By DB Ferguson of the No Fact Zone
Now, if you’ve been following my series on The Art of the Fan-Based Blog, you’ve got a blog, you’ve got readers, you’ve got content. Have I forgotten anything? Oh, yeah. Burnout and how to keep fighting the good fight for your celebrity, readers, and fellow fans.
Here are some steps to help you stay focused and to continue to bring information to your readers long after the excitement of the newness of your blog has worn off.
Fight Blog Burnout
In any hobby, or on any blog, there’s always potential for things to just not be as much fun as they used to be. Here are some causes of fandom blog burnout, and potential solutions:
PROBLEM: Not Enough News
The news cycle can wane, and sometimes the flow of new information trickles down to nothing. It can be a struggle to create content when there’s nothing new to report.
SOLUTION: There are lots of ways you can create content without bringing in new news stories:
- Hold a vote-off, with a bracket system, to have a fun contest to determine the most favorite Video/Song/Book/Show from your fandom.
- Create a Top 10 list featuring historic works from your subject.
- Start a conversation with your readers – ask What’s your favorite video of something, or who’s your favorite actor to work with your subject, or what’s your favorite song?
- Feature a simple picture in an Eye Candy post – they often create tons of conversation and give your readers something pretty to look at.
- Come up with a craft project that your readers could do that deals with your subject, and do a demonstration post on your blog.
PROBLEM: Too Much News
The massive amount of news and stories at times can feel overwhelming, and trying to keep up with it all during an exceptionally busy cycle can suck all the fun out of blogging.
SOLUTION: Take a deep breath, and remember that you don’t have to blog everything. You also might want to consider these strategies for helping to contain the flood that is overwhelming you:
- In selecting the focus for your blog, you may have picked a topic with too broad a scope. Consider putting more of a focus on the subject of your site, by making your topic more specific. Instead of blogging about science fiction, for example, you might want to narrow it down to television, the Sci-Fi network, or even just a specific television series.
- When you discover a plethora of great articles about a particular subject, do a link-filled post, clustering all of your finds into one post. We often do that with what we call our “Six Degrees” posts – articles about the people who have worked with Stephen Colbert but are not directly affiliated with his current career. It allows us to post on numerous topics, but keep it confined to one piece of real estate on the site.
- Always keep your eye out for new staff – having an extra hand or two on deck can really help with the rush times.
PROBLEM: Overburdening yourself or creating expectation from your readers that you cannot fulfill
Sometimes you may set up a feature on the site, an archive for example, that you find out after a period of time that you just cannot maintain. Or you may start getting e-mails from your readers asking for features that you simply do not have the time, energy, or skill to create or maintain. The stress you put on yourself can be discouraging and guilt-inducing to the point where you put off doing things on the blog until it is simply unmanageable.
SOLUTION: Be honest with your readers. If you can only post updates twice a week, then let your readers know that. If you get a request from a particular reader for something, e-mail them back privately and explain that unfortunately, that is simply not something you can do right now. On your site, feature the things you do have time to do prominently, and make sure that you are fulfilling the mission statement that you wrote when you first started your blog.
PROBLEM: If you have to type one more word, you’re going to scream
You may have an excellent story to post, plenty of time to type it, and feel totally on track with your content. But if you have to look one more second at the computer screen you’re going to throw your cat at it.
SOLUTION: Sometimes, general burnout just sets in. Doing the same thing, blogging about the same subject, for months and even years can occasionally be extremely monotonous, no matter how passionate you are about your subject. This is the most important time to make sure you have a backup plan that allows you to take a break from things for a little bit.
It’s exceptionally helpful during these times to have staff. Tell them about your stress, vent a little, get it out of your system, and then let them carry the load for a bit. There have been points in my blogging career where I just needed to take a break simply to get away from the day-to-day stress of managing the blog. My staff has been excellent in catching the slack for a few days, or even a week or two, to maintain the minimum while I take care of my private business and mentally recharge.
I always come back refreshed and confident that my blog has been in good hands. And my staff has done that too. Sometimes personal lives or jobs get in the way. We’re there for each other, and it helps.
If for some reason you need to get away for a few days and you don’t have staff, plan a Classic Content days, type up a few posts in advance of classic material or classic posts, and explain to your audience that you’re just going to go away for a day or two. Then walk away, with a plan of reading a book or calling a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or even catching a game of bowling with your kids or with your dad. Get the blog out of your mind as you spend time away from the monitor.
I promise, your readers won’t leave you, and they’ll be there when you get back. Don’t let yourself get to the point where you quit your blog because you didn’t give yourself time to mentally recharge a bit when you need it.
Your fan blog is supposed to be fun, not to be a burden. The number one rule of fan blogging – THIS IS FUN! Make sure you remember that and don’t let small stresses build into a frustration that ends up being the end of your site.
Structure and Change Are Important to Long-Term Success
While you may start with a vague plan for the direction you want to take your blog, it is the core structure of your site and the regular features that keep your blog going for the long-term. If you do nothing but aggregate news, your site won’t be much better than a Google RSS feed. By slowly building a staple group of regular posts and features, you will build a structure which will give your site depth, personality, and give your power readers something to look forward to each week..
However, while the structure is essential to long-term success, also make sure to not leave things too predictable for very long. Set a goal to add new features to the site on a fairly regular basis, whether it be a new recurring blog feature, a new format for your sidebar, or a new feature offered to subscribers. Also, make sure to shake things up from time to time with a new template or even a new major feature, to make it interesting for you as well as for the fans of your blog.
Some of the improvements for the fan blog can come from the readers directly. On multiple occasions, I’ve created a thread asking what improvements readers would like to see to the blog, and this feedback has helped to bring new features to the site, such as a weekly off-topic post, more content in the sidebar, and formatting changes to the template to switch to bigger fonts so that the text is easier to read. The more I help the community participate, the more they feel a sense of ownership. The blog is no longer just about the show but about them.
Adding and changing things keeps things new and fresh for the readers who have been reading for a long time, and gives better features for the newbies just discovering the site, or just discovering your fandom.
Keep On Truckin’
Even after all this time, my biggest thrills are bringing information to the fans. I love publishing a really hot scoop, knowing that my blog is the best in my niche. Very recently, I was able to report about a special event at the ‘Colbert Report’ studios, and I received multiple comments thanking me for bringing them the information so that they could get tickets to go. That thrill of the scoop never gets old.
I take pride in the successes of my site, No Fact Zone, over the years. I’ve been blogging about Stephen Colbert for over two years now. We have had almost 3 million page views, and been linked on many major blogs and sites. Recently, links to stories featured on my site were added to the main page of the official site for the ‘Colbert Report’, ColbertNation.com, a huge boon to my credibility. I’ve also been working with some of the Comedy Central blogging staff, giving feedback and requests for things that fans would like to see from official venues. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
I have many goals to achieve with my site, and a lot of personal goals involving my fan adoration of Stephen Colbert. Still, I cherish the memories I have already made. I’ve made some very good friends over the past two years, most of whom I’ve never met in person, though I talk to many online on a daily basis.
After over two years of blogging, I very recently had the opportunity to meet Stephen Colbert for the first time as well as numerous ‘Colbert Report’ staffers, and all of them (including Stephen) were very appreciative of the work that we do with the site.
When blogging, I always keep in mind, what would a brand new fan of ‘The Colbert Report’ want from the internet? What might they be curious to know, or to read about? I make sure newly minted fans find the site that I wanted to find when I first started watching the ‘Colbert Report’. I want to inform them, answer their questions, and give them a home for their new fandom. I want to share with them my passion that has kept my site going for over two years, and keeps the Zoners coming back for more day after day. I also make sure to keep the content fresh and new, to keep my growing community entertained and amused.
One of the questions I’ve asked myself on multiple occasions is how long do I plan on keeping this extremely time-consuming yet thoroughly addicting hobby? I don’t know how long my site will continue to exist, but for now, I’m seriously enjoying the ride.
And thank you for letting me share some of the joy riding with you.
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 spends approximately 4 hours per day (more on weekends) keeping up with blog-related posts, e-mail, IM chat, and reading for news to post to her readers. And she loves every friggn’ minute of it.
- 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
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Content, Content, Content Part II
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Copyrights for You and Your Content Sources
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Community Wins
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Crazy Fans
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Connections Make the Blog and the Community
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Cash is Necessary
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Continuing to Fight the Good Fight