How to blog


38 Responses to “How to blog”

  1. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Along with avoid snark you could probably include don’t make every post title a pun.

    • benher says:

      Wasn’t there some groaning from the ol’ “newspapers” years ago bemoaning the death of the pun-headline? In a nutshell, online news abandoned them to move their stories up in google ranks?

      Also, nice article Rob – very thoughtful as usual.

  2. Cefeida says:

    I’m having trouble parsing this sentence, is there a word missing, or is my brain fuzzy?

    “Relatedly, people who demand that you publish their comments are asking for the freedom of your speech, not theirs.”

    Besides that, very good tips, thank you!! I can sure use them right now. I’ve been working pretty hard on my own blog about awesome, obscure tourist attractions in Poland, and it takes up a lot more time and effort than I might have imagined. It’s hard to focus, hard to write constantly (real life does demand attention) and especially hard not to throw my hands up in the air and cry ‘I’ll never be the best! I’ll never have more than a hundred readers, and they probably don’t read anyway! Why bother!’

    It’s at times like those that I start thinking- maybe I should be snarkier? Maybe I should throw in vulgarities? People don’t want to hear about awesome things, they want to hear about FUCKING AWESOME things.

    Except that’s just not my style. I don’t want to use crude language while writing about something fascinating and beautiful. So, thanks for mentioning that snark and rudeness aren’t the golden rule. It should be obvious, but it’s one of those things you just gotta hear from someone more experienced to believe it :)

  3. keithwtownsend says:

    Great tips here! Love this gold nugget here “Find something close to your heart that no-one else is as interested in as you are.” That was a huge tip for me. Haven’t started my blog yet but that just hit home for when I do, Thanks again! Awesome post Rob

  4. Mark_Frauenfelder says:

    Wonderful, Rob! I learned a lot from this myself. Always be learning!

  5. Rob Knop says:

      “Find something close to your heart that no-one else is as interested in as you are.”

    Of course, that’s at odds with the advice not to blog about one’s self :)

  6. Petzl says:

    And the answer is: “Careers in Blogging”…
    What are the 3 scariest words a parent can hear, Alex?

  7. heng says:

    The thing I love most about this post is that you wrote arsehole (as opposed to asshole).

  8. steve849 says:

    Good advice. My blog is a adjunct to my work and a second priority, but at times I think of doing more with it and perhaps making it a first priority. At the same time, I am much more active on Twitter. I find I can condense many of my would-be blog posts to 140 characters. Is it bad to cannibalize what would be more-developed blog content for the sake of a quicker and easier (for both me and the reader) tweet? 

  9. Miss Cellania says:

    Excellent writeup! I’d have said the same things (but not as well) …except in the instances where you used the word “journalist,” I would have said “entertainer.” but that’s the difference in one blog and the next.

  10. Jim Saul says:

    Good advice, especially the bit about not assuming that the comments reflect the more general readership.

    On the “don’t stop doing what brought them to you” point, some of these young writers might have multiple competing interests that shift over time… is the friction between those themes likely to add depth or to alienate readers, or how does one balance them? Better yet, how does a young writer find the voice that lifts them to the next level?

    And what about self-scheduling some longer, more thorough pieces to move from just producing comment and curation to producing original content? I’d think the distinction with original content might look different from years of experience in the evolving medium than it might to writers entering the field as it is today. Even better, what’s next?

    • Finding a voice is an unavoidable symptom of writing all the time!

      Robin Sloan wrote the best article about balancing aggregation and original meaty stuff:

      • Jim Saul says:

        Interesting link… it really clicked when he took the stock/flow analogy and applied it to Wes Anderson. Instead of a balance within blogging, of two different types of posts, the different types of posts might be pegs on which hang creative output of many types…

        It puts me in mind of Peter Jackson feeding the endless appetite of the fans for updates and behind-the-scenes details when making the LOTR films, then repackaging and polishing much of the material to include on the extra disks.

  11. millie fink says:

    Great post, full of specific info. But maybe I missed the part about how much blogging pays. What does it pay?

    • It’s like anything in freelancing: it could be a lot or a little, and quantifiable factors like traffic are not the best measure for guessing. Your subject matter makes a huge difference to the kind of advertising you can attract, for example.

      Blogging about tech, biz and entertainment are traditional high CPM areas, but it’s also where the strongest competition is. Politics will be good for the rest of this year, too, but will fall off a cliff in november.

      A nice five-figure income should be easy to come by for someone with a million page views a month, but it could go a lot lower if you relied on something like adsense and you write about something with no advertising market — but a lot higher if you put a lot of effort into selling ads directly and your readers are all 40 year-old gay doctors. And it’s not a linear thing: people don’t seem to earn much of anything until they get to a certain threshhold of traffic in the first place … and I’d hate to have to get to millions, or even hundreds of thousands of unique readers a month, from scratch.

    • Jim Saul says:

      Even if it doesn’t pay directly, perhaps it could lead to other paydays. I don’t know if this is true, but there are a lot of anecdotes out there about books and screenplays getting sold on the strength of the writer’s established social media influence. I’d bet other kinds of commissioned creativity could benefit from active participation in the community.

  12. rhubarb says:

    I believe the distinction is that blogging, while it may be inspired by yourself, things that have happened, ideas that have occurred, stuff you’ve dealt with, you write it in the third person as issue(s) of interest.  No one wants to know if your car died on the freeway, but everyone is interested in how often it happens, and what to do (and not do).

  13. penguinchris says:

    What is it that got you the job at Wired? I’ve seen you explain your rise to power before (zero to boing boing in two years) but I think the key there is that you got a job at Wired, not necessarily the other steps.

    Or are you saying that it was it the strength of your comments and forum discussions that got you that job?

    I think the reason people are hung up on the “blogging A-list” is that to an outsider it seems like sheer luck that most people become successful at blogging. Or it seems that you need a “big break” (such as a job at Wired) to get in on it rather than being able to build up an audience slowly as you suggest.


      Luck is a part of it, sure. But I was a news reporter with a background in design, and an amateur coder: just the right mix of things to have spend a few thousand hours doing when the blogging world was growing. Getting lucky has prerequisites.

      The opportunity this created got me hired right into the thick of things, allowing me to skip building an audience completely from scratch: Wired’s gadget blog had maybe 100k page views a month at the time. That’s not much, but was a great headstart.

  14. Theme-Dutch says:

     “What is blogging?” Now I think about it, I can’t find a single definite description for it! Perhaps it’s because it has gone into a very complex mechanism of advertising, informing, and adding more value into the lives of others. It’s not just a personal electronic diary but a smorgasbord of functions: sounding board, virtual bulletin board for updates, ranting page, press release area–you name it.

    As for your tips, they’re fantastic, especially the last one. Spot-on. I am tired of the many “gurus” who achieved only mild success in their career. Some don’t even take the time to blog anymore because they’re busy hawking their new applications or e-books.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Some don’t even take the time to blog anymore because they’re busy hawking their new applications or e-books.

      Chances are, if you looked at their histories, you’d discover that they had previous careers selling magical fruit juice, inverse tachyon healing bracelets and Amway. It’s the Ponzi gene.

  15. MatsGoldberg says:

    Surly an informative piece of blogging :-)
    I got a few pointers out of this, Thanks Rob!

  16. benher says:

    I have a question for Rob (maybe more like an open question) – if one has been blogging about oneself (i.e. your work or your personality are part of what you blog/preach/sell) do you find that with the rise of status updates, tweets, instagram photos and the like, that pieces of information that warrant full on blog posts has diminished? 

    That has been my experience; I find that I post less frequently, waiting until there is something a bit more juicy than say, I just made some new stickers and ate some spaghetti. Obviously this doesn’t apply to a case such as BB, Wired, etc. but it does seem to drive the more “personal” blogger toward quality over quantity – hopefully not at the expense of readers.

  17. mat catastrophe says:


  18. June Peschel says:

    A great resource I have found for assistance and information about blogging is  You can download their free ebooks to help with all sorts of angles regarding learning how to blog and blogging for business. I found it to be  very helpful information. 

  19. MangaTherapy says:

    “Ignore bloggers, SEO experts, marketing gurus and other people who have figured out a traffic trick or two, but who have never built a large audience of daily readers. ”

    So, I guess I should ignore HubSpot, Mashable, and Social Media Today?

    • Not to approve of anything specific at those sites, but I believe they all have a large audience of daily readers.

      • MangaTherapy says:

        Ahhh, yeah. Those are three sites that I usually follow since I know their advice is legit. I do worry about all those people going around calling themselves gurus, though.

  20. Steve Hughes says:

    As a relatively new blogger on technology, some of the best advice I received was to write what you wanted to hear about.  I try to fill a gap with what I looked and provide some relevant news related to my area of technology.  I hope to see my regular readers increase while I continue to stay true to the content I provide.  This article has confirmed to stick to my focus and do it well.  At worst, I can find the information when I need it.

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