In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (of which there is a full transcript below, as usual), I cover 11 different topics from the biggest blogging fallacy to a couple different business and product ideas.
The podcast is on iTunes here. It would be awesome if you rated and reviewed the podcast in iTunes. Pretty please. If you’re using something other than iTunes, the podcast’s feed is http://blog.osmosio.com/feed/podcast/.
You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player right below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 21 minutes long. Note that the podcast contains my pick for featured podcast and and digital publishing tool of the week, but I don’t include them in the transcript below.
DPP006: One-Star Reviews, the Biggest Blogging Fallacy, a Business You Should Start, and 8 More Ideas
Welcome to episode 6 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, which you can find online at digitalpublishingpodcast.com. I’m Tristan Higbee, recording today in beautiful (though currently slightly stormy) Cancun, Mexico.
Topic #1: The biggest blogging fallacy
I’ve been blogging since 2003. I’ve started way more blogs than I can remember. The biggest blogging fallacy I’ve seen and experienced—and one lesson that keeps hitting me over the head even today—is that loving a topic means you’ll love blogging about it.
For example, I love to travel and have been living and traveling through Mexico for almost four months now. I’ve tried a couple times over the years to start a travel blog but have found that travel really is not something I have any interest in blogging about. I really don’t like to write about traveling. That may change in the future, but that’s just the way it is.
I think that this is one of the most important things to keep in mind when thinking about starting a new blog. I love to travel but don’t like writing about travel. You might love eating and think, “Hmmm, maybe I should start a blog about the different restaurants in my city.” And maybe you should. But you also might find out that you hate blogging about eating and would prefer to just eat.
So before you go out and buy a domain name, set up the new Twitter and Facebook profiles, and install WordPress, just try creating content for a couple weeks. Write out a bunch of blog posts in a Word or Google Docs document. You’ll quickly get an idea of whether that topic is something you can create content around.
Topic #2: Why I tried podcasting yet again
This is my third attempt at podcasting. I started a podcast for The Backlight, which is the blog that the Digital Publishing Podcast is part of, back in January 2012 (I’m recording this in December 2012). I recorded one episode and didn’t like it. I didn’t like all of the work that went into recording and editing. And I didn’t know what to podcast about. That first episode was just me reading a short blog post. I ended up not recording a second episode.
I then created a podcast for a blog about Amazon that I was running at the time. That one was a weekly podcast that consisted of the best and most interesting Amazon news of the week. But it took too long for me to figure out which things I wanted to talk about, and at that point I didn’t particularly enjoy talking about Amazon. I recorded two or three episodes and stopped.
Fast forward eight or nine months and I’d pretty much stopped watching TV and movies; podcasts were my main source of information and entertainment. And because I was listening to them all the time, the itch to try podcasting again crept into my mind. I recorded an episode and hated it. I don’t remember what it was about, but I hated it, and it was never published. Then I recorded another and published it, even though I hated that one, too. By the time I recorded the next one, which turned out to be episode 3 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, I felt like I’d finally figured out a solid format for the show, and that is that I pretty much just talk about a bunch of different things that I’ve seen and been thinking about recently.
That made all the difference. Podcasting is still not easy for me. Writing is easy and always has been, but speaking is never something I’ve ever really enjoyed or been particularly good at. For some people it’s the other way around; they’re great speakers but really don’t like writing. Whatever medium you go with, you should at least try everything else, and probably try it all more than once. You don’t have to stick with the things you hate doing, but I now enjoy preparing and recording each episode of this podcast more than the last one. I realize that I’m still not great at this but hey, I’ll improve over time.
So I guess the question here is what online things have you tried in the past but given up on? Maybe it’s time to dust off the old word processor or microphone or video camera and give it another shot.
Topic #3: Finite niches
There are some topics that do not have an infinite number of things to talk about. There is only a finite amount of information. I feel that this is definitely the case for a topic like minimalism. I’m a minimalist and have been for a couple years now. I read a lot of blogs but no longer read any about minimalism. I either found them too repetitive or felt that the authors were all trying too hard and (ironically) complicating something that is really quite simple.
This got me thinking… Is the problem that minimalism is a finite topic? Are there only a finite number of things you can talk about? Tech blogs, for example, can be updated 10x a day because there are always new things coming out. But how much can one person really say about minimalism? It’s not like there is any news about minimalism that a blogger could comment on. Like I said, the end result is that the blogs about minimalism all seem to talk about the same things over and over.
Is minimalism inherently a bad topic for a blog because, past a certain point, there really isn’t much more you can talk about? Blogs like Problogger have also become repetitive. The articles on Problogger today say the exact same things that were on the blog 4 years ago. The blog is self-serving. Is this a fault of the blogger or a quality inherent in the niche itself?
One of the problems is that we hate to see our hard work go to waste. It’s hard to have put a couple years of effort into a blog and then think about abandoning it because you’re running low on things to talk about. And on top of that, it can be hard for a big (but stale) blog to be put out to pasture if it’s making money. The result is that many bloggers keep saying the same old things in the same old way. It sucks.
I used to have a blog about rock climbing. After a year or so, I lost interest and stopped blogging. I had said everything that I wanted to say. But I made sure all of that time and effort wasn’t wasted. I turned the best content into an ebook that has since made me way more money than the blog itself ever did.
I think that we should more often think of the end of a blog not necessarily as a bad thing. After all, a lot of people view death not as the end of something but also as the beginning of something else. Ending a blog doesn’t have to be a time to be frustrated, but can be a time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished and then move on to begin another adventure.
And if nothing else, do what I did and compile your best posts and turn them into an ebook.
Topic #4: About something versus for someone
Instapaper founder Marco Arment created a simple magazine in app form a couple months ago. It’s called The Magazine, and a new issue that consists of only a handful of articles comes out every two weeks. In the inaugural issue, Arment made it very clear that the magazine is for people interested in technology but is not about technology. I think that this “for someone” but not “about something” slant is really interesting.
The other day I asked the /r/minimalism subreddit on Reddit how minimalism blogs can suck less. As I just talked about, I feel that minimalism is a finite topic that is inherently unsuitable for long-term blogging (from the point of view of a reader, anyway). Here’s part of a comment left by someone in that Reddit thread:
It doesn’t take long to exhaust the typical lifestyle topics of minimalism (starting out, moving, keeping a family, etc.), but you can always survey culture –pop, or otherwise– from the perspective of the minimalist. Contemporary book reviews, movies, all that jazz.
I think this is a step in the right direction. You write a blog for minimalists (and from the minimalist perspective) rather than about minimalism. Then you’re not covering the same topics over and over and over and over again. I’ve read articles in The Magazine that are about travel and relationships, neither of which is a traditional geek or tech topic. But again, the magazine isn’t about technology; it’s for people interested in technology, and those people are also interested in things like travel and relationships. They want to hear what technology writers that they know and trust say about other things.
I think that a version of this concept can be applied to products, too. I used to go rock climbing in Moab, Utah all the time. As the jumping-off point for several national parks and the only town of any size for a long ways, a lot of people visit Moab. Consequently, there are a bunch of travel guidebooks written about the area. But I always thought a Moab guidebook specifically for climbers would have been great. It would talk about cheap places to eat, free places to camp, places for dirty climbers to take showers, and stuff like that. It wouldn’t be a guidebook about rock climbing; it would be a guidebook for rock climbers.
Topic #5: The Chromebook
So Google has created these laptops called Chromebooks. They’re computers that essentially use Google Chrome for everything. You can’t install traditional programs on them but they do run the thousands of free Chrome apps and extensions that are in Chrome’s web store. Chromebooks are designed to be used while connected to the internet, though you can use things like Google Apps offline (meaning that you can write things offline).
Here’s the kicker, though. You can get one of the new 11″ Samsung Chromebooks for $250.
So why am I talking about this? In short, it’s because I think one of these would make a fantastic computer for traveling bloggers and internet business owners. I have and use a Macbook Air and absolutely love it. It’s probably the best purchase I’ve ever made. But it was also almost $2000. I travel a ton, and carrying a $2000 machine around in my backpack is sometimes a bit… unnerving. The thought of that $2000 laptop getting stolen is even more so. But carrying a $250 laptop? I’d do that and not even think twice about it getting stolen.
Now the real question is what can it not do that a small internet business owner might need it to do? Well, you wouldn’t be able to run software like Photoshop or Powerpoint, but there are excellent, free, web-based versions of each of these. You can get Chrome apps and extensions for everything from torrent clients to screencasting apps. But editing video would be an issue since these Chromebooks aren’t very powerful. And of course, you need an internet connection to use the web apps, though I never use my laptop anywhere that I don’t have an internet connection. And it is worth noting that there are some Chrome apps that you can use offline.
I would definitely get one of these if I had a home base from somewhere and then went on trips from there. Then you could have a powerful computer at home and take the Chromebook with you on your trips. But I don’t have a home base, so I do need a computer that can do whatever I need it to do. If that’s not the case for you, you might want to look into Chromebooks. And again, this is coming from a hardcore Apple fan.
If you’re listening to this instead of reading it on the site, go to digitalpublishingpodcast.com and find episode #6. I’ve listed some links to several reviews of the newest Samsung Chromebook.
- Review: A month with the Samsung Chromebook at 9to5Google
- Video hands-on with Google’s new $249 Chromebook video by GigaOM
- Samsung Chromebook Series 3 at PC Mag
Topic #6: A business idea
And while on the subject of travel, here’s a business idea that I think someone should start. It would be a service that connected people who want to move to a foreign country with expats (or foreign transplants) who already live in that foreign country and have a lot of experience there. You have so many questions when you’re preparing to move to another country and even basic ones (like whether you can buy peanut butter in Cancun) can be hard to find answers to, let alone bigger questions relating to things like taxes and purchasing property overseas. (And for future reference, you can indeed buy peanut butter in Cancun.)
So it would essentially be expat consulting.
There are a couple different approaches you could take with a business like this. One is that the expats with local experience could come to your site, register, say which things they have experience in and can answer questions about, and name an hourly price. People with questions come to the site, find someone that they think can answer their questions, pay for half an hour or whatever of talk time, and then have a Skype conversation with the expert. After the call, the person with the questions could then leave a rating for the expert expat.
The second business approach would be a bit more formal and structured. You go out an find expats with the experience to answer questions and then when the wannabe expats come to you, you connect them with the expat experts. You’d handle the money.
I think this would also work for people who want to just visit a country and not live there. If you’re planning on spending a few thousand dollars on a safari to Kenya, would you pay $50 to talk with a Kenya expert for half an hour? I think I probably would.
Topic #7: Products-in-progress
I recently bought a WordPress plugin called Coming Soon Pro, which you can find at SeedProd.com. I’m not an affiliate for it or anything, but it’s a very cool plugin. You can add a very nice “Coming Soon” page to your WordPress site so that anyone who visits the domain or a page on the domain sees the coming soon page. But you can still work on the site’s back end.
I’m using this right now on a product site I’m working on. The product is called 365 Blog Post Ideas and it’s at 365BlogPostIdeas.com. It will send you a different blog post idea every single day for an entire year. I’m in the final stages of working on the product and the site isn’t ready, but I threw the coming soon page up there and added an email form (which is easy to do with that Coming Soon Pro plugin) so that people can be notified of when I launch. I then added the product to the Products page at TheBacklight.com, and also added a little blurb to my Twitter profile that says, “Currently creating 365BlogPostIdeas.com.” In the couple days since I’ve done those things I’ve already seen people sign up, and I haven’t even announced it anywhere. It’s a valuable tactic to know about.
Topic #8: Ambient noise
I’m really easily distracted. Like if I hear someone talking outside of my apartment, I want to go chime in with their conversation. My solution is to put my headphones on and listen to something. If I’m doing something that doesn’t require much brain power, I’ll listen to podcasts while working. But I can’t listen to podcasts while writing because they’re too distracting and make it hard to stay on track. I can’t listen to music while I write because I keep clicking skip or repeat on the various songs that pop up.
So the conundrum is that I need to listen to something to keep me from being distracted by sounds or people, but listening to music and podcasts also distract me. My solution is to have some sort of ambient noise playing.
Some people like white or pink noise, but I prefer nature sounds. Go Mix It (http://gomix.it) is a great and free online nature sound tool. As the name suggests, you can mix different noises together, so you could have beach sounds and jungle sounds playing at the same time. Another site, and one that I use more often, is called Rainy Mood (http://rainymood.com). It plays an audio loop of a thunderstorm. Just go to the site and the rain starts. [I'm actually listening to it right now as I type this transcription.] I’ve also used it in the past when trying to get some sleep in noisy hotels. It’s good for drowning out unwanted music or voices.
Topic #9: Curation is value
Last month I read an article on GigaOM titled What traditional media could learn from Reddit’s membership model. Reddit bills itself as “The Front Page of the Internet,” and it’s essentially a cross between Facebook and a forum for every single niche or interest ever imaginable. The site gets about a bazilion pageviews a month. Reddit’s membership model, the one referred to in the GigaOM article, is called Reddit Gold. It’s $3.99 a month. Being a Reddit Gold member has a few perks, but the best ones are highlighting unread comments in a thread since the last time you visited and turning off the ads. These are OK perks, but they’re not something that I would ever pay for, and I’m a huge fan of Reddit.
I’m not alone. Many people on Reddit see Reddit Gold not quite as a joke, but something in that vein that really doesn’t provide much value. That’s why I was puzzled and a little bit frustrated when I read that GigaOM article that praised Reddit for having Reddit Gold and saying that other media companies can learn from Reddit.
You want to know what I’d be more inclined to pay for on Reddit? Curation. The site is so incredibly massive and the amount of content being posted to Reddit is so high that it’s hard to keep up with even the most interesting and popular stuff. I would be more likely to pay that $3.99 a month if Reddit emailed me a daily roundup of the most popular content related to my interests and the subreddits I’ve subscribed to. Or even a generic, sitewide “best of” feature would be great. Reddit could pay someone a thousand bucks a month to scour the site and find the best and most popular content every day (and there would probably be millions of Redditors clamoring for the job).
Reddit is valuable to a lot of people, but it’s only as valuable as what they see and consume. Creating value by highlighting the best content is something that more people could consume and I think would pay for.
Topic #10: One-star reviews
This week I listened to a Mixergy interview with Rohan Gilkes of MaidsInBlack.com. The whole interview was great, but there’s one thing in particular that I think digital product creators (and specifically ebook creators) can take away from it. Rohan said that when he was starting up his maid service, he’d go onto Yelp.com to look at the one-star reviews of his competitors. After doing this for a while, he noticed trends. A lot of the one-star reviews complained about the maids showing up late, for example. He figured that if his maids focused on not being late, his company would instantly be better than those already out there.
Like I said, this is something that ebook authors can easily do. Go on to Amazon and find books that are similar to one you’re going to write. See what the negative reviews say, and then make sure you take care of those issues in your own product. When your book is released, you know it will be better than the other options out there, at least in those areas you addressed.
Topic #11: One daily thing
There’s a daily newsletter put out by the folks at Convince and Convert. The newsletter is called One Social Thing. Every day, they send out “the single best and most important social media and content marketing story of the day.”
I really, really like this idea. I mean, how hard is it to come up with one link a day to send out to people? Not hard at all.
I’ve been thinking a lot about newsletters recently and how I want to create a newsletter-only digital property (for lack of a better word). I’m already creating a premium one (the aforementioned 365 Blog Post Ideas). But the more I do this internet business and digital publishing thing, the more I realize that it is easier and a lot more fun to create products and services NOT related to the internet business and digital publishing niches. Plus I want to make sure I never become one of those people who can only make money online by teaching people how to make money online, or can only get traffic to a blog that’s about how to build a blog that gets traffic. I hate that. (And as a side note and for the record, the vast majority of my income does indeed come from niches that are not related at all to internet marketing.)
So anyway. One thing that I’m going to be starting soon is a daily newsletter about China. Every day I’m going to email people a link to one article about China. I lived in China for three years when I was a teenager and loved it. It’s still a place that I think is fascinating and is near and dear to my heart. I think that people’s interest in China and the importance of being familiar with China are things that will only increase as time goes on. This will be the first email newsletter I’ve created that is not part of a blog or anything. The email list itself is the main (and only) attraction. This simplicity really appeals to me.
As for making money with the list, there are a few different ways it could happen. I could include affiliate links to Amazon books about China. I could have weekly or monthly sponsors. I could ask people to donate a couple dollars a month to support it. All of that will come much later, though, and it’s not something I’m going to worry about anytime soon.
As of now, I’ve bought the domain name and set up a site. I still need to set up and configure the email list in AWeber and put the form on the website. But that’s pretty much it. It’s not too complicated. I’ll announce either on the blog at TheBacklight.com or here on the Digital Publishing Podcast when the newsletter is up and running so that anyone interested can sign up.
It should be a good case study because I’ll talk about what I’ll do to grow the list and how it’s all going in future subsequent episodes of the Digital Publishing Podcast. You’ll be able to follow right along with me and see me either succeed gloriously or fail miserably. Again, I’ve never done something like this before, so the odds are good it will fail. Either way, it will be an educational experience for you and me. So stay tuned for that.
Well, that almost wraps things up, but now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured digital publishing tool.
[Listen to the podcast if you want to hear my picks for podcast of the week and digital publishing tool of the week.]
Well, that’s all for this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links and additional blog posts there at TheBacklight.com that go beyond what I talk about on the podcast. This last week I wrote a post on the blog there titled How My Free eBook Was Downloaded 1600 Times in 24 Hours (Without a Following). Since this podcast is so new, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed it. Thanks for listening.
As always, I’m on Twitter.