The makings of a successful site

by lizzschumer

This week, we will continue thinking about writing on the web vs. writing anywhere else. As you continue your foray into blogging, consider this: What makes a blog successful is made up of many facets, few of which have to do with the actual writing they feature. The business of writing online is a complex one, with advertising, page views, dissemination and content all playing together to create the perfect package, that still may not take off.

So what’s the formula? Let’s take a look.

One of the online writing world’s most successful bloggers, and perhaps one of the grandfathers of the medium, is Andrew Sullivan. Last week, Sullivan announced he would cease blogging to focus on “being a human first.”

Read: Andrew Sullivan’s farewell blog post on The Dish.

In a classic blogosphere move, Journalist Simon Owens wrote a think piece about Sullivan’s departure, breaking down some of the ways, reasons and wherefore’s Sullivan did so well.

Read: Owen’s take on blogging as an industry.

But Sullivan’s long-running site relied, in part, on old-fashioned syndication to boost its audience. That requires other sites, sites bigger, stronger and more stable than yours, to throw their faith and funds behind yours in order to get it in front of their audience, and to get that audience to become your audience.

Digital writers, there is another way.

We all remember when Kim Kardashian’s backside made waves and coined the #breaktheinternet hashtag back in November. As should surprise no one, that famous, oily derriere was not the only reason Paper’s site went viral almost immediately, and Paper benefiting from it did not happen overnight (well, it kind of did, but we’ll get to that), nor did it happen easily. You can’t break the Internet without first making sure the Internet doesn’t break your site, and the story behind that can teach us all a thing or two about not only how to go viral, but how to handle your fame once it arrives.

Because in this day and age, even if you don’t have a naked Kardashian on line one, your site can attract traffic without the help of The Beast or the Daily Mail. What’s important is knowing the cogs behind that movement and the players that have to jump in to make it happen. This article is a long one, but it’s worth it. I promise. It also includes the phrase “Up goes the butt,” if that influences your decision whether or not to do the required reading.

Read: PAPER’s back end prepares for Kim’s

Once you’ve read all of these articles, think about where your site falls in the world of digital writing. So you’re no Sullivan. Not yet. You’re probably also not David Jacobs or Jamie Granoff. But your blog exists in the same world as Sullivan, as Paper, as each other’s. You probably don’t have something as big as Kardashian’s rear end to show off on your site, but you do have content that needs an audience.

Write: This week, continue to work on curating your blog’s length and content to type. Make sure your blog reads true to your voice, your content and your message. But this time, also think about how you stack up against the giants of the online world. Your post can be on any topic you choose (as long as it aligns with the above), but it must clearly demonstrate a thoughtful attention to how its length and content, including images, videos, gifs, etc, enhance the message of your site.

In addition: If you have not already, begin gathering source materials for your comparison project. That project will be due in class on Feb. 18, and you will want to have those materials ready to go before we meet again on Feb. 11. We will discuss exact parameters for that project in class on that day.