In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 7 topics from the lost art of curating entire websites to a great reason to have and use multiple browsers.
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0:59 – 1. Curating websites
2:48 – 2. The Short Cutts
5:17 – 3. Getting mentioned
7:56 – 4. Niche travels revisited
9:19 – 5. A good use of different browsers
10:53 – 6. Nonstandard refunds
12:48 – 7. The easiest blog post ideas
16:09 – Featured podcast
16:45 – Featured digital publishing tool
DPP021: Curating Whole Websites, Using Multiple Browsers, and 5 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.
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Ok! I’ve got 7 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. Curating websites
Curation is one of my favorite things to talk about on this podcast, but most of the time I talk about curating individual bits of content—things like videos, blog posts, and articles. But what about curating good websites themselves? I have a friend who is really into lifestyle design. He could create a blog or newsletter that highlights different lifestyle design blogs and websites. If I were into lifestyle design, that is definitely a blog or newsletter I would subscribe to. If I were really into mountain biking, I could find and share the best sites related to mountain biking. You could do this for a lot of different niches.
I know that several years ago there were sites that would link to one cool site every day, and I just found one of them called CoolPick.com that hasn’t been updated since 2008. On the site there it says, “coolpick.com quit picking sites in June 2008. digg.com, reddit.com, [and others] have certainly relegated daily pick sites to the dustbin of history.” I don’t think that’s true. I am a very avid user of Reddit and go there multiple times every day. It’s a great way to find individual interesting articles or photos, but not so good for finding whole new sites. I think that more niched versions of those daily pick sites would be great nowadays, though picking a new site every single day might be a bit much. You could do it on a once-a-week or couple-times-a-week schedule and I still think people would think it was a valuable resource.
2. The Short Cutts
I ran across a really cool website recently. It’s called The Short Cutts, and there are two T’s in “Cutts.” It’s at TheShortCutts.com. So there’s a guy named Matt Cutts who is the head of webspam at Google. This means that he is the guy who talks about SEO, what is good and bad from Google’s point of view, and what website owners should and shouldn’t do. He’s recorded a ton of YouTube videos in which he answers people’s SEO questions, and here’s the pitch or extended tagline of the Short Cutts website:
“Since early 2009 Google’s Matt Cutts has recorded a superhuman number of videos to help struggling site owners understand their site in search. While the videos are great, sometimes the guy just needs to get to the point. With that in mind we’ve done the hard work and watched every Matt Cutts video to pull out simple, concise versions of his answers.”
So if you go to the site, you’ll see a grid of video thumbnails. Below each thumbnail is the question Matt is answering in the video, like “Will Google suspect that useful links on our site are paid?” And then below each question is the brief version of the answer Matt gives, and this answer was pulled from the video by the people that made the Short Cutts site. So in the case of the “Will Google suspect that useful links on our site are paid?” question, the answer is just “No.” This is great because it saves you from watching the whole video (which in this case is 2:10 long), though you can still click on the thumbnail to watch the video if you’re interested and gain a bit more depth of insight into the answer.
This kind of site is a great resource for anyone interested in SEO, and I think that this is a format that could be carried over to subjects other than SEO. Find videos about a niche you’re interested in and distill down their essence into a short statement or sentence or couple of sentences.
And this could also be done for things other than videos, things like blog posts or even books.
3. Getting mentioned
This American Life is currently the #1 podcast in iTunes (or in the US iTunes store, anyway). It’s massively popular, and really awesome. It’s probably my #1 favorite podcast. Each week they choose a different theme and then there are a handful of really interesting true stories related to that theme.
A couple weeks ago in episode 233, the theme was “Starting from Scratch,” and one of the stories was about a guy who wanted to start a new cable TV channel called The Puppy Channel. It would just be all puppies all the time. No TV shows, just footage of puppies being their adorable little selves. ThePuppyChannel.com is mentioned in the podcast episode. I listened to this episode of This American Life the night it came out, and went to ThePuppyChannel.com right away to look at the site. At the time, the site had 1,167 likes on Facebook, and again, that was right after the episode came out. Now, a week and a half later, the site has 1,387 likes. So here you’ve got the single most popular podcast in America mentioning your site (and even linking to it from thisamericanlife.org), and your Facebook page only gets about 200 new likes. The podcast has millions of listeners, but the Puppy Channel gets only 200 new likes. That’s a surprisingly small amount,
This goes to show that audience size isn’t everything. I remember guest posting on a really, really popular blog but getting surprisingly little traffic from that blog. On the other hand, I’ve gotten more traffic back to my site from guest posting on smaller blogs that have engaged audiences, that don’t have huge audiences but still get dozens of comments more than much larger blogs. I think audience engagement is as important as audience size, if not more so, and of course how targeted the audience is is also really important. So keep all of those things in mind when considering what sites to guest post on or even just comment on.
4. Niche travels revisited
Last week in episode 20, I talked about an idea I had for a niche travel blog. The idea was to write about strange and interesting statues in various parts of the world, the logic behind that being that it’s interesting content that you don’t already see on a million other travel blogs, so it’s the kind of blog that would stand out in what is a crowded niche.
At the time I didn’t have a good existing example of a narrow-niche-broad-appeal site to point to, but I found one this past week. It’s called Go Big or Go Home, and it’s at gobigorgohomeblog.com. The blog documents the adventures of a family that goes and sees the biggest whatevers in a state or in the world. Like the world’s biggest tooth or New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, that kind of stuff. I love this. This is such a freaking good idea for a travel blog because again, it’s something different but also something inherently interesting. And other people seem to like it, too, because it was voted one of the 13 best travel blogs for 2013. I just wanted to mention that in case you were left kind of scratching your head after last episode.
5. A good use of different browsers
I was talking with my friend Sean the other day. Sean is an American who lives here in Cozumel with his wife and three kids. He runs an online marketing company called Social Rocketship and writes about family-focused lifestyle design at his blog Family Rocketship. I was over at his house and we both had our computers out and he mentioned that he uses different browsers for his different sites. He uses one browser (like Firefox) for all of his Social Rocketship logins and another (like Chrome) for his Family Rocketship logins. This is a really good idea, and I’m kind of mad that I haven’t been doing this. It’ll save you from having to log in and out of multiple Google accounts, Twitter accounts, or any other accounts. This is definitely something I’m going to start doing now. It might not be a huge deal for sites like Twitter and Facebook because there are already tools out there like Buffer and Hootsuite that make it easy to manage multiple accounts. But for things like Scribd, Slideshare, Pinterest, or YouTube, it’s not so easy, and using different browsers for your different sites is a great way to make all of that a lot easier.
6. Non-standard refunds
Apple’s iTunes App Store has a no refunds policy. I guess the idea is that at the end of the day, you’re only out a dollar or two anyway, and a bad experience will motivate you to go rate and review the app. But as I was browsing apps this last week, I came across one company that does offer returns. It was on Jimbl Software’s Ultimate Checklist app. In the app description, they said:
“We offer [a] 100% refund (via PayPal) if you do not like our app. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before leaving a negative review, do give us an opportunity to address your concerns. We are here to help you.”
This is really interesting, because this comes out of the developer’s pocket. Since Apple doesn’t do refunds, that refund money comes straight from the developer. I’ve downloaded a couple hundred apps, but this is the first time I’ve seen something like this. I don’t know if in practice it really does keep people from writing one-star reviews, but it probably has kept some people from doing that.
I think it’s a great way to differentiate your app or any other low-priced product like an ebook and give people a bit more confidence in what they’re buying. Amazon does have 7-day refunds on its ebooks, but you could go a step above and say that you’ll offer an extended refund policy if they provide proof of purchase. And on top of the fact that it might stop people from writing a bad review, you’d get really valuable feedback from the people who bought and didn’t like your product. That’s feedback you could use to make the product even better.
7. The easiest blog post ideas
In a few months, I’ll have been blogging for ten years. I’ve written thousands of blog posts and probably millions of words on various blogs over the years, and have even compiled what I think is the world’s largest collection of blog post ideas (which will be included in my site Osmosio when it launches in about a month and a half, so stay tuned for that). Along the way, I’ve figured out the easiest way to come up with a lot of blog post ideas, and that’s to come up with recurring features. These are categories of things that you talk about on a regular and recurring basis.
Let’s say you blog about rock climbing. Your recurring features could be climbing areas, favorite climbs, gear reviews, climbing tips, and climbing videos. That’s five different topics or categories. Can you come up with a dozen things to talk about under each one of those? Like a dozen climbing areas, favorite climbs, or climbing tips? If so, you’ve just come up with three months worth of blog posts of blogging five times a week. If you only want to blog twice a week, have six different categories of things to write about, and can brainstorm only a dozen things to write about for each of those, you’ve got enough blog post ideas for 36 weeks. That’s more than 8 months of blog fodder, and it probably only took you 5 minutes of brainstorming.
So again, first come up with ideas for recurring features or categories. As many or few as you want. Then make a list of more specific ideas for each category. Then rotate your posting schedule. Write one post from one category on one day, another from another category the next day you want to publish, and so on. In addition to that, you can add or remove categories as you get or use up more ideas. Keep rotating your way through the different categories and keep adding new ideas to the categories, and you’ll never run out of stuff to blog about.
A lot of bloggers do do this. A lot of travel bloggers, for example, have a video of the week or photo of the week. Popular travel blogger Johnny Jet has a product of the week. Other sites have quotes of the week or tips of the week. Even if you don’t want to have your whole blog and all of your posts be on a rotating topic schedule, just having a weekly feature like the weekly quote or weekly review will make it easier and less stressful to come up with blog post ideas.
Featured podcast and tool
And now it’s time for this week’s featured podcast and featured digital publishing tool. My pick for featured podcast is called Smart People Podcast [link]. There are two hosts to the podcast and they interview smart people about their respective areas of expertise. There’s no real thread that connects the interviewees other than that they’re smart, and that’s what makes this podcast so interesting. You never know who you’re going to get with the next episode. There are about 80 episodes, and you can check out the podcast at smartpeoplepodcast.com.
My pick for featured digital publishing tool of the week is The Noun Project, at thenounproject.org. The goal of the site is to essentially create a visual dictionary of every noun in the English language (and many other languages), but each image is a simple black icon. You can download the icons for free and edit them in a vector graphics program like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. The images can be used for free if you credit the designer and The Noun Project, or you can pay $1.99 if you don’t want to credit anyone. I’ve used these icons in the past on ebook covers and in website logos. The Noun Project recently started making you create an account before you can download the images, which is pretty annoying, but still, this is a great resource to know about.
And that’s all for episode 21 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.