Monday, April 30, 2007

Blogging the Write Way: Theme and Content

We just scratched the surface the other day, but we did touch upon theme and content. I suggested that you put some thought into these areas before deciding anything else.

Theme and content are very important for a lot of reasons, and not just the obvious. You have to be sure that the blog is something you really want to do. If you take even a cursory glance across the Blogosphere, you'll find literally hundreds - maybe thousands and possibly even hundreds of thousands (though that's probably stretching it, regardless of what kind of statistics you come across) - of abandoned blogs. A lot of these reside on community sites and social networks, such as MySpace, AOL, Yahoo 360, and so on - but just as many reside on specific blogging sites or blogging communities (WritingUp, BloggerParty, Blogger, LiveJournal, and more). A lot of people decide on a whim to start blogging, but find out very quickly that they don't really have much to write about or simply lack the determination to keep up with it on a regular basis.

Deciding upon the theme and general content of your blog will help alleviate this problem. If you just can't think of anything you'd be interested in discussing at least 2-3 times a week or more, then you need to seriously reconsider your decision to start a blog. No one's going to beat you up or curse you out if you go on and do it anyway, but your chances of abandoning the blog are probably pretty good, and you might as well admit that to yourself straight away.

As I mentioned above, there are two basic types of blogs: a personal blog (sometimes called an online journal or diary) and a commercial blog. The difference is that commercial blogs often include ads and sponsored posts. Weird Ink is a commercial blog. The little bit of money I make from sponsored posts and hosted ads helps to offset the time I spend babbling about here. You should have a good idea of which one you want to pursue long before you begin, but you can always change mid-stream; turning a personal blog into a commercial one is as easy as joining an ad network and adding a few lines of code or making some sponsored posts and making a commercial blog personal is as easy as deleting those very ads and posts.

If you are an author or other professional who wants to blog about your work in hopes of meeting other professionals, like-minded hobbyists, generating new business leads and contacts, and the like, then you probably don't want to fool with too much commercial stuff. Likely, you really don't have the time to dedicate to it; running a commercial blog is a business in and of itself. Still, once you join an advertising network, such as Google AdSense, all you need do is copy and paste some lines of code (provided by the sponsoring network) somewhere onto your blog template or page and you're done - you never have to do anything else again! You may consider doing this just to offset your time and effort, or simply to make your blog look more "professional" and less "thrown-together."

Even if you are one of these professionals, nothing says you have to blog about your profession. Likewise, even when you decide upon the theme and content of your blog, absolutely nothing says you have to stick to it unswervingly. Still, professionals in other areas have a built-in source for their blogging and if they decide to choose another area to discuss, they know what they have to do.

Many people want to blog about something, but they're just not sure what. My best advice here is to consider the topics you discuss (or wish you could discuss more) in everyday life and go from there. As suggested last time, go through some brainstorming: get a piece of paper and pencil and make a list of things you like to talk about or want to learn more about. This blog was actually started to keep me grounded in writing, as I found myself talking about a whole lot of other subjects while I was reading my issues of WD and other writing materials. Even though I was applying what I was learning to what I was doing elsewhere, it seemed like a no-brainer to focus on the subject I most often found myself immersed in.

If you already know what you want to focus on in your new blog, take a few moments and jot down several possible blog entries and titles. You don't have to keep them and you don't have to pursue them; this just helps you both focus your mind and help you decide if you have enough to say on the subject to maintain a healthy blog with regular updates.

If you don't know what you want to blog about, but still want to develop a new blog, take time to list a bunch of subjects and topics that you want to learn more about or find yourself wanting to discuss with others frequently. Narrow this list down to the very few that most excite you, then follow the instructions above (writing down several possible subjects for entries). You should be able to go from there.

Again, nothing says your blog(s) has to be about one specific thing. You might find that you have several subjects on your list which are closely, or even tangentially, related. You may even discover that even though the topics you list have nothing significant in common, a lot of people who are interested in one tend to be interested in the other(s) - such as sports (basketball, baseball, etc.).

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