In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 7 topics from short-run digital content to starting over with a clean slate on your existing blog.
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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 20 minutes long.
DPP012: Short-Run Content, Starting Over With a Blog, Niche Selection, and 4 More Ideas
Hey everyone, and welcome to episode 12 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, which you can find online at digitalpublishingpodcast.com.
I’m Tristan Higbee, recording today in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. 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. Also covered are things related to internet business and online marketing. Stick around till the end of the podcast and I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers.
I’d like to thank everyone that has gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show, and since the podcast is new, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you would do the same.
I do have some announcements. First, you can now listen to the podcast using the Stitcher mobile app if that’s your preferred platform. And second, I have ordered a new microphone that will make this podcast sound much, much, much better. I’m going back to the US for a few days to renew my visa and take care of some business and a few other things, and I have already ordered a new mic, and it will be waiting for me when I arrive. So after this episode, which is episode 12, episode 13 will still be done the old way, but then for episode 14 I will have a new microphone that sounds pretty darn good. So you just have to bear with me here for a couple more weeks.
Ok! I’ve got 7 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. Short-run digital content
We usually think of things like podcasts or blogs as ongoing projects. We don’t normally start them with the thought in mind that we’re only going to do them for a set amount of time and then quit. But I’ve been seeing more and more of these limited run digital projects recently, and it’s something that I wanted to talk about.
One example is The Great Business Experiment. It’s a podcast by John Lee Dumas, the same guy that does the daily Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. The Great Business Experiment is a series of 10 interviews with people who had successful Kickstarter campaigns, and each interview is a separate half-hour-long podcast episode. All 10 interviews are out now and the podcast is done.
Another example that is brand new is a podcast called Neutral (and that’s at neutral.fm). It’s a car show hosted by 3 average guy uber-geeks who also happen to be really into cars. In the first episode they announced that there would probably do around 10 episodes or so and then maybe more if they have more to talk about.
These two examples are podcasts, but people do this with blogs, too. I can’t think of an example that I’ve seen recently, but I’ll give you an example of one that I might be doing coming up. So I’m going to go back and spend a few months on the island of Cozumel, which, for those who don’t know is kind of near Cancun off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. And I’m having trouble finding reliable information about snorkeling there. So I’ve been thinking that I’ll probably create a blog that documents my Cozumel snorkeling adventures. I’m not going to be living there forever (at least I don’t think I will be) so the blog won’t be going on forever. I probably won’t be updating the blog once I leave. But it will still be valuable for a few different reasons. It will be a fun way for me to document my snorkeling adventures. It will be a great resource for other people who want to come and snorkel on Cozumel. And when I’m “done” with the blog, once I move away, I’ll either add ads to the blog and make some money with it, or I’ll turn all of the information I wrote into a book or ebook and sell it.
That’s why I would create a short-run blog, and I can speculate as to why the people I mentioned before would want to create short-run podcasts. In the case of the Great Business Experiment, the podcaster is capitalizing on the hot Kickstarter trend right now. Maybe he’s using that new audience that he finds to funnel more people to his main podcast. Or maybe he himself wanted to learn more about Kickstarter and thought he might as well record the interviews while he was at it. Or maybe he has plans for a network of these focused 10-episode podcasts. One thing about podcasts in the iTunes store is that even the ones that haven’t been updated since like 2008 still show up in the search results. So if someone is searching in iTunes for Kickstarter a couple years from now, people will still be finding and listening to that podcast about Kickstarter.
As for the guys who host Neutral, that car podcast, they already had a sponsor for their first episode, so they are presumably making at least some money from it. But even if they weren’t I bet they’d be doing the show anyway because it’s just fun. That’s another reason for this limited-runtime digital content. If you want to write or talk about something, do it and get it out of your head and off your chest.
So in short, creating projects with a predetermined, finite runtime like this can make sense for a lot of reasons. Maybe it’s part of making a bigger project or product. Maybe it’s for fun. Maybe you’ve said all you want to say. Maybe it’s to just get that idea out of your head so you can move on to something else. Or maybe you can make money from it. And I’m sure there are a bunch of other reasons that I haven’t thought of, and let me know if you can think of others. But in other words, the reasons you’d create a short-run podcast or blog are the same reasons you’d start a normal podcast or blog.
2. Managing my digital life
Last week I wrote on my personal blog about being a minimalist for two years now. My new year’s resolution for 2011 was to get rid of one thing every day, and that eventually escalated (or spiraled, I guess, depending on your view) to the point where I sold my car and just about everything else and now live out of a carry-on-sized backpack. I wrote about that on my blog and then got an email from my cousin, who asked me about my digital life. This is what he said:
“One question I had for you was what about digitally? How do you a) keep track of things, and b) maintain a clean digital footprint without tons of crap thrown into your hard drive “to deal with later.” I see this happen with a lot of people as it is so easy for a hard drive to become a digital dumping ground.”
And here’s my answer.
All of my notes and text-based stuff goes into Evernote. I can then access that information on my phone, on my computer, or in any computer’s web browser. I have a few different folders (which Evernote calls Notebooks) like travel docs, receipts, blog posts, etc. And in each folder I have individual notes (documents).
The Evernote stuff backs up to the cloud automatically regardless of the device I’m using to add, edit, or view a note. Evernote is amazing. I’ve only really been into it for the last 6 months or so. Before that I tried to get into it a couple times over the years but I never saw the appeal. Now I get it and I love it. Where before I used to have tons and tons of text files and Word documents on my desktop and in various folders on my hard drive, now I just have my Evernote account. If there are notes that I don’t use anymore, I’ve created an archive Notebook and all of the older or irrelevant stuff goes there. And then every so often I go through that archive folder and delete the stuff I don’t want anymore.
Apart from that, I have two folders on my computer’s desktop and everything on my hard drive goes into one of those two folders. One is my Dropbox folder. It the main folder on my computer. It has all of my photos, graphics, videos, and whatever else I have that doesn’t go into Evernote. It is heavily subfoldered into categories like photos, projects, etc.
This main Dropbox folder contains pretty much everything that I have on my computer that I care about. As you might have guessed from its name, it is automatically synced to the cloud through Dropbox. The whole Dropbox folder is also backed up to the cloud with CrashPlan.
The second folder on my desktop is the To Sort folder. Sometimes it’s a pain to figure out exactly where stuff goes in the Dropbox folder, so I just put it in the To Sort folder temporarily. Then every day or two (usually right before I go to bed) I go through and delete the stuff there that needs to be deleted and sort the stuff that needs to be sorted.
And that’s it. I never, ever save anything to my computer that doesn’t go into one of those two folders, and I’ve gotten OCD about having stuff being in the To Sort folder for too long.
That’s most of the big stuff. As for email, I keep my email inbox as close to zero as possible and archive or delete it once I’ve taken care of it. Again, I hate having anything sitting there in my inbox, so leaving anything there is a good incentive to reply or do whatever I need to do so I can get rid of it.
3. Podcast transcripts
This one is going to be short, but I just wanted to say that podcasters really should have written transcripts of their podcast episodes. I have had several people thank me for having full transcripts of each one of my episodes, including one person who can’t listen to podcasts because he is hearing-impaired. One of the iTunes reviews of the podcast even mentioned that he or she doesn’t actually listen to the show, but reads the transcripts. That’s great, and the person still left a review.
Creating the transcripts does take time, but it is great for you the podcaster from an SEO standpoint and from getting your message or ideas out to as many people as possible.
4. Starting over with a blog
I rebooted my personal blog last week. I’ve been blogging on that blog for a couple years now and had kind of blogged myself into a corner. I had set up an arbitrary standard where I only felt comfortable publishing a certain kind of post, so I didn’t post to it very often and I avoided posting some things to it that I wanted to post. Also, the design of the blog was done in a certain way that didn’t give me a lot of leeway with what I published to the blog.
So I decided to start over, but I didn’t want to delete all of the content I had already published to the blog because there’s good stuff there. I wanted to remove all of the posts from the front page of the blog but keep them on the site, and I eventually figured out how to do that. I used a free WordPress plugin called Ultimate Category Excluder. And this will only work for WordPress blogs, obviously.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you’ve got a few options. You go into the plugin’s settings and it lists all of your blog post categories on the left side. For each category, you can choose to exclude that category from the main blog page of the site, from the site’s RSS feed, and/or from the site’s archive. So what I did was just remove the categories that were associated with all of the posts I had on the blog, and then created a new category that I then assigned to all of those posts I wanted to clear off of the front page of the site. Then I went into the Ultimate Category Excluder settings and for that new category and selected the option to remove the posts from the front page. So now when you go to that blog, none of those archived posts appear, but they still exist there on the blog. I started over with a clean slate and didn’t have to delete my old posts.
5. A few words about niche selection
I got an email a few days ago from someone asking me about whether a particular niche that I have experience in was a good niche to create a site and mailing list for and potentially replace his income with. And I said no, it didn’t think it was a good idea. There are a few big things you want to keep in mind and ask yourself before you try to make money from a website or newsletter or whatever.
I think that the main thing you want to ask yourself is if other people are making full-time livings online in your niche. So let’s say you are hardcore into mountain unicycling, and yes that is a thing. Are any of the other mountain unicycling blogs or websites making money? Are they making enough money to live on? The niche that the person emailed me about is one that, as far as I know, has no professional bloggers in it. No one is making enough money to live off of. There are some bigger sites that probably make enough money that someone could live off of, but those sites have been around for 10 years or more and are run by more than one person. They’re not just blogs.
So if you want to choose a niche and blog about it and then live off of the money that you make from the blog, do it in a niche that people are actually spending money in and making money online from. If no one in the niche buys anything online, you’re kind of out of luck. Or maybe people in your niche DO buy stuff online and your plan is to be an Amazon affiliate, but what if people buy their mountain unicycles at JohnsMountainUnicyles.com instead of on Amazon, and JohnsMountainUnicyles.com doesn’t have an affiliate program?
You could write an ebook about mountain unicycling, but are there enough mountain unicyclers out there that buy ebooks and that you could convince to buy your ebook? And if you could do those things, are there enough of those people buying your book that you could live off of it?
All of that is not to say that you can’t be the first professional mountain unicycling blogger, but the odds are slim. I don’t buy Gary Vaynerchuk’s line that you can blog about anything be the master of anything and make a living from it. There just isn’t very much money in some niches, and others just aren’t big enough. I think the best thing you can ask yourself is are other people doing what you want to do in the niche you want to do it in and making enough money from it?
6. Your own video responses
Here’s a quick tip for all of you video creators. So there’s this really popular video game called Minecraft. About a month ago, I watched a documentary about it and I became really interested in the game and wanted to learn more about what it was like. The thing is, I have zero interest in playing video games. That’s not something I’ve been into for about a decade and a half. So I went to YouTube to look for some introductory videos, just to see what the game was like. I found one by a guy named Paul Soares Jr., and I watched it, and I really liked it. The guy doing the screencast, Paul, was really entertaining, and I liked learning about this game that has really taken the gaming world by storm. So then I watched another video, and another. Now, more than a month later, I’ve watched more than 50 of his videos. And I still haven’t played Minecraft. I still have no desire to. The thing is, though, that the videos are just really interesting, and what the guy does in the videos is really interesting and entertaining. So I keep watching them while I eat breakfast or whatever.
While going through his series of videos, I saw that he did something really neat, and that’s what I wanted to share here. You know how sometimes you’ll find a five-part series of videos on YouTube, and you watch the first one but it’s hard to find the video for the second one? What this Paul guy does is add the next video in the series as a response to the previous video. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but sometimes under the videos on YouTube you’ll see a row of video responses that other YouTubers have made to that video, and the creator of that original video has to approve the response videos in order for them to be shown in that video responses section under the video.
Are you still with me? If not, rewind that and listen to it again.
Ok, so like I said, Paul adds his own next video in the series as the video response to his previous video. This makes it super easy to find and watch the next video in the series. You don’t have to hunt it down. You just look below the original video and there is the link and thumbnail to the next video.
I’m not going to go into how to leave a video response, just Google that and you can find instructions for it. But if you have a series of videos on YouTube, you should definitely do this. And even if you don’t have a series per se, you can still add your next video to your previous video’s video response section. It will help encourage people to watch more of your videos.
7. The Setup
I ran across a great type of blog the other day that could definitely be applied to more niches. The blog in question is called The Setup, and it’s at UsesThis.com. It’s like a cross between an interview blog and a Q&A format. Each new post to the blog is made up of 4 questions and then someone’s answers to those questions. The questions are the same for each person. And here are the questions:
- Who are you and what do you do?
- What hardware do you use?
- And what software?
- What would be your dream setup?
Those same questions are asked to every person that’s featured on the blog, and if you couldn’t tell, these questions are asked to computery people, and the people come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have a variety of jobs.
This model would be great for different niches. If you like to travel, you could ask people a handful of travel questions, like what is your best travel memory, what is your worst travel memory, what is your favorite piece of travel gear, and what is your dream trip? If you’re into rock climbing, ask people how they got into rock climbing, what climbing gear they use, what gear they’d like to use, and what their favorite climb is. If you’re into these topics and if the topics or niches are broad enough to have enough variety, all of the answers will probably be different and interesting to read.
And hey, there’s no reason you couldn’t turn everyone’s answers into a Kindle book and sell it. Or you could skip the blog step and just go straight to putting everyone’s answers into ebook form.
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for this episode’s featured podcast is definitely not for everyone. It is the Nosleep Podcast [link]. If scary stories bother you, do not listen to this podcast, you will not enjoy it. So there’s a subreddit or sub forum of the website Reddit that is called No Sleep. And people go on there and write short horror stories, and the idea is that the stories are so scary that you won’t be able to sleep at night, hence No Sleep. The Nosleep Podcast is voice actors reading and acting out the highest-rated stories from the No Sleep subreddit. So if you like to be scared, go listen to it. It’s really well done, and the stories are always very different. If you don’t like scary stuff, you should not listen to it.
My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is a simple little free web app capped AllMyTweets, and you can find it at AllMyTweets.net. You go there, enter in any Twitter account, and it will show you a complete list of that account’s tweets. You can have it hide @mentions and retweets, too, if you like. I’ve used this a few times in the last week when I needed to find specific tweets from me and from other people. Once you’ve entered in the Twitter account and have the list of tweets shown, just hit ctrl + f or cmd + f in your browser to search for whatever term you’re looking for. This tool is also helpful if you want to create a list of your recent tweets or something like that.
Well, that’s all for this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links (including links to everything mentioned in this episode) and additional blog posts there at TheBacklight.com that go beyond what I talk about on the podcast. I actually did not write a post this week because I was super busy, but there are hundreds of other posts you can read there.
I also have a weekly newsletter where I send out links to the best articles that I’ve read over the previous week.
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. If I choose to answer your question on the podcast, I’ll say your name and website if you say that i can, but otherwise I will not share that information. 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, since this podcast is new, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed it. Thanks for listening.