In response to the invitation to journalists to attend the blogging bootcamps that we will be running in December and January, DotJournalism editor Jemima Kiss emailed me with a list of questions for a piece she is writing for that outlet about our sessions. Some of the questions are very basic, but they are worth answering - and for those who want to know more of the nitty-gritty about what we’ll be covering and about blogs and journalism in general, here you go. (Jemima’s questions are in italics.)
How much (and how long) are the sessions?
The sessions are free, and last one hour - though people will be able to stay afterwards and keep asking questions and talking if they like.
Would they be suitable for computer beginners, or is some level of experience and internet familiarity required?
Some level of internet savvy would be extremely helpful, but we can work with those of all levels of experience. Accordingly, we will be grouping people of similar proficiency together for each session.
Why are blogs such important tools for journalists?
The network of blogs - the ‘blogosphere’ - is a network of 4 million+ publications and their readers, which allows for greater visibility for journalists and their work. And that network is also superb for making contacts. The best blogs are also excellent sources for journalists, so it’s important to know how to find the information you’re after in as little time as possible. There’s more, but you’ll have to come to one of our sessions to get all the juicy goodness.
Are blogs really any different to a traditional newsprint column?
Absolutely. How many people do you know who still cut out noteworthy newspaper columns these days, and pass around copies to tens of thousands of people? With this self-publishing technology, each entry on a blog can be distributed as if it were a stand-alone publication, and will remain indexed, searchable and useful to internet users for years to come. And the biggest difference between newspaper columns and blogs is that the former is a one-way broadcast, the latter a conversation. The voices taking part in that conversation come in the form of commenters on blogs, readers who send emails, other bloggers who link to and respond to what has been written, and even print and television journalists who pick up on blog stories (Rathergate, for instance) and take them to other audiences via their media.
Is there any way of making money from a blog?
That’s what we’ll be discussing in our sessions. While some big-time bloggers may make a packet on ad sales, the real trick for journalists is how to leverage your blog to attract greater opportunities, collect a stable of useful contacts, and to do better work. If you can do all that, the money will come.
Can I post remotely from a blog?
You can post to a blog from any computer with an internet connection, or even from your mobile phone.
How much does it cost to run one?
It is possible to start your own blog for free, but there is a whole range of blogging options that vary in degrees of professionalism and stellar look and feel. When it comes to blogging, you can ride the bus or you can drive a Ferrari - the choice depends on how much you want to spend.
What are the secrets of the most successful blogs? Is it just a news tool, and do people really trust the opinions of a lone blogger?
Blogs aren’t just a news tool - in fact, aggregating news in the fashion of CNN.com or The Register is a full-time job for those companies’ employees, so it’s not something that a lone blogger should really attempt to do. What interests people about blogs is the human aspect in the form of punditry - the commentary on the news of the day by informed and opinionated writers.
When someone reads a blog - say, Neil McIntosh of the Guardian’s completetosh.com - they are not just trusting some disembodied voice that is coming at them with no context. Blogs are an excellent way for informed writers to establish credibility, as the network that surrounds each blog - those other bloggers that you link to, the bloggers who link to you, the comments you receive on your blog - helps readers to quickly discern whether the blog is creditable or not. And the nature of blogs means that bloggers are each undergoing a constant peer review by one another. Those who do not know what they are talking about will quickly be identified, with the corresponding lack of authority with those within the network.
Are blogs really here to stay?
Blogs are here to stay - with a network of 4 million+ blogs, with 15,000 more created each day, there is no turning back the tide on this. And there are already journalists who have figured out how to make their blogs work for them. The business case for making the most of this tool and the network that supports it is undeniable.