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June 10, 2010

Risks and Rewards of Handing Over Your Blog

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SMX Advanced Seattle is arguably one of the top sources of search engine announcements and cutting-edge tactics. So when Susan was suddenly left to liveblog the conference without a number two as originally planned, she went MacGyver on us. The woman put together an impromptu blogger troop of experienced Internet marketers willing to tax their fingers and attention spans for the cause.

Alan Bleiweiss, Dana Lookadoo, and Gil Reich pumped up the SMX liveblog posts with their personalities, astute observations and comprehensive session coverage. They did this with no guidelines, no training and no compensation (other than my eternal gratitude and a healthy bio on the post).

Big Wins

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CC BY 2.0

There’s a lot a blog can gain from close-to-live coverage and from guest authors alike. Our liveblog posts are regularly our top performers in terms of traffic, comments, social sharing and general engagement. We gained a reputation for first-class liveblog coverage early on in the search conference scene, and we’ve maintained that reputation through regularity, reliability, range, and a measure of entertainment. Guest authors, meanwhile, bring their own networks to the blog, which translates to new readers and increased visibility from any promotion they may do. A new voice on the blog also injects freshness and variety, which regular readers must appreciate.

Now, while we’re familiar with both liveblogging and guest authors as their own entities, we’ve never combined the two forces together. When we did, we learned something about mixing high speed, strong opinion, community relationships and lax guidelines. In short, there’s potential for stress anytime you lend your brand to a guest.

Risk Management

Since early days, we’ve always offered our liveblog coverage with a side of sass. Bringing our opinion to the discussion adds entertainment and perspective, differentiating our coverage from other sources. So when Gil’s coverage of So You Want to Test SEO came in with a critical review, we had a decision to make: censor the commentary or leave it as is?

We only have a few rules for the blog, and one of the most important is “don’t attack individuals.” In this case, did we want to cut the comments out? Or should we add a disclaimer such as “views of guest bloggers are not our own”? Beyond style, spelling and grammar, we’ve never edited or disavowed content clearly attributed to others before. We decided we wouldn’t start now.

Lessons Learned

We want to apologize to John Andrews, one of the session presenters, for what amounted to a personal attack. By no means are we throwing Gil under the bus for this circumstance. We didn’t provide the livebloggers any guidelines, and we should have. We had the opportunity to edit the content before posting it, and we didn’t. We misassessed some comments as opinions of the presentations rather than opinions of the persons. If we had thought it about for a moment longer, we may have recalled that distinction.

We are honored and grateful that these passionate authorities offered their time and services to us and our blog. We asked our guest bloggers to be themselves, and we knew they would bring with them their opinions and their knowledge. It’s been our goal to develop the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog as a community hang-out for discussion and debate ā€” and for learning lessons relevant to both the industry and ourselves. This week our guests helped us grow by leaps and bounds.

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10 responses to “Risks and Rewards of Handing Over Your Blog”

  1. Alan Bleiweiss writes:

    Virginia,

    First, I want to say I really am sorry that you couldn’t make it to Advanced. We missed each other the one evening I came down to SMX West, and I’d been hoping to meet this time around.

    Next, I want to say how much I truly admire you, Susan and Lisa, as well as anyone who liveblogs now that I’ve experienced it firsthand.

    The fact that when I volunteered, Susan actually thought it would be okay to accept, then for you to have actually published what I wrote, just means the world to me. It was beyond an honor to be one of the people who pitched in.

    And uh, if BCI ever gets sued for any of my content, let me know – and I’ll gladly disavow that I’d even actually done it – that you all just went and put my name on articles pretending it wasn’t you ;-)

  2. Gil Reich writes:

    I apologize for the negative personal comments in my coverage. I should not have submitted the post with those comments.

  3. Andy @ FirstFound writes:

    Ahh, what’s a live blog without a bit of spice? Sure, personal attacks are never nice, but you have to admit they make for an interesting read.

  4. Lisa Barone writes:

    Little drama aside, congrats to you guys for being on the ball enough to put together an impromptu liveblogging team. And high fives to everyone who stepped up to the plate to do it.

  5. Virginia Nussey writes:

    I’m sure John will appreciate that, Gil. It’s been a learning experience. And yet, there’s no one we would have rather had on the job. Your expertise shed light on the topics in a unique and insightful way. Thanks so much for pitching in when we needed help!

  6. Susan Esparza writes:

    The entire team of pinch-hitters did an amazing job. Still missed having you and Virginia around but I couldn’t have asked for a better last minute support team. The drama was really on me for not giving them clearer guidelines up front but even that’s minimal and Gil’s a fantastic guy.

  7. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Alan, I totally missed out on all the SMX Advanced fun, including the liveblogstravaganza! My disappointment was slightly tempered by the fact that I had three amazing stand-ins! Liveblogging isn’t easy, as you know, and your contributions were fantastic ā€” I think you have a new calling.

    Just so people know, I received duplicate coverage of two sessions and Alan happened to be the author of both of the posts I didn’t publish because I didn’t see his until after I posted the other. So for excellent alternate coverage, check out Alan’s SEO blog. :)

  8. john andrews writes:

    “Iā€™m sure John will appreciate that, Gil…Your expertise shed light on the topics in a unique and insightful way.”

    Yes I do appreciate that, and sadly I didn’t get past the editorializing to see the insights. I’d re-read it to reconsider, if those personal slights were removed (I still see them published).

    It is very obvious to me (and many of my peers) that some very smart people are blind to inaccuracies in some of the SEO data analyses and claims being published today as “science”.

    It is also very clear that some high profile SEO people casually “speak their minds” on SEO blogs using authoritative voices, and protect personal relationships even at the cost of misleading the public. I don’t impart intent there — it could be through omission or bias or whatever. But it’s still misleading.

    How does that get corrected? I’ll try education, awareness, discussion, etc. Hence my talk.

    Perhaps Gil didn’t need to spend time listening to my opinion from the podium. It won’t be the first time someone didn’t get anything out of a session speaker’s 13 minutes. He also isn’t the first h8r to blog his opinions. I’m thrilled by all the positive feedback I got from others, and happy the topic is getting more discussion.

  9. john andrews writes:

    I totally agree… as long as the audience can tell what is editorial and what is reporting, and properly attribute the opinions to the author. Good live bloggers can do that well.

    But if contrary opinion is inserted throughout the report, with opinions asserted as fact at every opportunity to criticize, it becomes more propaganda/attack than live blogging.

  10. Dana Lookadoo writes:

    Better late than never to the conversation? Such it is…

    First, I have to say that I felt an internal pressure knowing I was standing in for Lisa and Virginia, true pro livebloggers. I didn’t realize so much pivoted on paying attention and keeping notes along with commentary.

    Second, it was an honor! But I would have enjoyed hanging with you ladies more, in-person.

    Third, it wiped me out! :-) I’m still catching up and trying to let wrists and fingers recover. (I now know part of the wipeout was due to a root canal infection.)

    Fourth, I was concerned about some commentary I made in the SEO Architecture notes about the final presenter. It was a last-minute punt & kick for Susan as she was “done” live blogging. It was difficult to write negative about anyone, and in no way was it personal. Unfortunately, expectations at SMX are higher than in most shows. Not only to people offline want to receive “advanced” content, but those at the session expect it as well.

    Standards for commentary? Are there ways to do so to ensure it is clear to the reader? I put commentary in brackets or italicized when it was my opinion and not what was said.

    Virginia, Susan, Lisa, think maybe a livebloggers standards guide would be a good post!



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