I’m on ‘Medium,’ and loving it!

Finally, I got invited to write for Medium, a blogging network founded by Evan Williams, same guy behind Blogger and Twitter.

Medium brings back our love for blogging. But this time, their motivation is different. As the founders proclaim:

We think that words (still) matter, so we built a better system for sharing them.

Indeed!

What makes this blogging service different? First, it’s by invitation. You have to pass a certain standard to get invited. What I did was comment on one of the blog entries, and boom, I got an email telling me that I can start posting my own.

You also need to use your Twitter account to join Medium.

I think this service is still in its infancy. But the quality of writing (also the design) is excellent. And they have Editor’s Picks too.

I like this model for blogging because there are a lot of people out there who just wants to write, and who thinks words still matter, because just like air, it is crucial to our existence–just like breathing.

Do check out my first entry, which is aptly titled, Why we blog.

 

Earning through your blog [perhaps you should learn to write first]

I was asked this question today and this made me think. There’s a simple answer to this, but if you’re going to offer a good advice from a perspective of a journalist, then that’s a different issue.

Okay, for a start, blogs are here to stay. It’s a publishing tool that anyone with enough technical know-how and time can use. But as one of my editors would often tell me, “it’s a beast that you need to feed.” And if you’re planning to earn from it, then you have to be clear with the purpose it serves.

But as I write this, I recall answering: ‘You need to start thinking about content, first. Then, you can start building your audience, until you get some recognition, a name that will eventually attract income.”

In the end, no amount of SEO and link love would amount to good content, sustained. If you love your craft, you will keep writing and delivering stories that will hopefully attract an audience. I say “hopefully” because it is easy to say it, but doing it is another matter.

So where do you start?

Start with your family and friends. “Force” them to read your blog. And if they’re really your friends, then perhaps word will spread! (But make sure they find your blog using social media).

Choose a topic that you think you can write about with much gusto. In short, if you’re passionate about music, focus on that. Write from your experience. You can “copy” the style of your favorite blogger–what I mean here is that you mimic their voice and not copy their work–that’s infringement.

Do an overnight test and get a good reader to challenge your work. In the publishing world, this means getting a good editor to go through your copy. It helps! But once you’re confident with your work, edit your work.

Read, digest, then write. There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. But there’s such a thing as being overwhelmed or being disorganized. Some writer friends use mental outlines (you can draw them if you want) to organize their thoughts. You get stalled when you cannot pin down the main theme of your blog. Also, read a lot. It helps!!!

Write as you talk. In my writing classes back in the days, I struggled with writing. But once I started writing the way I would talk to my friends or even parents, then I figured–that’s the voice am going to use when I write. It has to be conversational these days if you want to hook you’re readers. Read magazines. Read non-fiction. Read fiction.

I’ve been a big fan of William Zinnser, author of the classic on Writing Well. His tips are practical and up until now, are still relevant.

So back to the question of earning from a blog. So where do you start? If you’re able to blog consistently and get people to even comment–and share it –then perhaps you can move to the next level and push your blog to publishers. Magazines are still out hunting for good writers. Websites that offer news are also on the lookout for good writers who have good track record in blogging. The best way to earn from a blog is to get paid for what you produce–which is content, and if you think you can do this most of your life, then you might get a better chance of succeeding.

It’s not easy, and there’s no shortcut. It takes hard work, patience, practice and a good sense of who you want to reach (audience) before you can make an impact. You don’t blog for the sake of making a living out of it. It has to serve a purpose, or at least fulfill a need–or even answers life’s questions. Use your imagination. Some may disagree, but this is my view if I were asked this question again.

Now, the choice is yours.

Why blogs and news websites still matter

You have probably seen this article from Poynter Institute about a community website deciding to go Facebook-only. Argument goes that since people start most of their day now on this popular social networking site, it was a no-brainer decision to make: Go where the people are. Such move is seen as a radical step in self-publishing these days.

Because of this story, I was inspired to do a little experiment. I’m bringing my class to Facebook. One of my colleagues pinged me a link. So I’m following the logic of being where the people are. (But surprise, surprise, not all students are on Facebook).

Blogs and websites have a different purpose. Social networks are for distribution, conversations (in a way) and for sharing. Blogging, for one, is more of an exercise in thinking and story-telling. I must admit, after I started becoming more active on social networks, I stopped blogging. Cold turkey! Why? I got addicted to the real-time information rush. And, instant gratification of connecting and sharing ideas to people. How could a blog compete with that?

Perhaps, blogging or writing long-format news or content (to make it more generic), is only for the talkatives and highly opinionated elite. I remember attending one blogging conference where they revealed that most Filipino political bloggers still represent the “political elite.” They are, by default, educated, have access to the Internet/technology, and are more exposed to the world. But that was several years ago. Today, anyone who can type into a comment section of a news website can express their political opinion. And such is the Internet. It creates a community who will gravitate towards common interests.

Social networks are today’s starting point for most online activities. (In my case, e-mail and Twitter). This is where most old and young users are now introduced to the digital media. So for a community blog to decide to drop its website and go for a Facebook-only model is something that might make sense for now. And if its primary objective is to build a community, increase engagement, and eventually keep them coming back, then I suppose that’s a good, radical move.

But I wouldn’t abandon my blog or my news website. Both offer a different set of digital values that are quite distinct from social media. Blogs still represent you, as a person or as an organization. This is where people can find out what you’ve been thinking, wanting, doing, etc. I have my own profile on Facebook now, and a page that I created for purposes of sharing links and hopefully sparking conversation. But this blog will remain, and it has evolved over the years.

How much time do you spend blogging now?

Short answer: Less.

Has micro-blogging killed blogging? Perhaps. But actually, only about 1 percent of those online are really creating original content, which includes blogging. So, it’s no surprise that fewer people do blog.

Good lessons in DIY PR

I just finished a course in PR this summer when I stumbled upon Guy Kawasaki’s blog. He posted an alternative way of doing PR, which is doing it on your own. This is based on an article penned by Glen Kellman. Excerpt:

Just the other day a newspaper’s technology editor told me, “It’s just so hard to meet entrepreneurs these days. You always get their PR people.” A dozen entrepreneurs sprang to mind who would kill to tell their stories. All have agencies. So what I am recommending is not howto manage an agency, but something more radical: not hiring an agency at all.

Hmmmm, that’s a good suggestion. But I think the bottomline here is that people don’t need to hire PR firms to reach out to journalists. Yes, a quick personal email telling us about your idea would likely get us excited. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy article. We just need interesting facts.

Sometimes, I end up writing stories after getting a short email message from some sources. E-mail remains the best way to get our attention.

And don’t forget to be honest (in telling your story) and  be accessible, especially for follow-ups.

But you don’t have to push journalists to write your story. Give it time because you’re not the only one they’re talking to. A good story will find its way in a newspaper or an online news portal if it’s good, interesting, and timely. Be patient.

Finally, here’s something I learned this summer. It’s called the Sunshine principle. Good PR is based on establishing good relationships with the press. Catch them when the Sun is shining. So when storms come, good relationships with the media would spell the difference between getting good and not-so-good stories. Respect journalists, and they’ll respect you in return.