In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 6 topics from bribing readers for reviews to voice dictation.
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- 1:03 – 1. Feeding people unhealthy content
- 3:13 – 2. One simple productivity hack
- 5:15 – 3. Bribing readers for reviews
- 9:15 – 4. Update on the effortless blog
- 11:34 – 5. The easiest blog post idea
- 14:46 – 6. Voice dictation
- 18:00 – 7. Pick of the week
DPP025: Unhealthy Content, Bribing Readers, Voice Dictation, and 3 More Ideas
Hey everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my pick of the week, so be sure to stick around for that. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
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Ok! I’ve got 6 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. Feeding people unhealthy content
A few days ago I saw a link pop up in my Twitter feed. The name of the article was “Top 25 iPhone Apps to Track Your Website Stats On the Go”. Does that strike anyone else as being a bit… unnecessary? Why not pick the one or two best apps? I’ll tell you why, and there are two reasons:
- Because this way the person writing the article doesn’t have to actually download, install, and use all 25 apps, which would take a lot of time and research, and
- Because this is the kind of list that we think people will like and share. I mean, everyone likes big lists, right?
It’s like feeding your kids junk food. It’s easy for you and it seems like the kind of thing your kids want, but in reality it’s not very good for them. It’s not healthy. An article listing 25 apps that all do the same thing isn’t good or helpful. I can just search in the app store for “Google Analytics” or “web analytics” and come up with a big list of apps. So before you excitedly make a big ol’ list of tools or resources, ask yourself if that’s really the most useful thing you can offer people. More is not always better. Writing about the single best iPhone app for tracking your stats on your go would be much more valuable than listing out 25 of them. There’s enough junk on the internet already.
And in case you’re now wondering about a great iOS app for checking your analytics, I’ve recommended Fast Analytics in the past and I still use it and like it a lot. gAnalytics is apparently a really good one for Android devices, and both of those apps are free.
2. One simple productivity hack
I’m usually not a fan of “productivity hacks” because they tend to turn you into someone who is so concerned about being productive that you never get anything done because you’re so busy learning about how to be productive. And I say “you” here but I’m obviously talking from experience. The very best productivity hack I’ve found is to just turn off the internet, sit your butt in a chair, and do whatever it is that you need to do.
Now, having said that, here’s something I did recently that has helped me avoid mindless web surfing. In my browser—and I use Chrome but this applies to most browsers—I used to have a bunch of my most frequented sites saved in the browser’s bookmarks bar. This is a bar right underneath the box where you enter in website URLs, and in mine I had put bookmarks for Reddit, Evernote, Gmail, Facebook, Feedly, Twitter, and a few other sites that I go to a lot. On one hand, this was great because it meant that I didn’t have to type anything in. I could just click once on the bookmarked website. On the other hand, once I could just click on all of those bookmarked sites without thinking, the result was that I ended up spending a lot of time browsing those sites automatically because it was so easy to do.
So to fix this, I just hid the bookmarks bar. All of those bookmarks are still easily accessible via the bookmarks menu at the top of the screen, but there’s now an out of sight, out of mind thing going on. I have to actively want to go to those sites to click on them, and the result is that it’s cut down a lot on the absentminded browsing and procrastinating that I used to do.
3. Bribing readers for reviews
Amazon has a no-bribes policy when it comes to Kindle book reviews (and reviews for everything else, for that matter). According to Amazon’s official customer review creation guidelines:
“Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product [are not allowed].”
That seems pretty clear, right? “Any form of compensation” is prohibited. In practice, the line isn’t so clear cut. In the past, I’ve offered $5 Amazon gift cards to some reviewers. I had 5 of them to give out, and I told my blog readers that if they bought the ebook and left a review, they could possibly win one of the 5 gift cards. The first time I did it, I got five reviews from doing that, so it turned out that each reviewer did get a gift card. I didn’t specify that the reviews had to be positive or anything like that.
Is that against Amazon’s policies? Honestly, yeah, probably, even though it’s not a direct transaction. But at least I didn’t pay for the individual reviews; the reviewers had to buy the book and review the book honestly and then were eligible to win something in a raffle.
So that’s probably not the best thing to do if you want to stick with the spirit of Amazon’s review policy 100% of the way, but it worked for me, and I’m not averse to doing it again in the future. But how about this. There are a couple sci fi/horror writers I follow named Sean Platt and David Wright, and I’m on their email list. Last week they sent out a call for people to leave reviews on a boxed set of one of their book series. And they did give an incentive, even though it was a very different kind of incentive. They said that if the book got to 100 reviews, Dave (who again, is one of the co-authors of the series) would record a video of himself dancing to a song of the readers’ choice. The other co-author, Sean, had done this several months ago after meeting a review goal, and he danced to Gangnam Style. Horribly, I might add.
When they sent out the email asking for more reviews, the series had 49 reviews. As of recording this, seven days after they sent out the email, they have 68 reviews. So 19 new reviews, nearly all of which are five-star reviews, in a week. Not bad, right? I’m sure some of those could have been gained by just asking for them in the email, but I’m also sure that some of those reviewers genuinely want to see Dave dance.
Technically speaking, I think that even this kind of reward isn’t allowed under Amazon’s policies because it’s a form of compensation, isn’t it? It’s an odd form of compensation, but it still is one. But I think that this kind of bribery is not the kind that Amazon is worried about, and it seems like a great way and reason to ask for reviews. It’s less of a bribe and more of a thank you, and I like that. But it’s worth noting that it doesn’t look like they’re going to reach that goal of 100 reviews anytime soon, so then you have to weigh the effectiveness of this kind of bribe or thank you or whatever you want to call it. 68 reviews is better than 49, but it’s still not 100.
4. Update on the effortless blog
In the last episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast, I talked about how I wanted to see if I could create a blog to help sell ebooks, but do next to nothing when it came to actually creating content for the blog and marketing the blog. So I created a Tumblr blog called Daily Climbing Videos to sell my 101 Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks book, and the idea was that I’d just post a different climbing-related YouTube or Vimeo video each day. I put a little ad for my ebook in the blog’s sidebar and said that I would track the outgoing clicks via Google Analytics.
When I recorded the last podcast, I had made 2 posts and had 4 subscribers on that Tumblr blog. As of recording this now, I’ve done 9 posts and have 31 subscribers, so I’m averaging about 3 new subscribers or followers for every one post.
So now the million dollar question is: Did the ad get any clicks? And the answer is… Nope. Not a one. This isn’t too surprising, since looking at the Google Analytics shows that there are only between 2 and 4 people visiting the site every day. That’s the thing about Tumblr; people follow other blogs on Tumblr and then view the updates in their Tumblr dashboards. This means that while they do see new updates, they don’t see the ad or anything else that’s in my sidebar unless they actually go to dailyclimbingvideos.tumblr.com.
I’m going to keep doing things the way that I’ve been doing them for a couple more weeks, and then re-evaluate. I might end up adding a text link to my ebook in every update I do. We’ll see. People might think that that’s too annoying. If not much has changed by next week, I probably won’t talk about it in the podcast, but I will the week after, so stay tuned for that.
5. The easiest blog post idea
One of the websites that I run for fun is called TradClimbingVideos.com. This is different from the Daily Climbing Videos Tumblr blog, which is a recent experiment and likely won’t be a long-term thing. TradClimbingVideos.com is something I’ve been doing for several months now. Trad climbing is a sub-category or sub-discipline of rock climbing in which you generally don’t clip in or anchor into bolts, but to things that you place and wedge into cracks in the rock. It’s a type of climbing that people are very passionate about.
Anyway, so on this website I post cool trad climbing videos. For each video, I write a one- or two-sentence description, list the climbers in the video, where they’re climbing, and what routes they’re climbing, along with a couple other things. Then I embed the video from YouTube or Vimeo and include a small screenshot of the video, which also shows up as the thumbnail on the main TradClimbingVideos.com page. And then for the blog post title, I describe the video in my own words; I don’t just copy the title of the YouTube video.
So the reason that I’m talking about this is that I’ve been surprised by how much search traffic these posts pull in. There are only like 29 or 30 posts on the blog, but it gets between 50 and 100 visits every day from search traffic. That’s pretty darn good for posts that just take a few minutes to write. This is a great blog post idea if you want to churn out a lot of posts to bring in more search traffic.
And you can even take it a bit further. Let’s say you want to create a bunch of these kinds of posts to hopefully get some long tail search traffic, but you don’t necessarily want to bombard your current subscribers with all of these posts. If you’re on WordPress, you can use a plugin called Ultimate Category Excluder. It makes it so that posts from a certain category or categories don’t show up in your RSS feed and/or on the main front page of your blog. So you could put all of the video posts into their own category and they’d never show up on the front page but would still bring in search traffic. This is also a great tip for writing specific articles around long tail keywords that may bring in search traffic but might not appeal to the wider audience that you’ve developed.
6. Voice dictation
If you’ve listened to this podcast for a while, you’ll remember that several episodes ago I talked about how I write out the transcripts for each episode and then read the transcripts into a microphone. That’s how I create and record these podcasts because speaking coherently is a skill that doesn’t come to me very naturally whereas writing is one of my strong points. And I don’t remember if I mentioned this on the podcast or not but I did mention it in my weekly newsletter that I was in a car accident several weeks ago. I was riding my bike and was hit by a car and almost broke my wrist, though it ended up just being pretty badly sprained. It’s healing well but it still hurts a little bit when I type. This is a problem not only for the podcast but also for the fact that most of what I do throughout the week is write. I can write with the splint on my wrist but I have to hold my arm in a weird angle and it gets tiring after a while.
That’s when I remembered that Mountain Lion, which is the latest release of Apple’s OS X operating system for laptops and desktops, comes with voice dictation capabilities. I’ve been using it on and off for the past week and it’s pretty good. It’s not perfect; it messes up about one word every sentence or every two sentences or so, but in general it works pretty well. I have it configured so that I hit the function key twice to start the voice dictation functionality and then when I’m done talking, I press the function key again and it stops. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s helped me limit the amount of strain I have to put on my wrist. I can take long pauses between sentences and thoughts and it will still transcribe what I say. About half of this episode’s script was first written out with this voice dictation thing.
It’s been a while since I’ve used Windows but I think Windows has something similar called Windows Speech Recognition. And then there is software called Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is supposed be really good voice dictation software, but it’s $200.* So if for some reason you can’t or don’t want to type, look into using dictation software. If, unlike me, you’re more of a talker than a writer, using some speech recognition and dictation software can make writing ebooks or blog post a lot faster and easier for you.
Pick of the week
And that brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or just about anything else. My pick this week is a Chrome extension called QuickTweet [link]. It makes it easy to log in and out of different Twitter accounts. I have a ton of Twitter accounts for my various projects and it’s a pain to keep track of the passwords and everything for all of them, but this extension really helps here. It’s a pretty simple extension. You install it and open up its options. You then enter in the username and password for each of your Twitter accounts and save them. Then when you want to switch between accounts, all you have to do is click on the extension’s icon next to the browser’s address bar and select the appropriate account from a list that appears. You are automatically logged out of the account you were logged into and then automatically logged in to the new account you selected. It only takes a few seconds to switch between accounts. The extension supports up to 10 different Twitter accounts and between this extension and tools like HootSuite, you’ll be able to manage a relatively large number of Twitter accounts for free.
And that’s all for episode 25 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.