Introduction, by Impz:
The needs and attraction of an editorial blog is quite different from the typical episodic blog. It is not about speed or quantity, but it really the quality that oozes when you write. ghostlightning, our guest blogger, did rise above the many anime blogs that remain obscure, and now has a decent following on the anime blogosphere.
If there is anyone who can probably give some advice to the aspiring editorial blogger, he should be more than qualified to give some pointers on how an editorial blog should start. In my opinion, the hardest thing to do in a blog is to start it, and then maintain it.
I present to you ghostlightning, our editorialist in residence who I’m counting on to give you some strong advice on the pitfalls that he has experienced, and how he will spend his first three months if he was to start all over again.
Thank you for the confidence, boss. I won’t cover all the fundamentals here, as there’s a wealth of advice out there that you can research on. I will mention some in brief:
Develop a point of view that’s easily identifiable as yours
Note that I am not saying that you be unique or original. It is very difficult to achieve both, but what’s important early on is however you communicate your opinion, it is something that can easily be attributed to you. A shortcut to this is to establish your biases and put them at the forefront.
You can hate moe, or love it to pieces. You can be very enthusiastic about a particular genre or franchise, or have a particular dislike for it. These are all shortcuts, and I don’t advise them. At this point to merely be for or against these things are already generic points of view themselves. You must have something to say about this that is very true and important to you.
In my case, I founded my blogging on two things:
- A festive appreciation of vintage anime, particularly the Macross franchise.
- A willingness to go into the bones of particular themes: (in)authenticity, then pleasure and guilt.
The subjects that are areas of my interest are often explored in the context of the foundations above. This is all I’ll say for now regarding editorial content. Anything goes really, as long as you communicate it clearly and interestingly. This will make up your brand of blogging beyond your brand as an anime fan.
Editorial Anime Blogging is a Community Exercise
It takes a special kind of anime fan to care about editorials about anime. Often, these people also have their own opinions and points of view, and if you’re interesting enough they will engage you in discussion. The best examples of these are other anime bloggers. They are outspoken and have an point of view they enjoy sharing. The will be a big part of your readership no matter how you look at it and no matter what you do.
In my experience in WRL, most of my commenters are other bloggers. Some of them who do not have blogs when they start commenting on my site eventually started writing blog posts themselves. If I have 1300 page views a day, about 300-500 on a post on its first week of publication, and under 300 subscribers (Google Reader) I still only get 5-20 unique commenters on any given post (sometimes I get lucky and get 40+ unique commenters but this is rare).
Regular commenters will often be people who enjoy discussion, and often these are people who make anime blogs. I took great pains to be hospitable to commenters, and this gave me a very gratifying experience as a blogger.
Impz: What is the one ugly thing you did that you knew made your blog more popular?
I begged people directly. When I published my first post, I went to other peoples’ blogs and commented this way [the gist]:
Hi I’m ghostlightning and I’ve been reading your blog for some time. I think it’s really great and you’ve inspired me to make my own. I made my first post today and feel free to drop by to read my first post.
Even if I had been lurking at their site and have been commenting there fairly regularly, I still felt embarrassed. In hindsight, I would have done the same but I would never do this now. The people who responded to my request and commented on my post – they are very good, insightful respondents – gave my post some credibility, which accelerated the eventual getting linked to, reacted to, and quoted by other anime blogs in the context of making new content.
Now let us put all this into an actionable method. This is something you can really do.
The Three Month Plan
If I were to start from scratch, assume a different internet name and persona, and set up an editorial anime blog again, this is almost exactly how I’d do it.
The primary assumption: I have been reading (lurking in) anime blogs for at least three months, ideally six. This time frame allows me to have sampled a wide range of active anime blogs, and perhaps even some of the inactive ones.
Start commenting, everywhere, as much as you can. A big team blog such as T.H.A.T. is a great place to comment in because there is a built-in community of commenters already, and the post frequency due to the multiple authors makes it very convenient to establish relationships. Each comment you leave here builds you capital to potentially all the authors of the blog. For even better results, comment on Sea Slugs! Anime Blog. I will explain later.
The game is to establish relationships. Ideally, your comments actually contribute to the discussion. Work hard at this. Just leaving fawning comments is no good. It isn’t easy, but a good comment forwards the conversation, and gives the post author something to think about and consider. Hard mode: comment on other people’s comments. It is very gratifying to be a post author and see how commenters are having fun by themselves in a discussion presented and initiated by the blog post.
Put up a twitter account and start following bloggers whose blogs you frequent. This twitter account will help you keep up with their posting schedule, their interests outside of what they mention in their posts. This is also what you’ll use to broadcast your posts to your first reader base when you finally start publishing.
While this is going on, start writing posts. DO NOT PUBLISH anything yet. Your objective is to compile 20 post drafts. This will last you two months at a publishing rate of twice a week. This rate is a reasonable publishing schedule. When you become very busy with other concerns, this won’t be prohibitive to maintain.
The content of these posts must be able to introduce your tastes, your point of view, and your preoccupation.
Within the context of the preceding, write some of your posts as a reaction to particular articles of bloggers you read. Link multiple posts by different bloggers to the post you write. Of course, your post must be relevant enough to link to these. Sometimes, the older the post you link to, the better. There are few things more gratifying to a post author than to have an old post still generate conversation. Remember, do not publish anything yet.
By the beginning of month two, you want to have accomplished the following:
- 20 written blog post drafts.
- A twitter account with at least 50 followers (at least 25 must be other bloggers). Follow 50-100 anime fans, half of which could be bloggers themselves in various states of activity.
- A My Anime List account where people can check out how your taste in shows are similar to theirs. If you like the same shows they may want to discuss things with you. Sometimes this leads to blog visits and comments.
- A blog name.
- A blog service provider account. Let us assume you are not savvy at programming or design. In this case I recommend WordPress.com.
Now, set up your blog. Pick your layout and learn your editing window. Write your about page. Build your first blog roll and include the blogs you admire. Transfer your drafts into the blog so you can begin editing online.
Publish your first post. This is then supported by:
- A twitter announcement.
- Announcement in the forums you frequent (I barely frequent forums, so this doesn’t quite work for me).
- Comment on the latest posts of the bloggers you want to comment on your first post. Announce that you’ve just started a blog, and that they’re bloggers who you enjoy discussing things with and request them to give you the honor of visiting your site so you can return the hospitality they’ve given you at theirs. BAM, THAT’S HOW TO ASK WITH CLASS (when I begged coburn, Iknight, and Lbrevis, to comment on my very first post I don’t think I had very much by way of class LOL).
Respond to every comment religiously. Make people welcome at your blog. This will pay dividends later, I promise.
Do this for your first 10 posts this month. If your content is varied enough, you’ll be able to solicit different bloggers to comment on your posts. If you’re lucky, the regular commenters on their blogs pay you a visit as well.
Now at this point, all your readers are practically other bloggers, and maybe some forum regulars (most likely your internet friends). This is how it works, don’t feel bad about this, there is no way for you to reach a wider audience yet. It will take a long time to eventually get a wide readership, but you will get conversations going if your articles are engaging, and your responses to commenters are interesting and makes them want to keep talking to you.
Set up an account at Anime Nano. This will be the source of your blog’s freshest page views. Since you’ve published 10 posts and have been doing so for at least a month. You should be able to get in with no complications. If you have been commenting on Sea Slugs! and banter with @Kabitzin on twitter, any problems (technical &c) you may encounter in the application process will get better attention.
Within this month, given your work building relationships (farming comments) you will give your blog a shot at getting established. Remember you still have a full month’s worth of posts on your publishing queue so you’re not in a lot of pressure to write.
However, at this point you start managing your relationships in such a way that the other bloggers whose posts you regularly comment on don’t feel bad when you start commenting less and less. It can and does happen. You will have to balance your time watching anime and reading manga, reading blog posts and discussion in them, then making your own content. If you look at any particular blog’s links – you will notice that the writers of the blog don’t comment on every blog in the roll.
What you don’t do is stop commenting entirely. Sometimes making content and responding to comments will take up almost all your time for this hobby, but this won’t happen yet, not on your 2nd month of blogging and your 3rd month of this plan.
If you write your posts well enough, and say enough interesting things, someone with social capital will eventually Stumble your post, re-tweet your post announcement or share your links on twitter, and/or share your post on Google Reader Shared Items. When these things start happening for you more than once, chances are people will start linking to your posts, quoting what you say, and reacting to your writing all in the context of generating new discussion that makes this hobby as fun the way I know it to be.
Keep in mind that this plan will only establish you — in a way that says you exist, and post regularly. Your first readership (other bloggers) while nice, will eventually stop responding because they will know you pretty well and find other ways to discuss things with you. You will need to attract new readers, and I don’t think there’s a quick and easy way to do this. It’s really up to your ability to make interesting posts that readers would want to subscribe to your feed, and respond to your posts with comments.