It’s amazing what WordPress’s fairies can uncover at the bottom of their digital analytics garden.
I discovered the other day that my blog – this little thing – has been read by 13 people in Russia.
I like to think it’s Putin’s media henchmen, checking up on the latest revolutionary thinking in the evil world of democratic journalism.
Rather than Cheboksary (the capital of Chuvashia – do you know nothing?), I’m mostly either in Cheltenham or Chippenham.
But I’ve been doing my bit to boost my students’ audience figures of late as I assess their blogs for a multimedia module assignment.
And so, what is the key to a successful student journalism blog?
Perhaps the most important point to make is that you need something to say.
It sounds obvious.
But a blog should evoke – or provoke – a response.
It should be interesting, useful, challenging, surprising, thought-provoking, moving, amusing, enlightening or inspiring. Preferably all at the same time, but for the moment any one of these will do.
And what else? What other advice do I have to make this particular blog that I’m writing now really useful?
- Work on that intro. Spend some time carving out a really engaging, really intriguing or really surprising way to hook in your readers. If you’re reviewing a film or a show, don’t start with its name. If you’re reviewing a club or restaurant, don’t start with a boring description of where it is. Paint pictures with your words.
- At the other end, make sure you have a great last line. Round it off neatly and nicely.
- Don’t be vague. If you’re attacking media coverage, be specific about the stories or tweets, and link to them. Bland and sweeping generalisations don’t cut it, I’m afraid.
- Have an authentic and natural voice. Be yourself and develop some stylistic idiosyncrasies that help move your writing along, keeping it fresh and original.
- Read other blogs and columns. The best way to improve your writing is to read other people’s.
- Master grammar and be your own fiercest critic. Don’t let horrible typos or clunky phraseology get in the way. Check and check again. Read your stuff aloud. Get friends to sub it for you. Use spellcheck. Make sure you’ve used apostrophes correctly, that you’ve got the right its or it’s, and that you’ve followed the conventional style on numbers. Do this everywhere, but particularly do this in your About Me section. This is your shop window – make sure it says ‘come in and buy.’
- Oh, by the way, have an About Me section. And have it where you would expect to see it. Include a picture and your full name. Be smart – funny but also professional. Make sure those words sing your talents from the rooftops.
- Showcase news stories too. And then blog about them.
- Show you’re a multimedia journalist. Make sure your home page looks attractive, use plenty of (copyright-safe) pictures, embed videos and tweets, hyperlink, deploy bullet points and pull-out quotes, and organise your posts. And then use Facebook and Twitter to get people to read them.
- Keep it up to date. A ‘tombstone’ blog that hasn’t been updated for months is worse than no blog at all.
At its best, your blog should show potential employers or content commissioners that you’re a versatile writer with flair and commitment to the journalistic cause.
So go on then, blog off.