Here’s a web history lesson for the week. Did you know that the first blogs were written by a college student in Pennsylvania in 1994? Back then, nobody called Justin Hall’s writings “blogs.” In fact, nobody could have guessed that the first “weblogs” (later shortened), which were like online personal diaries, would expand and diversify to their status of today.
What started as a very personal choice to share one’s life on the Web is now a standardized format for regular publication in many industries. In under 15 years, blogging has gained a near ubiquitous status as a strong method for regular content production, making it a stalwart of today’s marketing strategies.
However, at times, its background in personal diaries and self-published storytelling is revealing. Often, blog content is underdeveloped, writing is poor, and narrative appeal is very weak. At times, various professionals in the fields of journalism, publishing, and PR have been frustrated with the blogosphere for its lack of intentionality about quality content production. While typos and eased style can be overlooked, poor content choice can quickly reduce a blog’s standing as a legitimate source of information.
Since blogs really did develop from a community of amateur writers on the Web, it’s reasonable to assume that blogging is not necessarily informed by the wealth of knowledge collected by journalists and traditional publishers over the years. For this reason, I think bloggers, especially marketing bloggers, have a lot to learn from basic principles in traditional journalism.
In 1973, Gatlung and Ruge published a list 10-point framework for understanding and evaluating what makes a strong story. They described the overall framework as a pursuit for “newsworthiness.” If used correctly, these 10 criteria can be extremely valuable when trying to find topics that will appeal to wide audiences.
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From a marketing standpoint, these 10 points are the difference between a good blog and a blog that has the potential for a wide online following. These points will also help develop stronger keyword descriptions, a wider perspective of publishable material, and a way to raise the overall level of content quality.
- Relevance – To marketers, relevance may seem like an extremely obvious part of good blogging. After all, we’re all about identifying an audience’s needs. However, relevance is a factor that can always be improved. Blog analytics are a huge help with identifying what’s really reaching your audience and what’s not
- Timeliness – Unlike relevance, timeliness is something that is often de-emphasized in the world of business blogging. However, thinking like a journalist in regards to timeliness might just be the biggest factor for improving your blog’s reach. People like timely information because its relevance naturally goes up. If you run a daily blog, try making at least one topic per week about some sort of current event—public affairs, corporate news, and rumors all count!
- Simplification – Stories that can be easily simplified or summarized are likely to be featured more prominently than stories that are convoluted or difficult to understand. We try to do this a lot at Weidert Group. We make things into lists. We build step-by-step guides. We summarize complex processes into simple walkthroughs. Having a writer who is really attentive to keeping things simple and straightforward will be a huge help
- Predictability – Certain events, such as elections, major sporting events, astrological events, and legal decisions, happen on a predictable schedule. Why not capitalize on this? Plan ahead and make your blogs center on these events for a while. Some news outlets cover predictable events with a before, during, and after setup. Strong coverage builds a following and is easily promotable through social media
- Unexpectedness – On the other hand, unexpected events can also help bloggers out. Within the field of digital marketing, bloggers often hit it big when they cover something like a surprise announcement from Google or a new social media change. Being prepared to react to unexpected changes is critical to taking advantage of fast-moving events. For some companies, this means an organizational change. For others, this might mean shifting practices to follow more information sources more comprehensively
- Continuity – Some events, such as war, elections, protests, and strikes, require continuing coverage. While journalists practice continuing coverage all the time, it’s not something that business bloggers typically do. However, I don’t think anybody should rule it out. Continuous events can be used to build a following, offer a niche perspective, or even demonstrate in-depth expertise on an issue
- Composition – It’s key to keep in mind that a blog’s composition needs to be diverse. Journalists know that a newspaper can’t be full of hardline news stories through-and-through. Readers need a diverse set of content—including soft human-interest stories and special feature stories—to stay interested. The same goes for a blog. Keep things relevant, yes, but don’t shy away from having an intern writing about a topic he or she is passionate about. The mix is good!
- Elite Names – This category combines two of Gatlung and Ruge’s 10 factors for newsworthiness—Elite People and Elite Countries. For bloggers, the basic thing to remember is that name-dropping of any sort can be extremely helpful. Last month, I published a blog about Coca-Cola. Just having that name in the title, blew up the number of views and shares it got. Try following news about big companies or leaders in your industry to make sure your not missing out on a strong piece with a famous name as the leading keyword
- Negativity – This one is a no-brainer. Even more so than traditional journalism outlets, blogs have very little reason to be publishing negative pieces. While controversy and social critique have their value, be sure that negativity is monitored and controlled
Obviously, these 10 points are a lot to implement all at once. Try putting a few into use at a time and see how they work for you. Content creation is a constant process of improvement, so if you need more support, download our Blogging Content Ideas Tip Sheet.