In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 6 topics, from niche multi-author blogs to a new test project I’m working on.
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You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 18 minutes long.
- 1:00 – 1. Taking time off
- 3:23 – 2. Meetups
- 5:31 – 3. Checklist sites
- 8:00 – 4. There is always room
- 10:39 – 5. Niche multi-author blogs
- 13:12 – 6. A new test project
- 15:31 – Pick of the week
DPP024: Checklist Sites, Niche Multi-Author Blogs, a New Test Project, 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. Taking time off
Regular readers or listeners might have noticed that there was no new episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast last week, as I warned might be the case in episode 23 from the week before that. For those who don’t know, I’ve been living in Mexico for the last 8 months or so and on the island of Cozumel for the last two and a half months. I’ll be leaving Mexico in a couple weeks and still hadn’t seen some of the larger sights on mainland Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, so I decided to spend last week going to some great archaeological and colonial sites that I hadn’t been to. I barely did any work during the week.
Usually, time off is a great thing for me. It’s a time for me to recharge and step back and look at what I’m doing from a more objective angle. I usually listen to tons of podcasts and read tons of articles that I haven’t yet gotten around to, and I usually end up coming back with a big list full of great new ideas on how I can do things differently or better. This time wasn’t like that, though. I came back from the trip with zero additional ideas, plans, or insight. The one overwhelming thought I had the whole time, and what I brought back with me, was that I really needed to launch Osmosio, which is the site that the Digital Publishing Podcast is part of and that will teach people how to format ebooks and stuff like that. That’s really the only thing I was thinking about the entire week, and I guess there wasn’t much room in my brain for anything else.
So this is a reminder, probably like ones you’ve heard before, to occasionally take time off. You’ll either come back with a ton of great new ideas, like I normally do when I take time off, or new clarity and renewed sense of vigor, as happened to me last week. But either way, it’s worth it.
It’s pretty common these days to see social media icons or buttons or widgets in a blog or website’s sidebar. You see RSS, email, Twitter, and Facebook icons. Sometimes you’ll see Flickr, YouTube, and StumbleUpon icons. But the other day I saw a a Meetup icon in a website’s sidebar. The site was Digital Book World, and in the sidebar it says Follow the DBW Community, and there are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Meetup icons. I think this is the first time I’ve seen a Meetup link right alongside the regular social media links.
For those unfamiliar with Meetup, it’s an online service that makes it easy to create offline meetups or meetings or gatherings or whatever you want to call them. The Digital Book World Meetup group is based in New York City, so that’s where its meetings and conferences take place. I don’t think this kind of thing would work well if you were located in Stanley, Idaho, or like me in Cozumel, Mexico. But if you’re in a place like New York, Los Angeles, Portland, London, Sydney, or Berlin, I think this is a great idea. I’d love to meet my readers, listeners, and customers in person. And if your website, business, blog, or whatever is centered around a certain geographical area, like if you blog about surfing around Cape Town, a meetup is a no-brainer.
You could also do this sort of thing without an official Meetup group. Maybe you have a separate email list for people interested in in-person get-togethers, and you send out an email whenever you’ll be in a certain city. Or you could just post to your blog or to Twitter about it, or send an email about where you’ll be and when out to everyone on your regular email list. Regardless of how you do it, I think in-person meetups are an awesome idea, and something you might want to consider adding a link for your sidebar if it makes sense.
3. Checklist sites
I’m always interested in simple kinds of website formats that provide value. In the past I mentioned The Short Cutts, which is a site that boils down Google SEO spokesman Matt Cutts’s long-winded answers to SEO questions into just a few words. I said that that’s an idea that could be applied to any niche, and then here’s another idea that I came across today.
The website is called Userium (userium.com), and it’s a checklist. More specifically, it’s a website usability checklist. The checklist is broken up into 10 different sections, including things like homepage, accessibility, navigation, and layout. Under each one of those sections are three to seven points or things that you can check off, and next to each one is a check box. The idea is that you go through this list of things to see how user-friendly your website is, checking off each one that you’ve done. At the bottom of the page are a print button and a link to a bibliography.
I love lists, so this is something that I instantly liked, and it’s something you could do for any niche. Let’s say you’re into rock climbing. You could make a separate website for a climbing checklist or for multiple climbing checklists, like gear to take with you when hiking, gear to take with you when ice climbing, or things to double-check before you start climbing up a route. Or you could have it all be part of your existing climbing-related website.
I found a WordPress plugin that looks like it makes it pretty easy to create checklists on your WordPress-powered website, though I haven’t yet tried it myself. It’s called Frontend Checklist. It’s free, an I’ll include a link to it in the show notes for episode 24 at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
4. There is always room
I read a lot of travel-related articles as part of what I do over at my Travel Knowledge Database site. Some of the articles are great, others are crap, and there are a lot in between. I was reading one article the other day, an interview with a relatively well-established travel blogger. One of the questions that was asked to him was, “Do you think it’s possible for an aspiring travel blogger to quit their job and make a good living from blogging today?” The answer was, “No, not really.”
That surprised me, but I agree with that to a certain extent. The odds of you quitting your job, starting a travel blog, and being able to make a good living from it anytime soon are not very good. If you’ve been blogging about travel for five years already, sure, you might be able to make a living from it, though I don’t know how many full time travel bloggers are making a *good* living.
But let’s step back, broaden the topic here a little bit, and re-examine it. I think that in every niche out there, there is room for something better. This is something I’ve mentioned before but that I think is worth repeating. There are a gazillion travel blogs out there, but I’d say that many (if not most) of them, even the most popular ones, aren’t very good. They’re inconsistent. They talk about dumb things that I think the vast majority of the people in their audiences don’t care about, like PR-esque reviews of uber-luxury hotels in remote and obscure areas that no one else will ever visit. The writing often isn’t very good, and the videos are unprofessional. All of that is to say that if you wanted to create a travel blog, and if you were actually a good writer or video producer, or if you stopped with the crappy 300-word articles that companies paid you to publish in exchange for a backlink, or if you write about things that a billion other travel bloggers haven’t already written about, people would notice. Would your blog gain traction immediately? No. It would still take a really long time to get traction. But there is always room in every niche for excellence, for something better, because readers or buyers or whoever are always looking for the best stuff.
5. Niche multi-author blogs
There’s a blog called The Kill Zone, and it’s at killzoneauthors.blogspot.com. The blog’s tagline is “Insider perspectives from today’s hottest thriller and mystery writers.” It’s a multi-author blog, and there are currently 13 authors that blog there, and there’s a photo of each author in the sidebar, and each photo links to the author’s own website. On average, there are two new posts a day, each author writes a new blog post once a week, and the articles are mostly about writing. The blog seems to be pretty popular, with most posts getting dozens of comments.
I love this idea. Each one of those bloggers has his or her own blog or website, so why would they want to write an article a week for some other blog? Because it’s an easy way to get more attention. There are 13 authors on the blog, and I’d assume that each author has a vested interest in the blog and that each one would tweet and share many of the new articles that are posted to the site. This means that there are 13 different people, each with his or her own unique audience, tweeting new articles, posting the new articles to their Facebook pages, and generally driving traffic to this site. It’s like having 12 other cheerleaders for the stuff you write. Each person writes just once a week but gets the benefits of blogging twice a day, every day.
I feel like fiction authors do this kind of thing a lot. There’s a lot of collaboration. Why don’t people in other niches do it? Let me go back to my favorite example, rock climbing. You could round up a half dozen other climbing bloggers and have each one write a post every two weeks. If you published a new post to the blog every other day, you’d still have a blog that gets updated more than most other climbing blogs out there. It’s essentially like having a reliable, recurring guest posting spot on a blog, and you’re essentially a part owner of that blog. If you have some buddies in your niche, it seems like a good way to get more eyeballs looking at your respective projects.
6. A new test project
I have mixed feelings about Tumblr, the simple blogging platform that is also a social network. It’s a pretty easy way to build a following, but I’m always hesitant to commit too much to any platform that I don’t own. I’m especially wary of Tumblr because I’ve had my Tumblr account suspended before, and lost over a thousand subscribers in the process.
But I’m testing something with a new Tumblr blog. I’ve written a rock climbing book called 101 Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks. If you search for “rock climbing” on Amazon, it shows up on the first page of results, and if you search for rock climbing specifically in the Kindle store on Amazon, it’s usually either the first or second thing to show up. Well, a couple days ago I started a new climbing-related Tumblr blog to try to sell more copies of my ebook. But the goal is to put in as little work and effort as possible into this new blog and see if it still is useful as far as driving sales goes.
So the blog is called Daily Climbing Videos, and it’s at dailyclimbingvideos.tumblr.com. The plan is to just post a new climbing-related video every day. That’s it. Today was day two of the experiment, and the blog has 4 subscribers so far. I have a little 125×125 pixel ad for my ebook in the blog’s sidebar, and I’ve installed Google Analytics on the blog so that I can see how many people leave the site by clicking on that ad. I won’t be able to see how many people actually buy the book, but I will be able to see how many at least click through to look at the thing.
So it’ll be interesting to see if literally one or two minutes of blogging a day can translate into sales of an ebook, and I will keep you posted in future episodes of the podcast. Honestly, I doubt the experiment will work, but it’s worth a minute or two a day to make sure.
Pick of the week
And that brings us to my pick of the week. In weeks past, I’ve chosen both a podcast and a tool for digital publishers for each episode. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I’ve just about run out of ones that I can recommend that I think would appeal to a broad swath of the people listening to this. So now I’m just going to have a single pick of the week for each episode, and it can be a podcast, a digital publishing tool, a website, an app, or anything else along those lines.
My pick of the week for this episode is a new app that I recently came across. It’s unfortunately iOS-only at this point, so it’ll work on iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches, but not on Android devices. It’s called Inkvite, and you can learn more about it at Inkvite.me. It’s a collaborative fiction writing tool. You open up the app and choose a genre, like horror, humor, chick lit, or any of a bunch more. And then you’re given a title, and you write a short story based on that title and within the scope of the genre you chose. The neat part is that you can collaborate on the story with up to 3 other people, and each person is limited to only 280 characters. So you write 280 characters and then it’s someone else’s turn to write another 280 characters, and you keep writing back and forth until you’re done or until you’ve reached a pre-set length.
For someone like me who is crap at writing fiction, this is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Maybe you like a resulting story so much that you decide to flesh it out into a novella or even novel. But if not, you’ve worked your creative muscle, which is never a bad thing.
And that’s all for episode 24 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.