Got Something To Say? Start A Blog!

Millions already have and now it’s easier than ever.

by Terri Hunter-Davis

It used to be that a need to vent, a heated rant or a tentatively voiced dream would find their way into the pages of a journal. A shopping find would warrant a phone call; a craft question — or answer — would have to wait for a gathering of friends.

Now, the whole world can be your audience.
Blogging is nothing new; the term “blog” — short for Web log — was coined in the late 1990s, and people were writing them long before the genre had a formal name. And while blogging has grown in breadth and social impact, ranging from newsmakers such as The Huffington Post and Michelle Malkin to the musings of Rosie O’Donnell and Mark Cuban, a large part of the blogosphere has held true to its roots — ordinary people recording their observations on the world. (That’s reportedly how Arianna Huffington launched HuffPo.)

One large collection of blogs can be found at BlogHer: some 15,000 blogs registered in more than 30 categories, all written by women. Thinking of blogging on family? This is a good place to scope out the other voices (and there are plenty of them). There’s a community growing at BlogHer, bolstered by events such as its recent convention in San Francisco and its smaller Road Trips. But as comprehensive as BlogHer is, it pales in comparison with aggregators like Technorati, which claims to track more than 112 million blogs.

Getting online
Ready to add your voice to the blogosphere? It’s not difficult. Several easy-to-use platforms predominate; they include Blogger (owned by Google), WordPress and TypePad. You also can add a blog to your profile on such social networking sites at Facebook and MySpace. Special-interest sites, such as Get Crafty, also enable members to maintain blogs.

It doesn’t take much technical know-how to plunge in. Most blogging software uses basic word-processing tools to let you style your type. Generally, you shouldn’t need any HTML knowledge; posting photos and links to other sites and media is as simple as clicking a button and inserting a URL. You can choose a graphic background to dress up your blog, too.

Registering at sites such as the aforementioned BlogHer or Technorati can help build your audience, if that’s what you seek. But if you want others to regularly visit your blog, you have to commit to regularly updating it. One suggestion: Establish a schedule — whether daily, weekly, monthly, whatever — and stick to it. Not doing so is a huge pitfall for part-time bloggers — whether it’s running out of material or running out of time for posting, it adds up to running out of visitors. That’s not good, if you’re boosting your ego or your revenue.

For love or money
Yes, blogging can boost your income, too. If you’re on Blogger, you have the option of letting Google post ads on your site through its AdSense program; the click rate can earn income for you. Similarly, Amazon’s Associates program lets you link to titles on Amazon, and earn a commission on sales. The BlogHer ad network also places ads on blogs that are signed up for the service. All these methods rely on substantial traffic for you to earn any profits. You even can politely ask readers to donate to your cause; PayPal, the online payment service, makes it as simple as clicking a button

But success stories are out there. Hostess With the Mostess, a popular home/entertaining blog (with companion site), has grown so popular that it earns advertising dollars directly from the advertisers — no sharing with a third party. Urban Baby is another: It grew from a message board and blog by New York City moms to include several other metropolitan areas, and finally became part of the CNet franchise.

Other blogs have become valuable resources for information, ad-driven or not. The shelter category — home, décor, food — is particularly well served by blogs. Some, like Design Within Reach, are connected to retail outlets; others, like Design Sponge and Remodelista, are independently written. Sports is another vertical that attracts bloggers from far and wide: Look for blogs on every imaginable professional team, prominent athletes, fantasy leagues and much more. You’ll find blogs by fans and participants alike. Even non-sports celebrities blog on sports — actress Alyssa Milano and Elisha Cuthbert are notable examples.

Speaking of celebrities … there are some unexpected stars in the blogosphere. Some of the not-so-usual suspects include William Shatner, comedian Margaret Cho and traveling foodie Anthony Bourdain. Then there are the celebrities who’ve become famous as a result of their blogs: Perez Hilton, Matt Drudge and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (founder of Daily Kos), to name a few.

And some blogs are just plain good reads. Like The Pioneer Woman, which has a loyal readership across the country, both on the frontier and in cities alike. Or Dooce, a mélange of items written with a wicked sense of humor. Or Becks & Posh, which is not about the British supercouple, but an ex-pat British foodie and her French buddy in San Francisco.

All this goes to show that if you have something to say, there’s a place online for your voice. But even if your blog is meant only for select visitors, you still need to let them know it’s there. Be prepared to link to it on message boards you frequent, on social networking sites where you have a profile, as an e-mail signature. Ask fellow bloggers to list yours among their favorites. Even the career networking site LinkedIn includes a blog link in its standard format.

Because it won’t matter how great your blog is, if no-one knows it’s there!

© The Online Mom, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Terri Hunter-Davis is a veteran writer, editor and designer in both print and online media. Her areas of expertise include family, lifestyle and shelter topics. Terri lives in San Francisco with her husband and increasingly tech-savvy 6- and 10-year-old daughters.

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