Alison Garwood Jones

My blogging strategy keeps changing — and so must yours

October 26, 2015

Boxcar vagabonds

Back in early February, I wrote a blog post that created a tiny stir in my journalism circle. It was about how news is getting more “mobile.” And by “mobile” I don’t only mean smart phones (although, they are massively relevant to what’s happening), I mean that news organizations are now having to abandon their websites, package up their stories and editorial sections, throw them in rucksack and move — no run! — to all the places their readers are now.

This change felt exciting and slightly sad to me, like the predicament facing those train-hopping vagabonds who had lost their homes during the first Great Depression. The boxcars that news orgs are hoisting themselves on to today include, for now, fast moving, ever-changing apps like SnapChat and platforms like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Twitter Moments, all three of which have forever changed the relationship between readers and publishers by no longer including backlinks to the original sources for stories, i.e. publisher’s websites. Twitter Moments launched on October 6 and was the latest social media platform to strip links from publisher’s tweets. Jeff Jarvis explains this publisher/reader breakdown really well. Warning: you may need Kleenex.

So here we are at point in history where publishers, like The New York Times and The Guardian, are admitting that the websites they have so lovingly curated for that past dozen years are no longer where the action is anymore (if it ever was, except in the minds of the C-Suite). Can I just say, this makes me sad for The Toronto Star which just launched what I think is an excellent iPad app right at the moment when “come to me” has been replaced with “No, you go to them.” All that lost money and time speaks again to the need to be more flexible and mobile with your stories.

Erased backlinks has been a death knell for the hub and spoke content distribution model — you know, that strategy we’ve all been using where you publish exclusively to your blog and push out links to your posts on all the relevant social media channels, then tap your fingers and wait for readers to come via those backlinks and referrals. It was also an abrupt middle finger to the concept of publish to the site you own, not to the one where you rent since slippery landlords, like Facebook, can change their terms on you at any time to serve them, not you. Mitch Joel put it best in a podcast conversation with Mark Schaefer that he published this morning. “These platforms,” he said “have decentralized the need to have a hub. Your blog becomes your Wikipedia of content.” He’s felt it coming for some time: ”Every time I sit down to blog now,” he said, “I wonder, am I hurting myself by only publishing on my blog?”

I’ve wondered the same thing too. No one ever uses the comment box on my blog posts anymore and when they do I think, how quaint and old-fashioned. More significantly, the feedback and shares I get when I post my stories to LinkedIn Publisher (this two-year old blogging platform) is WAY more crunchy and metrics-rich compared to the action captured by the Google Analytics for my website. At first, I was offended by this. Now I realize I need to post my stories everywhere my audience is. That is why you are reading this story on LinkedIn Publisher, Facebook Notes (a first for me since I’ve always used the Facebook newsfeed as a teaser to announce a new blog post via a link, hoping to bring people back to my site). A similar version will also appear on Medium.

Of course, one of the things that none of the articles I’ve read about cross-platform posting (from Jeff Jarvis to this latest one from BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti) is that duplicate content affects our SEO. The spider crawl doesn’t know which piece of content to prioritize. Facebook Notes is not indexed at the moment, but probably will be. All of this makes me wonder if SEO will become less important than the race to put yourself on the platforms where readers are. In turn, the importance of ranking on Google will diminish. I don’t rightly know.

Finally, and lastly, I am posting this story here to my original blog, Society Pages, because I need to archive it somewhere safe. It may feel repetitive, but when you’re your own boss, you have to be able to change on a dime and find your readers in new ways.

Blogging has gone from a hub

The header illustration in this post is by the Canadian-born artist, Jay Hambidge (1867-1924), and was commissioned by the now defunct, Century Illustrated Magazine (1881-1906). From my research, it appears to be in the public domain. If that is not the case, please let me know at alison(dot)garwoodjones(at)gmail(dot)com.

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