By DB Ferguson of the No Fact Zone
So you’ve finding all kinds of content for your fandom based upon our previous discussions. You’ve found a trough of information to flow into your blog. Now what? How do you get all that information into your blog, and should you? Do you need to publish everything? It’s important to consider both the quantity as well as the management of the quality when constructing a flow of information from your site.
As part of my series on The Art of the Fan-Based Blog, let’s talk about how you filter through all of the news to relay what is truly important as well as what your readers want to see, and how do you triage the “important” news from news that doesn’t really add value to your site?
INCOMING! How to Filter Your Information to Maximize Reader Participation
It is very important to find a balance between what is important and useful information for your site and the “fluff” that will be skimmed over by the readers and will not provide any conversation in the comments.
In many fandoms, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by the small bits of information in the pop culture zeitgeist relating to your subject. It is also extremely easy to have too little content to have a regular flow of Power Users of your site if you choose only to run with the big pieces of news. Your job is to find a way to present each post with value and interest to your readers. For example, you may find that you find a lot of small mentions of your subject in blogs and mainstream media. Instead of posting each one individually, consider doing a carnival once or twice a week, to bundle all of these small pieces of news into one post.
Read your content very carefully before posting, preferably in a preview window or tab. As you read, consider what kind of feedback this content might receive from your readers. If your post is simply a small update from news that you have published previously, it may not receive the comments that the original did. If your post is too far off topic, there’s a large chance that the readership will hesitate to comment. While it’s always important to post the things that you find interesting and want to share, it’s also important to read the comments carefully and gauge what you think your readership will enjoy.
Something that has made a huge difference in the way that I post is something said by Liz Strauss at the WordCamp Dallas conference. Liz said to always write your posts so that it’s not complete. Ask questions of your readers, see what they can contribute to the post by adding their own views in the comments. Read your post thoroughly before posting, and leave the post open ended enough so that your readers will want to contribute to the content. Even if you receive a volley of “Me too!” comments, the variations on these themes can often lead to insightful and fun threads of conversation.
Credibility: The Most Valuable Asset You Have in Providing Content
How does a fandom blog establish itself and differentiate itself from the pack as a serious source for news both inside and outside the fandom? Credibility.
Having strong credibility means much better chances of getting blogged in mainstream news sources as factual. It’s a huge rush to get a surge traffic hit from being linked on a site like BoingBoing or the Huffington Post. To get the links, the blog must be established as one that has credibility. It takes time to earn your Fandom stripes. You need to have a history that proves you are in this for the long haul, and you are focused on publishing quality content that supports the fan subject and its fans.
Focus on staying professional from the first moment you start your blog. The No Fact Zone staff have a code of professionalism that we adhere to diligently:
- Keep the blog “family friendly” (no cursing in posts or comments, etc.).
- Don’t publish unsubstantiated rumors or gossip.
- Don’t publish paparazzi pictures.
- Don’t encourage inappropriate fan behavior.
- We will publish anything we can find about Stephen Colbert’s public career, but we will not allow his privacy to be violated on our site.
The last is very important to us, and gives us strong credibility.
Allowing content that is on the extreme end of fandom, such as fanfic or suggestive graphics, can quickly brand your site as one whose niche is not within the acceptable mainstream of the fandom. Having this negative label slapped on your site can put a severe blow to your credibility early on and it may be impossible to redeem after the damage has been done.
Sometimes, it’s possible that you are going to receive an interesting tip from a reader, or in your comments, or a discovery on a small blog about a huge story that is about to break. The realization that you may be the first to report on this piece of news is a serious adrenalin rush. STOP – breathe, and take extreme caution before publishing any piece of gossip or news, no matter how juicy if you’re not hearing it from a verified, reliable source.
Contact the source if possible, and find out where they heard the news. Find out through alternative official sources, if possible, to find out the authenticity of the piece. If you run with the story, it’s possible that you may be picked up by larger blogs and even mainstream news sources if your news is hot enough. It is imperative that you both make it clear that this is breaking news, identify your source if possible, and make every effort to verify the news before you hit the “publish” button.
If there’s even a hint of doubt as to the authenticity of the news, make sure to make it clear that the news being reported is “unsubstantiated rumor”, “unverified sources”, and “we’ll let you know as soon as we have more information as to the validity of this claim.” It is better to cover yourself before posting than to have to make a very public (and very embarrassing) mea culpa.
At No Fact Zone, we’ve broken some amazing stories on the blog, the largest being the Richard Branson interview train wreck. We were tipped off by one of our commenters, but before we ran with the story, we double-checked our source. I cannot express how thankful I am that we did this – the Branson story exploded all over the news. Had our story been false, our credibility would have been dealt some serious damage.
Check your facts, and be professional. If you follow those two rules, you’ll be in very good shape.
Creditability Means Updating Your Posts
In Lorelle’s articles, SEO Tips: Increase Page Rank By Revitalizing Your Old Posts and Cleaning Up Old Posts, The Gateway to Your Blog, I was reminded that anyone can land on any page on your blog. When they land, is what they find current? Is it still the truth of just an unsubstantiated rumor?
A fandom blog often publishes what they assume is the truth, and often has to live with the consequences, but what about the truth in old blog posts?
Blogs posts are often like the old actor line, “You’re only as good as your last job.” For a blogger, the question and challenge is: Do you update posts or post updates?
If you get the facts after the fact, should you update your old posts? I say yes. Since anyone can land on any page on your blog, let the information there be the most current possible. Here’s how I handle it.
- If the updated information is minor, I’ll just update the old post.
- If the updated information is major, I’ll write a new post on the update with a link to the old post, and update the old post with a link to the new.
Remember, your credibility is not limited to your most recent posts. Your credibility and reputation is your whole blog.
Always Keep SEO at the Forefront When Preparing Posts
If you know that you are going to be the first and primary source for a piece of information, especially one that has the potential for link love in blogs and news sources much bigger than you, think very hard and clearly about the Search Engine Optimization of the post content.
Make sure to tag the post with a very distinct and searchable tag that you can use for any more related posts you may have about the topic.
Be very clear in posts with what you are saying. Instead of, for example, using a phrase such as “Stephen’s coming out with a new ice cream flavor”, fill the sentence with searchable phrases, such as “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has announced that their newest pop-culture themed ice cream will have the namesake of your favorite late night television host, Stephen Colbert from ‘The Colbert Report’.”
While your regular readers will know what you are saying with the simpler phrase, search engines will find you easily if you spell out the name of a person, add the name of their television show or book or CD, and use as much description as you can with each sentence. It may seem excessive at the time for the regular readership of your blog, but when you see all of the different variations in the search engines of how you are being found, you will be thankful that you worded your post with care.
While some blogging days are slow and easily paced, it’s inevitable that something big is going to happen with your fandom that is going to be extremely fast paced. Days where you are covering breaking news, such as awards shows or new releases of products, can be the most fun and the most challenging days of blogging.
Covering Breaking News Stories
Keep in mind that when you update a post, you maybe be delivering information in a location that others assume to be complete. This is especially true for people who read the site through RSS readers and may not revisit posts once they are read.
On occasion, it is acceptable to use one central location to post breaking updates to news stories, especially if you anticipate that story being at the top of your blog for an extended period of time, if the news is so new that your post may be the only one out there on the subject and has a very high ranking in Google for the topic, or has been linked by multiple sources.
Other times, during a long event such as Emmy or Oscar awards, it’s best to post each piece of breaking information in its own post. Use a “Related Posts” WordPress Plugin, and make sure to tag all connected posts with the same tag, and this will take much of the work of linking related posts to each other.
Make sure to do a lot of self-linking within breaking stories so that people looking for the news can easily navigate all of the content you are providing about the story.
When deciding what content is valuable and important enough to actually end up on your site, make sure to think of the end result of what you are posting.
- Consider whether the presentation of the content will facilitate interaction with your blogging community. If you’re posting news that cannot be substantiated, flag it very clearly in the post.
- When posting information that is hitting the blogosphere before any other source, stay focused on SEO before you hit that Send button.
- Take into consideration when news should stay in one central location verses a rapid fire post series when hot news is breaking fast.
- And, last but not least, link within your own site so that new readers can easily find your full coverage of any event.
In the next article in this series on developing a fan-based blog, I’ll explore the fun of plagiarism and copyrights. In the fandom world, you have copyrights that protect your content, and you have to respect the copyrights of the content generated by others, including your fandom.
By DB Ferguson of the No Fact Zone
DB Ferguson is the webmaster of No Fact Zone, a Stephen Colbert-centric news blog and fan site. DB enjoys romantic Google Searches, long walks with Addictomatic in the rain, and casual coffee dates with Technorati.
- Introducing the Art of the Fan-Based Blog Article Series
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Cultivate Your Passion
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Competition Means Collaboration
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Create a Game Plan
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Content, Content, Content