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What it Takes to Run a Weblog?

posted by Krow on 09:04 AM January 4th, 2001   Printer-friendly   Email story
alessio writes "Bruce Perens has sent the announcement that Technocrat.net is shutting down. As I asked in my comment to the announcement, I am wondering what it really takes to run a weblog: I've always thought that such systems in some way "run themselves", since you "only" have to select or write a few stories every week if you don't need a heavily updated site. Am I wrong in this?"

While this is not a slash site, it is a good question to ask. What makes a site worth reading, and what creates community?

I know from looking at logs (and from running sites over the years) that in part what brings people back day after day is new content (when I was in radio we called this the "dead air" problem, at no point do you really want to have a moment where something isn't playing).

Personally I would suggest that any site that wants to make a go at building an audience should be prepared to post something, even if it is pretty dinky, everyday. If you build up any audience at all, you will find that you need to post several things a day.
So what other ways have you found to grow your audience?
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  • True, you need to have new stuff regularly, but you also need to attract the type of user who will participate in a discussion. I know for a fact that my site gets about 200 unique hits a day according to the web logs (and webalizer and webtrends). But, most of those people are just nabbing the PDF files and MP3's I have up. A few read some of the stories, but I'd say like only 1% are participating.....In fact, since my site got Botted (is that a word?), I decided to put the PDF's/MP3s in a different directory and only accessible via a perl script that redirects to it.

    Which brings up the point why even bother running a slash/discussion site. Cause it's interesting. I have for about 3-4 or more years always had a static site. But, the possibility of having a dynamic site that perhaps people can share ideas back and forth was too tempting. So, after my Linux machine died for the last time, I decided to start anew, and went the slash route.

    It takes time to develop a user base, but I'm hopeful that it will happen. I remember my highschool days where I'd BBS to this one system, even though there were only 5-10 people on it. It was the QUALITY not QUANTITY that mattered. And even if I'm the only one writing articles, which I am right now, I know people are reading them (they send me EMAILs saying good job, etc, not POSTING......)

    Anyways, its sad to stop something that you like and believe in. I know, regardless, that my sites will be up as long as I have a DSL connect that I'm hooked into (and I DON'T plan on not having DSL ;-) ).
    -- It's either on the beat or off the beat, it's that easy.

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    It's either on the beat or off the beat, it's that easy.
  • First of all this is a great question. If I saw more questions like this I'd frequent slash more often, to wit, it really is the content and the freshness of that keeps visitors coming. I have built sites for clients that didn't recognize this and they suffered for it in the form of wasted marketing and development money. Growth in your visitor base is pretty much the result of your content and determined by two statistics: first time visitors and return visitors. Getting your marketing machine fired up and pushing traffic to the site is crucial but is no use if you have a leaky bucket: what goes in comes rapidly back out through the holes and only a small portion stays at the bottom of the bucket. What determines the level of leaks is the quality/pertinence of the information the visitor is getting and if its fresh or updated regularly. If your site is selling product make sure to rotate the material and presentation of it regularly. If your site is news or information based this means daily and possibly every couple of hours as the latest information comes out. Another thing that makes for success as far as repeat visitors is a opt-in type newsletter. Tell them about new information, sale items, contests or whatever and they will come back to view it on the site. Again, the content of the newsletter needs to be fresh or people won't read it. I have a client who uses this and she has seen substantial growth in her repeat traffic and sales of her services. My visit today was because of the slash newsletter. Usually is when I come here.Make sure your site has a mechanism for visitors to provide feedback. Ericdano mentioned something above that is a good point: email is good. News discussion sites probably get the most compliments through email and most of the flames will be on the site in discussion. I would suggest replying to those emails and encouraging the complimenting visitors to participate in the discussion on the site. At the same time participate in the discussions on the site as well. /. used to do that when there wasn't such a huge user base and probably contibuted to thier initial success.(These days Timothy is the only one I see who does that regularly.) Whatever you do with the content and keeping it fresh be sure it is always the best quality content. If an update is made for the sake of making an update it does come across that way. People read into that on a sub level. Maybe not the first time but after a few times meaningless updates may discourage repeat visitation.
  • Agreed. Liberty Rally [libertyrally.org] is a good site, but hasn't reached a 'critical mass' of participants yet. How do you promote your site to grow it to the point where further growth happens by word of mouth? I don't know. I've run three Webrings, and had the same problem.

    I would add another point. The authors must post stories that spark enough interest to generate discussion on their own merits, and refrain from over-editorializing in the story post itself. I think this is one thing that hurts LR. I read the story, read the author's comments, I agree, and see no point in posting. The author needs to 'hook' potential posters.


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    Constitutionally Correct [cpne.org] ⇐
  • I am currently running or planning two weblogs, one is limited to registered users in the financial world so I cannot show it, the other is still to be released and aims to replace the homepage of La Città Invisibile [citinv.it] Italian association.

    My main concern right now is to keep the sites running and visitors to return and contribute comments: at the first time we have a staff person to update it (2-3 stories a day) but very little comments even if we've registered around 600 users for the main site; the other will be run by volunteers so we are wondering how many stories we really need.

    > any site that wants to make a go at building an audience should be prepared to post something, even if it is pretty dinky, everyday

    This makes sense and we are probably setting for at-least-one-story-a-day, maybe using the features of backSlash to insert stories with date in the future, to spread new stories in a longer time (we are not following "news" anyway). I hope that's enough to keep people coming back and especially submitting new stories, which makes the process easier.

    > Ericdano mentioned something above that is a good point: email is good.

    I believe email still means a lot (and so does Jakob Nielsen [useit.com], BTW), and I like the sendheadlines script (which needs to be improved a little). I also wrote yesterday a contrib script to send full articles [sevenseas.org] in order to keep users "warm" and updated about the site.


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    "It is more complicated than you think" -- The Eighth Networking Truth from RFC 1925

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    Check out the Slash in Italian Project [kenobi.it]

  • What Slash administrators do? Is there anyone willing to share their experiences? Maybe we can run a poll on it... :-)
    --

    "It is more complicated than you think" -- The Eighth Networking Truth from RFC 1925

    --

    Check out the Slash in Italian Project [kenobi.it]