Essay 2

Essay 2:

Online Publishing: Becoming a Blogger

            Ali Luke states that there are 7 types of bloggers: the “Niche Expert”, the “Business Owner”, the “Professional Blogger”, the “Journal Writer”, the “Platform Builder”, the “Product Promotor”, and the “Freelancer” (2013). Among these categories, every potential publisher, be him or her a blogger or a social media participant or a commenter, can find a place in cyberspace to share information and opinions and interact with other users. A blogger, specifically, either starts out rooted in one of these categories or eventually gets there through the quality and type of content he or she is producing, the creation of an audience, and tracking and analytics.

Starting Out

Creating Readable Content

            “Blogging is publishing, it is content” (Bullas, 2010). Like with any sort of publishable writing, the first thing a blogger must do is decide on the type of content to publish. There are hundreds of genres of writing from mainstream popular veins like health and fitness to more cult-like and lesser known subjects like conspiracy theories and living off the grid. With a purpose for blogging (like one of the seven mentioned above), the first step for any blogger or online publisher is to elect where he or she fits into that spectrum. Factors which influence this decision include the writer’s knowledge of the content and ability to communicate that knowledge, and the planned audience.

            Really, it would seem to most people that a blogger/publisher’s knowledge of the category in which he or she is writing would be the most important aspect of blogging. The writer can be free to share knowledge and understanding of a given topic regardless of his or her non-cyber self’s position in life:

Everyone – regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, etc. – starts off on a level playing field [on the internet]. Although one’s status in the outside world ultimately may have some impact on one’s powers in cyberspace, what mostly determines your influence on others is your skill in communicating (including writing skills), your persistence, the quality of your ideas, and your technical know-how. (Suler, 2002)

In the above quotation, John Suler states that everyone online is equal regardless of his or her non-cyber background. It is the aptitude for communicating one’s knowledge for which one is judged. While different bloggers may have diverse opinions on their subject areas, it is their writing that ultimately keeps or rejects their readers. Scrolling down the “Home” page of Classy and True, for example, a visitor can probably decide within minutes whether or not he or she agrees with the author’s prescriptive views of etiquette and sees any quality in the writing. The traffic for this site, then, may rise through many views, but if the writing is uninteresting or pedantic, then the audience (like the 27 followers of Classy and True) does not grow.

Finding an Audience

The audience, though, is the goal in much of internet publishing. While many sites encourage comments and discussions to improve the audience’s experience, there are many which fall into publishing outrageous or offensive material to drive traffic. This is another decision a blogger/publisher needs to make: is the goal to inspire readers to stay and become an audience, or to draw in new readers daily without caring if they stay? There are sites which choose the latter and do so through well-used Search Engine Optimization techniques (S.E.O.s), but which do not worry about the quality or consistency of posts and writing. These sites use the right tags, “[o]ptimize images–use keywords in the title and the alt tag of the images [they’re] including”, and focus on producing material which ties in with current events and trends (Cognito Media, 2013). While these techniques certainly drive traffic to the site and give it a higher ranking in its community, they do not create any kind of a stable, loyal audience. A blogger must make the decision: high traffic or an acknowledged reader base. There are many sites that have both, but this may not be initially attainable for the new blogger.

            All of these introductory decisions for bloggers come down to understanding the aim of the blog. Blogs, for some, are internet diaries where they can share the ups and downs of their lives and ask for support or help. For others, blogs are all about self-promotion: the fashion designer can display his creations; the musician can expose her new E.P.; and the fantasy writer can practice her trade through Harry Potter fan fiction. Knowing for which one is writing allows one to choose how to present one’s self and what steps to take to invite readers to stay and join the audience. Understanding audience and what the blogger wants to tell the audience helps the blogger to frame posts, schedules for posting, selection of content, and so on.

Analytics and Tracking

            With this discussion of audience, a question arises in the minds of potential bloggers: How does one know who is one’s audience? Prior to starting a blog or website, this is a seemingly very complex question. Those who are less tech-savvy struggle to comprehend how a blogger can target and gain the audience he or she wants. Two things a class like Publishing 101 may teach students about blogging are the helpfulness of an analytics application and the importance of personal tracking.

Analytics

Wordpress Post Stats

A selection from “Top Posts for 90 days ending 2013-11-24 (Summarized)” by WordPress

            Analytics, be them Google Analytics or WordPress Statistics, offer site administrators (in this case, bloggers) the opportunity to track and understand where their traffic is coming from and how that traffic interacts with the blog. Classy and True, for example, is a WordPress.com blog and so uses the WordPress Statistics as analytics to learn more about visitors. The ability to see which posts are most popular tells the blogger to what her audience is more receptive.

            The above chart leads the blogger to the realization that shorter, more humorous, posts, like “Remix Assignment” are more popular and that varied media help to drive more readers to visit.  The most difficult part about WordPress Statistics, however, is that it does not show which posts were being read on the “Home page/ Archives” page of the blog. This skews the numbers because visits to the home page are in the upper 300s while the views of specific posts are still in double-digit numbers.

            The blogger of Classy and True can also see which sites are the best for referring readers to the blog:

[T]he social sites that arrived in the 2000s did not create the social web, but they did structure it. This is really, really significant. In large part, they made sharing on the Internet an act of publishing (!), with all the attendant changes that come with that switch. Publishing social interactions makes them more visible, searchable, and adds a lot of metadata to your simple link or photo post. (Madrigal, 2012)

As Alex Madrigal states in the above quotation, sharing itself has become a form of publishing, just as permanent as the original blog post. For this reason, sharing fresh posts through Facebook and Twitter extend the synapses of the original post, much like the human brain forms new and lasting connections through learning and maturing. The links become part of the permanence of the publication and connect it to dozens of other places on the vast internet. Analytics tell the blogger about each referrer website (usually social media) and helps the blogger build a network of connections and pingbacks to draw a larger potential audience. If Facebook is the top referrer, then the blogger knows that Facebook is the best way to share new and important posts.

            While North America is not considered the number one sharer of posts, it is clear that many countries are full of users who share most of what they come across online:

Sharing KPCB

“Internet Trends” Slide 27 from D11 Conference (Meeker, M. & Wu, L., 2013)

            If an average of twenty-four percent of users across the world regularly share content they come across online, then it is clear why statistics about referrers are important to any blogger’s knowledge of his or her blog. If one reader enjoys a particular post and shares it with like-minded friends and networks, that is a simple way to help an audience expand.

Tracking

            The actions of the blog’s readers are not the only thing that can be tracked and analysed, however. Various websites and applications, such as MercuryApp, offer users the opportunity to track one or more aspects of their daily lives in order to learn about and change possibly negative behaviors. A simple example would be the quality of one’s day and how it is affected by the actions of others:

Emotional Tracking Pub 101

MercuryApp Tracking Graph from 10/25/13-11/21/2013

           The above graph is an example of how the writer of Classy and True tracked the quality of her day, negative comments she heard or overheard, and unusually rude actions which took place. This graph fits into Classy and True‘s theme of etiquette and treating others well so it is an effective way for the blogger to track her own behavior and connect it to her blog. Essentially, this type of tracking gives the blogger substantial evidence to make his or her claims. It can also help the blogger to modify behaviors which make him or her less knowledgeable or genuine about the blog’s subject.

In Closing

        There is so much involved in creating and running a useful and successful blog. A good idea is not enough. Blogging is a multi-facetted process beginning with interesting content and an intended audience. The blogging process does not end with a beautifully-themed website full of witty observations and opinions. Bloggers, like publishers, must analyze audience/reader participation in the blog and adapt as needed to new demands and changes in audience interest. The blogger, especially one writing about personal or common experiences and ideas, must also track and analyze his or her own behavior in order to gain an understanding of who he or she is.  A blogger may be lucky to find a secure position in the fast-changing environment of cyberspace, but the most important tool any online publisher can have is the ability to change and adapt already-strong content for the needs of the audience/readers as analyzed by analytics and tracking.

Reference List

Bullas, J. (2010, October 25). “Is Blogging the Future of Publishing?”.

Cognito Media. (2013, September 05). “10 SEO Tips for 2013”. Forbes (online).

Luke, A. (2013). “The 7 Types of Blogger: Which One Are You?”. 

Madrigal, A. (2012, October 12). Dark social: We have the whole history of the web wrong. The Atlantic.

Meeker, M., & Wu, L. (2013, May). “Internet trends”. Slide Deck from D11 Conference

Suler, J. (2002). The psychology of cyberspace. (2002 ed.). Doylestown, Pen.: True Center Publishing.  (Older version of article published in 1996).

Wasstrom, K. A. (2013, November 24). “Top Posts for 90 days ending 2013-11-24 (Summarized)” [Web Graphic]. WordPress.

Wasstrom, K. A. (2013, November 24). “Tracking Graph from 10/25/13-11/21/2013” [Web Graphic]. MercuryApp.

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Journal 7

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination. (Andrew Lang)

Background on WordPress.com Blog

In case you don’t know, Classy and True is actually a WordPress.com blog (hosted by WordPress) and so it is a little different than sites which only use WordPress technology for themes and content management. This means that I am more limited in what I can do with my blog–more limited than I realized when I chose WordPress.com. For example, there are no plugins available to me and widgets are quite selective. And because I can’t open up my theme and play around with HTML, I cannot use Google Analytics on my blog. This is a huge problem for me.

It’s not that WordPress.com doesn’t have its own analytics, it’s just that Google’s are so detailed and in-depth. I don’t have the same accuracy. I have researched ways in which some users have found been able to install Google Analytics, but the process is somewhat costly and is quite technical for me (I only just learned how to make my font boldface using HTML).

At this point in the semester I am not going to start another blog. I like the way mine looks and most things tend to work for me. However, in the future, the lack of choice in analytics would likely sway my decision when choosing a host for my sites.

My Own Analytics

Okay, enough complaining about something I can’t change at the moment. I’ve spent a little time looking over my WordPress.com analytics:

Blog Stats Visitor Bar Graph

 

So the above chart is a (blurry) example of what I look at each day. This shows the number of visitors that day, all time, and my best ever. It’s pretty helpful to be able to see my months at a glance; it’s even more helpful to look at them by day, but that I don’t get an overall picture.

Clearly, October was a good month for my blog. This is true for a number of reasons:

  • my blog was completely up-and-running
  • I posted more in October than in September
  • I incorporated my social media presence (mostly) into my blog

I also see some things in this chart that give me aspects to work on in my future blog posts:

  • increase comments
  • increase views from each visitor–keep them interested

I’m not sure how I’m going to do these things yet so I’ll have to research this a little more. I think it will just come down to working on how I present my content.

Another tool that I am finding beneficial is the ability to look at where some of my visitors are coming from:

Blog Stats Referrers List

This is a picture of my Referrers Summary for the last quarter (90 days). I think that this is a great place to start finding ways to increase my traffic. Obviously, posiel.com and its various pages are referring me a lot because of its RSS feed and the fact that this blog was designed as an assignment for that website’s Publishing course. To me, this shows how helpful it is to be included in RSS feeds.

Facebook and Twitter are bringing in some traffic, but I’d like to see more from these places. With Twitter, I may need to work on increasing the number of followers who would be interested in the subject matter of my blog. Also, my personal blog, Life is What You Do, is bringing in some traffic for which I am thankful. Being included in more than one blog seems to be another way in which I can increase visits and traffic. I will work on commenting on other blogs and try to make a few friends with similar interests in the blogging community. I know that they’re out there; I just have to connect with them.

Finally, I wanted to include the statistics for my posts:

Blog Stats Top Posts Numbers

I like this chart because it gives me a fairly good idea of the most popular types of content on my site. The only problem is that the majority of my views are attributed to my “Home page/Archives” which is where my new posts show up (as well as in their own categories). This is a little frustrating because I can’t view exactly which posts are the most views. However, the views of each post are somewhat helpful. I know, for example that my essay had a higher viewership so I can assume that it was something that people are interested in. Also, by the number of views of my “A Little About This Website” page, I can tell that it is important to have engaging copy on this type of page because a lot of people look at it. This makes sense.

Closing Thoughts

So with all of this information in mind, I am going to continue to work on my blog. It might be difficult to work with all of my goals at once, but this is a learning process for me so I’ll try to be patient.

Even though I don’t have the ability to work with Google Analytics at this time, I still have some information about how my blog is being viewed and about which things I should work to improve. Ideally, focusing on some of these things will increase my traffic as well as visitors who choose to subscribe to my posts. Really, I just want my writing to be read and (hopefully) enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Thanks for reading,

Kathryn

 

The Journey to the World of Digital Publication: Not Every Stop is the Destination

Essay 1:

The Journey to the World of Digital Publication: Not Every Stop is the Destination

            Publishing is an ever-changing form of sharing information and ideas with wide audiences. There are numerous new ways for authors and creators to publish their content and get it to the public, but this sense of the word “publish” may not be the same as that of the word used in connection to hard-copy books, novels, magazines, and newspapers. The shift that is occurring which takes the population from print literacy to digital is opening up the way in which writers publish their content, but this publishing is not necessarily the same as publication.

Publication

            It is difficult to discuss the idea of publication without an understanding of what it currently means and refers to. The definition moves and changes with the creation and innovation of new mediums and ways of sharing information. However, the most apt description might also be the most abstract:

Publication is not the sale of books, per se; it’s not the pursuit of beauty or the creation of a record or an archive. It’s not simply a tool for transmitting information; publication is a political strategy, the creation of a public. (Stadler, 2010)

In the above quotation, Matthew Stadler describes publication as “the creation of a public” rather than the assumed creation or sale of a book. This comment is a direct result of the shift from print literacy to digital literacy which is still taking place. Publication, to many, no longer conforms to the tight box in which it has stayed for the past half of a millennium.  A new definition, such as the above, is needed to encapsulate all of the new facets of publishing and publication. Stadler also states that “digital distribution and affordable print-on-demand technologies are now a fact of publishing” (2010). There is no room for anachronism in publication; those wishing to give and share information must accept that digital is quickly becoming the prevailing media. Novel releases which once focused on cover art and book tours have grown to include e-books, author blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. Perhaps growth is not the correct word for the changes which are taking place in publishing because digital distribution is past being added to hard-copies; it has begun replacing them. The public being created with each block of content—be it story, textbook, memoir, etc.—is much larger and more global than the publics of the past and marketing forms must keep up. The idea of the physical book is dimming as even the language it once lent to internet is being revoked: “The next step is clear: to drop the pretense of creating ‘pages’ of content at all and start making semantically structured chunks of (mostly) text that can be assembled, taken apart, and reassembled as needed” (Kissane, 2012). As the above quotation states, the pretense of mimicking books is growing irrelevant for the creators and managers of internet content. Publication is no longer restricted to all things book.

Self-Publication

            It is challenging to determine where the various platforms for content-creation—creative writing, personal journaling, reporting news, etc.—fit into the idea of publication. Stadler suggests that “[publication] should be cheap, non-exclusive, and easy to do” (2010). Blogging fits this description nicely. Websites like Tumblr, BlogSpot, WordPress, etc. exist for those who would like to have a free space for writing; sites such as these exemplify “cheap, non-exclusive, and easy to do”. Anyone with an email address, the information to share, and time to do it can be a blogger.

            E-books, too, are somewhat simple to publish, judging by the number of self-published novels available through Amazon.ca and Chapters.ca. “The rise of desk-top publishing software and the internet in the late twentieth century, and widespread ebook [sic] publishing in the twenty-first, has enabled an explosion of self-publishing” (Murray & Squires, 2012). This platform allows authors and writers to bypass the publishing houses and ensure their books make it to the public. Some retailers, such as Amazon, have stepped into the publishing business in order to catch these self-publishing authors and, first, help them publish and, second, give them a place to sell their stories and content (Murray & Squires, 2012).

            These two platforms for expression, blogs and e-books, are the focus, here, as both are less and less like the platforms of the past. E-books may keep up the pretense of being a book, but with ability to connect to comments and notes made by other readers, search specific words or phrases, and jump chapters, the gap between e-books and their paper predecessor is growing.

Discussion

            The question, then, is how are blogging and e-book self-publishing publication?  If “[authors] no longer require a publisher to produce books”, then are they still publishing (Murray & Squires, 2012)? Some would say no, these platforms do not constitute publishing (or they do not, at the very least, constitute authorship): “The world has been used to bludgeon you into dumb shit. To put great stories on the shelf to build slideshows. To give up on quality and focus on quantity” (Madrigal, 2013). The worry that the content is suffering at the hands of the presentation is a considerable concern to those who have observed a number of industries give up quality for quantity. The following comment from the digital editor of The Atlantic magazine sums up the apprehension of the people creating the content: “while the best stuff tends to do far, far better than average, it is not always the best stuff that hits virally” (Madrigal, 2013). Popularity does not always follow good writing; it may, unfortunately, follow a song called “Friday” by a less-than-talented young woman.

The real problem may be in the assumption that quality must be a part of publication. There are publishing houses with teams of educated people working together to make already-good books great; the idea is that there is something elite or special about authors who are published. However, with the complete lack of exclusivity inherent to blogs and self-published e-books (and the internet, as a whole), the standard to which hard-copy books were held for so long may not be so important to the new forms of publication “[and] while the value of ‘content’ bottoms out, it’s clear where capital sees the real value in digital media — in the ownership of the platform” (Lamb, 2013). It would appear that with many sites, this last statement is definitely true: writing is exposure, but hosting is money.

It is one thing, though, to determine that blogging is publication, but the readers, the ones for whom all of this is done, may feel differently about the actual experience of reading a book versus reading a published work:

…we do lose…the legacy that comes with the artifact. That is, the inheritance of items that bear the evidence of the human hand and the inspiration that comes from such encounters. My comments on a blog post will not fade, but they do not carry the emotion of my father’s scribbles and wobbly underlines in the copies from his college library. (Nadel, 2011)

In the above excerpt, Ryan Nadel states that there is a variance between comments on a blog and comments in a book. So, for him, blogging may not be publishing in the same way that books are. This sentiment illustrates where he is in his shift from print literacy to digital literacy and it is likely the same place as many people who were born before digital literacy was really a thing. It is too early to determine how people like Nadel view e-books in comparison to their offline counterparts, but it is clear that human connection is a criterion of publication for many readers.

Conclusions and Questions Moving Forward

            The next five to ten years will be interesting for those observing the shift from print to digital literacy. The physical book may become what Nadel calls it, an artifact. In the meantime, the thing on which to focus will be how blogs and e-books fair in the industry of publication. The estimation that e-books will flourish and blogs will become even more commonplace—like an extension of a Facebook status—could be very true or completely wrong. Publication is on the cusp of change; in some ways, it is already rambling forward, trying to find balance, but, in other ways, it is hanging on by its teeth, fighting the inevitable shift.

 

 

 

 

Reference List

Kissane, E. (2012, July 25). “Contents may have shifted”. Contents, (4).

Lamb, B. (2013, March 07). “The bucket has a whole in it, let’s plug it”. Abject Learning.

Madrigal, A. (2013, March 06). “A day in the life of a digital editor, 2013.” The Atlantic.

Murray, P. R., & Squires, C. (2012). “The Digital Communications Circuit.” University of Stirling Research/Infographics

Nadel, R. (2011, January 20). “The book as artifact”. The Mark

Stadler, M. (2010). “What is Publication?” Talk from the Richard Hugo House’s writer’s conference, Seattle, WA. May 21, 2010.

Tardiness to Lecture

Better never than late. (George Bernard Shaw)

Maybe it’s being in my fourth year of university or maybe it’s something new, but lately I’ve noticed that people who are late seem to care less and less. I don’t know about you, but I work really hard at being on time for class. I leave early, anticipate difficulties like trains or accidents, and generally try to take responsibility for my own education. I have, once or twice, gotten caught be a chatty classmate or had car trouble and been late. It happens. I understand. I really, really do.

Here’s the difference between me and other late people I have observed recently: I try to make myself invisible. I don’t want to be rude and interrupt a lecture which has already gotten into the swing of things. I quietly slip into an aisle seat or, if none are available, I stand at the back until lecture is done or there is a break. This, to me, is common courtesy.

Lately, however, this has not been what I’ve seen others doing. Just last week I witnessed a young woman clunk into the classroom in high heel shoes (much too high for walking long distances at any kind of a normal pace). She carried her large purse and huge coffee beverage across the hall, up a few steps, and then proceeded to climb over about four or five people (hitting them in the head with her purse on the way by) before she settled in in the center of the room. I was appalled! Not only was she about a half hour late, she was so obvious about it! I would have thought it were funny if it weren’t so blatantly rude and selfish. There were tons of aisle seats and spots in the back, but she still decided to sit in her presumably-usual seat.

I’m sorry to go on about this, but it’s just so frustrating to me!

To all the late people out there:

Please recognize that you are not the only person in the class and that you are distracting those of us who worked to get there on time. It’s really not that difficult. Understand that you need to make a few sacrifices when you’re late; that’s all. Maybe if you have to stand for an entire lecture and realize how hard it is to take notes without a desk, you won’t be late next time.

Okay, I’m done!

Have a great week and stay classy,

Kassieboo