Many of the posts here that talk about starting your blog or site mention the following advice…
Find your niche.
Now this always seems to be pretty high up the list, but for me there’s something a bit more important, The Passion of the Writer. With that passion does it really matter if you are in an already crowded market?
For two and a half years I wrote for quite a big film blog, and for reasons better left unwritten I left and began my own site. I entered a marketplace where the most interesting niche areas are covered and the ones that aren’t are either uninteresting, don’t command an audience, or just don’t arouse my passion.
The film blogging community is crowded, there are many smaller film blogging sites and even those that command a larger audience are still standing shoulder to shoulder with others. Pretty quickly I found I was fighting for an audience alongside many other sites, so what was left?
Well the next piece of advice I see a lot is…
Write an exclusive.
There lies another problem. When you’re a small site in the film blogging community none of the Film Studios or Marketing companies care about you since you don’t have a large enough audience for them.
So that takes care of that one, so what is left? Well for me there are
- Write well and passionately
- Create discussions
- Build an informed opinion
The first is obvious, whatever you’re writing about write about it well and put your passion into every article.
Secondly, make sure that you’re not just lecturing to your audience or reading the news to them, engage them in the discussion, ask their advice, get them to do something and respond back about it. This doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s very gratifying. Oh, and remember to keep the discussions going, don’t just fire and forget your articles.
Next up is to build an informed opinion. This is pretty easy, if you have a passion for your topic then you already have your informed opinion. If you don’t and you’re writing constantly about your chosen topic, then you soon will. Except having the opinion doesn’t count for anything unless you voice it. Don’t just voice it post to post either, make sure that it spreads across your site and follows through articles on the same subjects, it makes for much richer and deeper reading.
Lastly, market. Get the latest tools on your site, but only those that truly help you and your readers connect. Get your stories out on social bookmarking sites, but try and enable your readers to do it rather than you, posting your own stories can cause quite a lot of negativity on these sites.
Doing these things creates quality and a site that your readers can interact with rather than just read. Of course there are a lot more points to it than just these, and a lot more work, but I’m not giving away all the secrets!
So you see, entering an already crowded blogging community is not necessarily a bad thing or something that should be avoided. If you have a passion and a strong voice, and a lot of time in which to build your site slowly, then you can, a niche isn’t necessary.
Beware though, it’s a long process, and a lot of hard work. Sometimes I really wish I had a niche!
Let them hone in on their interest area/author or whatever. I know that a lot of people like my ‘similar-to-Steve-Hill type adventures in…’ but I know those others may not like the indepth stuff… so I try to balance what goes out weekly.
Back when I had my print mag in the 1990s, it originally started off as a science fiction review but quickly picked up both mainstream and niche film/ book/ music reviews and interviews, with people contributing from around the world (just before the Internet). We managed to interview a few biggies for the film section (but more authors and musicians/ bands). But I had a select few film reviewers that really knew their stuff, and word on the street was that readers had their own fave reviewers. It’s as much style of writing as the movies you are reviewing. It’s not that a reader has to agree with your verdict on a film (or a book), but an intelligent reader is going to go for the fact that your review is thorough and fair. Not just some silly diatribe on something unrelated because you have a personal vendetta against a particular actor or director, etc.
So that said, a quality team film blog of a few reviewers will not at all hurt you. Just make sure that if your reviews are long, and you are increasing the daily volume of reviews, that you consider displaying only an excerpt of each post on the home page, so that readers can see their selection at a glance. Just my thoughts.
I think that quality is the key – good writing will bring the readers in once you have a small established readership. It might be hard to attract them initially (I certainly know that) but once it gets going they become regular and bring their friends along for the ride. I’m still finding that more posts boosts the traffic, so clearly I’m just not writing enough at this stage…
Spot on nitink. My day job is in e-learning, and there’s an 80-20 split in informal-formal learning, a great deal of informal being doing.
Start it up and go little by little, getting advice as you go.
I to have learnt quite a few things here, but the most has been just getting things done.
I’m also happy to give advice, and I’m hoping to post more articles here as well.
Oh don’t be daft Markus. No stepping on toes or anything, it’s discussion and debate and so that’s what I was doing, feel free to have a different opinion, voice it and let’s talk about it.
Hey, rossouwh – if you want to learn about blogging tools, blog marketing, etc., you’re in the right place! I’ve learned a great deal from the professional/expert bloggers here on Performancing, simply by “lurking”; folks like Chris, Markus, Nick, Brett et al.
[Ok, I’ll move on before I start to sound too fawning, although the above is true.] I agree that it sounds overwhelming, if you try to deal with it all at once – the blogging platform, graphic design and layout (does it work in IE?), ads, trackbacks, promotion, social bookmarking, feeds, technorati, blog search engines, and so forth – all of which interfere with the creative process of trying to create the content.
But really, I feel that the best way is to just start, and take it one thing at a time. Identify your blogging platform of choice and area of interest, start creating blog posts (most platforms make this very very easy to do), and then slowly start getting into the other areas one by one. Also, I find it helpful to set up some type of posting schedule – say, weekly – to keep you honest about creating content, while you’re dealing with all the logistics. Later, after you’re a much more sophisticated blogger, you can always start additional blogs to leverage your knowledge!
Just my $0.02 – what do other folks here think?
P.S. rossouwh, if you have questions about specific tools or issues, feel free to email me and I’ll certainly try to help you, or point you to forums or posts that help.
Apologies, my post was icorrectly addressed to Chris.
Chris, being a complete newbie, I have researched blogs and all things related. You state that marketing the blog is imperative which is a given, you mention getting the tools, joining social bookmark communities etc…but I feel for someone with all the information and no practice, it’s difficult for me to find the appropriate tools, and even worse, how to USE those to our benefit.
@Filmstalker: Excuse me for stepping on your toes. That was definitely not intended 🙂
My first thought was that writing about films is a very personal and individual thing. But then I thought about the subject of this thread and yes I do believe that blogging in a crowded market can be managed (!) more successful through that tribal approach.
I think you can still blog on your own on such a generalised area such as films, it’s the discussion and writing that will attract the readers, not the fact that it’s a new site with only one person. Sure this will give you a small audience to begin with, and the build up will be even smaller, but I do believe (and have seen) that you can beat even team blogging sites in terms of figures.
It does depend what you want. If figures are all that matter then it’s missing the point of your passion and you should start writing about what takes in the figures, but if writing about your passion is your goal then breaking even with that site will be the major goal.
I think I’m trying for all of the above, but at some point I realise I will have to use my single site as a “CV” entry to get bigger and better writing work, to accept new writers on and create a team site, or to go and join a team site myself.
The ideas for a team film site are quite good, but I wouldn’t suggest you restrict the writers to just their own area, let them spread a little. Better still bring them all together for features or podcasts. Things like this are already happening in many sites, e.g. CinemaBlend, FilmRot or Cinematical, and they all perform really well.
So can one person really blog about such a general area and make it work? Yes, I think they can (I have to believe that too) but it’s not going to be the career breaker, there’s going to have to be other writing and possible team work in the future to make a living.
What I would never want to do though is dilute or lose that passion, and that has to be the core to keeping interesting and engaging content.
@nitink: Thanks for mentioning 🙂
Team blogging in the film niche … some thoughts:
Film screenings are not happening everywhere, not at the same time and esp. not on the same topics (i.e. retrospectives, festivals, …). Then all the authors have their own profile (i.e. film noir, Hollywood, Bollywood, Disney, …).
All those examples show pretty clearly that a film blog is a perfect example where team blogging and my tribal approach fit perfectly together.
I like the idea of a team blog – it will reduce the pressure to post, giving authors more time for research, references and blog marketing.
Markus already refers to this possibility in his Tribal trends article.
I think Adam definitely has something there. If you can’t be in a niche all to yourself, maybe that is the right time to establish a team blog.
I’ve been kicking around a few concepts for a team blog for the last month. I’ve never done it myself so it will be a new experience. It would seem that Adam has identified one of the criteria or reasons to consider a team blog.
Anyone more experienced with launching a team blog have some perspective on this?
Follow up Question
If you are not in a niche, should you join a team blog or start one yourself?
I have no idea how my comment appeared before Adam’s. I was replying in part to Adam’s comment below, maybe it was edited???
So I’m editing now and maybe it will reset the order . ..
I agree with everything you are saying, and I’m sure you can find an audience with these steps. It seems to me, though, that if you don’t niche beyond the wider subject of “films”, you’re going to need a team blog versus a one-person blog, because you can’t cover the niche very comprehensively.
If you’re happy to have a smaller, loyal audience, that’s great, but if you’re shooting for a bigger audience, it seems like it would be hard to accomplish that alone.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
That was a great article, and I would agree with your points.
I’ve been approaching blogging from perspectives where I like to test the conventional wisdom and either confirm, chip away at the edges, or bust it completely if possible.
Finding your niche can definitely help a site get rolling very well. But if the niche is covered already its not the end of the world. To steal a phrase from a different thread, you may be a larger part of the noise as opposed to the signal if you are not in a niche, but there is some good writing and business to be done in the noisy side of the blogosphere as well.
As you grow and mature your sites, the passion can keep things moving.
As to your points about encouraging discussion, this seems to be one of the most important points that your article makes. Passion is important, but the truth is if you are not passionate, it won’t matter much as you’ll give up and move on to something else.
For a blog to make it past a certain stage, you almost have to assume that the passion is there and treat it like a given.
The next most important thing after that is try and bring your readers into the discussion. If you cannot be in a niche all by yourself, you can at least cater to a discussion with a group of readers that want to be heard and want to participate but find it difficult to be heard on other sites.
I feel sense and experience everyday that people want to be part of an experience. Deliver the experience and let them discuss the topic at hand and this will help fuel the fire for many great things to come.
Now, if I could just do a better job of fueling the fire myself!
It seems to me that you already have a niche – films! 🙂
Seriously, though, this is a great post! I totally agree with you that to write engaging and meaningful content, you have to be passionate about the subject; there is no point picking a niche in which you have only marginal interest.
On the other hand, I definitely think that it’s easier to attract attention and higher SEO rankings by focusing your lens as tightly as necessary. Once you capture a specific niche within a niche and start getting a small (but sure) flow of traffic, then you can move on to the next one, building on your previous success and authority.
In other words, you could think of your niche or broad area as a collection of micro-niches, that can be conquered one by one. To me, this is the essence of leveraging the long tail of blog readership.
Let’s take films. I imagine that it would be incredibly hard work to write about films completely generally and rank well enough in the search engines to get a decent amount of traffic. Instead, if you take your two favorite films – say “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon” – and write about them from a variety of angles, you could start to rank highly whenever users search for those topics; you could then spend extra time on “The treasure of the Sierra Madre” and make it a Bogart retrospective!
This comment is from the perspective of getting a good ranking in the big search engines. But if you can create great link-bait that everyone links to, and can get a ton of users that way, then that will work well even without a niche!