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Quality Journalism in the Digital Age

What makes a good blog post?

Blogs make publishing literally anything online a breeze. And whether you’re a radio, TV, print or online journalist, a blog can offer a creative space to experiment, or a digital companion to your published or broadcast work – a sort of personal digital notebook – or, it can be whatever you want it to be.

Increasingly, many media outlets are using blogs in a more formal way – often giving journalists the freedom to explore a topic in more depth or take readers behind the scenes of their work.

But while technology makes blogging easy, starting out as a blogger and actually writing something worth reading can be a daunting task.

Blogging is a little bit like a digital writing adventure. And even though you might think someone is a good writer or a good journalist, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll instantly be a good blogger.

So, what follows here are a few tips to bear in mind for writing a good blog post.

1. Find your voice

Like any sort of writing your blogging will get better with practice and as you find your own voice. And that’s important. It’s your blog. Be yourself. Think about how you’d discuss or explain a topic with someone. A good starting point is to think about being conversational and clear in your writing.

As a blogger hopefully you are also reading other people’s blogs. Think about a good blog post you have read recently. More often than not, you’ll notice that good bloggers tend to have the knack of grabbing the reader’s attention in the first paragraph and sort of summing up what the post is about.

Not only is this a good way to hook your readers’ interest, it’s also useful for search engines which attach more importance to the first paragraph.

2. Tell a Story

We’ve probably all read a blog post that reads something like a project report. Perhaps simply recounting step by step what happened or reading like it might have been written for a public relations newsletter. Much better to actually tell a story and offer readers some insight or analysis into your field of expertise or interest.

There are dozens of ways of telling a story. If your topic seems huge and complicated, why not focus on one element? Or tell the story through the eyes of one person. By examining one person’s experience you can help the reader understand the bigger picture.

Try to add something new. That’s what readers are looking for. Offer new information or advance the story. Curate and collate, and add some value to a topic or debate. Explore angles that others have not covered.

Be bold. Your post can offer a point of view. That might spark a useful debate and motivate your readers to comment.

And, less is more – make each word work hard. Your blog post is competing with the entire internet for the attention of readers. The reader has found your post and they’ll want you to get to the point fairly quickly.

3. Chunks of Goodness

Whatever form your blog post takes, try to make it easier for our eyes to read. Think of scanability as Paul Bradshaw notes in his blog and The Online Journalism Handbook.

If you have a lot to say then think about using:

– sub-headings, or

– bullet points.

All of these devices, along with embedding multimedia elements, help to break up your text and make it easier to read.

And don’t forget, your reader might not be sitting comfortably at a table reading your blog on a desk top computer with a large 20 inch screen. They may be on a train reading from a small laptop or a tablet or a mobile phone.


4. Hyperlinks Link Us to the Web so Use Links

As a blog editor, it is not unusual for me to receive a text from a new contributor without even a single link.

In this day and age of the Internet, of literally all things from NHK’s Domo-kun to a polar bear called Knut having some sort digital reference, it is unlikely that we would publish a blog post without any links.

Links are helpful for your readers, especially for research. And hopefully your readers will recommend your blog post via a link to other people in their network either via their blog or by email or via social media.

Learn to love links.

5. Multimedia Makes a Blog Post Much More Appealing

Sounds obvious, but a blog post with some sort of multimedia element will work wonders.

If you’re handy with a video camera why not give some thought to producing a video blog post or video vox-pop or using video in a creative way to embed in your post?

Likewise for audio. Record an audio interview with someone or try using Audioboo or Soundcloud for embedding audio clips as we did from a conference in this recent blog post.

And say if you’ve taken loads of photos, why not check out the slideshow function on photo sharing sites such as Flickr? Embedding a Flickr slideshow is a very simple and elegant way of presenting a lot of photographs in a blog post.

6. It’s a Conversation and it’s Social

Once you’ve finished crafting your post and hit the magic publish button that’s not the end of the story – the conversation may well continue. And so it should, either via comments directly on the blog or perhaps via your Facebook page, or through cross posting your blog post to Twitter and adding an appropriate #hashtag.

You can even try to spark up some conversation. If you have something new to offer readers, you can either directly update your blog post, or write a comment that includes the new information.

And as you become smarter about your blogging, part of your planning should include sharing posts via Facebook and Twitter. That might mean giving some thought to adapting your first paragraph and/or title into an interesting teaser for sharing your post on Facebook or Twitter. The power of recommendation through social media is valuable and it’s well worth participating in the conversation.

Online resources:

Journalists’ Toolkit: WordPress Basics

Copyblogger: The 8 habits of effective bloggers

Online Journalism Blog: Starting a blog? 12 ideas for blog posts

Author: Guy Degen


Monday 2011-09-05



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