPSPrestige, are experiments in extremely niche targetted content, driven partly by a shared passion for videogames by everyone involved, and partly by my desire to be able to build a small media business which allows me to continually experiment and evolve all the digital content and marketing skills any business or client can benefit from. Both are done in the spare time available to me and the other contributors, and the only financial investment has been in paying for hosting and a custom blog design (Both use the now-replaced Metro theme from StudioPress) – they both use WordPress as a free CMS system and PHPBB3 as a free forum solution, with Google Analytics providing measurement above what is available straight away from WordPress.

So, after 12 months of spare time work, how has ORD done?

  • 215 Posts (The biggest sign of the time constraints – ideally it should be a lot more!)
  • 204 Comments (Just under one comment per post isn’t too bad..)
  • 46,831 Page Views (Could have been more with a little more focus on high traffic posts and promotion)
  • 30,705 Unique Visitors (Again, this is an area where we probably could have done a lot more with more time)
  • 1,100+ Youtube Views (This is all from press release videos, and is a somewhat painful process a lot of the time!)
  • 59 Facebook Fans (The biggest challenge here is that Facebook Notes is increasingly broken, requiring manual updates which sometimes get forgotten!)
  • Cited as a reference source on Wikipedia (One of the nicest recent developments has been that someone working on Wikipedia has started referencing some of our breaking news on the site)

In terms of monthly figures, in the first month of ORD we had:

  • 334 Visits
  • 713 Page Views
  • 205 Unique Visitors

And 12 months later, and with 5 more days to go in January, we’ve had:

  • 4,175 Visits (Up 1,150%)
  • 5,352 Page Views (Up 650%)
  • 3,678 Unique Visitors (Up 1,694%)

1000% growth for something in a very experimental and low-key first 12 months isn’t too bad. Good enough that FPSPrestige launched and has achieved slightly better figures in its first month.

There’s no real conclusion here – in terms of success, both sites are around where I expected and hoped in the first 12 months, and all the graphs are ‘up and to the right’, so I’m happy there’s a lot more to come, even as I roll out more features (The forums for both sites have just launched, for example).

crowdpleaserbygematrium
The queue to join the new forums (Image by Gematrium on Flickr – CC Licence)

But as a simple guide – if as a small business with no budget, you could do something which puts your brand in front of 4000+ relevant people every month in exchange for some time, that could really start to change things. If you leveraged all the connections you have, that could change things a bit more. Through in some relevant promotion, and that moves it on further…

I recently scared myself when I realised that across this site and the other 3 or 4 main sites I’m playing with in my spare time, one bloke at his kitchen table now reaches over 10,000 people and growing every month.And with constant attention and improvement that number will hopefully keep growing. Of course, 10, 20, or 500,000 visitors might make a ‘successful’ website, but it doesn’t make a successful business… That’s another piece of the puzzle…