A Successful Blog?

At the Cardiff Journalism School we’ve attempted to tackle blogging. We -newspaper, broadcast and magazine alike, created niche blogs as well as that which you currently find yourself on, which aims (but perhaps every so slightly fails) to cover lectures at the University.

We developed a ‘blog strategy’ to focus our blogs in a certain direction and help manage content and promotion. Mine was of course full of ambition. Like a child on the first day of school-it was full of hope and potential. But despite this child making good progress and at times showing initiative, they failed to be the oxbridge candidate their parents so hoped for.

My niche blog is called The Graduate. It’s aimed at students and particularly graduates and looks to inform and entertain. It’s been running since October 2010, has 12 posts and has been viewed nearly 1,000 times.

Has It Worked?

Yes, I think in many ways it has. The purpose of the blog is to reach and inform and it often does, although unfortunately not often enough.

Time has been a major factor. Ideally I would have invested more time in my blog as I enjoy what I research and write about and get good feedback from its visitors. A very busy university schedule meant the blog has often found itself in second or third place to other commitments. In my strategy I seem to have been overly ambitious, suggesting I would blog twice a week. This did not happen, despite wishing otherwise.

To try to bypass the time problem I started to profile recent graduates- asking them to detail what they’ve done since graduating and putting their story together with a short introduction from myself. I spoke to people who I thought would have interesting stories-like those doing internships or struggling to find work. What followed came as a surprise as these posts often received the most hits.

It seems the trend to nose into someones life or discover what those in your shoes are doing is not something really touched upon in the media for graduates and this may be why it attracted such attention. Realising this I started to recruit other people to write about their experiences and it’s something I will continue to do- It involves less input with greater gain (a faster option to meet the demands of a faster paced world)

By setting up a Twitter account (@TheGradTweets) for the blog (as promised in my strategy) I soon saw my stats rise. By following people who I felt would be interested in the blog it drew their attention and many started following back and becoming regular visitors. The Twitter account usually gets a new follower each day, which means there’s always someone visiting the blog. It was a way of targeting a specific audience, which soon paid off.

Using Facebook (the site originally designed for students) also worked in terms of getting more people to the blog- just as I had hoped in my strategy. By posting blog updates on my wall it automatically went out to more than 500 people, most of whom were target audience for the blog. I received most of my traffic from Facebook.

The Highs and the Lows

I allowed for a rating system on my blog which gave the reader the opportunity to rate posts out of 5. They were also able to comment on them. Not every post received a rating or comment but a number did, all of which were positive.

The most popular post on my niche blog in terms of stats was ‘The Career Ladder’. I had spoken to a girl who received a first class degree from a good university and was struggling to find work. I knew her situation was similar to many recent graduates and so profiled her. It was apparently a message many could relate to.

The post that received the highest rating was ‘The Day I Bought a Big Issue’. This was not directly related to the target audience but my thinking behind it was that many students/graduates are known campaigners, activists and volunteers and would hopefully appreciate a post like this-it appears they did.

Posts which attracted less attention were those like ‘The Best Things in Life are Not Fees’. It was still viewed but attracted less attention. This could be down to a number of things. It may be because I posted this before setting up a Twitter account for the blog or it could be because I get more hits when the posts are graduate related rather than student, as I shall go on to discuss below.

‘Moving Forward’

I now truly understand the importance of social networking sites in terms of attracting and targeting audiences. If I had more time, I would tweet more on the blogs Twitter account as this always seems to attract people to the site.

Its been interesting to see how people pick you up on your grammar and spelling. It’s certainly worth having someone look at your work before publishing as little things are important to readers and can damage your credibility.

Tools like YouTube and Audioboo have allowed me to make the blog more interactive and interesting-although admittedly I’ve not used them to their full potential or often enough. I would encourage any blogger to make better use of YouTube than I currently do as there’s a big audience out there who search on it; businesses have tapped into this and blogs can too.

There’s certainly a lot to gain from linking with other sites/blogs. The Graduate has made its way onto a number of blogrolls like a student travel blog for example. I have an RSS feature for other related blogs but more can be done. It’s certainly a way of increasing hits but also gives those visiting your blog a better experience. There are millions of blogs out there and the reader needs something extra special and to feel nurtured to ensure they come back again. bit.ly has also been useful in terms of linking to other sites.

Ensuring a post has a number of correct/relevant tags and categories has also directed people to my blog who otherwise wouldn’t have found it.

One of the main lessons I’ve learnt is that I need to reign in what I want this blog to achieve and the audience I want to reach. My stats rise when I feature or talk about graduates or graduate related issues. I initially set out to reach potential students, students and graduates but now realise this is too broad. There are so many student blogs/websites out there, which have the time and resources to do what my blog attempted but on a bigger scale.

There doesn’t seem to be much out there for potential/future students but that’s an area I’m moving further away from as time goes by in terms of knowledge and understanding. However the graduate world is something I truly understand and is one that doesn’t seem so powerfully represented or covered by blogs. This is the audience I will focus on in future and this will hopefully make the blog and its audience more consistent and focused.

Someone who I think targets and writes for the graduate market well is Tanya De Grunwald, for her site graduatefog.co.uk and in her tweets (@graduatefog) Her work is interesting, relevant and up-to-date.

Posts from The Graduate that support my above points are- The Career Ladder and The Class of 2009, which highlight the rise in stats, comments and ratings if a post is focused on graduates.

A Week Behind the Music in Cardiff shows how things like YouTube and Audioboo can be used to make a post more interesting.

An example from this blog is Daniel the Digital Storyteller, which shows how linking within a post and good tags can attract people to your blog, make a post more interesting and offer more to the reader.

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Data Journalism

Recently, in a lecture by CJS’ Glyn Mottershead, we looked into the up and coming world of data journalism.

Since the lecture I’ve noticed just how much attention and significance data journalism is getting in the media at the moment. CJS has found a place in the spotlight for its awareness and teaching, this article in The Guardian by Charles Arthur last week is a classic example.

Interestingly, the article is based on a recent speech by inventor of the world-wide web, Tim Berners-Lee in which he said “Analysing data is the future for journalists”. I’ve pulled out the most interesting parts of the article which is well worth a read in full.

“Sir Tim Berners-Lee reckons he’s glimpsed the future of journalism – and given he’s the person who invented the world-wide web, you might not want to bet against him.

That’s because he thinks the future lies in analysing data. Lots of data. Speaking on Friday at the launch of the first government datasets for spending by departments of more than £25,000, he was asked who will analyse them once the geeks have moved on. What’s the point? Who’s really going to hold government, or anyone else, accountable?

“The responsibility needs to be with the press,” Berners-Lee responded firmly. “Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times.

“But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.”

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Joanna Geary and The Times Paywall

The Times’ Community and Web Development Editor Joanna Geary came to CJS this week to give us her take on digital engagement.

She gave a very interesting lecture on ‘the audience’ and online success. But there was one thing we were all dying to ask and one thing she couldn’t really comment on. The Times paywall.

On November 2 2010, News International gave us our first glimpse into its new Paywall world..

News International : -

“News International today announces that the new digital products for The Times and The Sunday Times have achieved more than 105,000 paid-for customer sales to date. Around half of these are monthly subscribers. These include subscribers to the digital sites as well as subscribers to The Times iPad app and Kindle edition. Many of the rest are either single copy or pay-as-you-go customers.”

What followed was a mass of opinions and commentary. So, as Joanna was unable to discuss in any real depth, here’s a small selection of comments from people who did…

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“Audiences were huge, passive and had less choice”-Yesterday’s Journalism with Rory Cellan-Jones.

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‘It’s an exciting time for journalists’, or so I’ve been told recently on several occasions.

It truly is the age of change and technology. To really appreciate this change and to understand how we’ve gone from typewriters to Twitter, we should look to the past.

The BBC‘s Rory Cellan-Jones, did just this in his talk to CJS students last week.

With 25 years experience behind him, Rory was able to paint a picture of a journalism that looks almost completely different to the one we see today.

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Plan for the machine, write for the human- The key to successful blogging.

Whatever ones opinion of blogging, it can be a key journalistic tool. There is no single definite way of writing a blog. There are however a number of rules, tips and ideas out there to help create something people will not only read, but find. Here are a few of my favourites…

1. Writing Style. A list of rules which remains as true today as it was in the 1940’s is George Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing.  Despite Orwell not ever having to adapt his writing style to meet the needs and demands of the web, his rules have found a new meaning on the internet.

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

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MediaCityUK

MediaCity:UK

When looking to the future of journalism in this country you can’t forget MediaCityUK.

The BBC has confirmed a number of its main departments will be heading up North to Salford Quays in Manchester. Amongst these includes BBC Children’s, BBC Breakfast, BBC Sport, Radio Five Live, and parts of BBC Future Media and Technology. It’s also confirmed that BBC North West are relocating to the new site.

The move is expected to be completed by 2011 and marks a major decentralisation of the corporation’s operations. It’s also set to create a significant number of new jobs and media opportunities, and not just within the BBC.

The presence of the BBC has also attracted other media, broadcasting, and filmmaking companies to the area, such as The Pie Factory and Vision+Media, with more expected to follow.

To follow the progress and to keep updated with what’s going on, go to www.mediacityblog.com

To find out about some of the many future job opportunities based in MediaCity go to www.bbc.co.uk/jobs/north

The site itself is very impressive and certainly worth checking out. To get an idea of where it is and what’s in the surrounding area, see below: -


For more information go to www.mediacityuk.co.uk

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Daniel the Digital Storyteller

Daniel Meadows. A man with a passion for storytelling and of a generation when one could buy an old double-decker bus, drive it round England and create something wonderful, just with the aid of a camera.

He’s also a man with a gift of making a lecture theatre sit in silence and fight back tears with clips from his moving ‘Capture Wales’ Digital Storytelling project.

Whether it’s pensioner Allan and his teddy bear Carlo, or schoolgirl Abigail describing the tragic loss of her ‘mam’, we’re exposed to how effective digital storytelling can be.

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Claire Wardle, BBC College of Journalism

A recent lecture by Claire Wardle from the BBC College of Journalism, offered some interesting insights into the future of journalism.

This fast paced, fast acting woman symbolises the online world she seems to have conquered. Addressing the students at the CJS last week, Claire discussed the exciting changes and demands ahead for the industry. Blogging, for example, is in her eyes (although perhaps not Andrew Marr’s) separating the ‘old boys’ from the new.

Claires described of a recent press conference, highlighting it’s no longer a case of pencil and notepad. Instead, today’s journalist is one sat, ipad on lap, with live blog on one tab and a Tweet on another. Those especially talented are also Googling, Facebooking, checking their emails and no doubt one day eating, sleeping and doing the weekly shop at the same time.

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