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Scary blogging

September 1, 2010

Late this afternoon I experimented with blogging.

Around about 4.50pm BST a tweet popped up on my desktop alerting me to some breaking news. Foreign Secretary William Hague had issued a statement announcing the resignation of his special adviser Christopher Myers. The announcement sought to quash “malicious and untrue” rumours circulating on the internet about the relationship between the two men.

Despite it not being of massive significance given what else is going on in the world, his news was exciting. Only the night before I had read something on the internet which had arrived in my RSS reader via a Google alert I’d set up a few days ago.

It was a jaw dropping thing. It seemed like an incredible revelation. It seemed as unlikely as the source’s authenticity was judging by the page design. Could that be true, I thought. Will that be something we hear about tomorrow?

Less than 24 hours later and Sky News have a breaking news story about that very allegation. True, it had been in existence on the internet since MP Crispin Blunt announced his separation from his wife a few days ago.

But still, the relative mainstream coverage of it as a result of Hague’s announcement made this exciting. If this story was a person, I had followed that person go from the basement and out in tot he sunshine. If you’ve not experienced that, that analogy might be a difficult one to grasp.

It’s those very simple elements which can make news gripping to follow. Combine them with hhe opportunities afforded by blogging and you have – potentially – a scary combination.

What would happen, I thought, if I blogged about this story now? Minutes after the announcement had been read out in full, I penned this post. I made a point of including one key element in the title of the blog: the name of the person at the centre of the story – Christopher Myers.

I hit publish. I then went to the toilet.

When i returned from the toilet, the stats associated with that post had increased considerably. They met my recently imposed targets for daily accomplishments.

I wrote a couple of emails to people. Spoke to a colleague. Spoke to another colleague about a meeting I had attended during the afternoon. And then returned to my blog to see whether the stats had increased at all. They had. They’d gone sky high.

In some respects I’m not surprised. Looking at the search terms which people had put into Google before arriving at my blog post confirmed my suspicions and proved my theory correct. There are a few critical minutes to be exploited when a story like this – regardless of its worldwide significance – breaks. And if you’re a blogger looking to increase reach, then these moments are good moments to start blogging and publish. There’s a wave to ride. Catch it at the right time and everything will fall into place.

But … And this is a big but … there’s a massive caveat. There’s something to bear in mind. Something I was reminded about when I realised the statistics were going ‘a bit lary’.

Figures are one thing, influence is something else. And influence is far more important than figures any day. And because influence is more important, it’s times like the past few hours which demand a rock-steady constitution, at the very least one interesting point and a firm argument. Without these your blog post will show itself up to be the opportunistic exercise it really is.

Bloggers need bloggers, just like journalists need other journalists (the terms are interchangeable). Consequently your reputation as a blogger could be ruined (as I’ve learnt observing other blogs this week) based solely on your most recent blog or – worse – your most popular one.

What does that mean? You need to read it over and over and over again. You may need to revise it over and over again. What seemed like a charming turn of phrase in the first draft could be your undoing. So revise it again. Then, if you get to the end and you don’t understand your original point, revise it another time.

I might add – I’m not suggesting that particular blog post i speak of is a shining example. In fact in some respects I wish i hadn’t written it.

I wish I’d written about knitting, or cooking or the fact I’m looking forward to my birthday next week. Because the physical emotion associated with this experiment is a horrible one: it’s fear.

It’s like someone has shoved me on to a stage in front of thousands of people and I’ve just burbled for 2 minutes. No one wants to experience that nor the anxiety reliving it afterwards.

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