Thriving as a B-list Blogger
Leading this one are Jeremy Wright and Allen Stern to talk about attitudes regarding B-list bloggers.
Jeremy says there’s not a lot of value being added by A-listers. There are better sites than TechCrunch and Read/WriteWeb out there. Blogging is about creating your personal A-list and reaching your own success goals.
Allen Stern is up first to rant a little. Oh goodie, Lisa likes rants.
As his company (CenterNetworks) has developed, it’s because harder and harder to grow. The A-listers and the aggregators are set up to promote the A-list and keep that group really tight. It’s hard to break into that group. If you look at a site like TechMeme, the way that it works is that the sites that are big get more presence than the sites that are new. The sites that get the big headlines are the A-listers, even if it was a little person that broke the story. Allen considers himself King of the B list. Heh, don’t we all?
He says to figure out your own goals. Not everyone wants to be on the A-list. He’s from New York. There is no second place there. As you grow as a blogger, it becomes more difficult. You have to find creative ways to get over that hump and get to the next level.
Jeremy quizzes the audience on their goals. Audience members say they want to provide information, enlighten people, and offer a unique point of view.
Tony Hung twittered in a question: How easy is to blog from the East Coast about Silicon Valley when you don’t live there?
Allen says being in New York, there is a huge opportunity. He moved there because no one was covering the area. It’s very hard to cover the Silicon Valley events because the local A-listers get access directly to the Facebooks, the Googles, the Yahoos, whereas in NY you don’t have that. In NY, you have a thriving Web community. There are benefits to being anywhere you are. This is the Internet, people.
Why did you start CenterNetworks? What are your key goals?
Allen: He started CenterNetworks to get a voice for consulting and to make sure people knew who he was and found his voice credible. The key goal when he started was to get work. He needed to make money. Now it’s to increase his reader base. He likes when people recognize him on the street.
Jeremy Wright jokes that he’s really big in Romania. Or, at least, I think he’s joking. Jeremy reminds me of my cousin Philip where I just nod and smile at everything he says and ask questions later.
Jeremy: What have you found are the key ways for you to grow your traffic?
Allen: In terms of content, what you’ll find is that the sexier stories are the ones that sell best on any of the social networks. He struggles with writing sexy stories or writing stuff people actually care about. He doesn’t get a tremendous amount of traffic from Twitter, but it allows him to share news quickly. It’s like a quicker RSS feed because it’s instant. One of the keys before you go out and play with these social sites is to make sure your server can handle it. Over time if your server can’t handle it, it’s going to look really bad.
Audience member Alex Hillman asks: How do you avoid the echochamber effect? That’s the biggest problem with the A-list. What are the sources you use to find original content?
Allen: That’s definitely a problem. In the tech category, that’s a huge issue. When Facebook comes out with their new advertising platform, you’re going to see a thousand posts about it and 90 percent of them are the same. He tries to stay away from that. People don’t want to read that. The key is determining what voice you can add to it. That’s what they want to read.
Jeremy: Are people coming to give you stories exclusively?
Allen: One of the coolest things about Center Networks is that four or five months ago, he started to get press releases when everybody else was getting them. In terms of exclusivity, he thinks everybody should get the news at the same time. He won’t name names because the session is being recorded. Hee. There are so many outlets out there today that having exclusives that he doesn’t think it’s important. For him, the key is just getting the news the same time they give it to everybody else. And by "everybody else", he means the A-listers.
How do you find content on the site once it leaves the home page. How do you make sure people find it as a way to market yourself and your brand?
Allen: Last week he was speaking with four companies that all do something in this space. Having a search on the top, putting tabs on the page, etc, it ensures that people will always be able to find the good bits of content on your site.
Jeremy wants to interview other bloggers in his room. Watch as I crawl under the table.
He calls on Deb. She gets her content ideas from the comments she gets on her blog. Hmm, our comments are usually just people making fun of me.
How do you get your name out there?
Allen: It’s easy to submit your site to Digg or StumbleUpon, but you’re not going to get much. You get your name out there by joining the conversation and by seeing who’s talking about what you’re talking about. Leave a comment and leave a link to your blog. It opens up a dialogue. When someone comments on your blog, answer the comment. So many of the big bloggers out there don’t do that. He mentions Mark Cuban. He writes posts but never responds to their comments. Steve Rubel is the same way. He writes good posts but never responds to the comments.
Jeremy: Who are bloggers you look up to and why?
Allen: Tony Hung writes really good content. The guys at Read/WriteWeb. Outside of the tech center, Stephanie at Back In Skinny Jeans. There tons of blogs out there. Look outside the Technorati 100. Look at the top 1,000.
It’s much more important for you to be known in your community than for you to be an A-lister.
Alex Hillman joins the conversation again and says that by nature blogs give you the power to do that. Seth Godin talks about how your goal should be to be the best of what you do in the world. But you get to define your world.
Allen says the key is to know who your segment is. Create a business card with your blog on it and handing out when you meet people ensures they’ll remember who you are when they get home. He never realized the value of the business card, but in the blogging world, it’s really important that people know who you are.
Everybody who comes to my blog are bloggers. How do you get the non-bloggers?
Be creative. Use Facebook.
Allen recommends using Twitter even though he’s not the biggest fan. He thinks there’s a benefit there. You can reply to someone directly. That’s how you grow your tree and branch out. If you stay in your own network, you can’t grow.
Alex Hillman says don’t underestimate the power of natural search. Write titles the way people search.