Breaking News

Of all blogging tactics the most difficult must be “news”. If you want to be on the frontline of blogging and really make a name for yourself then being at the forefront of what is hot has to be the way. If anyone is crazy enough to consider it though let me give you a word or two of warning.

There are a few services that will tell you what people are interested in right now. We have Technorati, Flickr and Google just to mention three big and popular examples. How useful is this information for bloggers?

The “Zeitgeist” as Google calls their service tells you the most popular searches for a period of time. Be that a week or a year. You can see what the popular searches were for the week of February 6th for example.

Technorati and Flickr on the other hand aim to be more current, they show what is “hot” right now.  With Technorati you can see both popular searches and popular tags. This is important as what people are searching for is not always in sync with what people are writing about. As I write this lots of people have posted about Valentines day but the top searches are about Dick Cheney …

Flickr gives you the most popular tags in the last week or 24 hours. Again right now Valentines is very much the theme, for the last week NorthernVoice made a good showing (hardly surprising, Flickr is particularly popular with bloggers and Canadians so a Canadian blogging conference is going to be news).

So we have this information, all we have to do is blog about what people are looking for right?

Well here is the problem. What people are looking for now is not necessarily what they will be looking for tomorrow. What you write about now might not be found until tomorrow, particularly in Google which is notorious for not picking up fresh content. Technorati is a fair amount more quick on the uptake of course.

Bottom line, you are almost guaranteed to be behind the news.

The second issue is more difficult. If by some chance you do hit on the sweet spot of breaking news that lots of people are interested in right now, it might be a one shot thing. Anyone who has posted about “Dick Cheney Buckshot” is not likely to get long term traffic, just a spike and only then if you are lucky to actually appear anywhere for the term.

What you need is to know what will be popular, not what is popular right now. Unfortunately unless you have a backdoor into a search engine or a time machine you are out of luck.

So you can’t rely on online tools. You need sources and you need to create the news, and news people will be interested in at that. Rather than following a trend you have to be a leader, that means being the first, or at least among the first.

Two problems with this, one where do you get your sources and two how do you know if they are reliable. There is a certain catch-22 that you will not get sources until you have broken some news and you can’t break news until you have reliable sources. If you do get sources though then you are on to some real gold. The Drudge Report and Aintitcool were both basically built on exclusive news.

You know what? It sounds exciting but I think it is too much work. If you have access to reliable insider information, go for it. For me though I would much rather stick to evergreen topics even though you do not get the same fame or adrenaline rush!

6 thoughts on “Breaking News

  1. Not all libertarians are right-wingers. They may appear that way, but there are actually subtle complex differences. And there are as many right-wing loons as left

  2. It helps if your agenda fits in with the loci of blogging power: right-libertarian and loony-left. If you’re both anti-Bush and anti-“liberal” you might have trouble getting attention due to your principles. At least, that’s the way I look at it.

  3. There are non-commercial reasons to cover news, such as having an agenda.

    As far as Cheney is concerned, let me put it this way:
    1. “I am not a crook”
    2. killer rabbit
    3. “read my lips, no new taxes”
    4. purple dress
    5. our vice president’s accident

    The incident is going to be remembered for a long time and something that varying numbers of people will be referencing and searching for for a long time.

    In fact, I even started a site just about it. I did that on Thursday evening. It cost $10 and a few hours of time, and I’ve had 400 visits so far without a lot of work. None of those are from a search engine. If I’d started the site immediately after the incident – I’m kicking myself for not doing that – I probably would have had tens of thousands of visits so far. While I realize that it won’t receive much traffic after a couple weeks, it will probably pay for the domain name and it will probably have other benefits as well.

    While slightly or moderately popular news sites probably make much less money than goods sites, they do have some advantages when it comes to things like getting links.

    You also can create news by noticing something that others don’t or by synthesizing information.

    In 2003 I got a lot of hits by taking pictures of “peace” protests which were then linked to by Insty and in one case by Sully.

  4. Chris, you are mixing two things. Number one is breaking news and number two is exclusive content. To get successfully involved in breaking news has a lot to do with luck. Exclusive content has a lot to do with hard work and patience.

    If you are blogging ‘news’ you have to invest in some editorial work to prepare the roll out of planned stories in an ordered manner. Break down your subjects to a timeline. Break down your subjects to priorities. Invest work in creating an editorial forecast. Develop a routine to collect background infos and archive it. The hot stories are only the sidekicks! Basically news are made from continuously ongoing hard desktop research. This is how news agencies work. They deliver a reliable content stream on streamlined distribution channels.

    If you are able to manage it create events about your subject. This way you can create breaking news and exclusive contents 😉

    As always just my 2c …

  5. I’ve seen that over and over again. If you can predict what’s gonna be hot in the next month or so – be it a tv show or movie or music group – and get a blog post or story up about it, being first will help you in SE rankings.

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