dark secrets

Dark Secret of Blogging #8: Illustrate Everything

Aug 24, 2012

Marinate, for a moment, in the glorious ugliness of the Huffington Post. I’d say that HuffPo’s been more successful than any other news site before it in adapting the sensibility of the tabloid newspaper to the Web. Drudge led the way here, but HuffPo has nearly perfected its imitation of the irresistible pull of those sensational supermarket scandal rags, screaming at you with their blaring, saucy headlines, daring you not to look.

Dark Secret of Blogging #7: Comments are Content

Aug 24, 2012

This isn’t controversial anymore. We know that a strong community is a huge asset for any site. And as I mentioned previously, the Argo-blogger’s use of her crowd is going to be an essential component of her site’s success. But if we accept that comments are content (or more accurately, that community is content), what does that actually imply?

Answer: It implies we treat comments as content. And what are some of the things we do for content?

Content gets assigned.

Dark Secret of Blogging #6: Explain, explain, explain

Aug 24, 2012

Classic news folks have this habit of being flabbergasted when they discover their audience members don’t understand a topic they’ve been covering. “But we did a big explainer on this two weeks ago!” they say. After the health care reform battle finally reached its climax – the signing of the bill – reporters said they were astonished by their audiences’ hunger for explanation of what had just passed into law.

They shouldn’t have been surprised. Having watched how content gets picked up, I’m convinced that the hunger for explanation is inexhaustible.

We know we can’t easily break the world down into neat, manageable patterns. But I’ve never met a great beat reporter who didn’t try.

As we gain expertise in a subject area, we can’t help applying patterns to it - establishing the most influential players, identifying related schools of thought, discerning trends unfolding over years. This is the mental model that enables great beat reporters to determine what constitutes news, to figure out promising avenues for investigation, and to stay ahead of a topic so they can distill it for their audience.

Dark Secret of Blogging #4: Learn the Art of the Quest

Aug 24, 2012

Since basically the dawn of storytelling, we’ve known the power of the quest narrative, a.k.a. the hero’s journey. Our most popular and enduring stories have been quests; e.g. the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Dark Secret of Blogging #3: Headlines are Hooks

Aug 24, 2012

Just admit you read the title of this post and thought, “Duh.” Of course headlines are hooks. That’s News 101.

OK, fine, but headline-writing for the Web is enough of a distinct art that it must be re-emphasized: Great bloggers write great headlines. And that should be qualified: great bloggers write great Web headlines.

Dark Secret of Blogging #2: Numbering is Narrative.

Aug 24, 2012

Take a moment to peruse PopURLs – one of my favorite snapshots of the Internet zeitgeist – and you’ll notice a recurring pattern – people love lists. The words “top 10″ or “5 best” or “3 most” just seem to hit some sort of primal switch in our brains, triggering us to devour and redistribute content.

The exquisite life cycle of Lifehacker content is a marvel to behold. Take a typical Hive Five post. (The Hive Five is a weekly call-out to the LH audience for software recommendations.)