In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 9 topics from why we need to bring back the long-lost Links page to how to create footnotes in your blog posts.
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DPP016: Bringing Back the Links Page, Creating Footnotes on Your Blog, and 7 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 picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
Thanks to everyone who has gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show. I really, really appreciate it. You can go to itunes.digitalpublishingpodcast.com and then click the blue “Rate in iTunes” button in the left sidebar to pull up the podcast in iTunes so you can rate and review it, and it’ll only take a minute or two.
Ok! I’ve got 9 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. The Links page
I’ve been making websites since the mid-90s, and I was thinking a couple days ago about some of the early sites I created. I remember making my mom a web page for her birthday. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, that I could create something out of nothing and that you could view this thing that I made from anywhere in the world. It was out there for everyone to see. It took me forever to make the thing and as far as I’m concerned, it was the ultimate symbol of my love for my mother, but I don’t think she really understood what it was, and I don’t think she was too impressed.
I also remember making a model rocket website in either 1996 or 1997, though I don’t remember what it was called. And then in 1999, when I was 13, I made a site about my yo-yos called Earl and Enzo’s Yo-Yo Universe. Earl and Enzo were the names I gave my two yo-yos, which were a Yomega Brain and a Yomega Fireball, which I still remember for some reason. And the yoyo site was at 123456.com/yoyo. 123456.com was a domain name my dad had bought and that I used for all of my sites, but now, sadly, someone else owns it.
One thing that all of those websites had in common, except for maybe my mom’s birthday site, was that there was always a Links page. That was an essential part of any website back in those days. You HAD to have Links page. There was no Google back then, and it wasn’t very easy to find other sites on the subject you were interested in, so you had a Links page and you linked there to those other sites. I actually just found a Links page created in 1995 that still has a link to Earl and Enzo’s Yo-Yo Universe on it, which is pretty amazing.
But really, when is the last time you saw a Links page? They were everywhere in the 90s, but I don’t know when the last time I saw one was. I think it’s time to bring the Links page back. I really don’t think it’s much easier to find other good sites now than it was a decade and a half ago. The amount of information online now is exponentially larger than it was back then and “findability” is more of an issue today than ever, but the Links pages are gone.
So at a time when curation is more important and popular than ever, a Links page is something that we can all do that will improve the internet and be a valuable resource for our audiences. I’ll be working on Links pages for some of my sites, and you should definitely consider it, too.
2. Ask before interviewing
One podcast I like listening to is called CMD + SPACE (“command space”). It’s an interview-style show, and each week the host, whose name is Myke Hurley, interviews someone about some technology-related thing. One thing that he does that I really like is ask his Twitter followers before each interview what questions they have for the person being interviewed. It’s nice to have questions from a perspective other than the interviewer’s, because then you end up with a different type of question than you otherwise normally wouldn’t get. Interviewers obviously won’t think to ask questions that are outside their wheelhouse, and taking listener or reader questions is a great way to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.
3. Reviewing previous episodes
If you haven’t realized it yet from listing to previous episodes of this podcast, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’m currently subscribed to 65 of ’em, to be exact. One other podcast I listen to is called Simple Life Together, and it’s by a husband and wife couple, Dan and Vanessa Hayes, and they talk about things related to simplicity and minimalism. I noticed on the most recent episode I listened to that at the beginning of the episode, they briefly went over what they talked about in the previous episode. For example, in episode 15, Vanessa says, “On the last show, I talked about some typical middle-class homes and Dan talked about how one simple gadget can lead to a cluttered line of gadgets and accessories.”
This is a great idea. If you’re new to the podcast or missed the previous podcast, it might whet your appetite a little bit and make you want to listen to that episode when you otherwise might not have.
I’m noticing more and more bloggers using footnotes in their blog posts. If you want to see an example of this, go check out one of Marco Arment’s posts at marco.org.
I usually use a lot of parentheses to further explain things in my blog posts, but using footnotes might be a better way to do it because then those side remarks and explanations won’t get in the way of the people who want to just read about the main idea.
Now to clarify, when I say “footnotes” here, I’m talking about a hyperlinked number next to a word in a paragraph. And when you click on that number, you’re taken to the explanatory footnote at the bottom of the blog post.
The key to creating these footnotes is in creating what are called anchors, or page jumps, or bookmarks. Those are all different names for the same thing, which is that when you click on the linked number, you’re taken to a spot somewhere else on the page. It’s pretty easy to create these in WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or any other CMS that lets you edit the html of the page or post.
I would just tell you the html of how to create those anchor links, but I don’t think that would make for very interesting listening, so in the show notes for this episode, which again is episode 16 over at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com, I’ll include the details. You can also pretty easily make the linked number superscripted, and have your footnotes be in a smaller font size, and I’ll include all of that information there too.
- Creating anchors
- Creating superscript
- Creating a horizontal line (which you can use to separate the post from the footnotes, as in Marco’s post above)
- Making text smaller
5. Digital to print curation
It seems like I mention some form of curation in just about every episode of this podcast, and I’m going to do it again in this one, so hopefully it’s not a topic you’re sick of hearing me talk about yet.
There’s a really popular social news site called Hacker News, and it’s at news.ycombinator.com. It’s for news items and articles that programmers and entrepreneurs find interesting. And then there’s a magazine called Hacker Monthly, which isn’t officially associated with Hacker News. Hacker Monthly is a monthly magazine that contains a hand-picked selection of the most popular articles from Hacker News, and a digital version of each issue is also for sale.
Each issue is about 40 pages long, is printed on high quality glossy paper, and is really well laid out and designed. They look great. A digital subscription is $29 a year, and a print subscription is $88 a year. Or you can buy individual digital issues for $3 each and individual print issues for $9 (and the print issues also come with a digital copy). The digital download version comes with a PDF, an iPad-optimized PDF, a .mobi (which is the Kindle format), and an epub (which is the format that other e-readers besides the Kindles use).
The magazine has been around for a while, and I always wondered how it worked. Did the magazine steal the articles or pay for them, and if it paid, how much did it pay? But then I was reading some comments on Hacker News a couple days ago about Hacker Monthly and they clarified things for me.
This is a direct quote from one of the comments: “Before an article you have written gets published there you are asked for your permission (and given a few months free of charge of subscription.)”
So it seems like Hacker Monthly doesn’t pay for it’s content, which is pretty awesome from their point of view. I guess it’s enough for the authors to have their articles featured in a magazine that will be read by a lot of people and that is highly regarded, and the free subscription thing is pretty neat, too.
Once I understood how Hacker Monthly worked, I started thinking about whether this model of curating great content and making it more widely available in more convenient and visually appealing formats would work for other niches. I think it would. Let’s take travel as an example. I don’t know if there is a Hacker News-type site for travel-related news and articles, but you could just subscribe to a bunch of travel blogs, choose the best articles, contact the authors and ask their permission to use their articles, then format the articles nicely and package them all together into a nice package.
I assume that Hacker Monthly is profitable, since it’s been around for a while now. As of recording this, there have been 33 issues. But could you charge money for this type of thing in other niches? I don’t see why not. I don’t know if it would work in every niche, but I’m sure it would work for a lot of them out there. If anyone listening to this or reading the transcript knows of something else like Hacker Monthly, I’d love to hear about it.
6. Stealing blog post ideas from other niches
It’s a common tip that you’ll hear or read a lot to go to other blogs in your niche for blog post ideas. You look at what they’re writing about and then write about the same topic with your own unique twist or slant or point of view.
This is also something you can do on blogs that aren’t related to your niche. There’s a popular personal development blog called Tiny Buddha. One of the recent blog posts there is titled “4 TOOLS TO REFRAME STRESS TO FEEL LESS OVERWHELMED.” So let’s say you had a blog about rock climbing. You see that post title over at Tiny Buddha and then could write a post about how to make climbing less stressful. Another recent Tiny Buddha post is “EMPOWER OTHERS AND MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN THEIR DAY.” From that, you could write an article about how rock climbing makes you feel empowered.
In my experience, this type of thing works best when you’re looking at blogs that aren’t news-focused blogs.
7. How else to find you
In a few episodes now of the Digital Publishing Podcast, I’ve mentioned one of Jim Harold’s podcast. He’s a professional podcaster who hosts the Paranormal Podcast and Jim Harold’s Campfire, among others. Jim Harold’s Campfire is a call-in show, where people call in with experiences they’ve had with scary or supernatural things and they tell Jim about them. They’re essentially scary and supposedly true campfire stories, hence the name of the podcast.
Jim does something really smart when he talks to these people—he mentions how they found the podcast or how they listen to it. So he’ll say that Jane found the show on the Roku, or John found it on Stitcher, or Mark found it in iTunes. This is smart because it informs the people listening that the show is available on those other channels, which means that they might listen more. Like if a guy is just browsing in the Roku store or whatever it’s called and finds and listens to the show there, he might hear that the show is also on iTunes, which might be a more convenient listening platform for him.
So if you syndicate your content through multiple channels, be sure to mention them and let people know about them.
8. Final versions
This is another quick tip. Whenever you’re creating different versions of something, never name any of them “final.” I remember taking a desktop publishing class in school and our final project was to create a 6-page newsletter in InDesign. In the days and hours leading up to when I had to turn it in, I was convinced that I was done with it, so I’d name it something like “newsletter project FINAL”—but then I’d see a typo or remember that I had to add something else. It got to a point where I couldn’t figure out which of the versions really was the final version because they ALL said “final” or “real final” or “final final” on them.
I kind of hate to admit it, but I’ve done this with my more recent projects, too. I have a bunch of versions of my early Kindle books on my hard drive and I need to go and change some of the information in there, but I’m dreading having to go in and find which versions are the most recent. I have gotten better at it, though. Now I save each new iteration in its own folder, and I name each folder v1, v2, v3, and so on, with the “v” standing for “version.” The highest-numbered version is obviously the most recent version, so it makes it easy to find and update the latest version. Plus you’ll have a record of your previous versions, which you can always go back and check if you need to.
9. The two-Kindle update
In episode 11 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, I talked about how I have two Kindles—a regular e-ink one and a Kindle Fire tablet—and that I use them to test my Kindle books before publishing them. I also talked about how I was going to start using the Kindle Fire tablet to read more nonfiction and the e-ink Kindle (which I used to read with exclusively) to read fiction. I’d been neglecting my nonfiction reading over the previous several months and thought that by having a dedicated nonfiction reading device, I’d read more nonfiction.
Well, the results are in and it’s working! I actually have been reading more nonfiction, which is great. Another thing that has been helping is just leaving my nonfiction Kindle around in places where I’m reminded to read it. I still read fiction for fun when I’m at the beach or in bed, but now I’m reading the nonfiction when I’m eating or in the bathroom. It’s working out really well, and I recommend it if you have a Kindle and a tablet or a couple Kindles or a tablet and a smartphone or any combination of multiple reading devices.
And for what it’s worth, I do 100% of my reading in ebooks. I own maybe two physical, paper books but they’re in storage. I love reading ebooks. I love having multiple books handy and with me wherever I am, and I like being able to search for specific words or phrases. If you’ve never actually tried reading on a Kindle, even if you think you wouldn’t like it, try it. It’s awesome.
Featured Podcast & Tool
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for featured podcast is a really popular podcast called Stuff You Missed in History Class [link], which is put out by the folks at HowStuffWorks.com. I’ve been listening to this show for a couple years now and I still really enjoy it. As the name suggests, they cover a wide range of historical topics and subjects, ranging from Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald to war dogs to a bunch of other things that you’ve never heard of before, plus some more well-known topics and figures thrown in for good measure. The show has undergone several changes in hosts, but I do still really enjoy it.
My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is a free online tool called KeepVid [link]. It won’t work in Chrome, but it does work in Firefox and Safari and I haven’t tried it in Internet Explorer. You go there and enter in the URL of a YouTube video and you can then download the video. The site gives you several options for different download formats and sizes.
I don’t like watching long videos like documentaries on YouTube because there are buffering problems and playback problems, so it’s a lot easier to just download the video and watch it on my hard drive. Or if you want to watch a video somewhere where you won’t have an internet or data connection, downloading it beforehand is a great idea, and KeepVid makes it easy.
That’ll do it for episode 16 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links and transcriptions. You can also sign up there for a weekly newsletter where I send out a roundup of the best digital publishing-related articles that I’ve read over the previous week. Usually it’s about 4 or 5 articles—nothing too crazy or overwhelming.
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.