In the early days of the Internet, long before Facebook and Snapchat and cat videos, blogs were the hottest thing online. Everyone, it seemed, was starting a blog, lured by dreams of making big bucks (which hardly anyone did) or at least having the chance to publicly proclaim their opinions (which everyone did).
Those days are long gone, but blogs can still be a way for aspiring writers and journalists to build their skills. And while few people ever make much money from blogging, bloggers can get satisfaction from doing good work and attracting loyal readers.
So what are the keys to a successful blog? Here are five tips.
Find your focus. The most successful blogs usually focus on a particular topic or category, such as politics, sports, childcare or fashion. Decide what you’d like to blog on – something you’re passionate about is always a good choice – then stick to that. The narrower the focus, the better. Instead of blogging about sports in general, drill down on one sport or team in particular.
Have a point of view. Most blogs are forums for writers airing their opinions, and no one likes a blogger who is wishy-washy. Clarify your thoughts on the issues you are covering, then state them clearly and unequivocally. Hint: Never write “I think,” as in “I think climate change is a real threat.” Just write a declarative sentence: “Climate change is a real threat.” See how the second sentence sounds more authoritative?
Keep your writing simple, conversational – and short. No one wants to read a blog that drones on like a badly written research paper. In fact, take the opposite approach. A good blog sounds like a real person talking, so don’t be afraid to write in a casual, conversational way. And don’t ramble on endlessly. People’s attention spans are limited, especially when reading on screens, so make your point and move on. One surefire way of writing tight is to use the Subject–Verb–Object (SVO) formula.
Write a great lead. In journalism, the lead is the first sentence of a news story. It not only summarizes the article’s main points, but should also grab a reader’s attention. So try to start every blogpost with something that will draw readers into your story.
Do research and reporting. A famous politician once said, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” What’s my point? Just because you have strong opinions on an issue doesn’t mean readers will take your word for anything. The best opinion pieces are backed up by rigorous background research, and if you cite research or statistics in your blogpost, you can link back to that information. If you’re an aspiring journalist, do some actual interviews with experts in the field you’re writing about. That will give your blogposts credibility and help you gain experience in working with sources.
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