An image is an act of communication. Images play an important role in the presentation of ideas. Worth more than a thousand words, they encapsulate meaning by both simplifying and embodying conceptual theories.They make information more appealing, more persuasive. In the realm of art or activism, images reflect the underlying current of collective feeling by vocalizing both public consensus and private desires.
On the internet, you can see the same popular pictures in websites of every language. Russian, Chinese, French or English. Images transcend linguistic and cultural barriers faced by text. There is no need for machine or human translation. No need for mediation.
Like videos, images can spread very quickly online with little artificial push. Are they inherently more ‘viral‘ than textual content? It is difficult to say with certainty if it indeed has a higher potential for popularity. But images have undeniable value in spreading ideas. Especially when they are elegantly integrated with the use of text to present information.
Unique, original images can attract an audience. They are not only high quality content for an interested readership but they can be useful promotional tools for anyone interested in gaining more attention. A particular form of image is relevant to this purpose: the infographic.
Visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. They are also used extensively as tools by computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians to ease the process of developing and communicating conceptual information.
You’ve seen infographics everywhere. In books, magazines, newspapers, instruction manuals, maps, public signs and business reports. Visually, they come in many forms as well: charts, graphs, emblems, cartoons, diagrams and illustrations. Any image is suitable as long as it effectively works to convey data in a way that fulfills a specific or general purpose.
These graphics seek to inform. They can be a supplement to existing textual content or a hermeutically sealed construct, a stand-alone presentation which covers a subject in full. A complete statement and explanation that everyone can cite as a reference.
Infographics are a form of concentrated nutrition for data consumers. They are multi-vitamins, fulfilling basic info requirements in a simple hassle-free way. Like a pill, knowledge is condensed into essential components, enough to satiate your basic informational needs. They give you a general overview, one you can convert into talking points and social currency.
The amount of information they convey and the style used will vary depending on its purpose. Who is the intended audience of this piece? What specific frame or idea angle do you want to emphasize? How much abstraction and simplification is necessary for data to make sense?
Here are some examples from Princeton University’s International Network Archives. These infographics each give you a brief overview on a topic. See this page for full images and more.

The finished infographic is often beautiful to behold. Swirling gradients of color form into tangible shapes, contextually arranged to demonstrate quantifiable meaning. It’s easy to take it all in at one glance. Your eye darts around the numbers and skirts between the illustrations. You interact with it. You are thoroughly absorbed in its display of coherence.
And after looking, you’ll often think of sharing it. Maybe save the image, attach it to an email and fire it to a friend. Maybe you’ll include it in your latest blog post or tweet it. Or you’ll log into your favorite forum, drop the link and see what everyone else thinks.
There are many ways to propagate these images once they are produced. Apart from the usual social media channels, you can provide link codes by hosting the images and providing the html which points back to your site. Or you can package it into PDF formats along with other similar infographics to make a mini-report.
Unlike textual content, these images often do not include much text: you can consider pre-emptively translating them into other major languages so they can be shared more widely among different audiences.
They can also be produced on a regular basis as feature content. As a pictorial representation of information, infographics are often considered to be unique even if the data shared as already been elaborated elsewhere in text articles. Therein lies its appeal to a readership that might be jaded by the repetition of ideas in the content of other media sources/websites.
Good Magazine is an excellent example of a site that recently started creating infographics (known as ‘Good Sheets’) as regular online content. The print editions of these images were also given out free of charge at Starbucks. The combination of online and offline distribution is something that is suited to the nature of one-page documents like infographics.

Next time when you’re planning on sharing specific ideas or data, consider using infographics. They are a terrific way of making information accessible and a useful primer that will pique the interest of your intended audience. When created and marketed effectively, they can be part of a powerful viral strategy to magnetize attention to your website or business.
P.S I intend to write more on the topic of information design specifically as it relates to marketing. This is something I’m recently interested in and hopefully you’ll find it entertaining and useful.
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authority nicheOnline content is usually created to express opinions or share information with others. For entrepreneurs and web publishers, content is developed as a means to generate direct/indirect income.
However, one should not only view content as a means to receive immediate benefits like traffic or revenue. It is not just fodder for pageviews but a tool to enhance more abstract factors like reputation, reader trust and peer relationships.
Jeff Quipp recently asked what is authority and how do you build it? and I thought it’ll be interesting to examine this question from the angle of web publishing and content development. To reframe the query: what kind of content should you create to position yourself as an authority or expert in your niche?
After looking at the definition of good content, let’s examine how it can be strategically used as an tool to develop the perception of authority.

Defining Authority or Expertise for Web Publishers

authority definition
Image Credit: glimpse…
An authority is someone who has developed specialist knowledge and because of sharing this knowledge, has developed a reputation as an expert in the field.
This definition of an authority is one that is coherent with web publishing. Bloggers or web magazines are in the information industry and their business model deals with the packaging and dissemination of content and ideas.
For niche experts, knowledge only becomes an asset when it is shared. By freely sharing knowledge, experts allow their reputation to grow. Hence, the value in learning how to absorb and circulate knowledge to an audience who wants to develop proficiency or acquire a general understanding on specific topics.
Because we are mainly dealing with information flow and the sharing of ideas, I see experts or authorities as individuals who are somewhat similar to academics. Both are deeply entrenched in the field they specialize in and they provide unique, specialized knowledge gained through their research and experiences.
In my opinion, these are the characteristics of experts:
  1. Well Informed and Up to Date on industry news. The need to be informed cannot be emphasized more because current developments in an niche usually has repercussions for most end users. Experts are up to date on all the latest happenings in their niche because this allows them to comment on issues when questions are posed by clients or readers. Some experts may also break news because of their networks and contacts.
  2. Aggregate and Filter information for readers. Experts serve as aggregators and filters for their audience. They weed out the junk and extract the essence from content circulating around the web. They bring together related discussions by other thinkers/bloggers and provide a coherent overview of how to move forward in scenarios which require solutions/ideas.
  3. Provide a Rigorous Depth of Research. Experts perform analysis on current events or case studies to derive data that may be useful. They study phenomenon more rigorously than others and hence will be privy to research-based data/knowledge that is unique and not found elsewhere.
  4. Makes knowledge accessible for the general populace. The expert knows how to package dense information and make it easily understandable for a non-specialist audience. This includes explaining the impact of events/news for the end user by translating it into something they can immediately act upon.
  5. Expand the Conceptual Field. Experts should change the way others think by challenging traditional concepts or practices that are widely accepted. Because they are knowledgeable, experts will also bring in ideas and principles from other related disciplines, thus expanding both terminology and the sphere of theory. This changes the way others think about key issues.

Content Development Strategies to Establish Authority

niche authority
Image Credit: [K]
To achieve the perceived status of an expert, you’ll need a concrete strategy that focuses on the persistent publication of specialized content: one should consistently write about the same topics in ever increasing depth. Here are some tactics that will quite easily position yourself as a authority in the specific field:
  1. Optimize Your Site Copy. You want to include social proof elements like testimonials from clients, recommendations from experts, awards and professional certifications. At the very least, revamp your about page to emphasize your experience/knowledge in the specific field. If you are offering paid services, ensure that your sales page includes at least a few testimonials from satisfied clients/customers.
  2. Communicate and Invite Queries. The more you help people solve their individual problems, the more you win over people who believe in your ability. Open up the channels of communication and invite people to email or contact you with questions. Create a new page for feedback or put a comment box on your sidebar for questions.
  3. Guest Blog. I think it’s very useful to publish articles on other related websites or blogs because it reinforces your visibility in the niche. Pick the blogs considered to be authorities in the same field. Branding yourself is more critical; the traffic you’ll get isn’t as important. Remember to include keywords in your byline: You want to be associated with the topic as much as possible. Also include a mention of your guest blogging gigs in your about page.
  4. Create an Article Series. Writing an article series is an excellent way to give your website focus and is particularly useful if you feel that your blog is too inconsistent. A good series of articles also provides an entry point for recommendations. Others can easily promote your content when it is packaged in a cohesive framework that thoroughly covers relevant topics. Try starting an article series and publish new articles regularly. Bundle up your article series and display them in a page or a visible area on your blog. For convenience, you may want to use the In Series Wordpress Plugin.
  5. Write an eBook/book. Publishing a book on a topic immediately establishes you as someone who is interested in the field: most amateurs do not cross the line to invest time and energy on stand-alone publications. An ebook is also a way to market your personal brand: they are concentrated illustrations of your knowledge and can be passed around easily from one person to another.
  6. Join Conversations. Try to monitor conversations around a certain topic, in order to participate in them. One option is to actively offer advice on forums or communities in your niche. Publish an article in response to some general queries and drive traffic from these communities to your site. Alternatively, set up a Google Alert for blogs that use keywords in your field. Ping them via trackbacks or write comments on their articles with a link to your own. This is slow but easy way to develop your reputation from the ground up.
  7. Highlight Achievements. People modify the way they think about your brand or site, based on input from others. It makes sense to highlight your achievements in a standalone page on your blog or perhaps in the form of a blog post. This involves the inclusion of your site in ranking lists, special awards, media coverage and interviews on important niche publications. An example: Lyndon Antcliff, a social media marketer recently got a mention in Time Magazine and this is the post he did. You’re not bragging but demonstrating that others recognize your value.
  8. Develop Breadth and Depth. Try to develop the habit of building on your own content by writing articles which reference and expand on certain points or tangents. This increases the overall depth of your focus and takes into account the growth in reader interest as well. Seek to also increase the breadth of your content by writing for audience profiles as they may have different knowledge levels and info needs.
It goes without saying that you’ll truly come across as an expert when you are really passionate or immersed in the field. It is important to nurture the five characteristics of authority mentioned above while combining them with content development strategies that amplify your display of knowledge.
The development of authority may include other factors but I’ve limited my focus to content related issues: all of the tactics and factors listed in this article deal with how content can be strategically created to induce the perception of authority.
There is a lot more to be said about content development strategies and I will be covering the topic of using content as a networking and reputation building tool next week. Subscribe to Dosh Dosh if you don’t want to miss any updates.
How would YOU define authority and how do you become one?
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publishing branding I didn’t write any articles in the last few days on Dosh Dosh because I didn’t feel that I had anything interesting to say. It’s not entirely self-censorship: I just don’t like to write when there’s no way to inject a new perspective on any topic.
Many will publish content regularly because they feel a necessity to generate pageviews and maintain site freshness. Some fear that their subscribers will go away if they don’t update their site.
They don’t mind repeating the ideas of others and writing variations of the same topic again and again. Some will tirelessly create resource lists every week for links.
I’m sure some readers will find such sites to be useful. I’m not disputing their value. After all content quality is relative and ultimately influenced by the audience’s specific needs or interests. Know one thing for sure: what you put on your site allows visitors to form judgments about your personal and business brand.
And conversely so, this leads to an important point often neglected: What you do not publish will define your site. The absence of specific content positions your site against another competitor and allows it to develop an identity among others.
I’ve decided a few months ago that Dosh Dosh isn’t a news blog. I’m not concerned with pumping out posts on the latest blogging widget or ad network, posts filled with affiliate links. I don’t care if there’s a new version of Wordpress. I don’t bother with the latest blog spats/gossip. And I have never done any paid reviews at all.
niche branding
Image Credit: CNV00003
I am not going to spin you an incarnation of ways to get more blog comments nor am I going to give you 100 tips to get more traffic. These generic articles are generally boring, because they only re-circulate or promote ideas that are already firmly established. Status quo meta-blogging is banal and insipid to me.
You’ve read these type of content many times on other sites. What value do you have if you read it on Dosh Dosh? Not much. And so I’ve decided to focus on theoretical articles which make you think. It’s all about giving you new ideas to use as catalysts towards action. Theory is incredibly important but so often overlooked.
Conscientious publishing is not about being unique. It is impossible to be extremely original in every article; every good blogger repeats himself or herself. It’s a natural extension of how minds remember and work with ideas. But by controlling what is published, you can influence how you want to be perceived.
If you are an online publisher, take a look at your site today.
  1. What information are you sharing? What does that say about your site?
  2. What content topics or types do you not publish on your site?
  3. How does your content currently define your personal or blog brand?
  4. What are your peers and competitors publishing (and not publishing)?
Examine your reputation goals and learn to refrain from publishing specific content. This goes a long way when you want to carve out a distinct identity in your niche.
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private journalA private diary is tremendously powerful. It can help you to greatly improve your business or website. If you want to be a success, you need to think and act strategically. At the very least, you should keep your goals in mind in order to work towards them daily.
And a private journal achieves all this more effectively than a static to-do list, which only lists end goals and results to be achieved.
Unlike a to-do list, a well kept journal provokes introspection. It is a liberating and productive outlet for random ideas, thoughts and feelings.
Keep a daily journal about your business/website and write about your day in relation to your site. Make this journal private: This stops you from censoring yourself unnecessarily. Talk about your plans and most importantly, how you feel about your business or blog. Muse upon the objectives you’ve achieved or set for yourself.
Have a conversation with yourself and question your current strategies or aims. Criticize yourself. Praise yourself. Give yourself advice. Reflect on your mistakes.
Recent research in the medical field shows that keeping a daily journal improves the quality of life for cancer patients. In an experiment, patients were asked to write in a journal while waiting for their appointments. They were asked to answer one question: How has cancer changed you and how do you feel about those changes?
After the writing assignment, about half of the cancer patients said the exercise had changed their thinking about their illness, while 35 percent reported that writing changed the way they felt about their illness. Three weeks after the writing exercise, the effect had been maintained.
While a change in the way a patient thinks or feels about a disease may not sound like much, the findings showed that the brief writing exercise led to improved quality of life.
The key point to note is not the therapeutic effects of writing in a journal but rather the fact that regular journal keeping will influence the way you think or feel about an specific topic. If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger or marketer, reflection via a private journal will give you a fountain of ideas and initiatives to pursue.
Image Credit: mi moleskine folio
I know this because I’ve kept a private online journal for Dosh Dosh for 7 months and I’ve written in it every day. I write down random thoughts, possible marketing ideas and my feelings about the site: how I hate it or how it has changed me. All of what I write is uncensored and free from pretty grammar or fluffy, melodious words.
I don’t make an effort to sound good. I don’t check my spelling nor do I edit the post to make sure I don’t use the same words too often. The most I’ll do is to bold certain sentences which I find important after I’ve finished writing. This deepens what I want to remember and keep it in mind for the next day.
A private journal can be created and maintained through localized diary software or web-based blogging platforms. I’ve used Wordpress.com as a platform for some private journals because they give you the option of making your site entirely private and only visible some. You can also use Twitter or a basic paper notebook.
I like to use Wordpress blogs because it allows me to organize my thought processes. For instance, I have categories with names like ‘Achievements‘, ‘What I’m Unhappy With’, ‘My Competitors’ and ‘Marketing Ideas’. Careful filing of your thoughts can make the personal journal a motivational and useful breeding ground for change.
Here’s a simple question you can ask yourself while writing in your journal: How is my brand or website developing and how do I feel about it?
If this has piqued your interest, do try to keep a private journal for some time: you’ll get to experience the benefits for yourself. If you want to improve yourself or your website/business, I can’t offer a better low-cost, hassle-free solution than this.
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how to build a news blogNews blogs are fast-paced blogs which track, aggregate and disseminate current news on a set range of topics. Their main selling points are comprehensiveness and timeliness: a good news blog must cover the field throughly and speedily by pointing readers to new information or developments.
Content for news blogs is published regularly on a daily basis and sometimes multiple times throughout the day. Apart from the value of the actual opinions offered by news bloggers: people subscribe to or follow these news blog largely because they help them to stay on top of current issues, innovations or ideas concerning a industry.
News blogs are also profitable if they are monetized because they publish a very high volume of content, which continuously attracts both search and referral traffic. If you’re an entrepreneur or webmaster looking to generate some online income, a news blog is a good foundation to start with because you’ll never run out of content: the consistent news flow drives you to publish regularly.
If you’re interested in a specific field, publishing a news blog forces you to keep up with what other people are talking about. It’s different from just reading other blogs because you’ll participate by contributing your own ideas or opinions. This is a good way for you to build a strong online reputation.
This article and others to come in this mini-series will examine what you need to create a successful and popular news blog.

Determining Your Information Sources: An Essential First Step

You’ve picked a domain name/brand, bought web hosting, installed a blogging platform, chose a blog design and optimized your site. What’s the next step? You need something to write about and picking the right informational sources will make sure that your news blog is not only relevant but timely and unique.
Let’s look at how you can create a list of news sources. I’ve broken the entire process in 10 points: you can choose to only use some of these sources although I would recommend exploring all of them if you have the time.
The only essential tool you really need as a news blogger is a robust RSS feed reader. It is very time consuming to check multiple websites several times a day for new content and the easiest way to go about it is to pull all the content into one cohesive location, which is your feed reader.
Whenever possible, you should always subscribe to news source’s web feed and categorize it accordingly in your feed reader. If you don’t use a feed reader, I recommend Google Reader or Feed Demon for Windows and NetNewsWire or other online feed readers for Mac.
Here are the 10 information sources you can use for your news blog.

1. Other Blogs in the Same Niche
Image Credit: the journalist’s blogroll
One of the best ways to find interesting news is to subscribe to other blogs in your niche. This includes both other news blogs and non-news blogs and I suggest that you pay extra attention to blogs which specialize in a sub-niche because they are usually the ones who publish unique content worth mentioning.
There are several ways to find other blogs in your niche:
  • Search Engines: Do a search for topic + ‘blog’ using Google.com or try their blog search engine, which allows you to do an advanced search so you can only look for blogs with the topic keyword (‘cars’ ‘food’ etc) in the blog title. This increases the relevance of the search results. Other blog search engines you can use include Ask.com, which allows you to sort results according to popularity. Technorati’s search also allows you to sort results according to authority, which is the number of links pointing to each blog.
  • Blogrolls: Some of the blogs in your niche will have blogrolls or a links page with links to other relevant blogs or news sources. This is an excellent to surf around and find other relevant blogs which cover the same topic.
  • Blog directories: A simple Google search for ‘blog directory’ will give you a good amount of sites to look through. Technorati has a blog directory which includes each blog’s authority score so you’ll have a rough gauge of popularity for each blog. Blog Catalog, Google Directory and Best of the Web are also good places to check out. If you’re using a directory, the most important thing is to make sure that the blog is still active. Don’t be surprised if you find lots of dormant sites sitting in blog directories.
  • Personal Recommendations: Sometimes the easiest way is to ask your friends or members of a forum for recommendations on sites you should check out. The benefit of personal recommendations is that you’ll almost always come across good weblogs. It’s a good way to weed out most of the junk.

2. Social News and Bookmarking Websites
Social news communities like Digg, Reddit and Mixx are great places to find a good source of both news and non time-sensitive content. Some niche social news websites will also allow you to network with other bloggers or webmasters in the same field and is quite useful for you to develop some useful connections.
Check out each social news website and subscribe to the frontpage or the appropriate category of news. Here is a list of social news sites to use.
You can also use unique sites like StumbleUpon to channel-surf specific tags that relate to your website. Personally, I feel that StumbleUpon is not an efficient method of accessing news because its slow and the content is often dated. However, it is useful for getting quirky or offbeat information not found elsewhere.
I highly recommend subscribing to the RSS feeds of active stumblers, instead of using the toolbar to stumble pages yourself. This is much more efficient way of accessing news via StumbleUpon. Make use of influencers who share content.
Social bookmarking websites will display what their users bookmark online and all these links are organized by tags. Content on social bookmarking sites is not always current but it’s a good place to find some obscure gems. The best way to process this information is to subscribe to these tags and put them in your feed reader.
When it comes to social bookmarking websites, don’t waste time surfing around and actively looking for content. Let your subscribed tag feeds collect in your feed reader and peruse them periodically. There are many social bookmarking sites out and you don’t need to use them all. I recommend using del.icio.us, furl and ma.gnolia.

3. Keyword Watchlists
google alerts
This refers to the monitoring of specific keyphrases or keywords related to your blog in order to pick up on relevant news. Technorati has a Watchlist feature which allows you to monitor several keyphrases when they are used by blogs.
Google Alerts is watchlist tool I like a lot because it can email you with links quite frequently on a as-it-happens basis. You can also subscribe via RSS for keyword watchlists on sites like Twitter through Tweetscan or Twemes.
Some RSS feed readers like Feed Demon allow you to set up watchlists to monitor specific keywords that appear in all your feeds. This is very useful if you subscribe to a lot of web feeds as you may often miss out on relevant content.

4. Meme Trackers
Meme trackers are websites which organize blog posts on specific topics according to an automatic algorithm that determines which articles are cited or discussed the most. They give you a general overview of what’s being discussed in a specific niche at the moment
These meme trackers usually include a list of blog posts linking or related to the news story in question. This is useful when you want to write a quick news post and want to reference other blogs talked about it. Examples of meme trackers include Techmeme, TailRank, Megite and Technorati.
Meme trackers also exist for social media services like Twitter in the form of Tweetmeme and Twemes, which loosely organize conversations and links passed around by Twitter users. Not always an excellent source for breaking news but still useful to capture some off-the-radar information.
As always, subscribe to the RSS feed for each meme-trackers and monitor them a few times a day. They are an convenient source of content ideas and news.

5. News Aggregators
news aggregators popurls
News aggregators are somewhat similar to meme trackers and social news sites except that they do not use any algorithm to determine story visibility. They are simply webpages which pull in RSS feeds to centralize them in one location online.
For example, here’s a short list of SEO News Aggregators, which focus on aggregating the web feeds of selected blogs writing about SEO. Other general online aggregators include Alltop and Popurls. I think aggregators can be useful if you don’t like to use web feeds or when you need a quick overview of what’s happening in a niche.
Personally, I don’t really fancy using them because I always tend to overlook news items because of their format. I prefer archiving my news through the feed reader because it allows me to search through and categorize content more easily.

6. Online Newspapers and Magazines
Online newspapers and magazines will provide you with a lot of news on your chosen topic and its a good complement to blogs and social news websites, which may sometimes overlook a particular piece of news.
Online newspapers also has the advantage of offering localized news on either a national or city-basis. This is useful if you run a news blog that is divided in country or region-based coverage. Start first by subscribing to the major news outlets like the BBC, CNN and New York Times.
After which, subscribe to sources which focus more on specific angles of interest. For example, if you’re running a celebrity gossip website, you should subscribe to the Daily Mail and People.com, both of which are sites with a strong emphasis on celebrity and other tabloid-style news.
Always subscribe to online magazine/newspaper feeds according to the specific news category. You don’t need to subscribe to a entire news-site because most of the news will be irrelevant to your interests. You don’t want to overload your attention with stories you cannot use for your blog.

7. Academic Journals and Trade Publications
Image Credit: little
Academic journals and trade publications often publish reports which you can highlight on your blog in the form of news. This usually includes polls, statistical analysis of a specific phenomenon or reports on the performance of an industry. Not all of these publications are free and some do require a paid subscription.
It’s possible to obtain complimentary copies of these academic journals regularly, if you’re a blogger with a certain degree of clout. In some scenarios, publishing houses will be willing to send you new books or journals in return for a mention on your website. It is also possible to obtain these journals by being a contributing member of a scholarly society or educational institute.
The content published in these journals is not news per se but not many bloggers pick up on these info sources so it’s an easy means for you to inject new ideas or content into the industry. This is a terrific way to position yourself as a thought-leader or maven.

8. Press Releases and Media Contacts
PR News Wire press releases
When you are starting out as a relatively unknown blogger, you need to take the initiative to accumulate media contacts. Email companies and web services which are relevant to your site’s topical focus and inform them that you are open to receiving email press releases from their marketing/PR department.
You’ll usually be put on an email list and you can take this chance to initiate better relationships with the specific PR manager/executive. Ideally, you want to be invited to launch parties and networking events as a member of the press.
You can also monitor Press Release sites like PR News Wire, which offers well categorized RSS feeds for specific industries. Press releases are great sources of direct information from both large companies and small businesses. Sometimes they can be a effective way for you to get the scoop on a big news story.

9. Insider Information
celebrity magazines
Image Credit: the scoop
This involves establishing inside sources within organizations or companies who will be willing to leak information for a big story. How do you develop these inside sources? Networking in the right places with the right people would be a strategy or you can simply offer to publicly offer to pay for scoops from people in the know.
In any case, ‘inside sources’ are often made up by bloggers and online journalists, in order to get attention and pageviews. For instance, this is very common amongst celebrity blogs because they are in the gossip manufacturing business: readers don’t mind too much if they hear another rumor that may be proven false at a later stage.
Just note that repeatedly offering false information may detract from your credibility so use inside sources only when you are very confident of their authenticity.

10. Reader Tips
Last but not least, your blog readers are great source of information. Set up a tips email account and publicize it on your website. You might not get many tips in the beginning when your site is new but this will change as your news site grows.
Several large blogs like Lifehacker and Boing Boing receive a good amount of reader tips daily and some of them are worthy enough to be transformed into a blog post. Personally, I really like this idea because this is a passive way of receiving news. Instead of actively searching for content, you’ll getting them sent to you.
Make sure your tips hotline is clearly visible from the site. Here’s a good example of a story suggestion page you can use for your site.

And this concludes the list of information sources you can use. In the next article in this series, I’ll talk more about the specific tools you can use to increase your blogging efficiency as a news blogger.
For future reference, feel free to bookmark this article at del.icio.us
If you have any suggestions for topics I should cover in this series on building a successful news blog, please leave them in the comments! This includes any questions you want to see answered concerning this topic.
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dark roomI’m busy with some other projects now and instead of leaving the blog alone for several days, I thought I’ll do a quick post on a helpful tool that I’ve been using for more than a year.
It’s called Dark Room and its a minimalist fullscreen word processor which forces you to focus on the writing process and nothing else.
This free Windows/.Net application transforms your entire computer screen into a dark background and removes all the usual word processor toolbars and quick buttons. The only thing you’ll see is the words. I feel that it really improves my ability to concentrate on the blog post or school essay I’m writing.
Darkroom is quite primitive because of the lack of features and in my opinion, that’s one of the reasons for its charm. You can tweak Microsoft Word and other standard processors to get the same look but I’ll rather use a simple application like this and keep the default look/feel of Word for other editorial purposes. Here’s a screen shot:
Dark Room
Some people have criticized it because of its poor functionality but personally, I think its terrific for that one essay or one blog post you want to crank out. You don’t want to use this to write a book. You use this to situate the 15 to 60 minutes of time you have in an environment that is more conducive for contemplation/writing.
DarkRoom is inspired by WriteRoom, a similar word processor for Apple’s OS X. There’s also a Java version of DarkRoom if you don’t want use Microsoft’s .Net framework. It works in the same way and has roughly the same features.
Try it today and let me know what you think in the comments!
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Rethinking Blog Comments: Much More Than Just A Quick Way to Get Web Traffic

A comment left on a popular blog may be viewed by a few hundred people in one day. Multiply that by the lifespan of the blog and you’ll see that a simple comment may say a lot about you. Every blog comment is usually permanent. It’s not just a hyperlink but a long-term representation of your brand.
Too many webmasters view blog commenting as only a traffic or link building strategy. This rigid marketing emphasis has led to certain modes of behavior. For example, one might make the effort to comment exclusively on blogs with nofollow turned off, while using keyword names in order to increase the search engine ranking for one’s website.
Alternatively, you may also try to be the first to comment on popular blogs and/or include links to your website in a bid to gain some extra traffic from the additional visibility. There’s nothing wrong with this if you truly add to the discussion or include a relevant link. But not many do.
I’m not here to talk about improving the quality of comments. Nor am I going to lecture you about comment etiquette because I don’t want to regulate the way you interact with any website (other than Dosh Dosh).
What I’m trying to change is the way you think about comments. They are ways for you to get some quick traffic. They may help (in some small way) with your search rankings, but is there anything more to marketing via blog comments? And my answer is of course, yes.

Take this Perspective: View Blog Comments As a Networking Tool

Image Credit: A Mini Adventure…
I’ll get right to the point. See blog comments as a way to network with the author, so that you’ll be able to obtain a particular benefit in the future. Think long-term: not just incoming traffic today but exposure down the road. Don’t just focus on getting an immediate return (visitors via your link drop) but use comments to develop relationships of ongoing value.
Bloggers are not difficult people to understand. Almost all of them read all the comments they receive. They moderate them. Comments affect how they feel or think. Many see comments as an indicator of interest in their content. They like people to discuss what they wrote.
An article on a blog provides you with the perfect way to connect with the writer. You have the context right before your eyes. There’s no need to search for conversation fodder. Are you going to scan the entire article, write a very brief comment and quickly drop a link to your site because you just want maximum, immediate visibility? Is that all you want?
Building a relationship with the other blogger allows you to leverage his or her brand in the future because he or she will be more inclined towards your propositions. Comments are a way to converse with a prospective collaborator or friend and they are especially beneficial when you’re trying to interact with an influencer.
Influencers have to wade through a lot of noise everyday because many people clamor for their attention or help. But that doesn’t mean they don’t pick up signals. Consistent and value-added interaction with an influencer via blog comments will allow you to reap benefits you will not get from comments made entirely in favor of immediate self-interest.

How Comments Fail When You Think Only of Short-Term Benefits

Short Term Comments
Image Credit: A Mini Adventure…
A popular affiliate marketer recently left a comment on DoshDosh. It was initially caught in the spam filter and when I retrieved it, I did a quick google search for the comment in quotes. What did I find? The same exact comment was posted word-for-word on several other blogs, even when each article was about completely different topics.
This wasn’t a nobody but an established marketer. And this wasn’t the first time he left generic comments on my site. I don’t have anything against him as a person because I don’t know him personally but this sort of behavior just turns me off. It doesn’t appeal to me at all. And he probably just lost someone who could really get him some attention/traffic.
This is an extreme example, one bordering on spam but I feel it is indicative of what happens what you only view comments as a means to access instant benefits.
When you think in the short-term, you’re usually overlooking the value of relationships. And if you want to be successful in any industry or field, it helps to make friends with people who can help to get you there. Commenting is an extraordinary easy way to not only get visitors to your site, but develop mutually beneficial relationships along the way.
This is not about flattering an influencer or lying to curry favor. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drop comment links. This is all about having a different mindset, about rethinking how commenting can benefit you in the long run, over and over again.
I feel that adopting a networking-oriented perspective when commenting will actually improve your comment quality, not to mention that people will more easily recognize that you’re reaching out or trying to connect on a more personal level. Bloggers are usually good at sniffing out people who are just out for a link or some quick traffic.
Think long-term, think relationships and think about getting repeat benefits.
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