I’ve worked a number of different jobs since first entering the workforce at the age of 16. (Before that, I unofficially worked as a lawn mower, paperboy, and child laborer from time to time.)
In order of appearance, I’ve worked as a fried chicken cook, warehouse manager, youth soccer coach, cell phone clerk, corporate travel agent, web designer, blogger, and (for the last 13 years) a writer-for-hire.
That last job really feels more like a calling than work, however, and within that category I’ve written a lot of different things. One of my favorite things was answering reader letters at a now defunct print magazine called GamePro. (Fun fact: I started writing as a game blogger before transitioning to tech, trade, and travel journalism.)
At the time, I was their news editor, which meant I mostly produced and managed a small team of three daily writers, myself included. The managing editor then took the best of said news for republish in the monthly print edition. Continue reading…
Like so many other peasants — and royalty for that matter — I owe much of my good fortune to luck and timing. And nothing has been more beneficial to my career than getting into blogging before it became blasé.
I barely made it. Continue reading…
In the mid 2000s, live blogging was all the rage. Since streaming video was still in its infancy, a live blog was the only way you could get real-time updates of an event from a remote location. It was a great recourse, as onlookers could react, comment, and update each other in real-time.
Today, live blogging is mostly useless. Take this year’s E3, for example. Every game company either streamed their live press conference or had a partner do it for them, most of which could be embedded and streamed live to your own website or blog. Nevertheless, every major blog I came across continued to perpetuate the “live blog” like it was still an asset to the reader.
Unsurprisingly, comments have decreased on these live blogs because no one really cares anymore. The solution: Just slap a live video embed on your site and be done with it. You’ll still get all the reader participation you had before and cut down your workload.
Five years ago this week, I launched Smooth Harold. Coolest blog evar! Since its launch, if one thing has changed the site more than anything else, it’s been Facebook.
A quick glance at my front page reveals that not many people comment like they used to, even though traffic levels have remained the same. Since my blog is syndicated to my Facebook account, many readers prefer to comment there instead of here.
(Admittedly, I don’t post as much content as I used to, since Facebook is a superior way of bookmark sharing and pithy status updates.)
But maybe it isn’t just Facebook or Twitter that’s changed where people communicate online. Maybe the interest in the comment has waned. I remember when posting a comment was pretty fun. It was empowering. Now it’s almost blasÃ©. And it’s annoying to skim through so many trolling comments. So commenting on Facebook, among trusted friends and family, ensures you don’t have to deal with the latter.
At the same time, I can recall numerous occasions where a complete stranger left an inspiring comment on my blog, something Facebook can’t offer (although Twitter can). So perhaps online commenting has become more insular, less democratic. At least on a personal level.
Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m out of touch. (Is this thing on?)
I regularly get 2-3 comments per month from first-time visitors calling me “Harold,” my blogging pseudonym. I expected this when launching the site in 2005. Before I explain why, let me remind you how I came up with the name:
I was good friends with a guy named Michael Komenda years ago while living in Brazil. He is like a skinning version of Chris Farley—very animated guy. Anyway, he had a band called Smooth Harold in high school. I asked him where he got the name, and he said he once saw a kid wearing a green shirt that read “Smooth Harold” on the back. By the time I started my blog, Komenda had stopped using the name for his band, so I took it for myself.
In many ways, the life of Blake Snow is a rather boring one. He works from home. He’s married with kids. No alarms and no surprises really. It’s the life I want to lead, and one that makes me happy. But I realize it’s not a remarkable life. So I wanted my blog to be larger than Blake Snow. That’s why I blog under an admitted pseudonym.
Plus, Smooth Harold just sounds cooler.
If millions of lifeless blogs and apologetic “sorry for not updating” posts were any indication, blogging isn’t for everyone. And if you’re hoping to make a national name for yourself as an amateur wordsmith, you’re about 3-4 years late to the party.
For everyone else (people with opinions, writers, pundits, and social networkers) regular blogging is still a worthwhile pursuit, provided you have something original to say. It can be used as a platform to start a career in writing, it can influence others, and for some, even subsidize a mortgage or provide a modest living.
I find it comical (not to mention anti-competitive) then when a blogger from the popular Silicon Vally gossip rag encourages lone stars to throw in the towel on blogging. Dumb. That’s like a used car salesman saying there’s no money in automobiles. While I admit blogging is over-saturated, it’s in no way a dead end. And it’s certainly more pervasive than Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.
I nuke hard sell comments as soon as they are published to Smooth Harold (read: “Nice blog! Check out this really cool snake oil!”). I also reserve the right to delete profane or otherwise mindless provocative comments while Akismet takes care of the spam.
But what do I do with soft sell comments? The comments that are relevant and might add value to some readers even if a salesman is behind them.
Says the New York Times:
“Research shows that among the youngest Internet users, the primary creators of Web content (blogs, graphics, photographs, Web sites) are digitally effusive teenage girls (not boys).”
I believe it.
The AP reports: “Zach Brooks pocketed $1,000 this month blogging about the cheap lunches he discovers around midtown Manhattan. The site, Midtownlunch.com, is just a year and a half old and gets only about 2,000 readers daily…”
Without soliciting ad space, I averaged $575/month ($19/day) in 2007 across my two blogs (the other being Infendo). They garner a combined 3,000 daily readers. (Casual time spent keeps me operating at a loss, however.) Note: I don’t use Google AdSense because Tribal Fusion and Value Click pay better in my experience.
By my calculations, then, I make lunch money fit for two. Not rich, but then again, I didn’t start blogging to make money (believe it or not) — I started blogging because I’m opinionated and like writing.
When you consider the incidental networking opportunities created by daily blogging, however (read: people who find or read your blog and offer high-paying gigs), I am a rich man. Not TechCrunch rich. But new rich at the least.
I shutter to think were I’d be today without blogging — personally, professionally, and financially.
Headline and image courtesy the Associated Press
As a professional blogger for nearly two years now, I’ve seen tens of thousands of comments aimed at me. Most of them are favorable, a lot of them are entertaining, some of them are negative, and a handful of them are just nasty. It comes with the territory when you publish your opinions, passions, and stories freely to the web.
But nasty commenters have a bright side. They help motivate me to work harder and make it so my output has to do the convincing. They give me thick skin and chutzpah to take risks as both a writer and businessman.
I went to brunch with Om Malik on Saturday while on assignment in San Francisco over the weekend. I’m really glad it worked out as Om is one of the kindest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
First thing that struck me about Om was the genuine interest he showed in meeting me. Malik is an accomplished professional. Blake Snow is not. Nevertheless, Om didn’t play the “I’m in a hurry, Blake, so what can I do to help” card. Rather he was very giving of his time. What was originally suppose to be a short meeting turned into an hour long discussion between colleagues on a nice, sunny day in the Bay Area.
I then learned that while writing for Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Business 2.0 by day, Om also worked as a club promoter by night. He charged high-rollers a “finder’s fee” to ensure their admittance into New York’s hottest clubs on any given night. In return, club owners received high-spending customers on a VIP list without charging a cover or paying for marketing. Clever idea! At one point, Om’s promotion business was netting him $40,000 per month on top of his salary before ultimately selling the company to solely focus on reporting.
Lastly, after discussing our careers, Om and I started talking baseball which we both share an affinity for. I asked him for his thoughts on the controversial Barry Bonds whom I called “a cheat,” to which Om replied in gentle fashion, “Everyone has made mistakes in life. No one is perfect.” This from an Oakland A’s fan even. At first I wanted to defend my original claim given its widely accepted credibility and Bonds’s reputation for being a jerk, but conclusively realized I couldn’t do so without being a hypocrite. How many times have I been “a cheat” in life only to want the quick forgiveness of those whom I had wronged. Thanks, Om!
See also: Now blogging for Om Malik
Search Rank has a nice little piece outlining 10 signs that you may be a blog addict. Here’s my take on each point:
- You always have your RSS reader open. While I am usually guilty of this, I’ve been cutting back to get more work done. Productivity for the win!
- You tell customers that you missed a project deadline because “some things” came up but in reality, you were blogging. Guilty.
- You periodically dream that you are blogging. I don’t know if I dream about the very act of blogging, but I definitely dream about post ideas…
- You get inspiration for new blog posts at the strangest times. Yes. Why else would I carry my Blackberry for notes at all hours of the day?
- You await blog comments like emails in your inbox. I actually have gotten better at this, but still do it religiously on Smooth Harold.
- In order for your family to keep up with what’s going on in your life, they have to read your blog. Guilty. I posted my second child’s conception announcement here before anywhere else. You heard it here first, folks!
- You have actually considered setting up a blog for your pet. No way I’ve done this. Lame.
- You can’t remember dates for your wedding anniversary, kids birthdays, etc., but you know what your Technorati rank is. First, Gcal remembers my dates for me, and honestly have never looked at my blog ranking. I’m sure it’s in the millions and I don’t write (at least not here) for popularity.
- You blog about anything and everything. Yup. Smooth Harold is more “general” than most, though I do like to stay true to the biz/tech angle.
- Keeping a blog is no longer enough but you now have to record your every move on Twitter. Not here. Twitter is a fleeting fad. I’m sure it will live on for those who don’t already have enough things to waste their time on, but this here blogger could care less.
Only 6.5 out of 10! Where are you?
AOL launched a new tech blog on March 20 called Switched. In case you didn’t know, AOL also owns Engadget, the world’s largest tech blog that just so happens to be the world’s “most popular blog” according to Technorati in terms of linkage. Sources close to Smooth Harold report that Switched is even being funded better than Engadget in terms of salaried individuals despite having zero traffic (read: no ad sales). Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Venture with me — if you will — into the mind of one of the slowest internet dinosaurs in existence. “CEO: Okay, Switched spearhead. You think we should start a new tech blog even though we already own the number one tech blog that’s also the most visited weblog in the world? Okay. But won’t that cannibalize our traffic, at least with the non-tech savvy crowd (because you and I both know Engadget will continue to be the best tech blog unless we suffocate it)? And where Switched isn’t cannibalizing our efforts, won’t we just be wasting money rather than reinvesting into Engadget to further secure its dominance? No? Okay, I’m sold. I don’t know why we didn’t think about this before. Matter of fact, didn’t CNN.com just launch a new world news website to compete with itself? No? Well, they should have.”
Way to support your $25 million purchase of Weblogs Inc, AOL. Your CEO should be fired for letting this thing even see the light of day. I’m amazed by the stupidity and behind the scene agendas that are going on here. Peter Rojas and Ryan Block must be reeling from this mediocre move.
When I’m not helping companies flex their web muscle, I enjoy writing. I got my start as a independent blogger here on Smooth Harold. From there I started a few other blogs which later secured professional gigs on larger blogs and traditional websites/magazines. But I’ve been spoiled as a blogger as I’ve never had to deal with editorial overrides until recently. In case you didn’t know, bloggers ARE the editors for virtually every online publication. We decide the headline, angle, tone, image, and word use. It’s rather liberating. :)
I wrote my first “non-blog” article late last year. The editor kept my headline and whatnot, only changing a few words here and there. The changes were very minor and even added some clarity, so I didn’t mind. A few articles later, a different editor at another publication restructured a few sentences of mine after I sent in my final draft. Though I disagreed on a few of his changes, for the most part, I was fine with them. Especially his copy edits to the headline which were better than my original. So it was all good.
Today, however, I sent in an article that was getting published in a few hours. I really liked my tone, word selection, and to an extent, my okay-headline. Shortly after, my editor (read: boss) sent back a radically and controversially angled version. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, and to make matters worse, I disagreed with the new-found premise. His headline was sure to foster more link-bait, but at the expense of what I thought was “a stretch” of a story. I sent back my differing thoughts to which a compromise was made. I then updated my story under his direction adding additional clarification to his edit, and the article went live.
After reading the my piece in published form, I went back and decided that I liked my original piece better with its accompanying angle and tone. In hindsight, I think it would have been better received. The take-away of all this? It’s nice to have your cake and eat it too as an experienced craftsman. Any Smooth Harold readers out there ever experienced the same? I suppose I should have seen this coming, as paying clients always have the last word, despite your creative opinion.
I despise seeing bloggers or sites in-line link using their affiliate codes without disclosure. I don’t mind helping others turn a quick buck on something they really believe in, but recommending without disclosing affiliate participation feels counterfeit. Either physically separate your affiliations from your posts and label them as such, or disclose. The long-term benefits of straightforwardness are far greater and lasting than the the few bucks you may or may not earn from an affiliate link. A quick roll over is all it takes to get busted, so link responsibly. I promise you’ll earn just as much if not more by disclosing your affiliates when linking. Believe it or not.
Here’s an easy, if not cheap, content strategy to drive copious amounts of traffic to your website or blog really fast. No mischievous cats needed.
- Wait for a hot, buzz-worthy product or service to take over the internets, like a new iPod, Twitter, etc.
- Post a listicle on 5-10 reasons why the newly released product sucks. Objectivity is optional.
- Watch the traffic roll in if your Digg copy is well written and/or if you get picked up by niche sites covering the product in question.
Don’t confuse my simpleton post with sarcasm; this is guaranteed to work, I promise. In this case, you’re banking on human nature alone, tabloid-style. It will work every time assuming you’re first to market with a well-written post, however subjective. This applies to any product or service that gains easy notoriety on the web.
Easy. They call your posts, “blogs.” I got an email the other day from a really nice, uninitiated guy that said, “I really like your blogs,” referring to my posts on a single blog. I’ve heard this several times before and can’t think of a time where the person using the inaccurate phrase wasn’t new to blogging. Generally speaking a log, or web log, is a single entity with several entries, though I suppose each entry could technically be called a “log” or “blog.” But for the sake of convention, they’re called blog posts, not “blogs.” Not trying to call out those new to the superior form of information exchange because I think it’s fine, it’s just a funny use case for the word “posts.” (Tries to think of newbie phrases that I use on occasion…)
Smooth Harold is about to break its 600 post in just under two years since its inception. Small fry compared to most. But that’s not the point of this post. My point is that out of that group of 600 articles (some short, some long, some funny, some serious, some just links), could some posts effectively be repurposed and republished to the homepage (in their original form) to the value of current readers without alienating long-time readers? I think so (if and only if the original content is that endearing).
Here’s how it could work. Bloggers would scour their favorite, most commented, most viewed posts from their archives and resyndicate them to their own homepage just like several TV shows resyndicate their content in its original form. I believe TV shows are the only medium that does this, but if in moderation, I think it could work for non-ephemeral blog posts. That may be a bit presumptuous of me to think my content is that prolific, long-lasting, or worthy of republishing, but I think I have a good 10 or 15 pieces lying around that I could repurpose to good reception. What say ye, oh wise readers? Can resyndicated blog content work?
In addition to blogging for myself, on various side projects, and for Weblogs Inc, I’m going to start blogging for Om Malik this week on his GigaOm Network, specifically GigaGamez which covers the business of video games principally stocks, trends, etc. I’m excited to start working alongside Om and his team in San Francisco, and if you haven’t already noticed, I really like blogging. It’s like my second favorite (now perhaps favorite) thing to do online. It also lends itself well to the other various web projects I’m engaged in on a given day as a consultant.
And for any interested, you can check out my latest article at Next-Generation examing user-generated game content. It might be a bit boring for some, but I really feel this is going to be a big, big space. Everyone and their dog is trying to be the next YouTube, no matter where the conversion is taking place.
PC World has compiled a list of whom they believe to be the 50 most important individuals on the internet. The Google boys take the top spot with all that power they yield, Steve Jobs takes the number 2 spot with all that influence he yields (however warranted), and BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen rounds out the top three. A slew of A-list bloggers also made the list. Check it.
Utah Business, which is generally a pretty poopsky magazine with very trite articles, has a nice little read on the key benefits of blogging. They dub keeping tabs on what’s going on in your space by reading blogs as the first benefit of blogs and the marketing power via publishing a blog. Here’s a nice blogging for dummies description from the article: “A corporate blog can enhance a company’s brand, build thought leadership, deepen customer relationships by promoting conversations and put forth a human face to a large organization. A blog also provides fresh web content, which gives you more online visibility, attracts search engines and drives more traffic.”
My only beef; if you decide to publish a company blog, don’t call it a “corporate blog.” Just call it a blog. Personable. Authentic. Sans spin. No direct selling. Blogging: taking the corporate out of companies since 1999. I should trademark that.
Over the last two years, blogging (and social sites in general) have been big sellers for Griffio. The short answer is because they work in boosting exposure, influence, and opportunities. But sadly, the blog drop-out rate is ridiculous. I’ve heard as little as 1% of all newly created blogs continue publishing after only a short while. To counter that futile fate, here are (5) guidelines for building a successful blog should you decide to start one: Continue reading…
A blog can be an excellent tool for building “You Inc.” For those out of the loop, a blog is nothing more than an easily updateable Web site intended to inform or influence. Here are eight things to avoid while blogging to help attract site visitors, garner trust, heighten exposure and increase revenues. Continue reading…
In an article entitled “Do Newspapers Have a Future,” author Michael Kinsley at TIME magazine had this to say: “Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports.”
He’s got a point. However, he also exposes the overall threatened view of traditional media towards bloggers, and rightfully so. Continue reading…
I don’t like moderating comment criticism on blogs. Granted, moderation is good for some large organizations or companies that need to be especially careful with what’s posted on their site, but for independent publishers, I like the added democracy of an open comment system. And for the most part, blog readers have come to appreciate that comments do not express the views of the posting site or its author.
Moderation, either before-the-fact or after-the-fact gives the independent publisher the power to masque criticism, ideas, thoughts, new views, differing opinions, open-mindedness, vulgarity, and hate speech. I’m not sure I want that power, though I do use it in the case of the last two. I have let a little hate speech slide but don’t really like to. I prefer after-the-fact moderation (once a comment is already posted) because it’s easier for me to let comments “stick” if they aren’t too racy. The extreme one’s (through rare on Smooth Harold) get thrown out once I spot them in my email inbox.
Okay, this might be somewhat of a dated topic, but should biased, opinionated web loggers enjoy the same protection as so called “non-biased, but they really are biased” journalists? Apple Computer seems to think not in wake of their recent litigation against bloggers who got the computer company ruffled when they took the steam out of their new ipods and imacs.
Let me know your thoughts on this one… Do bloggers deserved to be treated as new amateur journalists of the new era? As for me, it is yet to be determined. (Sara, this goes for you too!)
“PFG – pretty freakin good”
Here we go…