Literal Thinking

Real stories of workplace follies

Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

9 model business blogs

Posted by A Friend on 9 April 2009

Model Samples Following on from our post on pretend online gurus, we thought it might be good to present our readers with a few examples of what we believe are model business blogs. For blog readers looking for value, these can be looked at as benchmarks of what to look for in monetized blogs. For business bloggers looking to monetize their blogs, these can serve as standards to aspire to.

Two common themes you will find from the samples: (1) these bloggers appear to have already established reputations in their offline lives and their blogs just serve as extension channels; and (2) they provide a lot of free, useful content for their readers. We also deliberately picked blog authors who provide at least some content downloads without the opt-in requirement to their mailing lists or newsletters.

Chris Anderson
Tom Asacker
Seth Godin
Scott Ginsberg
John Moore
Tom Peters
David Meerman Scott
Rajesh Setty

    Rajesh Setty is an entrepreneur and author, and blogger. Of the bloggers that we have listed here, he is our favorite. For no reason other than his messages resonate to us the most. Rajesh provides a lot of freely downloadable resources, including his book, “Beyond Code”, in its entirety.

Bob Sutton

There are other notable business blogs and bloggers out there. Our purpose of citing the above nine is not so much to provide a definitive list, but to present a starting point, and perhaps a benchmark. And of course, if there is a business blog or blogger you have a particularly high regard for, please leave a comment and let us know.


Posted in Blogging | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

6 signs your online guru might be ripping you off

Posted by A Friend on 20 March 2009

Online Rip-off Following on from our previous post on the lure of online ventures, below are six signs that your presumed online guru might not be a guru at all and may in fact be ripping you off.

Please note that this post is not about your garden variety online scammer. Neither is this about those who do affiliate marketing, network marketing, or pay per post blogging: these are legitimate online ventures that people from all walks of life undertake. Rather, this post is about those who purport to be experts in their niche areas but their supposed expertise are hardly visible in their online activity; and thus, the product or service they offer is often not worth the time and money that they are asking from you.

1. Their love of writing does not translate to lovely writing

A lot of monetized blogs that we have visited, regardless of their topic niche, claim their love of writing, communicating, and helping others as one of their primary reasons for starting the blog; never mind that half of their pages are percolated with advertisements and/or paid links. The first sign to look out for that your online guru might not be the real deal is if their proclaimed love of writing does not seem to flow through their content.

Bloggers often write posts in a hurry and click the publish button even more quickly, so it is harsh to always expect perfectly written articles. Not to mention that there are genuine bloggers out there who learned English as their second or third language. It should, however be expected of monetized blogs that their posts have at least had some thought before writing and publication. Astute blog readers can easily spot haphazardly written material and monetized bloggers who produce second rate articles too regularly are not worth paying.

2. Contents of their free e-book are freely available elsewhere

A common approach monetized blogs take these days is inviting readers to subscribe to free newsletters. Often, to entice the reader to subscribe, these bloggers offer a free e-book related to their niche. This free e-book is the subscribers’ first feel of what the blogger’s other premium services are going to be like, so one can be sure that a lot of care has been undertaken in producing the e-book, even if it is provided for free.

A telltale sign that a blogger’s premium service is not worth subscribing to is if the free e-book they provide contains nothing new. The web is so full of free information that anyone with an internet browser and a modicum of patience can find information on almost anything. A premium service, regardless of whether it costs $2 or $20, is only really worth paying if it offers something one can’t get freely.

3. Too much content filler

Bloggers have creative ways of churning out mindless posts when their minds blank out of post ideas. Some of these include posting an interesting photo or video they supposedly accidentally ran into (they may add a line or two of text to make it appear they exerted some effort); writing a list of top blog posts or related news stories of the week or month and providing nothing more than links to external sites and a couple of sentences (sometimes straight out of search engine results) for each link; running semi-relevant reader polls; and publishing best of articles that do nothing but rehash old posts.

These strategies are all right and acceptable if used sparingly. But some blogs – monetized ones at that – do these too regularly. So imagine a blogger doing Monday Mayhem (quirky videos), Wordless Wednesday (photos), Friday Feedback (reader polls), Saturday Sweep (weekly news aggregation), and Sunday Syndication (best of the blogosphere) posts: five blog posts a week, zero original content.

4. Too much affiliate marketing material

So you were interested enough in the blog and were seduced by the spiffy looking subscriber only free e-book (you only saw the glossy cover, but hey) that you decided to sign up for the blogger’s “totally free” subscription service. Unfortunately, in quite a number of cases, a lot of the good stuff ends with the submission of your e-mail address.

Some bloggers only aim to get you to subscribe and then go with the weight of numbers to hard-sell their product or service. One good way of measuring the quality of these types of subscription services is the volume of true free content that they provide.

Ideally, all the required content should already be in the newsletter. There may be occasional hyperlinks to related information, but the astute reader should determine how many of these lead to affiliate programs. Affiliate marketing can be quite lucrative for a blogger, generating the affiliate as much as 75% of revenue per sale. It is okay to sparingly do this, as there are some genuinely good products and services out there that may be related to a blogger’s niche. But if this is essentially all your guru provides, then you have to wonder where the “premium” service is.

5. Too many product and service endorsements

Another income generator bloggers may use is product and/or service endorsements, and the most common way of doing this is through pay per post or other similar programs. This alone can be a good revenue source for stay at home bloggers, and there are in fact blogs that provide nothing else other than paid posts.

Still, bloggers who profess to be experts and sell products and services related to their field should not be doing this, or at least not so blatantly. A sure sign that your guru may not be worth your time and money is when they all too regularly write posts singing praises of random products and services. It is likely that they already had their fill and you do not need to “donate” further through premium subscriptions.

6. Extravagant claims of success

The most telling sign that your online guru may be a sham is when they try to bamboozle you with extravagant claims of success – but only if you buy or subscribe to their product or service. Extravagant claims are a very common internet marketing strategy, but often by multi level and affiliate marketers.

“Expert” bloggers who resort to similar tactics either know very little about effective marketing strategies, or know clearly that their product or service provides very little value that they hope to gloss this over with an overwhelming sales pitch. Regardless, our view is they are not really worth your time of day, or your money.

As we stated at the beginning of this post, affiliate marketing, network marketing, and pay per post blogging are legitimate ventures people from all walks of life do online. But people who profess subject matter expertise should not be doing this. If you all too often see two or more of the above six signs in your online guru, it is probably a sign that you should walk away.

Posted in Blogging | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The lure of online ventures

Posted by A Friend on 15 March 2009

Going Online The promise of making money online is a great one: entry cost can be very low, and reach is immediately global. An online business only needs a micro fraction of the market to be set, and it offers a lot of potential work life balance benefits (e.g. working from home, four hour workdays) too tantalizing for the almost burned out with a still young family 30-something corporate professional to ignore. Not to mention that it can become a big financial bonanza.

This was more or less the case with Sandra when she ventured online. Sandra had a blossoming career as a project manager with over ten years in the industry under her belt. She was not burned out at all, and was in fact enjoying her work. But she and her partner were also planning to start a family, and one of them had to significantly cut down their workload to attend to growing family commitments. Both decided that this had to be Sandra.

For a short while, Sandra worked part-time utilizing her network of professional contacts, and this worked out quite well. But then they “discovered” the potential of making money online (a lot, if they hit the jackpot). This, and the possibility of further reducing Sandra’s working time, was too good to pass up.

So Sandra educated herself; first by purchasing and reading a couple of books on making money online, then by subscribing to and following online money making blogs. After some period of discernment, Sandra decided that she would create a monetized blog on project management and related topics. She thought that this was going to be a natural progression for her, having had the industry experience to back her up.

Sandra decided to invest $1,000 for this venture, most of which was envisioned to go to once off costs: purchasing a proper domain name, paying for website hosting, buying a custom template for her blog, and the rest for initial marketing and promotion. Of course Sandra, like us, could have just gone for one of the many free blog hosting services on the internet, but because she was looking at a longer-term business prospect, she thought it was a good idea to initially invest some money into it. Besides, $1,000 was not a lot: it was less than her daily rate as a contract project manager.

Sandra planned a phased rollout of six months’ worth of content to start with (she had mapped out the topics in her mind). She projected that it would take about three months for the blog to start gaining some serious following. Her promotions plan was to just initially submit to blog directories and search engines, and regularly participate in related online forums and social networks in the first three months. She planned her online “marketing blitz” (mainly through Google AdWords) to only commence after the third month, to run for three months, and she planned the posting of some of her best content during this period.

Problems came up as early as the second month of Sandra’s online venture. Foremost is Sandra realized that writing original content was not as easy as she initially thought. Sure, she knew her topics very well, but writing about these was a totally different kettle of fish, especially since she was not a natural writer. Her number of real visitors was way down on initial projections, and her blog was still buried in (at best) page five for search results of her targeted keywords.

To fast-track readership growth, Sandra decided that she needed to advertise online two months earlier than she initially planned. This meant that she also needed to spruce up her content and produce a subscriber-only free e-book meant to entice subscription sign-ups (she planned to do this at the start of her marketing campaign) more quickly. The need to write a big volume of material at such a short period of time required Sandra to temporarily hire a ghost writer, something that she had not originally planned.

The advertising campaign worked, and Sandra saw an immediate spike in site visits and newsletter subscriptions; and she even started seeing her site landing in the first few search results of her targeted keywords. Unfortunately, all these did not automatically translate to financial returns. Sandra initially intended pay per click advertising to be her main source of revenue, but she quickly realized that only a small proportion of her visitors clicked on ads, and the monthly revenue she was getting from these was barely enough to cover for her site’s hosting.

Sandra’s operational costs had also increased. She realized that, despite her subject matter expertise, she could not keep writing good original content, both for her blog and her newsletters. So she found it necessary to permanently hire a part-time writing assistant, costing an additional $100 a month. She also noticed that traffic to her site immediately dropped when she stopped advertising, so she decided to keep a fixed monthly advertising budget. To make up for these, Sandra selectively signed up for various online affiliate programs and started a premium newsletter service.

Sandra’s blog is now close to two years old and it is popular enough to have a decent number of regular readers and subscribers. Despite its popularity, the blog is not making Sandra the money that she envisioned. By the end of the first year, the blog was only making around $200 a month from advertising, affiliate programs, and premium subscription; it is now up to around $550 per month. The blog is only costing Sandra approximately $200 a month to keep (for hosting, advertising, and paying a part-time writer), but she is spending close to six hours a day for work related to it. A simple cost-benefit analysis, considering how much Sandra could have earned as a part-time project manager, would show that the blogging venture is a failure.

Sandra’s case may be more common than we think. The good thing about Sandra is she tries to provide quality content for her readers and subscribers. A simple search of the blogosphere and the wider internet will show a lot of online money making schemes that promise a lot but provide very little tangible value for the internet consumer. We will give our $0.02 on these in our next post.

Posted in Blogging, Case Studies | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Blog carnivals

Posted by A Friend on 12 March 2009

Carnival Blog carnivals are blogging communities that regularly collect blog articles about a particular topic and publish magazine style blog posts that include links to all the collected blog postings. Each carnival edition is written and edited by a volunteer blogger. Some carnivals are maintained by just one or a few bloggers while others, in true carnival fashion, move from one blog to another per edition. Each blog carnival has its own publication frequency: some are published as often as once a week, but most have monthly editions.

Hosting an edition of a blog carnival is good for the volunteer blogger, if they have the time and inclination to do so. Bloggers recognize the effort required to produce just one edition of a blog carnival, so the host blogger generally gets a lot of goodwill from blogger contributors. Some contributors whose articles are included in the carnival may also write posts in their own blog about it, so the host blogger can potentially get a lot of visitors directed from other related blogs; and some of these visitors can become regulars.

For a blogger contributor, blog carnivals are a great way to get exposure into a wider audience; so a lot of bloggers are regular, enthusiastic contributors to blog carnivals. Hosts of more established carnivals would also generally be bloggers with an already established following, so click through traffic is almost guaranteed.

Take our blog for example. We have a very young blog, and we consciously decided that submitting articles to blog carnivals would be a great way for us to get our name out there. So far, we have two blog posts published in carnival editions: our post on personal responsibility was included in the February edition of the leadership development carnival, and our post on project signoff points was included in the 25th edition of the carnival of project management. These two posts currently have the highest individual page views in our blog.

But most importantly, blog carnivals are great for blog readers. Each edition of a blog carnival is generally a collection of the best individual blog posts on a particular topic. This is so because it is in the interest of blogger contributors to only submit their very best work, as this will often be the basis for the initial impression of first time visitors to their blog (not to mention that blog carnival editors generally only allow one contribution per blogger per edition). So the reader is virtually guaranteed of a good online yarn on their favorite topic!

To end this post, below are some active blog carnivals that you might be interested in:

    Carnival of Personal Development – blog carnival related to personal development, personal finance, and personal health
    Carnival of Project Management – blog carnival focused on program and project management
    Carnival of the Vanities – this blog carnival claims that no topic is off-topic, but only “superior posts” are accepted
    Carnival of Trust – blog carnival that broadly tackles “trust” as a principle in business and politics, among others
    Corporate Vigilance – blog carnival that spotlights the rights and the wrongs of the corporate world
    Customer Service Carnivale – blog carnival dedicated to helping business people become more aware of the importance of customer service
    Leadership Development Carnival – blog carnival related to leadership, management, executive development, coaching, human resources, succession planning, and organizational development
    Personal Power – blog carnival related to personal power, self development, motivation, and self improvement

We based the list on various search terms some of our visitors used to get to our blog, so we hope that you find at least some of them useful.

Posted in Blogging, WOTM | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Blogging for money, vanity, and personal development

Posted by A Friend on 28 February 2009

Blogging Badge A few weeks ago, we facetiously left a comment over at the Creative Energy Officer blog that reasons for blogging can pretty much be narrowed down to two: money or vanity (or both). It was meant as a joke of course, but when we were forced to think about it more when the blog author followed up on us, we realized that we were probably closer to the mark than we initially thought.

A lot of people make money off the internet these days and a whole lot more have attempted to. We don’t have a statistical backup, but we suspect a good number of those making money and attempting to make money off the web do so through blogging. The internet has experts and wannabe experts who can tell you all the essentials about this. The only point we want to stress is that blogging for money is not only restricted to getting ad revenues from your blogs. A lot of bloggers use their blogs as extensions of their brands or platforms to demonstrate subject matter expertise. Lorelle on WordPress is a good example of an ad-free blog that most likely generates a lot of business for its author.

We also claimed in our comment that those who do not blog for money do so for vanity. Blogging is a cheap and easy way of putting your voice out there for the world to listen to, and we are in no doubt that bloggers at least get some sense of satisfaction when they know that people visit their blogs. We know we do, and though our blog is only a couple of months old, we have already caught ourselves a few times unhealthily obsessing about visitor statistics.

Regardless of the reason, we suggested that readership is essential to the survival of a blog. A blogger can only talk to him or her self for so long and if readers don’t follow, the blogger will eventually lose interest and the blog will die a natural death.

We admitted in our comment that we probably fall in the vain category. The blog platform that we chose does not allow advertisements, so we’re definitely not here for ad revenue. The nature of our blog requires us to post anonymously, so we can’t be here to promote ourselves or our services, either. Finally, there’s the vain act of addressing ourselves in the plural form.

But a really important reason why we started this blog is for our own personal development. While the slogan we chose for the blog, “Real stories of workplace follies”, may sound a bit negative, our focus is not so much about the mistakes made, but the lessons that can be learned from these. We firmly believe that the best life or business lessons are learned from negative experiences. Of course, one does not go around aiming to fail. But as one of our all-time favorite poems states, “Success is failure turned inside out, the silver tint of the clouds of doubt”: there are a lot of opportunities we can derive from failure, we just need to know how to.

One way of truly learning from a negative experience is to try to objectify it. This is essentially what we are attempting to do in the case studies that we present here. We try to step back and strip the emotion from the experience, and attempt to present the cases with just the bare essentials. We understand that perfect objectivity can never be accomplished, especially when we are personally and intimately involved in the experience, but we try to get as close to it as we possibly can.

The blog is fairly young, and we have so far only been focusing on presenting the cases. At the end of each case is an implied question of what went wrong and how things could have been done better. As the blog grows (and we hope it continues to grow), we are aiming to also write posts about the learning derived from the cases. After all, the whole point is to learn from the experience.

Posted in WOTM | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »