When I first kicked around the idea of pitching a blog idea to the Bangor Daily News I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what I was getting into. Writing a blog about the things that I love like the outdoors, hunting and fishing seemed like a walk in the park compared to traditional print article and feature submissions. Boy was I wrong!
The Pitch – getting heard
The pitch page on BDN lays out the process in a simple and understandable manner. Along with basic contact information, I needed to have a solid idea of what I was going to write about and be able to summarize that idea in a few sentences. I needed a title and a one sentence tagline as well.
Then, I moved on to the meat and potatoes of the matter. I needed three post (article) ideas and had to determine what categories the blog will fit into.
Because my blog is about my life on Tucker Ridge and living a lifestyle of rugged individualism, the post ideas came easily enough. My ideas were simply narratives of the “How” and “Why” we live remotely on the ridge.
I figured to write for my audience the same way I would retell the story of a deer hunt to a buddy in camp or how I made my back cut too deep on a big pine, tearing up a brand new chainsaw as the tree twisted on me and came back the wrong way. I had plenty to tell.
The category selection came naturally as well; I’m an outdoorsman in northeastern Penobscot County who is an avid fisherman, hunter and hobby farmer; Outdoors. Penobscot. Done.
Next, I had to commit to publishing regularly. That meant writing for this blog regularly, in addition to other freelance writing projects I’m already committed to such as feature submissions to outdoors and hunting publications. As I noted earlier, I figured I had plenty to tell and there is never a shortage of topics when you are an outdoors writer.
Finally, I needed to provide a biography and detail my previous experience writing for the public. This was the toughest part for me, as I’m not naturally inclined to toot my own horn. Starting with my rural upbringing and reinforced throughout my military career, braggarts were frowned upon and boasting was still considered a character flaw. Remember, pride goeth before the fall.
Despite deeply ingrained values and belief systems, I pushed through it. Several weeks later I received an email from BDN’s Audience & User Experience Manager welcoming me into the fold of the BDN Maine blog network.
All I had to do now was write. Right? Wrong.
Posting – behind the scenes
What makes a post? When a reader visits a blog and clicks on a story of interest to them, they are presented with a finished product typically comprised of the headline, body text, images, captions and links. What you see is the culmination of the research that went into the text, images that bring a visual component to the story and references that help flesh out the article.
Along with the traditional components of an article, a post page also uses widgets for readers to share the article or follow the writer via social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more. Furthermore, a comments section for readers and subscription form are usually provided as well.
How much of this content do you think the writer of the blog is involved in? If you guessed all of it, you’re right.
I admit, I was truly ignorant of what goes into producing a blog. I was prepared for the researching and writing, but didn’t fully grasp the nature of writing for the internet and how it differs from print. The backend of the publishing site needs to be populated with profile info, social media handles and a thorough inspection of plugins to understand how it all works takes quite a bit of time. Here’s a look at some of my major oversights.
Headlines – attracting interest
Blogs use headlines, not titles. The headline is so important that it can determine whether 50 or 50,000 people read your post. I’ve learned to use a headline analyzer to check for word balance, length analysis and Google Search previews. Yes, I’m serious, a lot of us do this.
Headlines are also critical in the decision making process the digital content editors use when looking for material for the BDN homepage and feature sections. You can find all of the active blogs on the BDN Maine Blog Network page, but if a writer wants an article to make it into the news sections, it better have a good headline.
Images – make it pretty
For reasons I can not explain, I had a deluded fantasy that a crack team of image gurus would be matching images to my words in some secret room in the BDN building. Not so much.
BDN blog writers do not have access to staff photographers, nor do we have access to stock or file photos. If I want my article to shine with crisp, clean images, I need to source them.
Sometimes that means I’m an amateur photographer and sometimes that means I’m scouring the web for royalty and copyright free images, photos or art. Due to the strengthening of copyright and fair use law in the internet age, the days of copy and pasting any image you like on the internet are long gone; and rightfully so.
As with headlines, my featured image must be an eye grabber if I want the digital content editors to consider it for the news sections.
Social media – gotta do it
As you may have guessed, I’m not a huge social media guy. I don’t hate technology, I just don’t like it very much. While the thought of pronouncing to the world every thought, feeling and food dish I’ve ever tasted disturbs me, it’s hard to argue the promotional benefits social media platforms can provide. Afterall, I do want folks to read my blog.
In the email I received welcoming me to the BDN, there was a lot of information and suggestions regarding promoting my blog, social media, pages, tweets and Google groups. All of it was good information and very helpful.
But I’m here to tell you, creating accounts with similar usernames, linking those accounts through the publishing platform, making plugins function and trying to create a unified web presence is no small task, especially if you’re over 40. It nearly killed me.
Promotion – being visible
Another delusion I had was the self promoting blog. I figured I’d write the article, hit the publish button and the world would see it. You see, bangordailynews.com gets over 9 million page views a month, making it the leading news source and most widely read online newspaper in Maine.
But just being there isn’t enough. I now actively promote every article through Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Additionally, I try to develop interest by sharing photos, video and memes related to the outdoors and my blog.
Am I glad I did it?
Absolutely. Writing for the internet, and blogging in particular, is turning out to be a rich, rewarding experience for me. The ability to engage with readers in ways not possible in print is what makes writing a blog so unique.
That said, please comment below on which of the above memes is your favorite, and if you have any questions about Life on the Ridge, submit those as well!
Thanks for reading all of us on the BDN Maine Blog Network. We write for you.