Tuesday, April 8, 2008

BLOGGER, WORDPRESS, TYPEPAD . . .

The options are endless just as long as you don’t blog yourself to death . . . No joke.

Most of this entry will provide all your bloggers-in-waiting the information you’ve been asking about getting started, but before I urge you onward, you really need to dig up this full article from the New York Times (4/6/08) that explores how bloggers are making money from the art, bloggers getting ripped off by cheapskate blogging sites, and even bloggers dying on the job.

“In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop” journalist Matt Richtel chronicles the stories of a number of full-time bloggers who live, eat and breath blogging to feed the insatiable demand of 24/7 blogs, many of which are devoted to the frenetic high tech industry. Some bloggers are said to regularly fall asleep at the keyboard. And Richtel cites two tech bloggers – Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant – who actually died from heart attacks at the relatively young ages of 60 and 50.

Were their deaths connected to their high-stress blogging gigs? No one can actually prove it this was “death by blogging,” Richtel writes, but he paints a less-than-lovely picture of writers being ripped off by rapacious, low-paying Web publishers. For the handful of bloggers for whom the art has been quite lucrative, Richtel says those “on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.”


He reports that sites like Gawker Media give bloggers retainers and then bonuses for hitting benchmarks based on page clicks. Then the goal is raised so that bloggers have an incentive to write more. And, yes, he says writers at some of the bigger blogger sites are earning about $30,000 annually and some are making as much as $70,000. If you’re lucky or smart enough to build a hugely popular blog site, you can generate far more, but most are lucky to make $1,000 a month for tireless effort.

How many bloggers are earning a living this way? Richtel says it’s “unclear how many people blog for pay, but there are surely several thousand and maybe even tens of thousands.”

So, if you still are itching to make your living as a Web-based writer called a blogger, imparting personal and even useful information to unknown readers, read on . . .Just make time to eat, sleep and get some R & R.


But how to get going? Lots of you wanted information on blogging platforms so I dug up some threads from a fairly recent Hidden-Tech discussion on the subject, which mainly focused on Blogger, Wordpress or Typepad. If you want to read the whole trail then join Hidden-Tech (www.hidden-tech.net), which is free, and do a search on the topic. But here, in condensed form, is advice from the A – Z International Associates blogging expert Tish G along with input from Ron M, Contributing Editor of EContent Magazine and Diane C:

“When I started blogging in 2003, there were basically two options; Typepad and Blogger. I started using Blogger (before Google bought them), but I didn't like the Blogger look and feel, so I switched to Typepad. It has/had more professional looking templates and a level of control I wasn't getting from Blogger. I get daily stats for instance, which I didn't get at the time from Blogger.

“If I were starting today, I would strongly consider WordPress, but I think for $5 a month, you get a lot from Typepad including paid, professional help. WordPress provides a community of help, but you don't know if someone will respond to your query and you don't know if the answer you get is right. I've always gotten prompt, professional responses from Typepad.

“ Typepad also provides a gallery of free widgets, add-ons that are dead simple to add to your page. They also have a variety of professional looking templates and they give you complete control over your blog from configuration and monetization all in a graphical environment. If you are a web designer, you can design your own CSS and they recently added a page concept that makes it easy to create a web site from your blog (with separate pages on different topics) without web page design experience.

“Wordpress is great, but the last time I looked at it, I strongly disliked that it required users to subscribe to the blog and comments separately. If you want free, I would probably go with Wordpress, but you get a lot for your money for $5 a month from Typepad."--Ron M.

“Well, which blog platform you choose could have more to do with your level of comfort with blog terminology than it does with whether or not to use Blogger over Wordpress . .. With Wordpress, there's Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org. Wordpress.org is great if you are a web designer and like to tinker a lot with your template and other stuff.

“If you don't have the time, or aren't a designer (I refuse to say not tech savvy -- there are varying levels of tech savvy that have nothing to do with whether or not you can build a Website or blog from the bottom up) then you may want to play a bit with Wordpress.com and Blogger -- go in to each, goof around with them (they're both free and don't have to be searchable if you don't want them to be) feel them out to see which ones are speaking your language -- that is, which one has the shortest learning curve and is easiest to use. (You can also check out "Blogging for Dummies"--a fairly comprehensive book with good hints about most blog software)

“Both WP and B allow you to have your own domain for your blog--your not stuck with the .blogspot.com or the .wordpress.com extensions.

"Both Wordpress and Blogger can be incorporated into existing websites. They have different templates, but are searchable the same way (one doesn't have better SEO than the other--not that I know of. Blog SEO depends on the amount of content as blogs register differently in Google and search in general.

"Some folks say that Wordpress is more stable than Blogger. But WP's had outages too. Blogger --the company --in their merger with Google did some funky things to some templates in order to weed out splogs. However Google's algorithm can flush you from the search engines too -- for lots of vague reasons, not that you're doing anything funky with your site.

Thus, we are all at the mercy of Google."--Tish

"The only way, David, to know exactly which package might be good for you specifically is to either play with each or talk over what you want to do with a consultant who can then sort out with you what your particular needs are and help you pick the right one.

If you don't have the money for a consultant, just check the different platforms out for yourself.”

“Ron has a good point. **my last paragraph is most important point** But I also want to point out that there are tons of free widgets (add-ons) for WordPress.
There are lots of professional templates (called themes) with WordPress.

You can also tweak or change the CSS to your hearts content.

I know that many WordPress people have their blogs integrated with their sites - seamless - I don't know if they created them all in WordPress or something else.

“You can have other pages with WordPress also - not just a blog. You can have static pages too. WordPress has had this page concept for at least while - I don't know how long.

Again, you don't need design experience to make those pages - very, very easy. I have not always gotten the help I needed from expensive paid software. WordPress people have been very generous in my experience with helping figure things out.

“I am a subscriber to several TypePad blogs and I don't get the comments - just the posts. With WordPress I can usually get the comments too. So, Ron, I wish I were getting the comments from my TypePad subscriptions. They seem pretty equivalent to me.

What I particularly like about WordPress is that is **OPEN SOURCE**. I love that hundreds if not thousands of people are working to make it better and to keep it free.I love the whole open source (also known as free) software. It's a power to the people thing.

It is quite a strong movement!-- Diane C

24 comments:

Jeff said...

If you truly want to make a go of it as a blogger, I think you have to host and design your blog yourself. You can't just use a hosted service. Hosting and designing your blog yourself gives you control over the look and feel of your content, as well as the adspace, and will set you apart from the 10,000 other blogs using the same template.

Jeff said...

P.S. this post (and others on this site) has/have very strange HTML comment-style template tags when viewed in IE7.

amyz said...

Interesting Jeff on both points.

Tell me and readers more about you and your background. Do you do this work?

Also, what are these strange HTML comment-style template tags doing or not doing?

I had someone review this site and wonder what she did (or did not do).

best,

AZ

Jeff said...

I do work in local media, yes.

My experience with blogging has been in order to reach any sort of critical mass of acceptance or audience interest, a blogger has to take the step beyond just signing up for a typepad/blogger/etc. account. Otherwise, you'll be just another voice in the fray.

amyz said...

You as so right, Jeff.

If you read recent entries/comments on my EONS.com blog you will see that I've advised folks that blogging is a form of advertising/marketing. And like everything in the world, you need to market what you do. The Web won't do it all.

Where is local for you?

best,

AmyZ

Tish Grier said...

Hi Jeff--why don't you just say you work for Masslive.com?

And having made it as a blogger, I completely disagree with having to design and host your blog yourself. Sure, if you're a web designer you should definitely do this. Your blog is the showcase for your design talent.

But there are lots of folks who use hosted services and simply tweak their templates and do quite well.

Making it as a blogger has more to do with how you link, who you link to, and if Google can find you, if you are known in a particular community or not. If you're linking to others, commenting, and creating community, you will gain audience. If you're tweaking your headlines a certain way, listing your blog with the search engines and then pinging the search engines (using a ping service) then you'll get some traction in search.

A custom ".com" or other "dot" url can be slightly more helpful than a url with a blogspot, typepad or wordpress extension. Then again, I 've known bloggers who've done well with .typepad or .wordpress extensions.

Blogging isn't simple. and "making it" in blogging can also be relative. I've got a very high Google page rank (6/10) but small readership. I know some mommybloggers who have high readership but absolutely no Google page rank. The difference is in what you're looking to cultivate. For me it's been about cultivating influence, for mommybloggers, it's about their community. We are, in our different ways, successes.

Success in blogging, IMO, is relative to the person writing the blog. When you figure out where you want to be, then you tweak your strategy accordingly.

Jeff said...

I'd love to hear examples of people who do "quite well" by simply tweaking a template and using a hosted service. The only example I can think of that I would consider doing "quite well" in that model is Cute Overload.

Our definition of "quite well" might be very different, though. My definition would probably be "doing well enough to support yourself (financially) completely via blogging" and "garnering a steady stream of traffic, and not just sporadic bursts via luck".

Tish Grier said...

Jeff..if you think that "quite well" means sustainable income, then you've bought the hype that was forwarded by Businessweek, New York magazine, and other mainstream media publications that have little understanding of what blogging's about and what it does.

But big media likes big hype stories...

Most successful bloggers--and there are many--have varying degrees of income, and generate income from multiple sources.

No one, other than mainstream media publications, has ever promised anyone they'd make sustainable income from blogging.

Although there are a bunch of mommybloggers who make excellent supplemental family income, lots of writers and freelance journalists who augment their regular earnings with blogging, and lots of folks like me who are blazing new careers by leveraging their blogs. (if you want sources, you'll have to email me.)

As for generating traffic--Jeff, re-read my comment above. I'm really surprised that you would have problem understanding traffic strategies, Jeff, since you work for local big media. I'd think it would be part of your job to know these things.

I'm also surprised that you seem to want to discourage people from blogging by forwarding ideas that it's this complex and awful thing that takes web design skills and that even then, they'll get no readership. Perhaps your big media slip is showing? ;-)

Jeff said...

Tish, I'm strictly speaking for myself here, not in any other capacity. My day job is irrelevant. Here I'm simply speaking as Yet Another Blogger.

I hope I'm not discouraging anyone. That's certainly not my intent! Blogging is a ton of fun and can turn you on to a range of influences and sources that one might never experience otherwise.

However, the name of this blog and the nature of the discussions led me to believe the thrust was about how to make money via blogging, and/or how to turn blogging into a revenue stream. And: I personally don't know of a single person who has turned a typepad/wordpress/blogger/etc. account into a genuinely successful revenue stream.

Except for, as I said, Meg Frost of the excellent "Cute Overload". Maybe I'm talking to someone who has!

Further refined, my point would be: Even if you don't have great web design skills, it's worth searching out someone who does who can help you set up your own blog software on your own domain. Doing so will give you the credibility, creative control and opportunity for ad placement that can turn blogging into a full-on career.

Tish Grier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tish Grier said...

Jeff...

All I'm going to say is that you need to do a lot more research and catch up on what's been going on with blogging and bloggers.

Further, nobody ever promised or asserted that just one blog could develop into a sustaining revenue stream. That ideal's never been asserted here either (not that I know of.) And I can't imagine why you keep hammering on that.

There are, though, lots of people who make it with a blog on any platform in conjunction with other enterprises. As I said, do the research and you'll find the people.

Jeff said...

The onus is not on me to provide examples to prove your point.

My point is, again: taken on the whole, it is far more likely that a blog or set of blogs will be successful if the independent blogger puts forth the work at the start to present their blog in a professional and self-sustaining format.

That means: choosing a domain name, choosing a content management system, and choosing/modifying/designing a template or look and feel to set the blog apart. That route can be done by the blogger themselves or via consulting with smart helpful local folks. It's more work on the outset, but it's simply a better presentation, and (in my opinion) a lot more satisfying for the blogger in the long run.

Without the elements I mention above, the blog is far more likely to disappear into the miasma of blogs available on the public blogging platforms.

Tish Grier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tish Grier said...

Jeff...

you're talking a lot about design, but not a lot about content or community.

I'm talking in reference to content and community.

You can have the best design in the world, but if you don't have the content, and you don't connect with community, then where are you? It's content that gets picked up by Google. It's the community that buoys you up and gets you noticed.

What's satisfying for a blogger--esp. if it's a for a business or a stand-alone--is that the content is easy to upload and manage. If the CMS in a pain in the you know where, then this will discourage blogging (I've worked with pretty much every CMS for blogging out there. I know which ones are demons and are best for the experienced user.) You can have a lovely display, but if the CMS behind it is difficult to maneuver, then the blogger may not want to input the content.

And then where are you in search? Where are you with community?

I won't get into content search strategies--too long. Blogs, though, get searched differently than websites, so the strategies, while in some ways similar, differ in other ways.

So, if someone is trying out the medium, they can start simple, and work up to their own domain. Customizing is an option, but WP and Blogger are far easier to customize now than they were 2 years ago.

I'd recommend hiring someone to customize if the blog is going to be the business website, or if blogging has been incorporated into the marketing strategy, or if there's a full-fledged business model for a certain type of blog that's either a network or e-zine. I'd never suggest to someone that they lay out a huge amount of money for a lot of custom visual work if they really don't know what they're going to do for content and don't have a content strategy as well.

But these are all besides the money-making point that you brought up. Sustainable money from blogging is tough. But supplemental income and increased business isn't too tough. In both cases, this is something an individual will have to do research on, or may want to consult with someone who knows blogging well--knows many of the tricks and tweaks. It's an ever-changing world in here, and what was hot a couple of years ago, may have changed drastically. The consultant has to know the world from many different angles to help the client. It's not easy.

Jeff said...

I'm probably talking about web design a lot because I enjoy thinking about it and enjoy talking about it -- maybe too much. But on the web, design *is* content. Design defines how your audience perceives and interacts with your site, and so the importance of good design cannot be underestimated. Back on point: I have never seen a hosted page with a genuinely good design: at best, they're bland and tolerable, and thus a thousand other sites use the look, at worst -- and most often -- they're hideous.

Why be satisfied with that? Why start yourself off in a hole?

Additionally, speaking just as a control freak, the click-through terms of service on these hosted services are such that you never really own your content. Most people don't read the fine print or they just don't care, but I find that unsettling and an instant deal-breaker. And sure, for some sites (postsecret, cute overload, stuffwhitepeoplelike, fakestevejobs) the hosted approach has worked -- they've built an audience and had fun and done a great job with it -- however I would argue in those cases, the blog is/was mainly a marketing auxiliary to a print book deal.

Maybe I'm confused by some of the terms we're using here. For instance, what does "making it as a blogger" represent? Is that a metric of traffic, or ad revenue, or one-to-one connections made in the community? Or is it just satisfaction in a job well done, regardless of audience size? Each one could be a construed as measure of success. What defines "success" w/r/t Living The Virtual American Dream? Amy's original article mentions instructions on how to "make your living as a Web-based writer called a blogger" so I thought we were talking about that.

Tish Grier said...

Jeff...

when I talk about content, I'm talking about words--because Google searches words. and sometimes, depending on what you've been blogging on, your words can do a great deal for you.

That's kind of how I got my 6 Google page rank (which really does count for something in marketing terms...which is kind of a success...)

What you think is horrible works for lots of people--like my friend Eric Jackson's Breakout Performance blog. Still hosted on blogger, still with a crummy blogger template, but lots and lots of influence in business, specifically "investor advocacy"--he spearheadded investor efforts to route Terry Semel from Yahoo's board by using social media!

On the local scene, Go Nomad's blogs are still hosted on blogger and also use standard blogger templates (he has both website and blogs.) And Max is *very* successful both with his business and his blogs.

Then again, some folks believe all blogs are marketing tools of some fashion. The same way there are other folks who believe all blogs are journalism. Philosophical arguments can be made both ways.

As for "making it as a blogger"--that term means a lot of different things (many of the ones you mention) contingent on the personal goals of whomever is writing the blog. So Eric Jackson's success is different from Max's which is different from mine and probably different from yours. And as far as making a living as a "Web-based writer called a blogger," that's something Amy's exploring on her blog, so I can't speak for her. And it's something that will unfold over time, as she does more work with her blog. Don't you think she should have a chance to explore?

Tish Grier said...

oh, you might also want to check out another friend of mine, C.B. Wittemore and her blog Flooring the Consumer. She's done very well too!

Jeff said...

Blogger and Typepad etc. are low-cost and no-cost services, and whit this in mind, they're without doubt great places to play, learn and explore. But I can't help but suspect they're somewhat analogous to McDonalds and Burger King; that is to say -- popular, reliable, but in the end, undistinguished. Just as I wouldn't take a friend from out of town to McDonalds for dinner, I wouldn't base a business around these services. I'd aim higher.

Finally, I can't help notice that none of the links you pointed to have any comments at all. This suggests to me that those sites are not highly trafficked. Again, it's hard to say why, but I would submit that the generic nature and difficult URL of the hosted services make it highly difficult for these blogs to distinguish themselves.

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