As the Denver Post sinks and shrinks, and lays off writers like Mike Littwin, there's no getting around the fact that, even if you hate them, bloggers become more important as opinion (and information) providers.
So I thought this would be a good moment to offer up some tips on blogging from Colorado bloggers, to inspire more and better blogging.
For some reason, it took me about 15 minutes to write those two lousy sentences, which is around 14 minutes more than Westword Latest Word blogger Michael Roberts would have probably required.
I'd love to write more slowly and linger over words and phrases, but in this context you have to open up the channel, receive and send. It's not like you have the luxury to spend 10 or 15 minutes on a sentence.
I called Roberts at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday. He had posted 10 items during the day, but he said, "I'll be damned if I know how... At the end of the day, if I were asked to tell you every post I wrote, I would be unable to do so."
If you follow Roberts, you know he's in a league by himself, among Colorado bloggers, in terms of productivity. He told me that simply being curious is a big help in writing so much.
But I wondered about his typing speed. Without meaning to diminish the quality of his writing, I asked if he was a really fast typist.
"I am a quick typist," he told me. "One of my stock lines is, 'If I ever lose this job, I'd have a decent shot at a gig as an executive secretary.'"
"I have at least one more [blog post] to do before I'm done for the day," he said as we ended our brief conversation. He'd exceeded his daily target of eight posts, including four with an original concept and content, but, he said, "Damn it, news didn't stop. There are a couple of things I really need to do."
Asked for her advice on blogging, Denver Post blogger Lynn Bartels provided me with this blogger-sized list:
1. Employ nouns.
2. Add art.
3. Mix it up, between the lighthearted and the serious.
Bloggers like to refer back to their own work as early and often as possible, to cut down on typing and to get more mileage out of existing content, and that's what Bartels did in answer to my question.
"I wrote a number of serious posts last fall about redistricting and reapportionment, including breaking news about new maps," Bartels wrote me. "But I also had fun. Here's one of my favorites, simply because of the picture and the cut-line."
(My favorite recent blog.)
ColoradoPols' Co-founder Jason Bane said, via email:
The best advice I can give is to keep your writing short and simple. There's no reason to write 5,000 words if you can make your point in 500, but that's easier said than done. Most journalists and reporters will tell you that it is actually easier to write 5,000 words than 500, because you have to spend more time thinking about how to get quickly to the point. People don't visit blogs because they are looking for long-form writing, and the longer you write, the less time you have to write something else.
I agree with Bane, but one trick is to get others to write for you. That's why I'm grateful to Bane and the others for emailing me their responses to my questions. Unfortunately Westword's Roberts won't do email interviews, because he says he writes too much as it is. So I had to talk to him, which is better anyway, if you have the time.
Bane also wrote:
I believe it is also important to stick to a theme as much as possible. Whether you are writing about politics or about yarn, don't stray too often from your central topic. Think about why readers are coming to your website. If someone visits your yarn blog, they aren't going to keep coming back if you are always writing about sports, wine and why you think Spring is the best of the four seasons.
Rossputin's Ross Kaminsky had these tips:
Write up something just before bed, for posting the next morning. Even better, wake up a few minutes earlier and check the news to write something with maximum newsworthiness.
If you have more than one idea, write them all up, but post-date them so you can cover a couple of days at a time.
It's widely agreed that posting content early in the day, with edgy headlines, attracts more readers. (And in Colorado, throw in the phrase "medical marijuana" as often as possible.)
People won't return to sites which disappoint them with stale material more than one time or two. Therefore, don't bother blogging unless you have something new almost every day, and certainly every work day other than occasional vacations. If you can't meet that level of supply of writing, try to participate in a group blog (such as Peoples Press Collective, for those of a free market/libertarian/conservative bent.)
Try to find an approach or style of analysis that is sufficiently different from other web sites, so that your writing will stand out as worth reading. Be honest about your ability to do so. Most people can't. Like it or not, most people don't really have enough to add to a discussion that they're worth taking your time to read. Again, be honest about whether your writing is really different and incisive enough to be worth reading.
Quoting other people and unique sources is usually the best way to keep a blog worth reading. So even if you hated my take on things in this piece, which I wrote for posting during a vacation, at least you heard something from somebody else. With traditional journalism dying, that's what we need most from bloggers, if they have the time.