Learning from others is a far more pleasurable experience than learning from your own mistakes. People in all fields observe other successful practitioners and model (copy!) their best habits, incorporating the things that work into their own behaviour. In this post I am going to take a look at one of my favourite blogs, Strobist.
This blog came from nowhere to be, in my opinion, the best blog for photographers on the web. Even the blogger, David Hobby, was taken aback by how popular it became. The blog is about flash photography. A niche of a niche. Income is mainly from affiliate links and a donation button.
Why does it work so well?
Go take a look then see if you agree with my assessments.
First I will point out what I don’t think works so well.
- Lame “blogspot” URL – where is the strobist domain? Not a way to build a brand with longevity, eventually subscribers and web visitors will need to be educated to a new URL and RSS feed that can’t be taken down or held for ransom …
- Plain black theme. In some ways it works well, and apparently ugly works for adsense, but for me (and we will cover this more later in the post), David needs to be branding his blog and himself with a little more polish.
- Using Flickr for community. This has pros and cons but while we are talking about cons
- It sends community interaction away to yet another non-branded domain
- David loses some control of the system
- Flickr isn’t the best for discussion features
It’s hard to be too critical because really I think the blog is great. Here’s why
- Niche Focus – David focuses on one small subject and really works it. He is the “Off-camera-flash-guy“. Do you own your niche?
- Authority – He is an expert, he knows his stuff, and it shows in his tips and example pictures. The blog oozes authority.
- Content – 99% of what you see on the blog was written by David based on his own experience. Very little reference to other blogs/sites and when he does it is top notch stuff. No padding, no filler, all good nourishing information.
- Message – Between the lines there is a not-so-hidden message, “you can do this too”. He hasn’t set up the past masters on a pedestal, everything is oriented around showing how you and I, humble beginners with meagre budgets, can turn out top notch results.
- Community – He has worked hard to build a community, using Flickr as the platform. While I don’t like Flickrs discussion features in this case it works well because
- Photographers use and like flickr
- He can leverage Flickr features for his bootcamp tasks
- It’s another viral route for bringing in more readers
For revenue I am sure he has a rosy future. Right now people are very willing to support the blog through affiliate purchases (I have personally bought a few hundred dollars worth of gear through his links .. well, tried to, but that’s another story). He isn’t settling for that though, just like we advise anyone with the knowledge to do he is selling his expertise in the form of workshops.
If I was him I would be doing the workshops, packaging up the workshop content into DVD, downloadable videos, ebooks, audio. The works. As someone with very little opportunity to see him in person but a need for his knowledge, a reasonably priced digital course would be well received. He has the name, the knowledge and the means. (Although it appears he hasn’t much in the way of time, oops).
The workshops and other product extensions are the reason I think he might consider proper branding, a domain, decent blog template, recognisable colour and design elements. This branding work could be taken through his enlarged product base to give recognisability, authority and reassuring consistency.
So, what have you learned? Have a good think how you can apply some of these lessons. Disagree with my assessment? Let me know in the comments!