Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Go, Girlfriend

Today, I interview Julia Rosien, managing editor at http://www.gogirlfriend.com/ Julia tells us about getting a paid blog gig, what she knows about blogging and how to build a successful site.

Tell us about yourself.
I've been a freelance writer, freelance editor, staff editor, writing instructor and writing coach – not in that order. I've taught writing and self improvement online, at a college and in a prison. I've written service articles for national parenting, women's and travel magazines. I've freelanced for papers like the Boston Globe and the Christian Science Monitor.
It might look like a bit like career ADD, but I like experiencing new things and being a writer/editor and teacher has afforded me some pretty unique experiences.
My personal passion is travel though. There's very little I won't do to get a good story.

Tell us about your blog, www.gogirlfriend.com
GG is a travel blog geared to women 35-55 years old. From my research, this is the largest (and most underserviced) demographic online currently. What's interesting about this demographic is that they are making the travel decisions for themselves, their families and their business – and they're very comfortable shopping online.
Considering I'm part of that demographic, I understand what we do and don't want (hopefully) and can serve that up in a blog format.
A corporate blog obviously has to earn money, which we do through advertising. But the underpinning of success comes from a strong brand, trustworthy and engaging content and a growing community.

This is a paying blog gig. How did you get it? Had you been blogging previously?
I've been a freelance writer, a senior editor at a pregnancy magazine and an editor for an outdoor adventure travel site. My last gig included blogging, but it also included project management, staff management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and business plan writing. This job feels like the perfect fit for me, but I have to admit that every day I learn something new.

How does this fit into your overall business plan?
After freelancing, I moved to a staff editorial position but what I'm doing now involves all of my skills. New Media is an exciting place to be right now. And since I manage the blog I'm accountable for the successes and/or failures that come my way.

Blogging takes quite a bit of time, how do you manage this extra responsibility?
Maintaining a successful blog in the current climate means I have to be able to wear a bunch of different hats simultaneously. Writing the blog is only a small part of the whole project. I can write the most inspired, brilliant posts for a blog but if I ignore SEO, no one will ever read them. And if I don't employ appropriate monetization, I may as well donate my time to charity.
Corporate blogging is really about knowing how to manage my own time, which is something freelancers are generally very good at. I generally hit the major newsfeeds first thing in the morning to see what's happening in the world. Do I need to get a news article out or can I focus on a destination article? I spend much of my morning writing, contacting PR reps for images and (hopefully) publishing at least one post before noon.
My afternoons are generally divided between community building, SEO and commenting and writing anything newsy that needs to be published quickly.
I publish 2-4 posts each day. Aside the actually writing, each post requires images, formatting, and finally some publicity.

What mistakes do you think bloggers make in setting up their forums?
Blogs and forums don't go hand in hand and thinking they do can set a new blogger up for a slow start at best, failure at worst. Consider each potential reader. You have one opportunity to wow them and then give them a reason to come back – you are offering a service that they can get pretty much anywhere.
If you have a forum that's not busy, it can be like pulling up to a restaurant with no cars in the parking lot. Will potential customers venture past the door to see if the food's any good? Or will they pull out and find a busier restaurant?
Forums don't populate themselves and unless you're going to seed yours with fake posts, that can take more energy than maintaining a blog.
Wet up a blog that allowed anonymous commenting, but leave the forum until you have enough regular readers to populate it. By regular I mean more than 10,000 per day.

What is an important thing to remember when you're blogging?
Blogging is more like chatting with a friend than it is journalism – though journalism plays a key role. Blogs are popular because people enjoy the informal, opinionated articles and stories. And they enjoy being able to talk back.
Rather than top down story telling (like you get in newspapers and magazines) blogging is across the board. The blogger may be the authority, but everyone who visits has an opinion and most exercise it liberally.
Which leads me to another point. If you think you needed a thick skin to survive the querying process, get ready to develop skin the thickness of a rhinoceros. Readers are merciless. If you write something that rankles, you'll hear about it.

How are blog entries different from writing articles for print publications?
Like I said above, they're informal and chattier. Instead of handing just the information over, you're including your opinion and inviting readers to talk back with theirs.
Blog posts are also short and more tightly focused. Think of them as a series of FOBs.

SEO is a scary term to most writers. Can you explain how it works?
Nope, this is a huge area and the more I learn, the more I realized I do not know.
Start with the Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization
Move onto Google's SEO chat: http://www.seochat.com/
And then just read everything you can get your hands on. It's a skill, but it's constantly evolving. What worked for SEO a year ago isn't necessarily correct now.
Even if you know nothing about SEO and less about html, get a blog started now. As a blog ages it gains credibility and worth, simply by being online and slowly growing. Add relevant content to it on a regular basis and teach yourself a little bit each day, week or month. You'll be surprised how much you absorb just by being online and interacting with other bloggers.

What do you think the future is for blogging in the overall world of writing?
think blogging is the future. Every newspaper and magazine trying to survive online right now is racing to catch up to the blogging bus that I'm on. It's moving fast and those outlets who aren't on are giving their spot to bloggers around the world who may or may not have a journalism background.
And the way the world responds to those blogs – by reading them or ignoring them – will shape how news is served up 10 years from now.
We'll probably never see an end to print media, but I do believe online media is being created much like Wikipedia was first created – by users.


Blogger Suzanne Lieurance said...


Interesting post. Thanks for the blogging tips.

Suzanne Lieurance
The Working Writer's Coach

11:53 AM CST  

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